Nomad Millers



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Miltenberg, Germany

Posted by Marcia on August 3, 2018 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Miltenberg is one of the most charming and best-preserved Medieval cities on the Main River.  Its castle, the Mildenburg, was built by the archbishop of Mainz in about 1200, and the first documented mention of the town dates from 1237. The town became affluent in the later Middle Ages due to trading privileges and its role in the wine trade.

The Old Town is quite long, approximately a mile from Wurzberg Gate to Mainz Gate, but only 2-3 streets deep, so it's easily walkable. Most of the carefully restored half-timbered buildings are from 1400-1700.

One of Miltenberg's most spectacular buildings is the Gasthaus zum Riesen (Giant's Inn), built about 1500.  It has been a hostelry for over 500 years.  It is believed to be the oldest hotel in Germany.

The medieval churchof St Jakobus (St James) is beautiful, even though the towers are "new" - 1830!

I personally loved looking at the architectural details during our European travels. Not only are the buildings themselves beautiful, there often are statues, ornaments, carvings, ironwork, signs, etc. that really enhance the appearance.  One of my faves from Miltenberg is this sign for the Giant's Inn.  By the way -what looks like the Star of David hanging from the hotel sign is actually the Brewer's Star and it marks a house given the right to brew beer.

So now for some local quirkiness - a statue of three guys peeing...  In the past, severe flooding sometimes made it virtually impossible for many of Miltenberg’s residents to leave their houses. Houses back then didn’t have modern indoor toilets, but most of the time there was simply a hole dug in the ground at the backside of the house. During the floods these could not be reached, thus male residents would simply relieve themselves off the main entrance of the house straight into the river.

One additional note - we toured both Miltenberg and Wertheim in the same day.  Our tour guide for both was wonderful, dressed in traditional costume, always smiling. Most of our guides were good - great; I was really impressed with the quality of the guides.

More pictures of lovely Miltenberg HERE!

- Marcia

Rüdesheim, Germany

Posted by Marcia on August 3, 2018 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Idyllic Rüdesheim am Rhein is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley.  Rüdesheim was first mentioned in a document in 1074. Its livelihood came mainly from winegrowing and shipping, particularly timber rafting.  On January 1, 1818, Rüdesheim received town rights.

Our tour today was a quick ride on a little "train" and a tour of Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instruments Museum.  We opted not to do the museum, and instead took a gondola ride up to the Neiderwald monument with new friends Grace and Gerry.  The 35 foot tall symbol of Germania, created using 32 tons of bronze, was built in the 1870/80s to commemorate the Unification of Germany.   

After oohing and aahing over the monument and the lovely view from the hilltop, we opted to forge our own path downhill back to civilization.  As we were trailblazing THROUGH the vineyards, I'm sure we each wondered if there was an easier trail... but what fun would that have been?  This way, we had an adventure to remember!

After getting back to town, Greg and I moseyed our own separate way, admiring the architecture.  One of my faves in this town was Boosenburg, a lowland castle dating back to the 12th century.  The added Gothic Revival villa was completed in 1872.  Boosenburg (you gotta love that name!) has been part of the Rhine Gorge World Heritage Site from 2002.


Drosselgasse is a must-see destination for any visitor to Rüdesheim. 157 yards long, and only 10 feet wide in sections, this scenic lane is lined with restaurants and cafés, taverns and courtyards, where there is live music every day. Of course, since it's a "must see," there are so many people congregated in the tight quarters that it's hard to find a spot to try to take a picture!

This was one of the rare locations where my desire to try a local/regional food item outweighed my drive to see and explore new places.  I had to taste a Rüdesheimer coffee - made with Asbach brandy flamed, three sugar cubes, hot coffee, topped with whipped cream.  NUM!!

ps - This was the first time we saw "spaghetti" on a dessert menu.  We couldn't understand why anyone would add sweet toppings, like fruit and chocolate to spaghetti.  EWWWW   Well, it isn't quite what it sounds like.  Apparently, ice cream formed to look like spaghetti is a big thing in some parts of Europe.  Who knew?

