The Lady In Red
Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
61Trip End May 15, 2008
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Amsterdam - The Lady in Red
When Steve and first talked about going to Amsterdam, we discussed certain things that we wanted to see. Since we had heard so much about the "Red Light District", we decided that this was one area of the city we wanted to see most.
For whatever reason, my idea of what the "Red Light District" was ended up being way different than what we saw. Since Steve did a lot of research on the internet about Amsterdam, he knew way more of what to expect than I did. Knowing that prostitution is legal here, I assumed that we might see a few prostitutes on street corners and a maybe a few seedy strip clubs
The first thing we discovered about the "Red Light District" was the fact that it was very difficult to find. For some reason, I thought it was tourist attraction much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans but Steve and I walked forever looking for it. We only stumbled upon it by accident when I saw a couple of red lights around a corner. I saw the lights and said, "Hey look...red lights, we must be here!"
So excited to see what we had found, we walked toward the lights only to discover that they weren't on lampposts as I expected them to be. Prostitutes weren't walking the streets either as I assumed they would be. With the exception of some questionable adult film shows and stores it seemed rather tame. I couldn't imagine that this was the "Red Light District" that everyone was talking about. There had to be more to the story...and there was.
We continued walking and came upon our first red light. It outlined a door-sized window and it was very bright. Inside was a prostitute wearing hardly anything at all trying to lure men in off the street
These red lights surrounded windows on streets everywhere. It was a very uncomfortable feeling walking down the street to have prostitutes gazing out of windows on either side of you. The red lights made it even more strange because of how they lit up the street at night. It was almost an eerie feeling. The thing that I found most surprising was the fact that a lot of the people walking through the back alleys weren't just men, they were other couples just like us. At one point it did seem like a tourist attraction because everyone walking by stared at these women in the red windows as if they were on display in zoo.
At first I felt kind of sorry for these women on display. I thought that perhaps they were doing this because they had no other way to make a living. On the side streets the women were very unattractive (and I'm putting that mildly) and so maybe this was the only way they could make money. But as the women became more attractive in the high traffic areas, I realized just how much money they were making and my empathy disappeared almost immediately.
After seeing the prostitutes in the "Red Light District" and walking amidst dozens of "coffee shops" selling marijuana all night long, I began to feel very uneasy. I had the same feeling when Steve and I were in New Orleans and people were lurking around at all hours of the night. I think what made me feel most unsettled was the fact that you can do pretty much whatever you want here in Amsterdam. You can smoke pot, buy drugs, have sex with a prostitute, and all of it is legal. Since there are seemingly no laws to enforce here, there are very few police officers patrolling the city too which is another reason why I didn't feel very comfortable walking around the "Red Light District". Steve told me later that most of the cops in the area are in plain clothes. That may help catch pickpockets and stuff, but it doesn't give the casual tourist a feeling of being secure.
When you go to Amsterdam, there are some things that you have to experience because of what the city is known for. For some tourists it is seeing the windmills, for others it is touring the city by canal. But for Steve and I, we went to Amsterdam to see if everything we had heard about the nightlife was true. And it was! Even for as much fun as we had, I think if we ever go back, we may stick to seeing a few places where the lights aren't quite so red!