We accidentally spent our first night in Amsterdam in the Red Light District.
Anna and I landed in Amsterdam around 9 pm and had somehow thought we were going to land earlier in the afternoon. We were going to find a campground I’d looked into, but it was too late to try to find our way to the campsite, which is 30 minutes away by bike. So we looked on HostelWorld as we were waiting for our trekking bags at baggage claim. We found a really affordable hostel with okayyy ratings and decided to go for that.
We didn’t know how to get there, but we figured we could take the train to Amsterdam Centraal and figure it out from there. On the platform we met Michelle, a nurse with the most fairy-like and amazingly-colored hair. We talked while we waited for the train and then shared stories from traveling on the train to the central station.
Anna and I told Michelle about how we were trying to use Couchsurfing but hadn’t found anyone to host us in Amsterdam. At the end of our ride, as everyone stood up to get off, a woman approached us. “I couldn’t help but hear your conversation…” She offered to let us stay at her home. “I’ve never done something like this before, but I’d love to trade my couch for your stories and travel advice.” Smriti gave us her phone number and we agreed to talk soon, since she would have to speak with her housemate first.
We parted from Michelle and made our way toward our hostel. My friend Josephine recommended a GPS app for when I don’t have wifi and it works extraordinarily well ~ it’s called Maps.me ~ so we found our hostel with little trouble. The streets were already full of people milling around, with drinks or food or smokes. I noticed that there were mostly groups of men and mentioned this to Anna, but we still didn’t think much of it.
We found the hostel in a narrow alley after asking for help from a few people. The steps into the hostel were intensely narrow and steep ~ I wish I’d taken a photo, but it was incredibly hard edging up the stairs with my trekking bag. I got my bag stuck on the ceiling, it was such a small space.
Because we were doing a last-minute reservation the only beds available were in different rooms. “Who wants room 4, who wants room 6?” The young man working at reception asked us. Anna claimed room 4, so I got room 6.
I walked in, and there were two guys singing in Spanish and playing the guitar. They didn’t pause as I put my stuff down. I had a top bunk. I looked around and quickly realized I was the only female in the dorm. Pshhh no big deal, I thought to myself.
Anna’s room was lovely. There was a young woman there relaxing as her boyfriend went to buy donuts for them, and we chatted about road tripping and traveling. Traveling is a go-to conversation topic when you are traveling and meet people.
Anna and I decided to go walk around and explore.
We made our way outside and walked along the canal. We found a restaurant for dinner and got a couple of drinks and sandwiches, and walked around more. The streets were dark unless lit by cafes or coffeeshops. As the time grew later, I heard more comments directed our way by men milling around the street corners. I felt uncomfortable and hadn’t expected Amsterdam to be like this, just on any old street in the city. I commented to Anna that perhaps we were in the Red Light District ~ it was then that we came upon the red-lit rooms with women standing in the windows.
Realization of the night: there is a correlation between objectification of women and increased comments as to particular body parts, and the area where prostitution occurs. Of course there would be ~ although it is safer here, this does not remove the aspect of prostitution that it involves purchasing services solely for the physical, the object-part.
I don’t like the feeling of walking around and being an object. No one does.
The adventures continued in the hostel. Anna and I went to our respective rooms, but a huge group of guys walked in just as I was falling asleep. They were really loud and obviously drunk, and started all getting undressed. I had had a glass of wine, and decided that the situation warranted escape.
Anna and I ended up sitting on the tiny platform between the 2 floors of the hostel with unimaginably narrow and steep staircases. We talked for a while, until we decided that the move to make would be for us to share Anna’s bunk bed in her *lovely* room.
Anna, in her hurry to meet me, had left her keys in her room.
Then commenced a night of both of us sharing the top bunk of the bed in my room. I hadn’t thought to move all of my stuff off the bed, and we ended up kicking things onto the guy underneath us. The bed was so small that we fit shoulder-to-shoulder but couldn’t move. The blanket didn’t even cover one of us.
We found the world’s best hostel first thing the next morning.