This morning I explored the streets of Amsterdam, by going for a very long walk. 'Twas a bit chilly, but the sun was shining and the atmosphere was pleasant. Amsterdam's a great city to walk around: great to cycle around as well, but I'll have to do that another time. I spent several hours admiring the lazy canals that ring around the city centre, the quintessential squashed-in terrace houses, and the plethora of bicycles that are both chained-up in, and being ridden on, every street in town. It's quite a sleepy place of a weekday morning: unlike what you'd expect from a northern European city, many of the shops in Amsterdam don't open until 11am or midday; and many people are clearly still recovering from a big night out.
The main reason why my walk was so long, was because I was looking for some Internet. It seems that here in Amsterdam, Internet is surprisingly scarce! After more than two hours, and prowling almost every street in the city centre, I was unable to find any public access places at all. Finally, I returned to a shop not far from my hostel, that offered plenty of free PCs, and that I'd noticed when I was out last night. I think that's the only single Internet joint in town. Considering how many backpackers Amsterdam gets, I find this downright ridiculous. But hey, perhaps none of Amsterdam's visitors care about going online, because they've all got so many better things to do?
Speaking of those better things, I saw plenty of them on my walk. I had a stroll through the red-light district: as I was told, it does indeed stretch on forever (it's over 1km long), and it's packed with shop windows, behind which scantily-clad women spend all day posing and beckoning. Since I already saw similar stuff a few days ago, when I visited Antwerp, it wasn't such a shock to my system. Also, I think I went too early to get the proper experience: many of the girls were apparently "off duty" for the morning, and most of the famous windows were empty.
As well as its red light district, Amsterdam's legalised soft drugs establishment is also something you can't avoid noticing. The sale of these products is hardly discrete around here. Weed shops are everywhere, and usually have a large green lit-up sign, with an illustration of a large bunch of leaves painted on them. Magic mushroom shops are even worse: the orange lit-up "toadstool signs" are ubiquitous; and the shops are usually fairly specific in advertising the numerous varieties that they stock. It's quite common to see city police walking past groups of friends smoking a joint on the footpath: naturally, the cops don't bother them at all. This has to be one of the most crazy and surreal places on Earth.