On being in Amsterdam as a tourist

Ahh, Amsterdam – the watery princess of the North! Exuding chaos and beauty through your sinewy canals, home to a thousand bicycles and iron hooks from which you can dangle furniture, and a magnet for people of all persuasions – particularly young continentals looking to get stoned.

The novelty of Amsterdam takes a few visits to wear down because you’re hardly on the plane on the way back from wherever you came and you’re planning your next weekend to the city. This of course is due to your still altered state of consciousness whereby you hold the unwavering belief that you could subsist on joints, hot chips and cake for the rest of your terrestrial existence. Reality often kicks in when you are asked to communicate with someone born of the prevailing system and all you can manage is a string of warbling nonsense surrounded by pauses long enough in which to pour a pint of Guinness.

However Amsterdam is more than this: you will notice, if you are a male, or care to frequent the male toilets, that they paint tiny flies on the urinals. The idea is that you will instinctively aim at the fly when you piss and not on the floor, or presumably on the person standing next to you. This can only mean that people in the Netherlands either take great delight in urinating on insects or on the floor, but not both at the same time.

You can also see the world’s largest collection of working bikes near Centraal Station, crammed into a split-level parking lot on the canal. It is a marvel to witness how this modern city functions without reliance on the car, unlike so many other western metropolises. The prevalence of the bike has led to some astonishingly innovative two-wheeled contraptions such as the bike/trailer combination; the “bike for the whole family” bike, with a seat for mum and dad and two kids; and the reclining bike, which is the only personal displacement vehicle in which you can rest, smoke a doobie and exercise at the same time. The unicycle is notably absent.

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