By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/17/2019
Occurred: 12/5/1999
Topics/Keywords: #Amsterdam #Netherlands Page Views: 1583
Paul and Michael's visit to Amsterdam, 1999

Canals and Baths

December 5, 1999

Michael and I arrived in Amsterdam in early morning, a crisp, clear day. The rains of the previous day had concluded.

In front of Central Station, we were entertained by an Ecuadorian band.

Entertaining Ecuadorians in Amsterdam

The station was populated by a number of panhandlers, which is unusual for Europe as a whole. However, Amsterdam attracts a number of international visitors for the "coffee shops" that are actual the modern analog of opium dens. They "serve" marijuana, hashish, and so on. So, kids from around the world manage to get to Amsterdam, spend all their money, and then have to beg for more.

Michael and I stepped over them; and, after making our arrangements for that night's train ride to our next destination, we got a map of the town and boarded the tram to take the grand tour.

Waiting for the Tram

Amsterdam has a subway, but the most complete coverage of the area seems to be tram. These are trolley-type contraptions that ride rails along the middle of all of Amsterdam's main streets. You can get a ticket good for riding all day. If you choose to get a regular strip of tickets, each cancellation on the strip is still good for all the trips you can start within an hour, which handles transfers.

Since Michael and I are not pot or hashish users, we were more interested in visiting Amsterdam's world-famous gay baths, Thermos Day/Night. Now, don't misunderstand these baths. True, some baths in the world are relics of the free-wheeling 70s and are basically sex clubs. However, Thermos Day/Night is actually more like the old Turkish Baths or even Roman Baths, where one goes primarily to get clean and to enjoy the company of other, like-minded patrons.

Thermos Day and Thermos Night are actually two different locations for the same establishment, due to an odd Dutch rule against any company remaining open 24 hours a day. Of the two, Thermos Day is slightly more elaborate, with a large Jacuzzi, two saunas, two steam rooms, an exercise room, two video rooms, two shower rooms, and more. Michael and I got there as they opened, desperately in need of showers after our all-night train ride. We soaked in the Jacuzzi for hours, enjoyed the steam rooms, and basically gave ourselves a good chance to recover from some of the jet lag that still affected us.

By the time we left, it was dark—the sun sets early in Amsterdam in the winter—and we turned ourselves towards wandering around the little city. We even found ourselves—briefly!—in the famous Red Light District, where buxom young ladies literally sit in red-lighted rooms with picture windows, displaying themselves to potential customers on the street. The Internet Café we stumbled on (so I could check my email) was in an establishment that doubled as a head shop.

Canal at Night

We did locate a very nice, quiet restaurant and had an excellent dinner, finishing in time to take a leisurely walk to Central Station, past more of the canals, in time to catch our train to the next destination: Denmark.