A June 2006 trip
to Amsterdam by ripplefan2
Quote: Pot, beer, sex, and history. What a town!
Restaurant | "The Grasshopper"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 21, 2007
Grasshopper Coffee Shop
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 59
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1012 RD
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 27, 2007
Lange Leidsedwarsstraat 70
+31 6 46154366
I know what you are thinking. The city that is full of purveyors of pot, connoisseurs of cannabis and controllers of kink, what the hell could this guy write about that I haven’t heard already? Nothing at all. I am just going to inundate you with more tales of depravity and destruction but I’ll throw in a couple stories of fun and excitement.
Last year three friends and I set about on trip that traversed through the lands for Europe for a couple of weeks. On our travels we decided that we had no other choice than to make a stop in Amsterdam. Unlike most travelers, we didn’t stay in a hostel; we actually had a friend staying out of the actual city near the Heineken Stadium. If you have a chance to stay outside of the center of the city, PLEASE RECONSIDER. Outside of the city is very strange and if you do not have your wits about you, you can easily be robbed. I would recommend that you try to stay near the Red Light District area, but not directly in the heart of it.
On our first day, we went to the Van Gogh Museum (www3.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp) located next to the large park in the center of the city. The museum was unfortunately closed the day we went (some stupid reconstruction stuff) so we made a day of it in the park. Right smack in the center of the park, there is a sculpture set up that reads "I Am Amsterdam." So we all got together, stood in front of different letters and did a couple of panoramic shots, so when we developed them, we could put them together and spell it out. But be careful in the park because the entire city is a biker’s city, meaning that people of bicycles are riding everywhere. They don’t care; they will run you over with out a second glance. I actually saw one of the coolest devices I have ever seen; a collapsible bike. This bike folds up around the small tires and is as big as a briefcase. Upon returning home, I saw this folding bike craze spread throughout New York like wildfire.
After our day in the park, we headed off to the Heineken Brewery. Please, if you are in Amsterdam, stop by this place, it's great. We then headed off the lurid back streets of Amsterdam to find the famous Grasshopper Coffee shop. The Grasshopper Coffee shop (www.coffeeshop.freeuk.com/Database/ShopsA/GrassHopper1.html) is the tourist hotspot for people who want legal pot. It is a bit on the pricy side, but the pot is great. You can borrow bowls, pipes, bongs or papers and just sit and have a good time. They also have seeds and large quantities. One thing that is really strange is they have these coins that you can buy as souvenirs that used to be used in Amsterdam to verify people were old enough to drink. They would buy these coins, then, when they were out, they would give these coins to the bartenders and the rest is history. You can see why this is no longer practiced because anyone could get a coin and then party.
We then walked over the many bridges that connect the crescent shaped city like a series of veins. On our travels, we came across the many impromptu street fairs and fresh fruit and plant markets that encompass this unique city. Along one of these street fairs, I noticed something very odd. On the outside of a building, there was a pulley system setup from the roof with a giant couch suspended from a rope. This system is applied on every house in Amsterdam because the houses are narrow, these hooks were setup to help people move their furniture in without having to worry about the stairs. It is really weird and I wish that my camera hadn’t died so I could have taken a picture of it, but when you’re there, you’ll see.
Our final night in Amsterdam was spent by having a sunlit boat ride on the river while hearing the history of this old and historic city. The guides are very informative and funny and it is totally worth the 20-euro fee. This included two drinks and then of course the tour. There are plenty of these boats around the city and you can grab one of these anywhere as long as you get there early enough. We then headed in the famous Red Light District. Here is one of the strangest and semi-uncomfortable neighborhoods I have ever been in. There are scores of women standing in windows with men walking in and out all night long with the curtains in front of this windows opening and closing like a public bathroom door. It is rather a disgusting sight to see because every man in the area seems to be ok with it because some were waiting for their friends to come out so they could go in. It's really a disgusting display, but maybe not for everyone. I wouldn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, so if that’s your thing, enjoy. Please don’t let my opinion influence your feelings about Amsterdam. Otherwise this is a city filled with fun, drugs and even sex, so bring your smoking lungs, a plethora of condoms and a charged battery for your camera.
Talk about an experience! The Heineken Brewery Tour (www.heinekenexperience.com) is something that you should stop by and try. Even for those who are not drinkers the tour is great. The tour is cheap and very informative, followed by intense periods of drinking (and for those who don’t drink, I can guarantee that someone else would love to drink for you). The cost is 11 euros per person and the tour lasts for about an hour and a half or so. You are given five different tokens, four being for drinking and one for redemption of your free gift at the end. You are able to walk through the different brewing methods such as walking through empty brewing barrels, seeing the different ingredients in their different stages and then seeing the final products.
One part of the tour that is great is a ride that they have that explains how the beer became the beer that beer. You have to wait in line until your turn is up, but then they walk you into a room and there are three or four old wooden carriages stationed in front of giant TV screens. You are strapped in and then everyone leaves the room except for the strapped in souls. The carriages then have hydraulics that turn on and the carriages feel like they are really moving. It’s pretty cool. We then moved on to the videophone area where you can send video cards to friends and family from the factory. You can either send pictures or videos. The problem is that the line for the video messages is so freaking long that it is easier to send the picture message. The room is also a creative setup with an arched entrance lined with Heineken bottle caps and a Heineken keg drum set.
After spending almost an hour waiting for the videophone, we finally left and hit up the first bar on the tour, and guess what they serve! The next area is the advertising area. Here there are large comfy benches with TV’s propped above it with constantly looping advertisements that Heineken has played. You may have to wait a while for a chair since a lot of people fall asleep while watching and enjoying the air conditioning. But, after waiting and finally getting a chair, the ads are hilarious. They also explain the "smiling E" on the labels and how the president of the company did this to help enrich the beer and its image. (Look at a bottle next time and you will notice that the "e" is off centered to resemble a smile.)
The final attraction on the tour is the famed drinking den. The designers of the brewery were ingenious in their planning of the layout. They placed the bar right next door to the gift shop. You can get drunk and buy stuff you don’t need. And God knows I did. But back to the bar now. Here hoards of people line up with their remaining three tokens and try to get drinks. The bartenders pour thousands of gallons of beer in the matter of minutes and ask for your token in return for a glass of beer. However, when the place is really crazy, you can just keep walking up to the bar and grab as many as your hands can carry. This is exactly what we did until we were finished in the bar, then received our complimentary (although we paid for it in the admission fee) gift.
You can also ask people who aren’t drinker’s for their extra tokens and they gladly give them away because they have no idea what to do with these tokens otherwise. When you find yourself in Amsterdam, try to take some time and head over to the Heineken Brewery and have yourself a day. And don’t forget, it's better in Amsterdam than anywhere else in the world.
Queens, New York