Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stage Five: Maps of Amsterdam

On the morning train to Amsterdam, Lena and I wear our purple sweaters courtesy of Den Haag's Zeeman. Apparently this is some kind of discount store, since my sweater only cost 7.50 Euros. But I need to stay warm. Now I don't know how I lived without this glorious knit purple, baggy on the arms, fitting near the bum.

We talk about life plans. I mention Ph.D. dissertation ideas. "Don't you want to live life first?" she says. "Get a job, meet people, have different experiences?"

I'm still debating as we pull into Amsterdam Centraal.

This is where the tourists are. Rotterdam is modern and brisk, Den Haag charming yet practical, and Amsterdam's streets teeming with cameras and maps and Dutch souvenir shops. I step into the bike lane and almost get struck.

The architecture is lovely. I take more photos than necessary of the canals with their bridges, bikes chained to railings. We follow the map toward where we think the Anne Frank House is. I idolized Anne Frank in third grade.

"I think I've been there before. I don't really remember it," Lena says. Translation: she found it overwhelming.

No matter. I want to judge for myself.

We wind past the coffeeshops. They seem designed to draw foreigners. The souvenirs follow the same theme of "Amsterdam, wink wink nudge nudge." I'd imagine that the natives, should they wish to visit such shops, have their own off the beaten track.

Amsterdam is not a city I can imagine myself living in.

Lena and I end up lost. We pop into a venerable Bagels and Beans to jump onto the WiFi, then regroup.

Unfortunately, the line to visit Anne Frank's homestead is long and slow-moving, and we've got an afternoon shift at the arena. I don't know if it's weird or disrespectful to take photos in front of the apartment. But two dudes do. So I decide it's okay for me, too.

We find the Red Light District, which I genuinely wanted to see. No photos allowed. Girls our age, younger, older dance in the windows the way girls dance in front of a mirror, laughing, playing. But these girls mean it. They live this way. They smile and crook their fingers to the men who walk by. It's noon.

Uncomfortable, but intriguing.

"Why isn't there a Red Light District with guys?" we ask each other.

1 comment:

Flo said...

This post gave me the bittersweet sads. I feel like this would make a lovely extended piece.