When I was telling my mom about our travel plans, her eyes got big and she smirked, "You know why people like going to Amsterdam, right?"
Like I could have perhaps done zero research and was unaware that tourists love Amsterdam for the legal weed and prostitutes. Yes, I knew what we were in for on this leg of the trip.
My very first of Amsterdam was from the view of our taxi Tesla (yes we ride in style from the airport). Once we arrived to our hotel, I was greeted with the familiar view of Domino's right next to our hotel, Hotel Espresso. We quickly dropped our bags upstairs and were back out of the room, ready to tackle the apparent Las Vegas of Europe.
My second impression of Amsterdam was the straight, strong, undeniable scent of weed that hangs in the air and leads you straight to the coffee shops, which tended to be tucked around the corners off the main roads. We then hopped into a canal boat and were off to to traverse the canals of the ancient hub of economy.
While those were my first few impressions, my strongest impression of Amsterdam came the following morning. We arrived in the center of the city, Dam Square, to meet up with a free tour group around 11am. In between the hundred-year-old plus buildings was a modern day carnival, complete with candy floss, rides and games.
My breath was caught from the stunning juxtaposition of beautifully old buildings and new, shining industry. That image is a perfect symbol for the entire city.
On our walking tour, I learned a very high level version of the city's history. The whole city is trying to grow within the confines of an ancient system. The canals that were man-made to help ease transportation years ago now degrade building structures and renders driving infuriating. The buildings that were built long and skinny to prevent horrible taxes are now a devil to move into (you legitimately have to use an external pulley to hand pull up all your belongings) and sloping side to side from the age.
And because the whole city is protected from fixing any of its structural problems at the risk of losing its charm, those buildings will do nothing but continue to slope and sag. And yet, there is new life and movement to juxtapose with its age.
The government is liberal, and willing to let anyone enjoy themselves, however they see fit as long as they are safe and minding their own business. The weed industry drives in an incredible 8% of its annual economy. The city wants young people and free spirited people to come and enjoy and simultaneously stimulate the economy.
But the residents of Amsterdam matched the old time feel of the city. Our tour guide proclaimed that the Dutch are friendly people, but 100% of the true Dutch that interacted with us despised us. A biker tried to run me over, almost positively out of spite because I was a tourist, as she had to swerve to knick me. A woman harassed us about using a bottle of hot sauce at a burger stall. A man yelled at us as we waited to cross the street. And another woman waved us out of our way when we were waiting to go into a church. I definitely didn't see any Christ alive in her.
To give the locals credit, there are 750,000 residents there and up to 2 million tourists in their area, so I could see that being frustrating. Hell, I was getting frustrated from all the tourists and I am a tourist.
But with your city beaconing to us to flock to your open culture and economy, it seems we're stuck in discord in Amsterdam these days.