Amsterdam Walking Tour

When I was in Amsterdam, I went on a free walking tour, our guide, Mark, was brilliant his knowledge of the city and the fact that he loves Amsterdam so much really came through when he talked to us; it made me want to do his job. Here are some of my favourite bits:

A couple of pictures of Mark, our crazy tour guide, and yes he really did wear those clogs the whole way around the city. Dedication or what?

The first thing Mark told us was that, excluding cyclists, the Dutch are incredibly tolerant people. They stayed neutral during WW1, they allowed catholicism to be practiced during the reformation, they allow smoking of drugs and prostitution. This is all because of something known as Dutch Tolerance. This means that as long as something is done discreetly, isn't harming anyone and is good business it will be allowed. 

Our first stop was the red light district where we learned a bit about prostitution. It is now totally legal for the girls to work in the city as long as they're EU residents and they're not being pimped out- the girls money is their own and they have to pay tax just like everyone else in Amsterdam. We found out that most girls do an 8hr shift & rent their window from the Amsterdam city council for 850€ per 8hrs. The oldest working lady is 84 years old and apparently has a two week waiting list- yikes!

Pictured above is a sculpture that some anonymous artist put in the pavement in the Red Light District, no one saw it getting put in, and it represents the tolerance dutch people have toward this sort of activity. The city council weren't too pleased that someone dug their pavement up to put this in, but after many protests from the Dutch people- "we want our breasts back!"- the sculpture was returned to its original place.

The building in this image with the little white windows along it is called the lord in the attic. This was a catholic church during the reformation, but as the Dutch have tolerance for most things and they were doing it relatively discreetly- people outside could hear them singing, but it was on a Sunday and the police didn't work Sunday's, so they got away with it!

Mount amsterdam, "9 steps that aren't in a building!" Mark was showing us how the city was built on dams and dykes to make the canals flow freely without flooding.

Part of the Amsterdam university campus where we all sneak inside quietly, only to get kicked out by security five minutes later as we are a fire hazard.

Part of the Begijnhof, one of the oldest courtyards in the city, kind of like a secret garden. It also houses one of only two wooden houses left in the city. This area used to home nuns & to this day only single women of good repute are allowed to live in these houses.

Amsterdam's Darling, given to the city by a cigarette company. This square in Spui held lots of protests during the 50's, 60's and 70's by a group called Provo who protested against many things including knocking down parts of the city to build new houses after the second world war. They encouraged people to squat as the law protected squatters as much as people who rented apartments, and many of them (because owners of certain buildings had died in the war) became the owners of their squats. It meant the city stayed the beautiful place that we all cram in to visit today.

The narrowest house in the city is in the middle of those buildings. In the city the wider the house the higher the tax band, it didn't matter how many floors it had as long as it was narrow.

We ended our tour at the Anne Frank house, where Mark told us about Otto Frank and how Amsterdammers will always stand up for each other, and anyone that lives in their city. Most recently Amsterdam city council defied the governments plans to no longer allow the children of asylum seekers to complete their education. In the Netherlands in order to receive your secondary education diploma you have to spend a year interning, and it was decided that these people were no longer allowed to do that, and thus couldn't get a diploma. The city council said, this would not happen in Amsterdam, which the government disagreed with announcing fines of 8,000€ per day per person found to be doing an intern 'illegally'. The city council announced that all asylum seekers should apply to amsterdam city council for their internship and they would pay the 8,000€ per person per day out of a fund they had for underprivileged children living in the city!

How awesome are Amsterdammers?

Disclaimer I wrote this post in July 2012, and had a great time on this walking tour & wanted to include it as part of my Amsterdam trip on my blog. Since then THIS has been brought to my attention which saddens me, and has made my decision about whether or not I will be using this walking tour company again.

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