Anyway, our boat was close enough to town for us to stroll over, seeing more lovely architecture en route.  Gotta love this river cruising stuff!

More photos of Rüdesheim HERE!

- Marcia

living a fairytale on the Rhine

Posted by Marcia on August 2, 2018 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The morning after we visited Cologne, I got up early and hurried up to the sun deck.  Yes, ME!  Why, you ask?  We were sailing through the beautiful Rhine Gorge, where, for 40 miles, it is almost impossible to look around and not see at least one or two castles.  And I LOVE my old rocks... I mean architecture.  So my neck did the swivel maneuver for hours, while taking over 350 pictures!

And not only are there beautiful castles, some in ruin, some reconstructed for use as a hotel and/or restaurant... In the Gorge, the wide Rhine river becomes narrow, winding through a valley of jagged hill and projecting cliffs.  Half-timbered homes, churches, towers and ruins all combine with forests and amazingly steep vineyards to create a fabulous landscape, a place where legends and fairytales thrive.

Although into every fairytale a little reality must creep...  I actually loved seeing the campgrounds along the rivers (and we saw MANY throughout the two week river cruise!), but it does look a little jarring in front of the beautiful Reichenstein Castle.

Rather than go into details on each and every castle we saw, here's the short story.  The origins of the earliest castles along here go back to the 10th century, although most are from the 13th or 14th centuries.  However, most have been restored.  Not even castles can last forever! 

The Rhine Gorge was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its combination of cultural, historical, geological, and industrial significance. Along the 40 mile stretch of river there are 40 forts and castles that were erected over a period of around 1,000 years. It is also one of Germany’s greatest wine producing regions and one of Europe’s most important transportation routes. Historically, the Rhine was the border of the Roman Empire and has been fought over for the last two thousand years.

There's more eye candy HERE on the photo tab!

- Marcia

Cologne, Germany

Posted by Marcia on August 2, 2018 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Founded in 38 BC, "Colonia Claudia Arae Agrippinensis" was a cornerstone of the Roman Empire in northern Europe.  Cologne became an archbishopric in 784, and a Free Imperial City in 1475.  Wow - That's a really old city with a lot of history.  However, much of the Old Town was leveled during WWII. One of the few buildings that survived almost unscathed was the Cologne Cathedral, which is amazing, as it was hit by  14 aerial bombs and more than 70 firebombs.

Work on the Cathedral began in 1248, but wasn't finished until 1880.  Can you imagine?  632 years to finish one building?  And sometimes we wonder why it takes "so long" to build a house.  hahaha  However, I guess most houses aren't built with two 516 ft tall spires, which by the way, are the second tallest church spires in the world.  It's virtually impossible to get a photo that really shows the immense size of the Cologne Cathedral!  Can you find me in the shot below?  I'm standing in front of a replica of one of the tips of the spires.

The Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains its treasury in 13th century underground vaults.  The origins of these sacred objects extend back to the 10th century, and include insignia, vessels, robes, books, crosiers, crosses, etc.  I loved seeing the detail on the crosiers

and the very detailed vestments and textiles which were in amazing shape for being hundreds of years old. 

One interesting sidenote about the Cathedral: The outside of the Cathedral is not made of black material, nor is it just dirty, instead, the sandstone which most of the building is made from reacts with the sulphuric acid in rain and turns dark grey, giving the Cathedral its distinctive dark colour over time. This is why repaired sections look much whiter and lighter than the rest of the building.

The rebuilt Rathaus (City Hall - makes sense in English that a rat house would be the seat of government, right?!) shows 14th century Gothic features.  The 130 statues of heroes adorning the outside are almost entirely men, with a rare exception for Agrippina.  In 50 AD the Cologne-born Agrippina the Younger, wife of the Emperor Claudius, asked for her home village to be raised to the status of a colonia — a city under Roman law.  Ten years later, the colonia became the capital of the Roman province of Lower Germany.

