Red Light District & the church: The women are viewed as entrepreneurs and not as common prostitutes. They are self-employed, practice safe sex and are tested regularly just in case of mishaps. They are even protected by the government. Pimps are illegal and apparently part of the job of cops in Amsterdam is to question women of the district to try to snuff out any potentials for them being forced to be there. The women are even paid for their time of questioning (50 Euro for 15 minutes- That’s the going rate). Every woman is there on her own free will. Sex is not something to be ashamed of or to be banished behind closed doors and never talked about. Everything is out in the open. I adore that kind of freedom and commend the government for being so accepting and ensuring the women are safe instead of turning a blind eye and creating dangerous situations. The picture below is of a statue of sorts planted in the street in the Red Light District that pays homage to the women of the District.
The church just outside of the district just made me chuckle:) Amsterdam was a port town and many of the men who worked abroad the ships had been away from land for a year or more. So once they landed in Amsterdam and stumbled into the Red Light District, they of course had a lot of pent-up energy to get rid of. So they would spend their weekend blowing all their money with the women, then stumble out of the district and directly into the church, very conveniently located, to repent all the naughty things they just engaged in… LOL!!! Love it!
Coffeeshops & drugs: if you are looking for a cup of coffee while visiting Amsterdam, you won’t find any in any of the coffeshops around town. For real coffee, go to the Kaffe shops:) If you would like to partake in smoking a bit of an illegal substance, well then the coffeeshop is for you! Here again is an example of how the people coexist peacefully. It is actually ILLEGAL to smoke marijuana in Amsterdam. Yes, it is.
However the government turns its eye from those smoking in coffee shops. Because they are just sitting in coffee shops. They aren’t bothering anyone or doing anything wrong. They are just hanging out. In fact, the guide even said that you could walk up to a cop, tell them that there are people smoking marijuana in that shop over there and they would simply say “what are you talking about? They are just having coffee” and walk away. Again, I love the acceptance and tolerance. Even though the law is technically being broken they recognize that the people in the shops aren’t bothering anyone. They are simply enjoying something they enjoy! Sure does make our view on marijuana in the States seem so petty, especially knowing that people are sitting in jail for smoking/growing/selling/possessing marijuana while murderers are out on parole!!
I wish more countries would take a lesson from the way that the government in Amsterdam views drugs and addicts. At one point in their history, not that long ago, Amsterdam was plagued by heroin addicts. They were violent, damaged themselves and others, and even cops were not really willing to deal with them because they were so dangerous. So the government took on a different view on drugs. They divided drugs into hard and soft drugs.
People who were addicted to hard drugs (heroin) were viewed as sick people who needed help. Not as criminals. They provided places where heroin addicts could go to get their fix and they would allow the addicts to use heroine in these places where they provided clean needles and were under the watchful eye of a medical professional to make sure they didn’t O.D. The addicts were then allowed to come and go as they pleased. The addicts always had a safe place where they could go to take their drugs. If they got in trouble with the law however, after the third strike they would be sent (mandatory) to a rehab center to get them clean. If they wanted to voluntarily go at any point, they were allowed at no cost to them. Now that’s the kind of mentality that makes me believe that the government ACTUALLY CARES about their people… Does Amsterdam have a drug problem today with crimes and cartels running rampant? No they don’t!
Soft drugs (marijuana) on the other hand are allowed a “free” pass. Or in other words are simply overlooked as long as they are occurring in coffee shops:) Mind you that even though there are probably more drugs and varieties of drugs per square inch in Amsterdam than in any other place, I was never once stopped on the street or harassed in any way about buying drugs as I was when in Costa Rica and Berlin. I wonder why…???