It took about 60 seconds from when my girlfriend and I trundled off the train to when I was first asked the question: ‘”Estasy, cocaine?” Welcome to Amsterdam.We had been warned thatAmsterdam was surely the only place on earth where unemployed people can fluently ask you for money in four different languages. In Australia these people would be drafted to work for ASIO. The linguistic talent of everyday Dutch people really highlighted how English Australia can be at times.

Antwerp, our last stop before Amsterdam, was conquered by Vikings; how much more interesting -not to mention credible -would Australia be if, say, Tasmania was conquered by Vikings rather than the English. It would give us all a reason to learn a second language. TheAmsterdam red light district, where my girlfriend and I were staying in a dorm with eight other guys, was littered with these unique signs warning you not to fall into the stagnant canals which divide the two pedestrian pathways. It is very easy to get distracted in the Amsterdam red light district, so these signs aren’t as stupid as they sound. I for one witnessed no fewer than two wasted Brits crawl out of the canal and, one can assume, towards a hospital for detoxification.

Our dorm was pretty typical for the area. It was full of horny British boys just out of high school who said “yeah?”after every sentence. Apart from the British boys who spent their week drinking British beer in the downstairs British sports bar, there was also a perverse older man who drank too much and painstakingly wrote down all his Amsterdam experiences in a little blue book and otherwise said very little. There was also an Italian stallion who snored like a damn horse every night, and the few token American males who assured me that they were there for the “whores” At one point in the week I was the only man in the room who hadn’t slept with a prostitute in the last 24 hours. Two of the guys, Australians I must admit, had spent so much money on their nights of passion that they couldn’t afford to insure the car that they had just hired to drive to Berlin. It was just one of those dorms.

Our first night started at one of Amsterdam’s infamous coffee shops where we decided to taste the cuisine. After a couple of really very good chocolate biscuits we chose to move along, you know, and look at all the girls with the pretty red lights behind them. After walking around the cobbled roads for a while, my girlfriend decided to abruptly pass out on the main pathway in the district, not a good place for a lady to be passed out. She had, somehow, overdosed on cannabis. I ran to her and held her head, yelling at her to wake up. I must admit that I was having images of her father beating me to death on the tarmac of Sydney Airport. A Dutch man who was by chance walking past the red lights stopped and asked me what she had taken, refusing to believe me when I told him. She eventually came to, her head cradled in the arms of both myself and this obscure Dutch man, and, being the trooper that she is, refused to return to our hostel, rather choosing to see one of Amsterdam’s infamous sex shows. Sex shows are confusing. They are more like a play than anything erotic. They are impossibly pre-meditated and the huge population of suddenly single Japanese businessmen is more than a little off putting. The best part of the show was this blonde couple. The lady was about 30 and dressed in a Wonder Woman style costume while the man was dressed in what can only be described as the blue Power Rangers outfit. Despite the power suit, he had trouble getting it up for the occasion. This poor guy kept stroking his goatee as a sign to lower the curtains while Wonder Woman became crankier with every passing moment. Eventually the show ended, withWonder Woman swearing at the blue Power Ranger behind the curtains and my girlfriend and I, perplexed and a little disappointed, wandered back to our hostel. The red light district ofAmsterdam is worth seeing, but not for more than a night. The best warning one can give about Amsterdam though; be careful of that canal.