The Secret Side of Amsterdam
Everyone’s chasing secrets. There are some things in this world though where the less you know about them, the more interesting they are. The mystique and allure would somehow be gone if you were to be given full disclosure on the subject at hand. Often times, the truth is much more disappointing than the idea you had in your head. Magic tricks are one of those things, and I expect another is something I encountered on the back of a sticker in Texas: “Titty Bingo.”
My brother and I were eating dinner at a local BBQ place and we had neared the end of our meal before we noticed. The napkin holder had been covered by a huge sticker announcing: "Titty Bingo." I was intrigued. I’ve never heard of Titty Bingo and thus I knew nothing about it. The reality is that I didn't want to know. I fear that like sawing a lady in half, once I know the secret truth of Titty Bingo, I will be disillusioned and wish I could un-know it.
It could be the name of a band for all I know, but I choose to believe it’s much more. I want to believe that there are Titty Bingo halls setup secretly all over the country where beautiful people congregate and play. Shirts are of course prohibited. I hope there are TB clubs at universities and that even as I type this there are TB themed parties being thrown right here in Amsterdam. I am however content living in wonderment. For now, if you have details about TB, please keep them to yourself.
Sometimes though we’re driven by an insatiable urge to know and to learn all the answers. The secret of life seems to be one sought out by most, but it’s not as surprising as it’s cracked up to be. I can say that since I was told the secret of life by an Algerian man selling me orange juice in Versailles. It’s an elusive one because it seems to change right after you figure it out (that’s part of the secret by the way). Something about secrets and mystery draw us in. We long to be in with the in crowd, and in the know about the things only a select few know. We drool over exclusivity, even if it’s only perceived exclusivity.
Maybe it’s not even the information itself we find so satisfying, but the feeling of being included and then imparting it to others. Spilling the secret. Enlightening others. It was well put in the famous quote: “The only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead.” Of course, if the quote were to be completely accurate it would say: “If two of them are dead and the last one has no friends on the deserted island he was exiled to.” Even then he’d probably tell the coconuts.
I’m about to thoroughly satisfy my secret spilling needs by divulging the previously undisclosed tit bits about Amsterdam. Oh sure, she plays honest, acting as though she has nothing to hide. Amsterdam takes what most cities try to tuck away and displays it proudly. See, all of our sex and drugs are center stage for all to see. How could there be anything left underground? Oh, but there is.
Behind an assuming black façade down a street of no particular mention lies the elusive entrance to a hidden gem in the city. A swanky joint for enjoying classic cocktails, champagne and proper late-night drinking lies back there, and without exact knowledge of it you’d walk right past. Normally the term swanky implies an attitude and a price tag that I find as enjoyable as stubbing my toe, but I like to at least witness the scene once in a while. Also, this place seems to be absent of excess pretension. They have high quality, complex cocktails of all sorts and some of the fun is the process of getting through the first place. Door 74 only accepts people who’ve made same day reservations.
Going to the website provides nothing but a few white digits on a pitch-black background. Between 9am and 8pm you can call and leave a message with your name, the number of guests, and a time you’d like to attend. Then if you’re lucky, they get back to you. Inside you’ll be treated very well by a staff who make mixology an art form. I couldn’t imagine staying for too long or spending too much, as there’s lots of other Amsterdamming to be done. It’s just an idea for a unique start to an evening in vice city.
The other secret I know about Amsterdam has little to do with such class and sophistication, and more to do with animalistic desires. There are quite a few sex clubs around Amsterdam - not featuring the highly famous, hired prostitutes, but regular, open-minded patrons enjoying one another… or maybe lots of others. I won’t delve into logistical information and locations, but it’s readily available to anyone interested. To be honest, having never attended I don’t know how I’d feel upon entering such a place. I just like that Amsterdam allows them to exist. The legalisation is tied to a very Dutch concept called – gedoogbeleid. It’s difficult to translate but it means permissiveness-because-there-are-bigger-fish-to-fry. When your city sits below sea level and could be washed away should the dykes fail, your attention tends to be diverted from the sexual habits of consenting adults. There are quite a few places that could take a lesson from that.
Enjoy the Autumn and testing your limits (or not) in Amsterdam. Also all you dance fiends should also note that the Amsterdam Dance Event - an enormous club festival of about 200 she-bangs, takes place in Amsterdam in October. Keep an eye out for it.
