Today was an interesting one spent in the center of the city. While there arguably wasn’t as much to do there (and anyone is free to disagree here), I made the most of it. The itinerary was created almost unintentionally, thanks to a chance encounter in my hostel. You see, on the way to the kitchen/living room in the basement, there are a bunch of fliers with discounts and special offers for the various museums and spectacles Amsterdam has to offer; you can’t miss it when walking there. On my first day, I happened to glance at them, and for the most part they were the usual “save €1 or 2” deals, but one stuck out-Madame Tussaud’s. If you haven’t heard about it, Madame Tussaud’s is the famous wax museum borne from the 18th century French artisan. I’d been to the New York one, albeit over a decade ago, so I immediately decided I had to visit the one here.
The museum was located at the corner of the main street running through the city center, and the sizeable crowd tipped me off to its presence. The wait was a mere fifteen minutes, as there was only one cash register open. However, once I made it inside, I was greeted immediately by Adele (while Hello was playing). Naturally I couldn’t resist taking a selfie, since wax version or not, you don’t get the opportunity to rub elbows with celebrities that often. After that, I took an elevator up to the start of the gallery, and that’s where the fun started. Every visitor had two pictures taken of them in different poses, which later came back in the form of a souvenir picture. Then, the first sector was about politicians, so I “met” President Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Dutch royal family, among others. Oddly enough, I felt pretty important whilst hobnobbing with them! I proceeded to move on to see celebrities, and it was fantastic. The highlights included Nicolas Cage (love him or hate him), Jennifer Lopez, Sean Connery, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, and Lady Gaga. Naturally, I went wild with selfie here, which to be honest, was an ongoing theme for the day. I will add that some Dutch celebrities were interspersed here, giving it a local flavor. The next part was my favorite, as it was a Project Runaway-themed section, aka there were models. Selfies ensued, and my Snapchat friends were treated to what I hope were examples of my wit. But I digress. The next few sections saw some musicians, scientists/people of culture (think Einstein, van Gogh, Salvador Dali, etc.), and finally athletes. All in all I thought it was an excellent time, and well worth the visit. In the end, I did purchase the aforementioned souvenir picture, so I did go full blown tourist there.
After leaving, I tried to make my way to the infamous Red Light District. I say tried, as my first effort saw me get lost and have to ask for directions; I somehow found myself temporarily on the University of Amsterdam’s campus. No worries, as a helpful local pointed me in the right direction. If you haven’t been to the Red Light District, it’s an interesting, borderline family unfriendly place. You saw a lot of related stores, primarily with skimpy and risque lingerie, but some outright porn merchandising. Even though I knew what I was going to see, it was a bit of a shock seeing the prostitutes dancing in the windows of the brothels. I have been asked if I partook in festivities there, and the answer is no. However, I definitely saw why people travel to Amsterdam for that express purpose.
One surprising thing I found while there was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Museum of Prostitution. However, it was a fascinating insight into the district, and I genuinely would recommend it. I understand that for some people, prostitution is an iffy concept at best, but the museum helped clean up and dispel certain notions about this field. Fellow visitors and I were treated to an opening video about the daily routine of brothels and prostitutes, and it showed that they’re just normal humans who go to work every day. Also, the museum was keen to highlight how prostitution is regulated by the government, meaning brothels are inspected and clean. Visitors also were taken through a mock up of rooms patronized, which was fascinating. The last thing we saw was a mirror that every visitor had to walk by. However, the kicker was that the sign asked us to look at ourselves to see how we’d look at the prostitutes. That sent a strong message, as while you want to believe you’re compassionate and respectful, some visitors succumb to their temptations. All in all, I walked away with a far higher respect for the workers in the Red Light District.