We set out on-foot for de Pijp. Nicknamed the Quartier Latin, de Pijp had started out as “an example of 19th century cheap revolution building” in response to population growth. Since then, it had become home to a diverse array of people: students, immigrants, artists. At the time, though, I didn’t know this – just that there was an Omelegg in the area. Daunted by the long lines, we ordered to-go and ate our breakfast at Sarphatipark, a nearby city park.
Bon apetit, the park employee said.
Seeking warmth, we stopped by Coffee and Coconut. It was a bustling 4-story café that felt like a daytime bar. Le beau ordered a flat white. We sorted out transportation, purchasing the OV chipkaart at the metro. Available to tourists and locals, the OV chipkaart is the main way of getting around Amsterdam’s public transportation. Buy a card, load it with money, and scan as you go.
We took the subway to Centraal. I suggested visiting the Old Church, or Oude Kerk.
“The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is Amsterdam’s oldest building. The building was founded circa 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht […] After the Reformation in 1578, it became a Calvinist church, which it remains today. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam’s main red-light district.”
It had been built on top of a cemetery in the 13th century. As the church expanded, well-to-do people were buried in the church – an financial exchange for a ‘heavenly’ grave. Over 10,000 people had been buried in the Oude Kerk, under 2,500+ tombstones. The whole place was awash in history, which we quietly absorbed.
Next door was the Red Light District. In the Netherlands, prostitution is legal; sex workers rent window brothels and display themselves like mannequins. Many come from all over the world.
My first impression was that the window set-up, this time, seemed dehumanizing. The ogling – the staring – the crowds peering at them like animals. I wondered: what circumstances led these women to the profession, and were they happy? I guess I can’t really assume the workers didn’t want to be there. And it’s good that there’s a space at all for safe and legal sex work. But at that moment, something about the Red-Light District felt off.
Using our OV chipkaarts, we took the tram to Leidenstraat, where we ordered Wok to Walk. We ate at the park and stopped for oliebols, sugar-dusted doughnuts stuffed with Nutella.