Cheeky Travelling Tips for Amsterdam
Sooo, the other week I sauntered off to Amsterdam for the fifth time, accompanied by a rag-tag bag of ragamuffins, scoundrels and pirates. We walked some, ate some, smoked some and mostly lazed. But we learnt a lot about ourselves, and about how to get by in the bustling metropolis of the ‘Dam. Well, sort of.
I always head to the Red Light District first. Why? (Well…) Actually, it’s because the Cannabis College is located there. I know where this is off by heart, but you might want to grab a map first.
-Free maps are the best maps and these can be found on almost any leaflet you see, especially the bike hire maps. They’re not necessarily the most accurate, but they tend to have the main attractions pointed out with over-sized cartoony graphics – which is helpful.
-Take your One Free Map and head to the Cannabis College at O.Z. Achterburgwal 124.
Then proceed to spend all day amongst the wonders of the College (for free, mind). Sit and browse the many many folders of information on the Marijuana laws all over the world, read up on the many many uses of hash, peruse the legal battles happening regarding medical marijuana, growing pot, and smuggling.
They also have cases full of pretty things related to pot, my particular favourites are the hemp snowboard – of which there are only five in the world! – and the beautiful hemp dress. You can buy hemp t-shirts and hoodies there as well.
Pay a measly couple of euros to go downstairs and visit the Cannabis Garden where you can hang out for a few awestruck moments and watch the leaves slowly unfurl…I could spend all afternoon in there, and I meant to this time, but we ended up running (I say running…) all the over place, doing much much other stuff. Not that I remember a lot of it…Anyhow.
The guys who work in the College are really awesome and willing to answer any and all questions you have about weed. The last time I was there we questioned this girl for hours about the legalities of cannabis in Holland. Ultimately, it’s illegal, but various aspects of it have been decriminalized. I might write more in depth about the strangeness of their system later.
Why should the Cannabis College be the first stop after finding a map? Because you can ask the guys behind the counter to point out the best coffeeshops for you. There are a lot alot of coffeeshops in Amsterdam, and not all of them are awesome. A few are absolutely amazing though, and I will mention these later. Cannabis Collegers can tell you where the best weed, the best hash, the best spacecakes, the nicest proprietors or most chilled out atmosphere is. Course, it is their particular opinion. We think maybe they promote a different coffeeshop each week…but everytime I’ve followed a recommendation from them I’ve only been…ecstatic. Ha.
-After sorting out where to get your drugs, put up your tent! Okay, so perhaps my priorities are a little skewed. Tent-putting up should come first. My absolute favourite way to put up a tent is to watch and take photos.
We camped at Zeeburg which was really lovely. It cost us around 7 euro a night to stay there, 8 people between two tents; immediately cheaper than a hostel! I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re thinking of going in the Winter as it gets fucking cold in Holland. The first time we went I ended up wearing all three t-shirts I’d brought, a new one I bought, a jumper and coat, and I was still cold. Camping at that temperature does not strike me as fun. However, perfect for July/August. Zeeburg does also have, however, the cutest little cabins, painted all in bright colours and over-looking the river. If it looks like rain or chill, go for them. The campsite also isn’t too far from the town, a mere few minutes on the tram.
-I used to advise riding for free on the trams but they’ve now introduced electronic blip-in, blip-out tickets – which are actually reasonably priced if you’re there for a few days. Three days of travel was 15e, which is about the same as a regular day travel card in London. If you get in at the Amstel Station, it pays to know that the tram/bus ticket machines are located on the tram platforms upstairs. We were wandering around for at least twenty minutes, trying to buy travel tickets from the train ticket machines.
-The other kind of travel in Amsterdam…Bikes have the right of way! Also worth knowing. There are very specific bicycle tracks and paths, and woe betide you if you’re standing in one when a bike is coming. To hire a bike in the city is fairly reasonable, but the deposits can be up to 100e, so bear that in mind if you plan to hire bikes. At Zeeburg the bike hire was fairly cheap, but I didn’t ask about deposit. They’d probably be fine with your passport though.
-Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’…yeah. It is…not advised to smoke outside in Amsterdam, considering that it is illegal. It’s best to smoke in a coffeeshop, or the privacy of your own home. Zeeburg was naturally fairly lax on the whole embargo, on the last day we were smoking in the delightful little courtyard area. This photo above is not that delightful courtyard area, it is us in our tent den at midnight, smoking up like the delinquents we are. Having more than one spliff going at one time is a luxury that Amsterdam can afford, and leads to situations which I like:
-Prepare for the after-effects of any drugs you may happen to imbibe on your trip.
In some cases, there are handy leaflets detailing the experiences you may undergo. You can read these before or after you take the drug…before is usually better though. As demonstrated by Thom and his avid truffle studying. Truffles, by the way, taste like arse and can be purchased from some headshops. Mushrooms are illegal, and/or frowned upon, but truffles are still o-kay to sell and eat. The gent at the counter of the particular shop we patronised was very helpful in advising the boys not to do anything stupid, like smoke a joint at the same time (because that kills the trip and can lead to flashbacks) and to eat dark chocolate to heighten the experience.
-Buy food before you get the munchines.
Not only does this save your pocket (“I want ALL THE FOOD!”), it also saves you having to deal with hoards of people and fluroescent lights while under the influence. I hate supermarkets when I’m sober, so I avoid them as much as possible when I’m stoned. Gosh. ‘I thought I was just shopping, apparently I was stroking the aubergine for five hours.’
-Don’t go into any toyshops when high.
It might seem like a good idea at first, oh the softness!, but they’ve got eyes, man. These lobster things scared me. Huge souless eyes, one atop the other, staring, endlessly…staring…There were some lemurs with equally huge eyes which I could have played with forever though. Lemurs don’t have those wibbly bits perhaps…
-If you do want to get a little lovin’, the Condomerie is the place to start!
They provide a range of condoms, even vegan ones!, though the novelty ones are infinitely more interesting. We were told that they’re not for use however, but to ‘lighten the mood, make laugh’, and they come with a usable condom so you don’t go sexless. Because that would be a travesty. I think my favourites were between Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. I’ve just got a thing for landmarks, y’know?
-Remember that map? Well, don’t forget to use it.
I relied on my memory for direction one too many times and overshot my goal on several occasions. And on these occasions, it rained. Hard. Amsterdam isn’t really that hard to navigate. There are four main canals which circle out parallel from Centraal Station, and several which fan out from it like spokes on a wheel. Finding Dam Square, the Red Light District and the VondelPark is pretty easy, especially when you have a map with giant cartoon-y graphics!
Check out Throwaway Literature to find out how I fared travelling vegan, and tune in next week to discover my favourite coffeeshops and why.
P.S The title of this post comes from my dear Stephen, pictured wetly above, as said whilst we were kissing, at night, on the way to the bathroom at the Zeeburg. Apparently he could see some 1940’s family sat down to tea that the rest of us could not.