While I found Amsterdam in total discord, from wanting to be a beacon of new economy and growth to also simultaneously wanting to be a historical city, there is one part of the culture that I could spend weeks enjoying:
Some of the windows in Amsterdam are purely entertaining, some are wildly informative, and some are just interesting. These are the three types of windows of greatest fascination to me.
1. Windows with women in them
I knew that prostitution was legal in Amsterdam, but I didn't expect it to be so blatantly touted about the city. You could get an escort's card in our hotel lobby or a discount to a live sex show at the front desk. We, as three young women, did not opt for either of these options, but did take a stroll down the Red Light District. We went in broad day light (we've all seen Taken and didn't have a Liam Neeson father who would retrieve us), and I legitimately could not believe what I saw in the windows.
Live, real women. Just right there. Some stood, some sat, some looked happy to be there, some looked sad, and all of them enticed me. We actually talked about stopping by a window and seeing how expensive it would be for an hour to chat with them.
What's it like in a window? Did you want to be here, or is someone forcing you? How do you motivate yourself for work in the morning? What's the hygiene like?
I just couldn't wrap my head around the women in the window. Nor could I wrap my head around the several men we saw who entered a window. There was this one woman who waved on this scuzzy-looking old man. As we walked up to the window, he was nodding like he was hot shit and that he genuinely believed she wanted him because she waved. Does he really think this is a two-way, mutual attraction? Does he care? Do they do it in the window room, or is there another room?
These windows with women in them are a total mystery to me. Then I saw an empty window, and even more questions ensued. There was a notice on it that said "room for rent." So these prostitutes have to buy their own room? And they pay rent on it? Which means they're not employed by the place where they're working, but more like independent contractors?
I'll never not be fascinated by women in windows.
2. Coffee Shop Sticker Windows
We actually had a pretty long discussion about how we'd know if we were at a coffee shop -- you know the one with coffee and pastries -- or a coffee shop-- like the weed one. We didn't want to go in for one and accidentally find the other.
Amsterdam, in its supreme liberalism, actually made a directory of all the weed coffee shops. And they made it really, really easy to know what kind of treats you may expect for every coffee shop.
If you look in the window and see a green and white sticker that says "coffee shop," that means they sell weed there. And if they don't have a sign, you may order without accidentally ingesting a space cake.
If you're going for the non-weed cake kind of coffee shop, you can also see pastries through the window. And it's because of those damn windows with all the pastries in them that probably cost me half my life savings. The Dutch make some really damn good pastries. My favorite was a twisty that had cream and chocolate in it. Plus, it was warm still. I can't tell you where I bought it, but if you see it in the window, run to it and buy all of them.
3. Sloping Windows
Amsterdam is old. And so are its buildings. If you're American, think of an old house and then triple its age. Now we're in the ball park of Amsterdam houses. And you can tell exactly how old Amsterdam is, based off of, you guessed it, their windows.
When you stare straight at some houses in Amsterdam, they look pretty normal. Then you stare at its windows, and it becomes evident that the house is actually really old. The houses are all build close together and sag at various speeds and directions. But windows, by the nature of being a hole in the house, get skewed noticeable when this happens. Some windows are so visibly crooked that you can see from the street that there's a foot or more of open space where the window can't close anymore.
And since Amsterdam protects its old houses, you can't do much but sew some window socks for that giant leak.