Well done Netherlands! Beating Mexico in the last minutes, you sure made for an exciting ending. So let’s have a look at the Netherlands, and more in particular, Amsterdam!
Two posts ago I warned people to not do drugs abroad. But while watching the world cup it dawned on me that many tourists go to the Netherlands for a rather specific reason …
The Netherlands is a beautiful country with a long history. It’s often called Holland by foreigners. But Holland is actually only a part of the Netherlands. You can read more about it here if you’re interested in that bit.
The country is known for tulips, wooden clogs, mills and cheese. But let’s be honest, most tourists (especially Americans) are interested in the Dutch version of the coffee shop! The menu in a coffee shop looks a little different from what most people are used to.
There are coffee shops all over the Netherlands. However most tourists will hang around Amsterdam. Because of the large tourist industry in the city, you’ll find a large number of shops. Most of them are close to the red light district … I don’t know if that’s by accident or not. And in the same general area there are also a lot of restaurants … again, I can’t vouch for the coincidence! I can however vouch for the variety of restaurants in the area. Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Uruguyan, Tibetan, German, French, … If you fancy it, you’ll probably be able to find it. So dig in!
Yes, it is legal for tourists to buy and use soft drugs in Amsterdam. Which is a big contrast to most countries and especially the South East Asian ones I posted about earlier. But it’s not legel all over the Netherlands, at least not for tourists. In recent years a lot has been said, done, undone and redone when it comes to coffee shops near the borders with Belgium and Germany. The end result is that there are still coffee shops near the borders, but you can only buy drugs there if you have the Dutch nationality. The reason for this is of course drug trafficking. People from Belgium, Germany and France could easily cross the border, buy drugs and export it to their own or other countries to use or sell. The chances of getting caught were small since many countries in the European Union have abolished border controls. This is not a consequence of being part of the EU, but of the Schengen Agreement.
But the Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular are more than that. There are many nice sights to see. Dam square, the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank house, the Vondelpark are just a few of many other things to see.
And of course, last but not least, the famous canals (grachten). Amsterdam is often called Venice of the North. Truth is that Amsterdam actually has more canals and bridges over them than Venice does! Amsterdam’s canals are more or less equally as old as the ones in Venice. But Venice seems to have a better PR machine. Or perhaps it’s because of all the old movies that feature the Venice canals in them. Whatever the reason is, the canals are very nice to walk by, and popular with tourists for photo opportunities! You’ll find many places to eat or just have a drink right next to them if you’re tired of walking around the city.
In fact, much like in the picture, local people often sit right next to the canals. Sometimes bringing some drinks and snacks to just enjoy the cooler temperatures and hang out with friends. I’ve even seen people enjoy entire picnics there!
There are many things to enjoy throughout the country. But if you decide to pay a visit to a coffee shop, take it easy. Every year tourists underestimate the effects or use too much drugs and end up hurting themselves, falling into the canals or worse, end up dead due to accidents. So enjoy, but be careful!