Morgans Guide to Amsterdam

A- is for Awesome
M- is for Magnificent
S- is for sensational
T- is for Terrific
E- is for Excellent
R- is for Ridiculous
D- is for Different Experience
A- is for Amazing
M- is for Memories
Hi Im Morgan,
Or as some of you may know me “Mr M”
Welcome to my one and only ever blog post for Life’s Shiny Pretty Things (LSPT).  I would like to begin by apologising to you all for making you endure the opening of this post.  The reason for it is becuase the last time I wrote something on a creative level that another person might actually read it would have been in the 3rd grade and looked  very similar to the above.
I promised Anna several months ago that I would write something for LSPT during our time in Europe and I  feel that my time in Amsterdam is something that may be worth sharing with you all.  This will be a slight departure from what you may normally expect when you read LSPT but I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it for you.   
Ready? Ok, here we go 🙂 
Amsterdam – The  Red Light district, Smoking Pot, Live Sex Shows, Anne Franks House, The original Maddam Tussaudes and Windmills are a few things that spring to mind when someone utters the words Amsterdam. I intend to give my account of the first 3 points mentioned above, much to my mothers disgust I’m sure.
We arrived in to Amsterdam on the train at Amsterdam central station, which is basiccally the heart of the city. After leaving the train station the first thing you will notice- well atleast the first thing I noticed – will be its stunning acrchitecture, followed by the ovelwhelming smell of  Pot, …Sativa, Indica, Blow, Puff, Draw, Weed, Ganja, Grass, Bhang, Dagga, Mary Jane, marijuana, Dope, Hash(eesh), Herb, Wacky backy, Tea, Thc, Pot, Chronic, Sensimilia, Bush, Solid, Lambsbread, Reefer, Greenleaf, Sweetleaf, Bud, Kif, Toke, Rope, Hemp, Hop, Smoke, Greens, Colly, Doobage, Shit, Black, Rocky, Slate, Gold Seal, Golf Ball, Northern Lights, Desert Orchid, Skunk, Gear, Orange Leaf, Pollen, Black Widow, Squidgy Black, Redline, Hippie lettuce……… 
What ever you call it its in your face from the moment you leave the train station.
Now before I go any further on this topic I must make you all aware that Anna and I don’t condone the use of illegal drugs and are not under normal circumstances drug users ourselves but as they saying goes “when in Rome”- Sorry Mum.
Let’s get the most important thing straight…In Amsterdam it’s important to know the difference between Coffe Shops and Cafe’s.  Cafe’s are pretty much what you would expect. Friendly staff, Coffee, Croissants, light meals etc.  Coffee shops are very similar but their cofffee tends be shit as does their food. The main differnce is that a Coffee shop can legally supply Pot as long as it is no more than 5 grams per person per day. 
Breaking it down simpler for you…
Coffee shops = buying/smoking weed, shit coffee
Cafes = drinking actual coffee, eating their delicious cuisine .. minus weed. 
“Coffee Shops” are not allowed to supply Alcohol if they are supplying pot and can be clearly identified by a specific green and white sticker on the window near the entrance.  
My only advice for you if you wish to partake in this aspect of the Dutch culture is to talk to the attendant in the coffee shop before selecting anything to smoke.  I am by no means an avid smoking – truth be told I dont even really enjoy the effects of pot–  but by letting the person know your needs and requirements they then actually reccommend something that won’t “ruin your day” as Inga from Pop-eyes Coffee Shop – yes that’s a real name – so eloquently put it to me.
Random Amsterdam Factoid 1- The city takes its name from the river “Amstel” and the word Dam comes from, well the word Dam.  Some 500-600 years ago they built dam walls around the river Amstel, drained all the water out using windmills and built the beginings of the city now known as Amsterdam.  The dam walls are reffered to by the Dutch as “Dykes”.
The city was then built on the remaining swamp land which is why most of their buildings are leaning to one side or as we say in Australia “are on the piss” – something we continually remarked to the locals “ahh why are you’re buildings on the piss”? much to their delight.  One of the Catholic church towers had its foundations made from 1000’s of cow skins in effort to combat the sinking effect caused by the swamps
So let’s move on to the ‘thing’ that you all want to hear about (or what we were fascinated by anyway…)
The Red light District and live Sex Shows-yes. Live sex shows. 
Sexy, Sleezy, Smutty,Exciting but unforuntaly demoralising.  There was and always will be something very exciting  to most hot blooded human beings about the red light district, as was the case for me.  We arrived in the red light district at around 8:00pm and the streets were a buzz with tourists, families – yes not even kidding, families, locals and even one Jewish Rabih trying to arrange a 3 way with 2 working girls…….. I shit you not – every prostitute waved him on and it actually got quite awkward. 
As mentioned the majority of the girls are very attractive, but behind their pretty smiles and ‘come hither’ looks I couldn’t help but wonder how free they actually were.  Its often said that the eyes are the gateway to soul, and when I looked into the eyes of the women I could see only Sorrow.  That got me thinking.. Where did they come from? How did they end up in their current profession?

Anna and I contemplated paying one of the girls some money for an interview to ask these types of questions, but neither one of us had the courage to actually go through with it. So instead we ended up speaking to some locals and the consensus we got from them was that a lot of the women come from Russia –Except for the Asian transvestites- and there is a lot of speculation over whether or not they are being forced to do this against their will or if they choose this lifestyle for themselves. Or as almost every local put it “we’re not sure how free they are to leave”. 

