We left Cyprus to visit some friends in Amsterdam, Netherlands on a bright and early morning of Good Friday, according to the Orthodox Easter calendar. I could barely sleep the night before due to sheer excitement tingling right down to the core of my bones. I had not seen a girlfriend from our hometown in the States since we left. It was going to be sweet to reconnect with some old friends.
After dropping off our bags, our friends took us to the most amazing free park in Amsterdam – Amstelpark.
I thought Luisenpark in Germany was very nice, but Amstelpark was just plain awesome.
The kids walked on rope lines, slid down slides, and ran on open grass. I saw a zip line that looked very entertaining. I went on it since I have never been on a zip line before. I thought, “When am I ever going to do this?”
I waited behind other young elementary-aged school children. No other adults were on this thing. Yup, it was just me and a bunch of kids. I wasn’t really that much taller than some of the older kids, but still, the wrinkles around my eyes show my age, and I am definitely no kid. The kids didn’t give me dirty looks or strange stares. In fact, one of them gave me a little advice on how to best get the most out of my zip line experience.
Prof took my picture, and then off I went. It wasn’t as fast as I could have gone, but hey, it was still fun. I am glad that I got to go on a zip line even if it was only three feet off the ground.
Our friends also made delicious homemade Korean food. (Can you say yum?) Once the kids were off to bed, the parents went on a double date into the city. (A friend of our friends also happened to be in Amsterdam for the night, so it worked out for us to go and paint the town red.)
Sightseeing in Amsterdam
I couldn’t tell you all the spots our friends showed us that evening, since we were still getting our bearings. Read on, and you’ll see all the places we saw on our first night in Amsterdam.
Red Light District
A little back story: When I was about 22 years old, I drove to my apartment from a Friday night church group meeting. On that night, I chose to park along the street, since it was the closest distance from my car to my apartment building. You could say it was fate or divine providence, but this young twenty-something girl walked down the middle of the deserted neighborhood street and called out, “Hey!” I was confused in the darkness whether she was addressing me or someone else. “Hey you!” Nope, she was definitely talking to me. She kept walking towards me and asked me for a ride to our local downtown’s party street nearby our college campus. I tried to give an excuse or two, but she ended up getting into my car, and I drove her to the famous party street in the city.
She and I exchanged pleasantries. She asked me what I did (college student), and I asked her what she did. She said she was a prostitute. After a slight pause, we continued on a normal car ride conversation. We even exchanged phone numbers after the end of our ride.
The following week, I called her number and invited her to come to church sometime, but I never heard from her again. That was the story of how I met a prostitute.
Fast forward to today: I asked our friends if we could walk through the Red Light District. They were surprised that I asked such a thing, but they indulged my request.
Our friends took us through the narrowest street in the Red Light District. I don’t know what it was about this place, but the dark shadowy street, fading red lights above the some of the shop signs indicating that a transaction was taking place should have been enough for me to make me want to turn back. But other pedestrians were walking behind us, and much like an amusement park ride in those narrow, long wait lines, the only way out was to keep moving forward. Scantily clothed women with a tight fitting bra and barely there S&M style underwear were on display in windows like a pieces of meat, while groups of almost drunk single men reeking of alcohol and displaying loud obnoxious behavior, ogling and grossly smiling that disgusting mischievous smile was a depressing sight to see.
Beneath all those layers of make-up, thick glued on lashes, skin revealing bodies, what was life like for these women who would wake up the next morning during daylight hours? Do they have a family to support? A husband or significant other? What circumstances in life brought them to this profession? (sigh…)
Once we walked out, we were met by a beautiful old church, De Oude Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam. It’s such a stark comparison of the realities surrounding the church.
We walked around so much in the city, I couldn’t tell you all the places we passed. But here are some touristy photos to give you a sense of Amsterdam by night:
(Photo 1. Quintessential Amsterdam, known for its famous Heineken beer. Photo 2. Beautiful canals all around Amsterdam can make couples feel like love is in the air year round.)
(Photo 3. Pedestrians don’t have right of way. Bicyclists do. So be sure to stay out of their path. We even saw a tourist collide with a cyclist because the tourist didn’t realize she was walking right over the bike path. Photo 4. Just like those in Germany, people play a larger than life chess match.)
(Photo 5. Royal Palace in Amsterdam. Photo 6. Shops close pretty early in Amsterdam, except for the night life that is known in the Red Light District.)
Photo 7. Amsterdam is also apparently known for its cheese. The ones pictured above are larger than my petite body frame – to give you a little perspective. Photo 8. Don’t confuse coffee shop with coffee house. You will want to look for a coffee house to drink coffee. If you are looking for a place to smoke some special stuff, you will want to look for a coffee shop.)
We got back close to midnight, packed our bags for our flight the next day to Denmark, and passed out for the night.