My first wander through the Red Light District came when I was trying to find the Amstelkring Museum. I passed a bar with an outside terrace where a bunch of shirtless guys were shouting and being served drinks by a woman in shiny metallic underwear and furry leg-warmer thingees. Going through the pedestrianized streets, they seemed to be populated entirely by gangs of non-Dutch men in their 20s and 30s, all loudly discussing the prostitutes and pot. Ugh.
On the Saturday when Ian and I were going to the sex museums and I was wrestling with the pot-smoking question, we went through a tiny alleyway where the prostitutes ply their trade. They rent out small ground-floor rooms with a large glass window and then stand or sit around in their knickers trying to look sexy for the passersby in hopes of attracting a customer. If the red curtains are drawn across, it means they’ve been successful. There was a series of about six to seven of these windows in the passage we went through. I was really surprised by how pretty the women were. I don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.
I was also fortunate enough to witness the spectacle of what happens when you try to take a picture in the Red Light District. As we were walking through, one of the prostitutes, a gorgeous dark-skinned girl in a black bra/knickers set, came out and hurled a giant silver stiletto-heeled shoe at someone ahead of us. A man handed it back to her and she smiled sweetly, vamping it up for the rest of the people passing. A tourist had broken the cardinal rule of NO PICTURES. According to everything you’ll read about Amsterdam, trying to take a picture in the Red Light District is in incredibly poor taste and getting a shoe chucked at you is fairly minor. Some of the prostitutes have bodyguards/minders who will not be as nice to you. You may even get your camera broken, so don’t try it! I’m not sure what this tourist was on—you have to be a serious dumbass to miss all the “no pictures” signs, and this information is in every guidebook ever written. Oh well, some people just shouldn’t be allowed out of their houses.