- Matt Smith
Cannabis Cup 2011
There’s no better place for a weed contest than Amsterdam and the Cannabis Cup attracts serious marijuana connaisseurs from around the world to sample the best of what the city has to offer.
This year between November 20 and 24, thousands of hardcore stoners will flock to Amsterdam to be judges in this infamous contest. Growers and coffee shops have waited all year for the chance to show off their products, and hopefully get the attention they deserve.
People who work at coffee shops are in overdrive, filling up vaporizers with free samples and baking delicious weed brownies, also known as space cakes. The judges after all must feel welcome and have a nice environment to fully experience the weed, and critique it affectively.
Everyone sets up their collection of golden pipes, mini bongs, rolling dish, papers, filters and Zippo with precision and pride. It’s a big responsibility naming the best strain of the year - with so many to choose from and not much time to pick.
The judging is based on appearance, smell, taste, the type of high and the overall experience of the weed. It’s best to make notes straight away after you smoke – just in case of temporary memory loss.
Over the years the winning strains have included Super Lemon Haze, Vanilla Kush and even Royal Jelly! Personally I think the naming of the weed is as important as the high.
How are these judges selected? What makes them know the best? Well actually anyone can be a judge!
All you need to do is buy a judge’s pass for 260 Euros. This will get you in to the concerts, ceremonies and expositions where you receive free samples, and the right to vote. There’s a cheaper option of 50 Euros on the door for one day at the exposition too! The coffee shops to look out for this year are previous winners Barney’s Lounge, Green House, and Grey Area.
But the Cannabis Cup isn’t just about visiting coffee shops. There’s a Hip Hop festival and a huge exposition too. This year on the music side you can look forward to performances from Kid Cudi, Souls of Mischief, Del the Funky Homosapien, Devin the Dude, DNA Genetics Hotboxxx Party with Dilated Peoples and many other artists focused on the weed movement.
The weed enthusiasts take The Cannabis Cup quite seriously with opening ceremonies and seminars. This isn’t just a hobby – for many it’s a lifestyle or even a career! The seminars held during the four days cover cultivation, DNA seeds, changes in Dutch marijuana policy and guest speakers.
There’s a sense of belonging in Amsterdam even without the contest, but there is also something specific in the air during The Cannabis Cup – namely the billowy smoke streaming from coffee shops.
On this weekend in November the city attracts people who dedicate their lives to weed. People can share their love and allegiance to a plant that has been shunned in so many other places.
The Cannabis Cup is a way of showing appreciation to the art of growing and smoking weed, with people who share this passion and know the cultural etiquette. It’s also a chance to get extremely stoned and vote for the best weed in Amsterdam.
- Aly Coy
This E-zine’s Top Album Suggestions
This month Max Waverly steps in with a review of what he’s listening to and the top tracks from each album – to satisfy the skimmers out there. We’ve got MGMT, Girls and more, so plug in and enjoy!
You wouldn’t be wrong if you detected a hint of old skool’ Folk in this album, blended in with an Indie sprit, a pinch of 1980s Punk and some truly off-the-beaten-track, psychedelic interludes. Musical masterminds VanWyngarden and Goldwasser take the album’s title and run with it, infusing each track with experiences, and emotions that you’d associate with a late night - partying or not. Soul is brought in to back this up and there’s a narrative of isolation to boot too.
My top tracks on this album include All We Ever Wanted Was Everything – perfect for any kind of come down. Other favourite anthems include Spacemen 3 which is great to rock out to and the rather serene, Cheree.
Album: Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Hailing from San Francisco, Girls hit the music scene with this debut album and the music scene liked it. They beg borrow and steal a fair amount from musical influences of yesteryear but their fusion of these best bits with their own very unique approach, make this forgivable. Because of this infusion the tracks do of course sound familiar - you just can’t place them. The album was produced by Doug Boehm – a true rocker with an appreciation for the digitally-driven airways.
Band: Gold Leaves
Album: The Ornament
This top iPod filler opens with the track - The Silver Lining, which is a gentle introduction to the thunder that follows. Many see The Ornament as a departure from previous Gold Leaves LPs and I couldn’t agree more. It’s choc full of never ending melodies and beats that couldn’t be more tailored to the voice of leader singer, Grant Olsen. The tone and texture of Olsen’s voice carry this album to another level. He’s called the pretty voice of Indie rock for a reason.
