Amsterdam is a strange and wonderful city. It’s a juxtaposition of dark and light. It’s vibrant and torpid and chaotic and organized and clean and seedy. But it’s all of these things because it’s transparent. You can decide what you want to see. On one street, crimson lights line the windows and illuminate moving pictures of apathetic prostitutes. Framed within these square dens of predetermined pleasure are bored faces and bare bodies, texting on iPhones. A few steps more and you are walking along a glistening, sun-soaked canal. This time the light is pure and delicate, and its golden glow falls on the water in a way that’s just right.
When in Amsterdam, you’re supposed to party. But you might end up just sipping hot chocolate and taking way too many free cheese samples. You might just start talking to the nut guy for half an hour about America, realizing you have common views on how terrifying the NYPD is and how bewildering is the motivation for wanting to live in Midwest. You may find yourself renting a bike to blend in and stopping often to enjoy the scenery, exhaling deeply while sitting on a bench somewhere.
Amsterdam understands the little things, the simple pleasures, and they are all around you here. Whether they are temptations, prerogatives, or indulgences is your decision, in one of the few places where peacefulness and vice coexist in their own reality.