I know life for most Women who live in the free world is not without its difficulties, but for the vast majority you are free to make your own choices.  What resonated with me the most was that a lot of these women aren’t. So the next time you drop your Iphone and crack the screen or the next time you get mcdonalds at 10:35 and they have stopped serving the breakfast menu, remember … that things could always be much, much worse…… You could be a Russian sex slave about to start a 12 hour shift in the red light district and an American naval fleet just docked in the harbour that morning.  
At the end of my time in Amsterdam I came  to the conclusion that there is much more to this place than Coffee shops and sex shows, which admittedly for me were the 2 major draw cards that led me to buying my plane ticket.  Rich in history, bursting with culture and overflowing truck loads of diverse types of food that will have you drooling at every turn.  So far on this trip Amsterdam was easily my favourite place and if you’re ever in Europe I highly recommend spending some time there.
Amsterdam We will be back!!
[ One of the canals near the Red Light District – you’re not allowed to take pics in the actual area, so we took one of the canal instead .. compromise..]

[ Left: Me with Sean Connary & Right: Anna with Michael Jackson – having fun at Madaame Tussaudes ]

[ An example of the houses ‘on the piss’ – they are sinking from being built on swamp ]

[ Enjoying our canal cruise – Amsterdam as we learnt is called the Venice of the North ]

[ Anna loving life in an amazing cheese shop – one of her favourite foods! ]

[ Indulging in our other favourite food – ice cream .. so so delicious ]

Words with meaning – The ‘Anne Frank experience’

1. A wax replica of Anne Frank (we found at Madame Tussaudes museum in Amsterdam)
2. The church she would peer out at from an attic window in her secret Annexe – when she talks about the church she can see in the published book – this church is exactly it.
3. A view of the house she hid in for all those years – view is from across the canals. The house is the one with the blacked out windows (the house is in it’s original form, they have just converted it in to a walk through ‘museum’ so to speak)
4. A close up of the house – the one with the blacked out windows. It was her fathers workplace and his boss, Viktor Kruger was the one who helped hide them for all those years (he was sadly arrested when they were betrayed & the Germans arrested them).
A very profound and emotional moment for me & Morgan but I am naturally more emotional than he happened the other day in Amsterdam … we visited Anne Franks house where she hid with 7 others during World War 2. Most can probably say the same, I know most who have travelled, more specifically to Amsterdam will have been to visit the same house & I’m sure had the same experience. But as with all things of the heart, we take different lessons away from the same experiences. And this was incredibly emotional for me and something I took huge lessons away from. 
Here is the terrible part though, I’m going to embarrass myself more than you know right now with this admission… I in fact didn’t know she was so young, Morgan & I had thought, that she was older and helped hide others. When in actual fact, she was a mere child being hid by her fathers boss & associate. I also didn’t know she ended up getting captured, and dying in one of the worst Concentration camps of that time – Auschwitz Birkenau death camp. I thought she had lived, I thought she survived, that she was one of the lucky ones so to speak, that she had gone through her terrible experiences but lived to experience life again. But she wasn’t. She died alone, and starving, in horrors unimaginable. 
I couldn’t contain my tears in the exhibition and was quietly crying most of the time. 
Going through that house, being able to walk through the very rooms that she hid in with her family (& others) for so many years is haunting – the feelings in there are indescribable. You can be in the exact rooms that they lived in, walk through the secret door which led you up to their secret annexe, stand on the floors they couldn’t walk on for most of the 24 hours in a day for fear of someone hearing. It was astounding & heartbreaking all at the same time.
But what got me the most, was her diary. Her words, her insight, her wishes & dreams. That is what touched me the most. 
Throughout the whole tour I had overwhelming feelings of gratitude. For my opportunities in life, for my family, for my freedom…& don’t get me wrong. I am acutely aware that in this day and age there are sadly, countries that still persecute for speaking your mind or being different – but for the majority, we are free. 
And that’s just it…that’s what got me.
You see, the thing is, today, us young, free, fearless women have incredible platforms to share with the world our hopes & wishes & dreams. We aren’t subject to hiding in dark rooms writing in diaries as our only means of escape, not hiding away fearing for our lives – we have the right to express, to dream… to live.

There were many quotes from Anne’s diary throughout the ‘museum’ -they’ve turned the house in to a walk through museum- but there are 2 that resonated with me the most, and I believe will so for the rest of my days…
“When I write, I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revivied” – Anne Frank, 5th April 1944
“I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free” – Anne Frank, 24th December 1943
It hit me in my soul – her greatest wish, was what I take for granted every, single, day. I can walk outside, breathe in fresh air, have the sun on my face, dance down the street, laugh with my loved ones. I am free. 
What’s more, I can share this freedom with like minded people – I can blog. I do blog. And so do you. And that was a huge lesson for me. I have this platform to share things, personal things, not so personal things, whatever it is that is on my heart or in my head and that, is a responsibility I take very seriously. I was crying in that museum, not only for the incredible tragedy that I witnessed before my eyes in pictures and words – but for the freedom that I have to write, to share & to live. I realised that I am more lucky than I will ever truly realise, and that we each have a responsibility if we are writers or bloggers – and to not take that responsibility lightly. 
“The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air” – Anne Frank, 23rd February 1944
So go outside. Look up at your sky wherever you are in the world, take in a deep breathe – and be happy that you are free. 
I am.