23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th - Amsterdam
After finding the best coffee in Amsterdam (thanks SK) we started our walking tour from Dam square. We saw the royal palace and national monument before walking through the infamous red light district, where we found amongst many red windows and coffee shops a large church. Surely one of the only cities in the world where this is a normal sight. Interesting to note the church was built not only to support the women of the industry but for the men to confess their sins and pay for their indulgences (nice way for the church to make a bit of money on the side). We then passed the Waag, a large building that used to sit at the main entrance to the canal network and was where all the ships used to have their cargo weighted. We then passed the VOC (the Dutch East India trading company), with quite an amazing history. We then saw the old men and women's prisons, junkies bridge, the coffee shop made famous by Oceans 12 and heard about the miracle of Amsterdam. After then grabbing a bite for lunch we headed to the house of Anne Frank. Incredible to believe that two families lived in such a small space with minimal rations and were unable to make any noise during the hours of factory operation; yet survived for 2 years before being exploited by someone who found out about them. We then met up with SK and went out to one of her favourite restaurants in Amsterdam and finished the night off with a few amber ales at Leiza Plain Square.
With tour guide (SK) in tow today we explored some of the up-market streets before being rained out and headed for cover of the shops. After a few little purchases we stopped by and checked out the oldest house of Amsterdam and the Church of Scotland. We then grabbed lunch at a bar on Spui before deciding a few more drinks needed to be consumed before we started our tour, so we headed to the red light district and downed shots and a cocktail. We then met at the Prostitution Info Centre where our tour commenced, a tour of the red light district with a former prostitute. Well what an interesting tour this turned out to be, gaining an insight into an industry most know little about. After being given a quick run-down of the history of the industry, we strolled pass some of the many windows while she explained some of the more intricate details of how the industry works. We then entered a working room where we stood in the window for a period of time to see life from the workers view (amazing how many people just stare at you as they walk past) before entering one of the rooms at the back. Our guide went a little more in depth giving a very clear imagine of what goes on behind the scenes. Then after answering our questions and giving us some amazing stats we headed down one of the smallest streets in Amsterdam, only a metre wide with windows on each side. With the tour ending we headed to Amsterdam's China town for dinner, before heading back through the red light district, this time with a much more informed view.
The following day we hired a couple of bikes and took them for a ride to the outskirts of Amsterdam along the Amstel River. After passing one of the large windmills we stopped for lunch at a quaint little pub on the river. We then headed back and had a relaxing coffee on the side of the canal as the sun set.