Gay Amsterdam and the Netherlands in General

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Back in 1987 there was a “drama” in the Persian Gulf. Honestly, when they talk about “Gay Drama-Queens” and I see the military from almost every country a part of that. Marching around in their many different “uniforms” (QUITE the fashion show sometimes) I generally think of the underlying, masculine theater-like themes/costumes/action of the whole production and have to laugh. I hope someday that self-control and intelligence will be admired masculine traits but, I digress.

In 1987 with the Persian Gulf thousands of miles from Europe and even though the argument between two Middle East Countries, Tourism in Europe to grinded to a halt! For some reason people just love to have their lives disrupted. People can sometimes be silly. Lucky for me a friend was running luxury barges through the Waterways of Holland in May. Tulip-Time! The usually full, deluxe vessels were running empty and I had to do was get my ass to Amsterdam with plenty of direct nonstop flights are available from our area. A week sailing through The Netherland’s Waterways was mine! I always wanted to see Amsterdam! I knew her (a feminine feel) reputation but, what a fucking Revelation!! Amsterdam is probably one of the gayest/coolest/friendliest cities in Europe/the world! Men embracing and holding hands everywhere, women lip-locked passionately and 420 leisurely smoked in the square! (You can buy “weed” at most coffee shops). There is nothing like a couple of good “hits” and a strong cuppa Joe! I walked through the famous “Red Light District” (not my thing at all … strictly for tourists) but, let me tell you, the real “show” was right on the street.

“Reguliersdwarsstraat” (try saying that three times fast!) is the main gay-drag which in the summertime is closed to traffic. All of the bars and cafes put out large terraces and one could sit and watch the boys go by. Amsterdam is a city with many different sections all having their own flavor. Rivers and canals artfully turn Amsterdam into one huge mosaic and neighborhoods are sometimes divided by water. Amsterdam is named for the “dam that was built on the Amstel River” that flows through the city. Amstel is also the name of great beer as well.

I remember when The Netherlands became the first country to officially recognize same sex marriage in 2001. Many others followed shortly after and America will as well but one must consider that we are only 237 years old and many other countries/cultures have been developing for thousands. It is my way of rationalizing why some people simply cannot accept the fact that many very nice/normal, intelligent men and women are occasionally attracted to the same sex. Sometimes I think it is simply a matter of evolution. Amsterdam (and The Netherlands in general) is very enlightened and liberal. Probably the most “live and let live” city in the world. Gays in The Netherlands enjoy the same rights and benefits as straights and can legally adopt. Gays serve in the military openly and gay tourism is huge. Gays are not only welcomed to Amsterdam with open arms but are officially encouraged by the Amsterdam Tourist Board. There have been challenges for certain but at this moment Amsterdam is a perfect gay destination.

My very first night in Amsterdam was magical. It was May; the evening was very comfortable and very long. Everything was in bloom. The Netherlands are known for flower exportation, especially tulips and there are literally thousands of varieties all over the country. AWESOME! In May, throughout the country are fields striped with rows and rows of vibrant, colorful tulips that almost look false since the scene is so remarkable. I think that heaven must have much in common with The Netherlands in May with Amsterdam as capital. It is really something to experience.

A bit of a side note here: Amsterdam is fairly dry and secure, however much of The Netherlands is wet and swampy. Hence, the necessity of the famous wooden shoe which are carved and fit over regular/leather shoes. Kind of like a “rubber” … (chuckle)… I do think there is a “bit” there! The object of the wooden shoe is a protector for farmers or anyone slopping through wet terrain. Cute wooden shoe story: Every December 5 in The Netherlands it is “St. Nicholas Day” when all the children have put their wooden shores out on the front stoop of the house knowing they will be full of “goodies” in the morning.

Very compact, Amsterdam is extremely walkable and for the most part, safe. When I say safe, I am referring to the fact that Amsterdam is a city that is also a Mecca for tourism. Tourists attract pickpockets and scam artists just like Philly. With normal care you can have a great time with few worries.

There are four official “gayborhoods” but that is changing day to day as in any city. All you need to know is that you can stroll from one to the other easily and as in many other places “the hood” will become better located.

As it happens right now, there are quite a few very fine gay owned and operated hotels and elegant boutique properties in Amsterdam scattered everywhere. I understand they even take in “straight” people. They are that good!

As for sightseeing, there is enough but not so much as to overwhelm to allow plenty of time to get to know Amsterdam and its amazing people. The Rijksmuseum (Rembrandt/Vermeer/Hals), The Van Gough Museum and the Anne Frank House stand out as not to be missed. Personally, I sought the house that Audrey Hepburn grew up in, but that’s just me.

She’s unique, warm and welcoming. Not to just gay men and woman but to everyone. That is as it should be. I love the authentic feel of Amsterdam. One can walk, ride or even navigate very well by boat in Amsterdam. Being somewhat versatile myself, I suppose this is one thing that attracts me.

The Bottom Line: In the center of Amsterdam is The HOMOMONUMENT commemorating all the gay men and women who have been subjected to persecution because of who they are. The awesome monument was designed to “inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination. It was the first monument in the world to commemorate gays and lesbians who were murdered by the Nazis. That pretty much says everything right there!

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