Cheap flights allow for prostitution at Amsterdam airport

prostitution at Amsterdam airportA large number of budget flights from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world to the Netherlands has created a ring of prostitution at Amsterdam airport, giving a new meaning to the word layover. Prostitutes are flying into

Schiphol Airport and using the hotels in the international transit area to meet with clients without going through customs, often making a hefty profit even after “commuting” on cheap flights into Amsterdam.

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, and though what is happening in the airport is unregulated and thus technically illegal, Dutch police have no plans to stop it unless they receive specific complaints. The Amsterdam Prostitutes Association is also fine with the ad hoc red-light district as long as the women are doing it on their own accord and there is no human trafficking.

Flying through Amsterdam but not interested in the sex trade? Check out our guide to layovers at Schiphol Airport.

Hat tip to WhichBudget.com for the story. Photo courtesy Flickr user algenta101.

Them’s fightin’ birds – swans vs. ducks in Amsterdam

Attack mode swanThere’s a gang war in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, and it’s for the birds. Seriously. The swans and ducks are out to get each other.

I first noticed the commotion because of the ducks. They were so loud, and unlike the placid ducks I know from my home lakes in Minneapolis, they were fluttering and flapping around like mad. I honestly wondered if some of the Red Light District’s more refined substances had accidentally gotten into the canal.

Probably.

But still. Then, I saw the swans. The swans and ducks were have full-on standoffs. In particular, the swans were tensing themselves up (into a totally beautiful, but definitely aggressive, shape like the one shown) and swimming into duck territory to cause trouble. Or maybe the ducks started it. I don’t know. I’m no ornithologist.

I did, however take three videos of the insanity. I’ll skip the first one, before I walked north through duck territory and encountered the swans. Here’s #2:


Forgive the spinning; I was trying to figure out what in the devil was going on with all these freaking out birds.
Then, these two angry-looking swans charged into duck territory. I started to wonder if somewhere a swan was being held hostage. It’s like something out of a cartoon directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Reservoir Ducks, anyone? Did you see that duck just jump the leading swan in the lower right corner (0:07 seconds)?? From what I understand, these is the usual situation in the Red Light District’s canal. Them’s fightin’ birds.

Videos taken by Annie Scott on location in Amsterdam, Sunday, November 8, 2009.

This trip was paid for by the Netherlands Board of Tourism, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.

Amsterdam invests millions to clean up the Red Light district

Amsterdam has long been a bit of asordid playground – it is one of the only places in the world where you can go to legally smoke some pot and visit a prostitute.

Because of its very liberal laws, Amsterdam created a pretty bad image of itself. To many people, the first thing they think of when you mention Amsterdam is not its many canals and beautiful architecture, but hookers and weed. It’s the main reason thousands upon thousands of tourists visit the city each year, helped by extremely low airfares from the European carriers.

The Amsterdam council is trying its best to change that image, and has started project “1012” (1012 is the postcode number for the city center).

The city has already purchased, and closed over 100 of the windows where women would display their “goods”. Next up are the many coffeeshops, which obviously sell more than just coffee. The city has created a multi-million Euro fund to pay for converting these stores to something less sleazy, like an ice cream shop or bar. One entrepreneur was paid 25 million Euro’s to close 60 of his windows, obviously making for a pretty decent retirement payment.

The end result should hopefully convert the old Wallen into a more tourist friendly district, without window after window of prostitution. That does not mean the city is completely abolishing the Red Light district – there will still be some windows, just a lot less than the current 482. Amsterdam clearly hopes to attract a different kind of tourist than the ones heading to their city for nothing more than sex and drugs.

Times Square becomes a pedestrian zone

New York City’s famous Times Square became free of cars this Monday.

This is the latest in two decades of radical changes to what used to be a dirty, dangerous, but uniquely vibrant part of one of the world’s greatest cities. City officials have blocked traffic from 42nd to 47th Streets at Times Square and between 33rd and 35th Streets at Herald Square in a much-anticipated move we first reported on back in February.

The traffic jams are being replaced by pedestrian plazas and more shops. The hope is to attract even more visitors to New York City’s iconic square by getting rid of noise, pollution, and frequent accidents. New Yorkers celebrated Monday with a big block party and setting up lawn chairs in the middle of the road. The city plans to have various events and street performers every night in the coming weeks to attract more people to Times Square.

Old-time New Yorkers like yours truly have fond memories of the old Times Square, full of seedy bars, seedier adult shops, and crumbling movie houses where you could watch a double feature of martial arts films for two bucks. I saw my first Jackie Chan film in Times Square, my first zombie picture, not to mention countless Z-list action flicks. Ah, the Eighties!

But not everyone liked Times Square at its decadent best. It was too close to Broadway, where accountants from Omaha wanted to see musicals without being reminded that the world isn’t like it is in A Chorus Line.

First to go were the movie theaters, replaced one by one by adult video centers, as if the area didn’t have enough of those already. No more blaxplotation or ninja flicks, just hard core. Then the porn shops got shut down. Times Square began to look like Disneyland. Now the squalling, bumper-to-bumper traffic has gone the way of the dodo. The armpit of New York has been replaced with the outdoor equivalent of a shopping mall. Progress? Well, it’s certainly safer (how I survived my teen-aged trips to the old Times Square still amazes me) but I can’t help but think that by killing Times Square, New York City has lost something.

Every city has its grotty area. Amsterdam has its red light district, London has Elephant and Castle, and New York had Times Square. The thing is, these neighborhoods are often really interesting and alive. The red light district in Amsterdam has some of the city’s best architecture. Elephant and Castle has an amazing variety of African shops and restaurants. Times Square has. . .well, had. . .an exciting street life and a variety of movie houses for every taste. And no, I’m not talking about the adult stuff. Back in the day, all sorts of people went to Times Square, everyone from well-heeled businessmen up to no good, to curious teenagers like I was, all the way down to street hustlers and petty thieves. That’s what I liked about it. Now it’s tourists and the middle class. Aren’t there enough places like that?

Any other old-time New Yorkers out there have any thoughts on this?

Enter Madrid’s red light district

Just north of Gran Via, you’ll find all the leather, sex toys adult novelty items, prostitutes and hook-up bars you’ll need – whether you’re in Madrid for a few hours or several months. For wholesome distraction, however, look elsewhere. The narrow streets and tight alleys can frustrate navigation and make a sketchy space feel even more confined. A mere two blocks from my hotel, I found an “erotic boutique,” “Bears Bar” (which is not a celebration of Yogi or Winnie) and several posters advertising all manner of gratification.

So, why would you hit this neighborhood?

Aside from the obvious anonymous lust-fueled jaunts into a neighborhood designed to satisfy with minimal effort, the bars may be worth the trip. There is an evident party scene in this corner of Madrid, and it’s not limited to the Bears’ niche. After 9 PM, the restaurants and bars along Calle des Infantes [verify street name], especially, attract a young, energetic crowd. Stop by El Tigre for tapas (and be prepared to eat standing), and then crawl from one dive bar to the next … there are plenty to occupy your evening. Finally, in a drunken stupor (or, “stooper,” as a commenter on one of my previous stories put it), decide whether to hunt or pay for an evening’s companionship.

A word of caution: I’ve read that this part of town can be dangerous for accompanies women after dark. While I’ve made light of some of the risks in this neighborhood, please be smart. Both prostitution and drugs, I understand, are common just north of Gran Via. There is a cool bar scene up there, but you probably don’t want to check it out alone.