Amsterdam is bustling with tourists again, not for everyone’s fun


Red Light Neighborhood Residents of the Red Light Neighborhood wear yellow jackets to monitor the neighborhood to prevent disturbing tourists.Statue of Jos Dobelmann / de Volkskrant

Everything is back to normal in the Amsterdam Red Light District. Groups of wide-eyed Asians walk past red-lit windows, young men from all over Europe hang out on the waterfront smoking weed, and British girls swing from sports bar to sports bar with Bacardi Cola in hand. On Easter, in front of the Casa Rosso sex theater, the waiting time increases to more than an hour.

Anyone who had secretly hoped that the coronavirus pandemic would be a gateway to a different society — to a more sustainable world that takes one another and the climate into account — was disappointed this Easter holiday. All over Holland, people were consuming, traveling and arguing as usual.

Garden centers sent traffic guards to their parking lots; Terrace-goers had to wait a long time for their order due to crowding and lack of staff; On the roads to Designer Outlet Roermond – the most popular attraction in the Netherlands – traffic lights have been modified to improve the flow of traffic; All Keukenhof tickets have been sold out and during the Ajax-PSV Cup final, 22 of their fans were arrested by police for fighting and throwing fireworks.

selling herbs

As usual: in Amsterdam, tourists are swaying shoulder to shoulder again. The municipality is trying to return the city to residents for five years by banning new souvenir stores, waffle shops and small supermarkets, making Airbnb vacation rentals more difficult and Recommending alternative locations, such as Amsterdam Beach (Zandvoort) and Amsterdam Castle (Moederslot). Mayor Vimki Halsema is anticipating much of a much-wanted ban on the sale of cannabis to foreigners. However, the new Amsterdam City Council is opposed, fearing additional inconvenience from street traders.

“People come here to celebrate,” says host/guardian Lewis of the Drink ‘n Sink party café, happy with the bustle of the street. Inside, French, Spanish and British visitors smoke a filling, while Sky Sports is on. “They keep coming, even if they are not allowed to buy herbs themselves.” The sex shop salesman also adds: “There are street dealers on every corner here, it doesn’t matter.” In his shop, groups of giggling girlfriends admire the latest models of bluetooth-controlled vibrators. In front of Café Hot or Not, the dull boy from London, with a large diamond tattoo on his Adam’s apple, tells us he’d love to visit Amsterdam, although less so this weekend. “I just paid two hundred euros for a coke, but that turned out to be baking soda!”

“Yes, of course you can also party in Dublin,” said a group of slightly awkward Irishmen in line for the theater at Casa Rosso. “But here everything is happening in the open!” With a glass in hand, they slowly moved towards the entrance as owner Jean Auten looks on with conviction at the large crowd from his wheelchair. The 79-year-old Red Light District King, who once started out as a sidewalk waiter (the bouncer), also owns Banana Bar, Erotic Museum, Hospital Bar, and Sexy Loo. “Fortunately, things are going well again, after three difficult years.” For fifty euros per person, visitors get some striptease, live sex, and a drink. Capacity: 184 seats.

According to Otten, street merchants are already stocking up, in case cafes continue to be banned for tourists. The Amsterdam municipality’s other big plan, to move all sex workers to an off-center sex entertainment center, seems to him as illogical as it is hopeless. “No sex worker, no businessman wants that.” With a hand gesture toward Oudezijdsachterburgwal, flooded with red light: “This is part of the city. People come to Amsterdam, partly because of Casa Rosso. In general, Oten says, his security officers are in control of the situation.” Things happen sometimes, but that’s because drugs.”

yellow jackets

Also walking among the crowd are two older women and a man in yellow jackets. It is the red-light district, where residents walk together in circles through their own neighborhood and address visitors about their behaviour. “Do you live there?” , asks 69-year-old Els Ebbing, a couple sitting on the stairs of a house on a canal. The former neighborhood chief also asked cafe owners to refuse their music or tell visitors that they are not allowed to stand in the street with a drink in hand. “Since we bought these yellow jackets, we’ve been heard a lot better.”

The Wallenwachters also take photos and videos along the way, which they use under the slogan “Stop the Madness!” Presented to city council members. Ebbing: “We are not against tourists, we are against misconduct.” Neighbor Bernadette de Wit is less diplomatic: “We will not let our city center, our historical heritage, be trampled upon by a stupid crowd looking for flat entertainment!” “Please stop with that raging noise!” I shouted to a passing cyclist with flashing Christmas lights and an amazing music system.

What’s remarkable during a two-hour walk with the Wallenwachters: they are the only ones who make the cut. There is no dash, port, or host in sight. Ebbing: “We rarely see them and when we do see them they don’t want to do much with us.” Residents accuse the municipality of first luring tourists with marketing campaigns, and then not bringing them home now that things are out of control. They fear that the flow of visitors will not stop. Ebbing: “We can only hold them responsible for their behaviour.” Bernadette: You want to come down to fight anyway.

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