Touring Amsterdam, Holland by bike

26 June 2010

Day 16: Amsterdam - Thursday, June 17th
This marvelous Dutch city is absolutely adorable! There is an ordinance in Amsterdam that requires residents to keep the exterior of their homes as they always have been. They are only allowed to change the interior. I love this ordinance, primarily because it keeps the houses looking authentic and, well, Dutch!

Day 17: Amsterdam - Friday, June 18th
Holly and I arrived a day before Heather and her friend, Britta. We walked around the city and took full advantage of yet another free walking tour through Sandeman's New Europe Tours. The tour was fantastic. It gave us a good layout of the city and provided us with plenty of ideas for where to spend our time. We also learned a lot about these less than Anglo-Saxon laws (i.e. that prostitutes get benefits). In case anyone in the States can't find work... Prostitution in Amsterdam is always an option. Just sayin'!

Prostitutes receive health care, work full work weeks, are required to file taxes for their income (including tips), and they receive vacation days. That's better than what some of my friends get, and they have college degrees! I'm not actually suggesting that anyone should reconsider his or her future plans, but I suppose it is always an option if you're looking to relocate?

The government changed their regulations on prostitution and marijuana in the late '80s in an effort to curb underground, unsafe practices. They thought that by allowing residents to have access to marijuana and prostitutes by law, the government would be cutting out more of the shady crimes like dealing hard drugs and trafficking. As time as shown, their laws are effective, which is why they remain. However, it seems as though one of the laws may be changing in the near future. On the flight home, I brushed up on my international affairs and learned that Holland is considering changing their laws to read that only Holland citizens can legally purchase and use marijuana. Good thing we went when we did, right? Haha. Just kidding, Mom!

Hol and I had the best weather in Amsterdam! We busted out our cycling skills and took a four-hour countryside bike tour with Mike's Bike Tours. It may have been the most enjoyable tour we've taken in all of Europe (aside from our Scottish tour)! It was fantastic. We rode through the charming (read: chaotic) bike-filled streets of Amsterdam, dodging pro-cyclers left and right before eventually making our way to a historical Dutch windmill. It was darling!

Our guide said that the Dutch can do whatever they want with prostitutes and marijuana, but they will be in huuuuuuuge trouble if they touch the windmills. The windmills are protected by the government as UNESCO National Heritage sites. Officials allow families to live in the windmills for about 5€ a month, as long as they keep up the windmills and let them spin twice a year (one day being National Windmill Day). That's nuts! I'd love to live in a windmill!

The tour continued to a clog and cheese-making factory! We ditched the bikes for a bit and tried some homemade Dutch cheese produced by our friends, the cheese-makers (cows). It was incredible. I love cheese, but now I love Dutch cheese even more. I tried taking some home with me, but they said it wouldn't be allowed passed customs.

Okay, quick break before I finish up on Amsterdam and then Berlin. I want to go talk to our Hungarian host. (We're in Budapest.) He's trying PB and J for the first time in his life! I can't imagine a life without it!

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