Tulips and hamster jam  

Thursday, 31 January 2008

I have just returned from a hectic few days in Amsterdam, working at a large trade show at the Rai Conference Centre. This isn't the first time I've visited Amsterdam - I've been there loads of times before - however it was the first time I felt myself warming to the place a bit.

Perhaps it's because I have never been to the city as a tourist, only as a worker, that I've never really understood the attraction. To me, Amsterdam is like London - a place of faded glory; a once attractive city that has allowed itself to become mired in sleaze and grime. Sleazy and grimy it most certainly is: from the sex trade to its famous dope-puffing coffee shops, there really isn't another city like it for full-on, in-yer-face hedonism. The Amsterdam phenomenon is something I have always attributed to the Dutch character. An extention of their famous liberal nature to its logical conclusion. However now I'm not so sure.

There's one thing that a lot of the seedier places in Amsterdam have in common, and that is the fact that everything seems to be geared towards the English. From premier league football on Sky Sports, to pubs called "London Tavern" and cafes with the ubiquitous "Full English" on the menu, it would appear that catering to libatious needs of the British is big business in Amsterdam.

This realisation has led me to the conclusion that perhaps it's not the Dutch that have buggered-up a beautiful city, but the British. All the Dutch are doing is providing a means of relieving the sex-drugs-rock'n'roll craving visitors from the UK from their Euros. In turn this has made me realise that perhaps they're not so daft after all: By creating a sleaze-honeypot in the centre of town, the good people of Amsterdam benefit from the money coming into the region, while keeping all the louts in a relatively confined area, thereby limiting their impact on the more genteel areas. There's got to be a lesson the town planners of England can learn from that.

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