Got off the plane and ran through the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol towards the train station inside the building. Amsterdam is a popular hub for international flights. With a layover of 5 hours or more, you could go view the popular sites. So I was off!
The transit system was fairly easy. Mostly everything was in Dutch, luckily they had English options for purchasing tickets. 15 minutes later, I was in the city centre. The place was picturesque, complete with canals and a beautiful layout. It was a little nippy, but bustling with people as they made their way through the congested areas. Bikes everywhere. Everyone seemed to ride a bike, and they littered the street...hundreds of them. Bikers have their own lane with their own set of light signals. I found this out the hard way when I almost got run over, twice. After a quick google search, I learned Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly capital city in the world. Over 60% of the trips in the inner city are by bike. Great for reducing the carbon footprint, and embracing a healthier lifestyle, but if you're in a rush beware of the "bike" traffic while in a car - you have to wait for everyone to pass.
I didn't have exact directions to get to the main attractions. I believe in asking for help, screw trying to figure it out on my own. Most locals I met were friendly (and spoke some English) and pointed me towards the direction I needed to go.
The infamous Red Light District is located in a quaint residential area, where "everyday" life happens. It was a morning trip, so I didn't see any women parading in the windows, but I saw plenty sex shops. I watched families walking through as if everything was okay. Sex is normalized, because it is normal. It's a business and they keep it moving. I feel prostitution is embedded in our culture and there's no reason for restriction. It's illegal in the United States because of slut-shaming and monetary gain. Our legal system penalizes you to pay a fine if you get caught. What people do with their bodies is none of my business.
Walking through the narrow pathways, you get to see small cafés and eclectic boutiques. Yes, there are many weed shops. I suggest sitting and people watching in the Dam Square, which is one of the most well-known locations in the country. Listen to the different accents, while eating a Stroopwafel, a grilled thin waffle.
Unfortunately, I was unable to go inside the Anne Frank House. I reached the site by taxi but the wait to get in was over 30 minutes long. I didn't want to miss my plane so I opted to leave. This is the place she hid with her family during the Holocaust. In middle school, I remember reading her diary and being burdened with sadness. As an adult, I realize writing was her way to combat the issues going on in her life, it was a way to stay connected to the greater good. She wrote, "I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!" Her story is a testament of strength. If you have the time please go and visit.