Areas of the rebuilt Old Town look very much as they may have centuries ago. Overlooking the area is Groß St. Martin.  This church has shaped the panorama of Cologne's Old Town since the Middle Ages.

More pictures of Cologne HERE!

- Marcia

and away we go!

Posted by Marcia on August 2, 2018 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Our second day on the ship we set sail in the afternoon.  It was fascinating going through the locks, at least at first.  There's a total of 68 between Amsterdam and Budapest!  so it gets a bit repetitive after a while.  The first sets were not very deep - maybe a few yards, as noted in the color variation on the lock sidewalls. 

The captain snugs the boat up to the sidewall, and crew members have various methods to keep that closeness.  Otherwise the water flow in/out of the locks could push the nose of the boat askew in the lock, which could really cause problems. 

Since this was the day we were provided a Cruise Overview talk from our Cruise Director Michael, with info on what to expect, I'll pass along more info about cruising with Emerald.

Important things first - meals!  Breakfast is always a buffet, with almost no variation on items, so it could get a bit boring.  But there are enough options, plus there is a made-to-order egg station, so that it was absolutely fine.  Lunch is also a buffet, but the items change daily, plus there are three main courses that can be ordered from the galley.  For a change of pace, the lounge offers a "light" breakfast and lunch as well, with fewer options and a quieter atmosphere.  Dinner is only available in the main restaurant, and it is a sit-down affair. Every night the menu changes, with some regional items included, and there are options: 2 appetizers, 2 soups, 3 main course (one vegetarian) and 3-4 desserts.  For lunch and dinner, if you did not like any of the main courses, there are 4 items always available: steak, salmon, chicken breast and caesar salad. So really - it's always possible to find something you'll like!  The food was honestly really good.  I loved trying new items, and the chef's recommendations were always spot on tasty.  One more thing - Each lunch and dinner menu item is marked for various allergies.  However, my citrus allergy/sensitivity is not standard enough to warrant that.  So every day I received menus in our cabin, with items that contain any citrus highlighted.  Awesome!

Soda, beer and wine are provided at lunch and dinner, no extra cost.  And let me say - that wine is free-flowing!  When a wine glass gets below a half, it will get refilled.  There is only one beer on tap that's included in the cruise cost, and it didn't trip my trigger.  But the wines changed regularly, red and white, so it was fun trying them.  We were told that they usually go through 100 bottles of wine - DAILY.  The maximum number of passengers is 182, so yes, guests enjoy their wine.

Cruise attire at dinner was definitely more casual than we're used to from ocean cruising.  Even though the Emerald documentation states that shorts are not appropriate at dinner, by the end of the cruise, most of the guys, and some gals, were wearing shorts.  And no one had a problem with it.  There were two nicer nights, but even that merely meant a collared shirt for the guys; of course the gals tend to get a little dressier.  On the flip side, I think that most people dressed nicer to go onshore, as compared to a Caribbean cruise.

Every day before dinner, Michael gave a "Port talk" where he would detail the timing, events, tours, etc. for the next 24 hours. It was nice; we had time to relax, yet we received the necessary info in just a few minutes.

Speaking of tours - Emerald provides at least one tour at every port free of charge.  Most of these are walking tours of the city center followed by free time, a few are bus tours, and Amsterdam even includes a canal boat tour.  There are also numerous Active tours included - these are usually hiking or biking, some more strenuous than others, and they are usually instead of the standard tour of the day.  There are a few Discover More optional excursions that do cost extra, but these are certainly not necessary to enjoy yourselves.  One awesome thing that many river cruises are doing now - they have headsets for tours - the guide speaks into a microphone, and each guest can listen in on their own headset.  It was great - I could walk around and take photos while still hearing the guide.  Cool!

A few more photos from our first hours cruising HERE!

- Marcia

Emerald Dawn

Posted by Marcia on July 31, 2018 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

We stepped on to the Emerald Dawn early in the morning on July 7, intending to merely drop off our luggage so that we could tour Zaanse Schans unencumbered.  Wow!  We had a GREAT first impression!  Our luggage was whisked away, we were handed wet cloths, and the cruise director greeted us.  All before we were more than a few feet inside the boat... and at an earlier time than they expected.  And what a beautiful ship!