The best tracks on this collection have to be The Silver Lining and Honeymoon. No contest!
- Max Waverly
News From the Beach
In this edition the guys at the Flying Pig Beach Hostel look back at the summer of 2011 with photos, not words. Enjoy the show and see if you can spot yourself, and your mates in this pick of the best bits.
Brief Encounter: Vienna, Austria
Vienna, the charming Austrian capital was just voted the second best city to live in worldwide – and it’s well deserved if you ask us! It is a city where the architectural grandeur of the past melts together with the bustling urban spaces of today, creating one of Europe’s most dynamic and beautiful cities.
Follow the footsteps of the Habsburgs (Austria’s former monarchist family) by visiting the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace and the Monarchy’s centre of power, which is now home to Austria’s president. It houses a number of museums, the Imperial Apartments and the Treasury, plus the Lipizzaner horses. For more Habsburg glamour, head out to Schloss Schönbrunn, one of Europe’s greatest baroque palaces with lush gardens, a 1,700 m2 maze and the world’s oldest zoo.
The two most famous Viennese landmarks should not be missed! They are the gothic cathedral Stephansdom, affectionately called - Steffl by locals and the Riesenrad, a giant Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement, and recreational park.
In medieval times the street Ringstrasse was where you would find the city walls but today it’s a broad boulevard encircling the centre of the city. Here you’ll find stunning buildings including the State Opera, Parliament and City Hall. If your feet are already screaming because you’ve made them walk so much, just hop on the yellow city tram and lean back. It takes you along the whole length of the ring!
Arts and Culture
Vienna is certainly a place for art lovers – it has more than 100 different museums on offer. Some of the best and most extensive collections can be found in the Kunsthisorisches Museum and the Albertina. The Muesumsquartier is a new art complex holding several small museums, showing provocative contemporary and modern art as well as a lively mixture of restaurants, bars and cafés.
In terms of music, Vienna is one of the big players. Whether it’s classic music or Opera, Pop, Rock or Jazz, one of Vienna’s many stages and venues will have exactly what you’re looking for. The state opera sells standing room tickets for the incredibly cheap price of two Euros on the day of the show, so if you want to glimpse some of the outstanding ballet or opera performances on offer without spending a fortune, get there about an hour before the show starts.
Up for a little shopping spree? Beware, with the many opportunities in Vienna it may well turn into a frenzy. Visit Mariahilferstrasse for all the major chains and flagship stores.
Also check out the side streets for a selection of more eccentric and funky outfits. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and Kaerntnerstrasse, right off Stephansplatz, is the place to get them. High end boutiques and fancy jewellery stores are waiting to be admired. The Vienna Naschmarkt is an institution in itself and you can find everything from fresh pasta to exotic fruits and aromatic spices. Go there in the morning!
Vienna’s nightlife is colourful and varied, offering something for everyone from the party-hungry student crowd to the posh and the stylish. Chelsea, the biggest club within the U-Bahn arches on the Gürtel, and the Flex, located right at the Danube waterside, are heaven for the Indie and Alternative devotees, meanwhile the Pratersauna and the Volksgarten are more for the upscale Electro loving crowd - living it up to the beats of some of the hottest DJs.
Vienna Coffee-house experiences
You’ve probably already heard about the unique Viennese coffee house culture, and indeed, sitting down for a cup here is more than just a quick refreshment. It’s a way of life. If you fancy having a drink at a place where great philosophers, writers and poets used to spend their time, try Café Hawelka (Dorotheergasse 6) or Café Central (Herrengasse 14). If you want to treat yourself to some of the delightful cakes and heavenly pastries but Vienna’s known for, head to Café Demel (Kohlmarkt 14) for a seductive selection, or try the original Sachertorte at Café Sacher (Philharmonikerstrasse 4).
Getting there: 16 minutes from the centre by CAT train / 30 minutes on the regular S-Bahn train. There are very good rail connections within Europe and the rest of Austria. There are two main train stations, Westbahnhof (trains going to Salzburg, Munich, Zurich, Budapest etc.) and Südbahnhof (to Rome, Florence, Prague, Bratislava etc.)
Going out: Average price for coffee and cake - EUR 7.00, main courses from EUR 8.00, large beer in a pub EUR 3.50, clubs EUR 6.00 – 12.00
Where to stay: Hostel Ruthensteiner, Robert Hammerlinggasse 24.
More info and free booking at www.famoushostels.com