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foreign correspondence: Amsterdam


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Hey, everybody. Sorry I won't make the Nero / BNB show this weekend, but I'm on a trek 'round Europe at the moment, and I'm going to try to drop off reports as I go. (I'm not sure how much access I'll have as I go, so this topic won't be very interactive for me, but I'll see what I can do.)

I was in Brussels (land of 400 beers) earlier in the week, and right now I'm spending the last of 3 days in...Amsterdam!

It is *very* cool here. The city slogan could be "Just Chill..." On the streets, pedestrians, bikes, cars, and streetcars all co-exist happily, sometimes without streetlights. Nobody wears bike helmets. When people (in whatever conveance they're using) want to cross a street, they look around, see what else is there, and go when it's right.

The city is a great place to walk around; the map looks big, but it has really tiny blocks, so what looks like a long hike turns out to be a short jaunt.

And, of course, there are the coffee shops. I was sitting on the patio of one (Rookies; recommended), and saw people strolling by as if it was part of the neighbourhood. It's not that shops are "tolerated", because that implies something that's known to be different/atypical and explictly decided to be allowed. The shops here are part of the cityscape, like pubs in Dublin or sports bars in North America.

Inside, it's very cool. It reminded me of a neighbourhood bar (it was actually a bit smaller than the Post, but the same kind of look). There were regulars, tourists (like me), and people just hanging out, watching the game on TV, or shooting pool. People come in, hang with their friends, have a smoke and/or a beer, and then head out or park themselves. The common quaff is Heineken, and they have a separate menu of smokables. (You can even bring your own in and smoke it, but it's customary to buy a beer or a coffee [yes, you can actually get coffee] while you do.) They sell hash and pot by the bag (Fl.25 [about CDN$15] per bag, and that gets you between 1.4g and 1.8g, depending on the strength). You can also buy pre-rolled joints (Fl.7 with tobacco, Fl. 8 without), and they come in little plastic carrying cases (conical, like the joints).

Sitting outside Rookies, I saw two guys at the table next to me using a bong (yes, on the patio!); when they were ready to leave, they took it back inside and walked out without it. They had *borrowed* the bong from the bar! The bartenders are cool, and can often be seen smoking up as well (can bartenders in Ontario drink while they're on duty? IIRC, they can't).

If you only speak English, there's no problem, because everybody here speaks it, and most signs include English.

All in all, it's well worth the trip (whatever trip you want to take; mushrooms are also available here).



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