When we returned later, we were given a very thorough tour of our cabin, a Panorama Balcony Suite, and all amenities, storage, etc. were pointed out to us.  Per Emerald Waterways:

These spectacular suites boast our revolutionary indoor balcony design, complete with decking area, table and chairs – generating an entirely new space for you to enjoy the landscapes you pass. With the touch of a button, the upper part of the cabin’s floor-to-ceiling window drops down to unveil uninterrupted views of the stunning scenery, opening up the cabin and bringing the outdoors in.

Ok... I think that might be a bit overboard on its P.R.  Yes, the cabin is spacious, with clean lines and plenty of storage space.  The inside deck area is a great idea, as you can create a balcony by lowering the full-wall window, yet without losing space from the cabin. Although we we were originally going to keep costs lower by selecting a lower cabin, with only a high window, I'm glad we didn't.  We ended up sitting on our balcony more frequently than expected.  It was also great to just see what was going on, what was nearby, while we got ready or rested.

The Dawn is very modern, minimalistic, sleek.  It has a very contemporary youthful vibe. Unusual for a river boat, it has a heated swimming pool with retractable roof!  And even more unique, the pool area transforms into a cinema on select nights.  Way cool!  Teak flooring covers the pool, a screen comes down, and voila!  a movie theater!  We didn't use the pool ourselves, but our new friends did.  However, we did take advantage of the cinema, watching a variety of movies onboard. Although the cinema was a bit stuffy, due to the warm pool water underneath the flooring, it was kind of fun to have basically "private" showings.

One of the absolute best aspects of our river cruise was that it was all-inclusive.  And I don't just mean the drinks, although due to our free upgraded premium drink package, we could have almost any beverage we wanted at any time.  I'm talking about the fact that we did not have to pay a single extra penny on our river cruise.  With at least one shore excursion included at each and every port, wifi included onboard, an amazing espresso machine available for our use at all hours, bottled water provided daily... there is no need to pay additional monies at all.

 During our first "talk" from our cruise director, Michael, we found out that we were not sailing at maximum capacity of 182; there were 156 people onboard.  Most of the guests were Australians, plus a large contingent of Canadians, some U.S. citizens, and a handful of British and New Zealanders.  All the guests that we spoke to were friendly and nice.  There was an attitude that we were all on this adventure together, which made for a fun time.  One great thing about Emerald is that even though there's a mix of different nationalities onboard, English is the spoken language.  Thus announcements, "talks," etc.  are all in one language only.  woohoo!  This was true for the inevitable muster drill, which was done in moments.

More on the ship later - but in the meanwhile, check out more Dawn photos!

- Marcia

Zaanse Schans

Posted by Marcia on July 31, 2018 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I have to say that our morning spent at Zaanse Schans, Netherlands, was a disappointment.  All the descriptions make it sound very cool and educational.  For example:

Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam, near Amsterdam. Historic windmills and distinctive green wooden houses were relocated here to recreate the look of an 18th/19th-century village. The Zaans Museum has regional costumes, model windmills and interactive exhibits on chocolate making. Artisan workshops demonstrate rare handicrafts such as wooden clog carving, barrel making and pewter casting.

In reality, it was a big mob of tourists, in an obviously make believe setting.  Due to mother nature, the day we were there, only one windmill was even rotating, but not strongly enough to work the mill.  I was excited to see the clog carving in action, but we missed that by moments, and did not feel like waiting in a clog shoe store (cute as the clogs are!) for the next demonstration. 

We couldn't find the pewter foundry, and none of the workers had any idea what I was talking about.  The cheese farm was hokey, particularly for midwesterners, although the samples in the store were awesomely tasty.  The mustard/spice mill... hmmmm... apparently made no impression on me, as I don't remember anything about it.  We have already seen a coopery, where they make barrels, in action, so no need to go there.  And we didn't feel like spending 10 euro (approx $12 USD) to go into the cocoa lab. 

