28.02.2006 17:50 - Going Dutch
Her Maj and I have been in Amsterdam for the last three days, taking in the sights. We've found it largely enjoyable, apart from having to clean the bike tyre-tracks off our clothing, which gets tiresome after a while, and having to administer a sound beating to a Dutchman who bumped into Her Maj and called her a "Surrey Whore", which upset Her Maj a bit, because, as you know, she's not from Surrey.
I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. We didn't go in any coffeeshops. We just went in the coffeeshops that sold coffee. Before you say anything, it's fairly easy to work out which are straight, because they don't smell like an autumn bonfire, they don't have pictures of Bob Marley in the window, and they don't demand proof of age when you order hot chocolate, although I had to administer another sound beating to the waiter when Her Maj ordered a cup and the waiter called her a "Slaag".
We did, however, walk through the red-light district on our way to somewhere else. At least, we assumed it was the red-light district. It had a lot of traffic-lights, with little ones at about waist-height, and they were all red. It didn't stop the drivers. We also ate in a bar in this district, but that was fairly disappointing, as it was full of British students pretending to have smoked loads of drugs.
As for the Dutch language, it's fairly easy to understand if you know English and German, as it borrows heavily from both, and then mispells the words to try and hide where they nicked them from. We learnt how to say "Hello" in Dutch - "Het is niet goed genoeg", and learnt several other phrases such as "Ik ben door een fiets overreden", "Hond in de Goot!", "Ik wil geen harde drugs kopen. Ga weg, U afgrijselijke mensje." and "Kunt u vertellen me waar de Kaaswinkel is?" (which nearly started another fight, I can tell you).
However, one thing I saw in Amsterdam has come to symbolise the whole city for me. We walked through an open market, where you could buy bike locks and pornographic DVDs.
From the same stand.