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The Drugs Are Out: Surviving The Netherlands (Without Getting High)

NETHERLANDS | Wednesday, 20 June 2012 | Views [4593] | Comments [2]

Much of the recent talk surrounding Dutch tourism, both inside and outside the Netherlands, has revolved around the issue of drug legislation. Whether you’re for or against, the inevitable fact is that, from the start of 2013, tighter legislation regarding the sale of Cannabis will be rolled out nation-wide.

This means there’s a good chance that you, as a tourist, may not be able to walk into a coffee shop and purchase the most popular item on the menu without a ‘weed pass’ – a pass only available to residents of the local area. 

The debate still rages between government, residents, tourism organisations, coffee shop owners themselves and even the Mayor of Amsterdam, with the biggest critique being the potential negative effect it could have on the tourism industry. Estimates conclude that about one-third of tourists to Amsterdam come due to the accessibility of soft drugs, and for the demographic between ages 18-24 there is little doubt this percentage is even higher.  

Over the last few decades many of Holland’s interesting features and unique nature have been forgotten due to the changing priorities of the average tourist. Instead of seeing all that the Netherlands has to offer, many spend days or weeks wandering the streets of Amsterdam, or in the confines of a smoky Coffee Shop.

So what can be done when the laws are changed and these options are no longer available?

How can you survive a week in the Netherlands without the option of taking mind-altering substances every day? It’s not as hard as it might seem.

Food and Drink

While the Dutch aren’t as renowned for their culinary delights to the extent of their neighbours like France and Germany, they certainly have their own unique cultural take on the European staples in a cheap and simple manner. An agrarian history has led to excellence in the production of sausages, fruit and veg and, in particular, cheese.

The making of Gouda and Edam cheeses account for nearly 3 quarters of all Dutch cheese-making, and they’re known throughout the world. Every town and market in Holland will have somewhere and something to eat, whether it’s the delicious cheeses or the Dutch specialties of Herring, Eel and other obscure-sounding meals.

Where weed may have led you to a variety of international fast-food options, perhaps the law change is a positive sign for Dutch cuisine. 

Holland is also the home of one of the world’s most famous beers – Heineken. The brewery in Amsterdam offers a tour called the ‘Heineken Experience’ – and an experience it certainly is, with traditional aspects as well as virtual reality simulators and a ride that puts you in the place of a bottle on the production line.

Culture, History, Museums

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the Dutch National Museum, filled with classic Dutch artwork and historical artefacts from the Dutch colonial era, including Hartog’s Plate, the evidence of the first confirmed visit to Australia by Europeans – the Dutch. There are also Museums and Galleries dedicated to the great Dutch artists known worldwide, such as van Gogh and Rembrandt. 

The Anne Frank House, while not exactly a scene of excitement or joy, is still an experience all travellers to the Netherlands should have. Being able to see and explore the living situation of this significant, harrowing story brings across the experience in a truly harrowing but unforgettable fashion. 

One of the most prominent Dutch cultural aspects you will witness, particularly in Amsterdam, is the prevalence of bicycles. They’re a great way to see and get around the city, and can be hired from many places for minimal fees. Cyclists are the primary motorists in the heart of Amsterdam and as such are afforded the respect they deserve, but don’t forget that there are rules and courtesies that you should follow out of respect and to avoid being reprimanded.

Another means of transportation is by boat, given the amount of canals and waterways that you can find in many Dutch cities. From Amsterdam to Utrecht a canal cruise is not only a great way to get around, and to see the sights, but a memorable experience in general. 

The People & The Country

A great thing I learned last time I was in Holland is that it takes a mere 2 hours to travel from one side of the country to the other via public transport. This means that travelling to any part of the country from Amsterdam leaves you with enough time to experience things and return to your accommodation in one night.

Whether you head over to Rotterdam to check out Holland’s biggest and most spectacular Zoo, or the amazing Apenheul Monkey House in Apeldoorn, or the houses of Parliament in Den Haag, most cities and their attraction aren't so far out of the way so it wouldn't require more than a day to make a return trip.

The public transport also runs with meticulous efficiency. While you may have to change trains, more often than not the train you need to be on will be waiting for you across the platform when you get off the first one. 

One of the greatest things about the experience of travelling throughout Holland is the people. While it helps to start off respectful you’ll find that the Dutch are some of the most laid-back people in the world, with or without marijuana. Most Dutch people have an excellent grasp of the English language and have fewer hang-ups about conversational language than the French or Germans. They will treat you with an openness and respect you won’t find so forthcoming in other parts of the world, and have a truly wonderful sense of humour. 

As you can see there is alot to do and to keep you sane in the Netherlands without drugs - and this isn’t even the half of it. Despite the fact that drug legislation is changing there is no reason that Amsterdam and the rest of the country should appeal to you any less than any other part of Europe. It’s a great country to see at any time of year and there is more than enough to see and do for days in this relatively small nation.

If tourism really does suffer as a result of the coming changes, surely it says more about the mentality of the international traveller than it ever did about Holland and the Dutch. 

About the Author

David Piepers is student of international relations, a foreign diplomat in training, culminating in research at overseas meetings of the minds such as music and beer festivals. Dave’s travel advice is like that of the father you never had. A father who’s slept in some of the worst hostels Europe has to offer. Follow him on twitter @jvanderp.

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Tags: amsterdam, coffee shops, drugs, holland, netherlands, travel

Comments

1

true, theres other things to do. But it was the coffee shops that were unique in the world - thats why so many people wanted to go

  siem reap Jun 28, 2012 3:54 PM

2

مرحبا/مادة الحشيش مادة غير مصنفة من المواد المهلوسة بل المخدرة ////المهبطات////انها تستخدم كعلاج لبعض امراض العين واخيرا اطلعت على دراسه تقول بانه من الممكن معالجة السمنة وداء السكري بواسطتهاوكما هو معلوم ان الحشيش من انواع الادمان المعنوي وليس ادمانه الجسدي كالهيروين والكوكايين والكحول وحبوب الهلوسه بانواعها مع ذلك لا انكر ان اي تعاطي لاي مادة كانت كالعصير بزيادة عن الحد الطبيعي يسبب اثار سلبيه

  محشش Jul 18, 2012 10:12 AM

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