On a positive note - I LOVED my pancake at Restaurant De Kraai!  Dutch pancakes aren't like American ones, they're similar to crepes that aren't rolled.  And they can be sweet or savory/salty.  omg... so tasty!

So... unless you really want to see windmills and you aren't going to Kinderdijk... or if you have kids in tow who would like the farm animals... I would suggest skipping this for a more "real" activity.  I was debating between Zaanse Schans and Waterland, and I believe I made the wrong choice.  FYI - Waterland is a municipality north of Amsterdam, on the western shore of the Markermeer, incorporating numerous small towns.  There is a bus route specifically for Waterland, with hop on/off privileges all day for one price.  I had considered visiting the towns of Volendam, Marken, Edam (yes, of the cheese fame), and perhaps Monnickendam and Broek.  Yes, Waterland is also full of tourists, but at least they are "real" towns, with people going about their daily lives.

Photos of Zaanse Schans HERE!

- Marcia

Antwerp, Belgium

Posted by Marcia on July 31, 2018 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

On our return trip from Bruges to Amsterdam, we opted to hop off the train for a couple hours in Antwerp... just enough time to get a visual of the old town area. 

First, a little bit about Antwerp:   At a population of just over half a million people, it is the second largest city in Belgium (after Brussels), and it has a major European port. Due to its long and culturally rich history, the city of Antwerp houses many interesting historical buildings from different historical periods, as well as a lot of interesting museums. Antwerp is also known as the global diamond trade hub - more than 70% of all diamonds are traded in Antwerp. Antwerp’s Flemish Renaissance architecture is typified by the Grote Markt, a central square in the old town. 

Also near Grote Markt is the Cathedral of Our Lady is one of the most impressive and largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe.  Built in 1351, standing over 400 ft tall, it is a masterpiece of lace work in stone.  As beautiful as it is, the Cathedral was never completed; there were two towers planned.

Didn't I say that Belgians are serious about their beer?!  This photo was taken in a small beer/liquor shop, not a behemoth store, which is the only place we in the States would find so much variety.  And the best thing - it's local/regional stuff, not imported globally.

On the flip side, Antwerp seems to have a sense of humor.  We found numerous statues, monuments, fountains, etc. that are fun, cute, whimsical, such as A Boy and His Dog, based on the book, A Dog of Flanders.

I was surprised (not sure why) to see a Chinatown.  Antwerp Chinatown, Belgium’s only officially recognised Chinatown, received its official status in 2001 although its beginning dates back to the 1970s as a result of Chinese migration after the World War Two.  So you see... not all history is OLD.  The main Chinatown gate, shown here, looks out towards Antwerp's Central Station. 

Antwerp's Central Station is one of the world's most impressive railway stations. Dubbed the 'Railway Cathedral', it is one of the main landmarks in Antwerp. The railway station was built between 1895 and 1905 to replace a wooden train station built in 1854. Today the whole complex is over 1300 feet long. The monumental main building has a huge dome and eight smaller towers, and the rich interior is decorated with more than 20 kinds of marble and stone. The THREE levels of train platforms are covered by a huge iron and glass vaulted ceiling 85 meters long and 44 meters at its highest point. In 2009, the American magazine Newsweek chose the Antwerp Central Station as the fourth most beautiful train station in the world.

Some of our observations:

  • Antwerp is a working city, with "real" businesses, and the corresponding hustle and bustle.
  • As often typical with larger European towns, there is a pedestrian only shopping street with name brand stores.  Normally you would find restaurants mixed amongst the stores, but they seemed to be on a parallel street.
  • Construction and restoration are continual occurrences, often due to the age of the buildings and infrastructure.
  • There is a potpourri of eras and styles, from the Het Steen buillt in the 1100s to current office buildings, including Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, Classicism, Art Nouveau...
  • Antwerp is expensive, at least when compared to the Midwest U.S.  A burger at the Hard Rock is  approximately 15 euro, $17.50 USD, and a small pizza is 16-30 euro, $18.70 - $35.  Yes, this was priced in the city center, but still.... yikes!
  • Like the other areas in Belgium and the Netherlands that we visited, waffles and fries seem to be popular quick food items.

