A walk through Amsterdam at night begins, for us, in the Red Light District, an area known worldwide for its famous red lights and the ladies who dance in the windows beneath their glow.
We walk through quickly, stifling our laughter when we pass by the windows with the curtains drawn open. I then proceed to spend the rest of the evening subconsciously humming Roxanne by The Police.
We explore many side streets, the air scented with the distinctive fragrance of cannabis wafting from the colorful coffee shops on practically every corner.
We window shop in the curious, yet completely inappropriate for this blog, gifts shops along the main streets. Amsterdam may be the only place in the world where you can buy both fine china and a phallus-shaped bong in the same store.
Our walk takes us to the heart of the city, Dam Square. It’s early evening, around nine o’clock, and the city is just beginning to pulse with the electric vibe of its spirited nightlife.
A flame thrower entertains a crowd of tourists. A group of kids lounge on the national monument drinking from red plastic cups. The air smells of a dozen different cuisines as restaurants fire up their grills for the dinner crowd. Many people sit around, as we do, just taking in the scene.
It gets later and the rumbling in our tummies tells us it’s time for an after dinner snack. We stop at a small cafe and sit next to a group of girls playing Uno and smoking a joint. There are probably many people back home doing just this same thing, but few would be so bold as to do it on a public cafe patio. It’s a different culture here, that’s for sure.
Our evening ends with a quiet stroll along the canals, lit up with the glow from streetlamps and cafes. These walks along the water are my favorite, and leave me wanting to move by the Thames when we return home. Not to mention my new desire to live on a houseboat.
There are two sides to this city. This place that is so peaceful and laid-back by day becomes magnetic and vibrant at night. I love this city’s ability to both astonish me with its beauty, and bewilder me with its culture. That kind of discovery is exactly what traveling is all about.