Thursday, February 25, 2010
TODAY IN AMSTERDAM
My flight arrived in Schiphol (Copenhagen), and, for the first time since leaving India, I did not see any snow on the ground. After a hiccup regarding my room, you can see to the right my canal view, and to the left, from a canal cruise I took.
While you can just about walk anywhere of any worth within half an hour, their mass transit assortment is remarkable and efficient. Surprisingly enough, there are only three major canals, with an assortment of cross water traffic. There are 2500 houseboats, 90 man-made islands and anywhere from 1280 to 1500 bridges.
There is a Red Light District, for sex, as controlled, is legal. Here is a clip from YouTube. Less than $100 for 20 minutes, so I read. Supposedly there are 482 windows. But like life in general, it is a lot more complicated than that, for much of the action takes place through legal escort services, clubs, shops and houses, each with its own world.
There are several types of sites for certain kinds of drugs: "coffee shops" provide marijuana and hashish and smart shops go into mushrooms and ecstasy. Menus are provided and one cigarette would cost from a few dollars up to $10. Generally, you smoke it in that establishment, for it is illegal to use these products anywhere else. Here is a YouTube clip about smoking and eating magic mushrooms. It's a lot more complicated than this, but you get the idea that Amsterdam is not in Kansas.
All the above said, Amsterdam is the standard, clean, safe, historic European town. The population is actually smaller (750,000) than Honolulu (around 900,000), but there is a vitality here that comes partially with everything being packed into half a circle of one mile radius, plus lots of people just walking around, many using bicycles, and I almost ran into a dozen of them.
The culture oozes and the range of countries for food is wide. Oud Sluis is #29 on the list of 50 best. Chef Sergio was inspired by El Bullis (#1), as was Chef Rene of Noma (#3). Alas, Oud Sluis is located 100 miles away from Amsterdam. Ah, but there is a second on the list, at #89, De Librije, which is, alas, 50 miles away in Zwolles.
The Dow Jones Industrials were really down for a while, then recovered for a minus 53 to 10,321. World markets almost all decreased. Crude oil suddenly dropped a couple of bucks/barrel and is now at $78/barrel. Gold is up $8 to $1106/toz.