My Travels to Amsterdam: Red Light District
By Amanda Deltuvia —
The cold air coated my lungs as I hopped off the shuttle. Instantly, the smell of hot dogs and cider flooded my nostrils as I watched children ice skating in the center of town. It’s holiday season, and I’m exhausted from taking an eight-hour bus ride. The song “Amsterdam” by Guster is on repeat in my head. I’ve finally arrived, and I’m standing in front of a Burger King to meet the guy who’s letting us crash on his floor. He arrives, and we head up to his tiny apartment while he runs off to bartend at a local pub. We decide to wander the streets and envision what people our age do here.
The night is young in Amsterdam and every night is a party. Streets in the infamous red-light district flood with young people, tourists and foreigners looking to get laid on the infamous strip. Red lights frame each pretty little body on the main drag. The women are in skimpy bikinis and different outfits—some neon bikinis, strips of cloth and fishnets. Anything kinky in the bedroom is fully revealed here. The girls sway and look you in the eye. Only three feet away, I can’t help but feel more than a million worlds apart from the woman behind the pane of glass separating us, encapsulated in a tiny room with lube, a sink and a small bed. The snow begins to fall heavier.
We decide to head down the side roads, to the “blue districts” as they call it, and it morphs into a relatively frightening circus show behind the glass, filled with artificial body parts and smirking faces. The beautiful women have transformed into something much more eerie, and I want to laugh and run at the same time.
Every store is a sex shop, and the river in the center of the road is dotted with beautiful swans and tiny rowboats. The swans are enveloped in the red neon lights of lust and deviants as it reflects off the water and they ripple it, as if trying to show me that there is still beauty in some of the most morally conflicted situations. We then hop into one of the many pubs, and try drinking warm German wine. We meet Irish girls who love to party and Cali girls studying abroad. We encounter some very funny guys dressed up as Santa and his workers for a last hurrah before he gets married—Christmas tradition and a bachelor party all in one. We take pictures with them, talk and laugh. I’m tired and one of the Irish girls keeps yelling quite loudly, so we decide to head back to the apartment.
The next day the snow is even worse, but we journey to see Anne Frank’s home. Anne Frank’s house is one of the most interesting and reflective stories to see. You hear the stories of the Holocaust and this infamous family, but to see where they have stepped automatically transforms you into a compassionate person. The tiny writer banned from a life and robbed of everything. You journey through the history of how they were before, when the Nazis invaded and how life was living in an attic. Her journals are at the end of the museum tour. A room filled with notebooks, pages, journals all covered in ink. All covered in her thoughts. I was overwhelmed at how dedicated she was to writing. If only I could apply this heart and soul, I thought. The words of a 13 year old inspire me to change. I want to cry.
My next visit is to the Van Gogh museum, which is four floors of the works of Van Gogh and his colleagues. The rooms themselves become a textured medley of art, with people all over the world glittering the floor, trying to find the meaning behind the infamous sunflower painting. “If you loved someone would you send him or her a piece of your ear?” I ask myself. Heading outside, we found the infamous huge AMSTERDAM sign. I pose in between the letters like any other tourist. I am in Amsterdam. I decide to head back home for a power nap in the apartment. I awake, still in a dream-like exhausted state, to head to the coffee shops. The coffee shops blow California medical marijuana out of the water. It’s pretty weird having hot chocolate and a joint in public. I find myself wandering the Red Light District again, getting lost and seeing the shops and the ladies dancing in the window.
The guy I stayed with said getting lost is easy, and he was right. I don’t mind getting lost in my skewed fairytale world, where the snow glows pink. Even though there’s a sex scandal at every corner. The poor boy I stayed with is lethargic because of a fever, but needs to work after fleeing his country. He’s kind enough to offer me his floor to sleep on. And Anne Frank put a picture of Ginger Rogers on her wall and dreamt of a more glamorous life writing novels. The hookers will continue to hustle in the windows so they can feed their children. And Rodin cut his ear because of a broken heart.
I realized no matter how ridiculous, terrible or disgusting things become, life still goes on and the swans still float peacefully in the river… knowing at the end of the day, the world still secretly glows a fairytale pink. And if I see the beauty in things even when I’m lost in the dark, I think I will be just fine.