Beyond the Red Light : A Different Class of Dutch Coffee Shop
By Laura Eberschveiler
Originally published by Wanderous Affair Magazine of Toronto, Canada
Amsterdam is a time-capsule of a city with a personality as divergent and interlocked as the canals that twine it together. Shoe-softened cobblestones and rows of gabbled roofs enkindle the feeling of a tidy, well-to-do town. Genteel locals chat cheerfully along waterside terraces, gracious and well-mannered, as they sip from foamy biers. With its abundance of museums, boathouses, and amicable residents, the ambiance in Amsterdam is one of charming refinement.
Humble beginnings as a medieval fishing village led the way to Amsterdam’s eventual status as a major 17th-century trading port at the height of the Dutch Golden Age. Diamonds, Eastern spices, and tea fueled the expansion of the city as it rose from the Amstel River Dam, over time transforming the town into a veritable haven for countless esteemed political, artistic, and academic figures.
Yet the city is just as well known for its drug use and prostitution as it is for Van Gogh and Vermeer. Curious visitors travel from far to explore Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light Districts - Yes, there is more than one red light district in Amsterdam. Surrounded by a wealth of interesting neighborhoods lies the port town’s oldest and most recognized red light district, De Wallen. So-called for the earthen walls that formerly enclosed it, De Wallen was a convenient spot for 14th-century sailors on shore leave to enjoy a drink and a woman. The area was so popular that the code word for paid sex in the Netherlands eventually became “wall.” Many, many years later and it is still Amsterdam’s go-to hot spot for recreational stimulants and prostitution…
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