We didn’t hurry this morning, but got out about noon. (It’s wonderful but also exhausting taking in so much all day!) It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we decided to do a lot of walking. We started out towards the Oude Kirk (Old Church).
We wandered past Amsterdam University, a really lovely corner of the city, even more lovely with the yellow autumn leaves in the canals.
The neighborhood degenerates into the Red Light District, where we passed the notorious women in windows. The other times we’d been in the Red Light District, we’d been on main streets, but we happened through some of the narrower streets on the way to the church, and so witnessed the windows. It was very strange going past them. Curiosity made me want to see what I’d heard about for so long, but I definitely felt like a voyeuristic, crass, American tourist looking at the women, as if by looking I was participating and, therefore, validating; and I definitely felt sorry for them that they had to do that, because there is no way anyone would choose that as a way to make a living, being on display as a product being the least of it. Especially when you see the people on the street who are their customers. Ugh. It seems that Amsterdam is where the Brits, especially, come to get amazingly drunk and stoned and visit the Red Light District
What keeps coming back to me is how the women looked back at me. The two that we saw made eye contact with me, and the look from both seemed to say, “You have a problem with this, bitch?” And I found myself thinking, ‘I’m not a prude, legalizing prostitution solves a lot of problems,’ etc., etc. But I realize that it is society, world-wides society, that would accuse me of being a prude because I’m far, far from OK with the fact that these women are in windows. They do it, presumably, because they can’t do anything else, at least not for the same money. But their customers are fine with treating them as non-persons. And the legalization seems to give validation to that. “Boys will be boys. What can you do?” Obviously, it is going to happen anyway, but should it be validated? Should Amsterdam be a Mecca for sleazes? (Yes, I am judging the customers.) Another aspect of it is that these women pay rent for the windows, an hourly rate. So these women have to have a few hundred Euros to start or have a backer. You can bet this is still a form of slavery to pimps. OK, I’m not saying anything new or earth-shattering here. But I feel the need to say it.
Ironically, the Oude Kirk is in the middle of the Red Light District, with tattoo parlors and sex shops built right up against its walls. However, there was a really sweet cafe built into the back of it with a lovely outdoor seating area. And the people working there didn’t look askance at all that I ordered a sandwich without the bread.
The Oude Kirk is the oldest building in Amsterdam, built in 1306. It is quite spare inside due to the Protestants’ “Alteration” in 1566, when all “superstitious images” were purged from the churches. But the light and space is just lovely.
The choir stalls have carvings when the seats are folded up, many humorous, some bawdy. Here is a guy hitting his head against a brick wall, a dog, and a man who can’t sit because he can’t choose between two identical chairs.
From there we threaded our way past more women in windows to the Church in the Attic. For some time, public worship of anything but Protestantism was banned, but private observance was fine. So there were several houses with churches in the attic. This house is a 17th century house, which was mostly preserved as it had been, but has been restored as well. It was quite remarkable.
The attic of the house, above and behind the church, showed a great pulley system to haul bales of linen, the house owner’s business, up to the storage part of the house. It was very clever. It used the hoisting hook on the front of the house, ubiquitous in Amsterdam, with a roller so that a wheel could be turned to hoist or lower. There was also a lovely view of the city from the attic.After that museum, we made our way to Wyand and Fockink, a genever-tasting bar. (Jim gets all the credit for finding all these odd little museums, merchants, memorials, etc. I never found time to do any research, but he did masses of it.) We discovered genever (pronounced ya-nay-vfer, we were told today) our first day. It is a type of gin produced only in Amsterdam, served in tiny tulip-shaped glasses. I love it. Wyand and Fockink has no seats. You belly up to a counter where there is a bath for the glasses. Take a glass from one customer, swish it in the bath for a few seconds, shake, fill, and serve to the next customer. I told Jim that my dad would have been out of there with one look at that! (It did give me pause, I have to admit, but I got over it. :-) ) We had been drinking junge (young) and oude (old) genever in restaurants, the old having a bite, the young smooth. But we tried the oldest of W&F’s genevers, the superior, aged in bourbon barrels, and it was really, really good. So we bought a smaller bottle to drink here and a larger one to take home. Jim’s smile is worthy of Frans Hals in this picture, don’t you think?
We wandered around, looking in shop windows and checking out restaurants, ending up in the Jordaan district. We had dinner at Lucius, a seafood restaurant highly recommended by Zagat, but where the waitstaff were extremely snotty. However, the fish was amazingly good. I had three sole, served whole and skinless, fried in butter.