Additionally, here are some thoughts from our train ride that day:

  • Trains are easy, timely and convenient for traveling. They're easy to book, you usually don't have to do so ahead of time.  Without security measures, they're easy on/off.  And they're basically comfortable, and quick.
  • Bicycles are EVERYWHERE.  Not just in the cities!  There are paths all around the countryside, linking communities as well.
  • Belgium and the Netherlands are very flat.  This makes sense, as the majority of the Low Countries are in a low-lying delta.
  • The landscape looked very similar to the midwest, with similar crops, trees and animals.  But then we'd see a building, and we knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.  ;)  Most buildings/homes are brick or clay with tile or sometimes metal roofs.  Even the detached homes are more narrow than those in the U.S. 
  • There are very few "modern" homes, thus those really stand out.

I hope you enjoy the additional photos from Antwerp HERE!

- Marcia

Bruges, Belgium

Posted by Marcia on July 31, 2018 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

While staying in Amsterdam, we took a train to Bruges and Antwerp, Belgium.  I had pre-booked the train tickets, using The Man at Seat Sixty One as my guide on how to do so.  I was still nervous that we would end up going the wrong direction, but everything went super smoothly.  Since we aren't used to taking the train, we arrived at Amsterdam's Central Station way earlier than necessary - even for newbies, 15 minutes max is all that's needed in the station to get your bearings, find your platform, etc.  Just like in airports, there are big monitors that have trains listed in departure time order, that you can use to determine your platform number.  Unlike airports, there are no security checks.  At all.  Walk into the station, step onto your train.  Easy peasy.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fairy-tale town of Bruges has the best-preserved example of a medieval city center, with its bell tower leaning over the wide open market. Picturesque cobbled lanes with quaint bridges and dreamy canals link market squares lined with tall towers, historic churches and old almshouses.

With the center closed off to cars, the beauty and culture of this amazing city can be easily explored on foot. The only downside is that it's so popular there’s a constant crush of tourists in the center.

Bruges has been known as a "dead city" for many years. The sanding of the harbour and the difficulties to dig canals in the sand caused heavy economical burdens on the city between the Middle Ages and the 20th century. The population managed to survive but did not grow as there was no new industrial activity during that period. As a result, once over the encircling canal and inside the city walls, Bruges closes in around you with street after street of charming historic houses and a canal always nearby.  It is a beautiful time capsule of medieval times, however it is no longer a "real" working city, and almost every building is a shop, restaurant or bar aimed at tourists.  It has been Disneyfied, but don't let the newly cleaned houses and the small canals confuse you; they are truly centuries old.

As for our observations:

A canal cruise is the "thing to do" - I would recommend doing this, but don't expect anything spectacular.  The tour comments are ok.  Most of the views can be seen from the streets.  However, even though you're crammed into a tour boat with dozens of your not-best friends, it's still kind of romantic and it's an easy, quick way to see numerous areas of the old town.

There are lace stores all over, as Belgium is/was famous for their handmade lace.  However, beware.  Most lace sold now, particularly at "reasonable" prices, are machine made, often in other countries.  Real handmade Belgian lace is not cheap.

Waffles are "the food" in Bruges - and there are many varied toppings.  But don't ask for Belgian waffles!  After all, you're in Belgium, and they're ALL Belgian. 

Paninis and fries appeared to also be very common foods, based on the restaurants we saw in the tourist areas.  Just like the fries served in Amsterdam, the fries here are double fried.  Super crispy on the outside, soft on the inside - perfect! 

Belgium is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world.  In medieval times, most beer brewing was done in monasteries. As the monasteries closed over the years, their Abbey beer businesses were handed over to local brewers.  Belgians take their beer very seriously, yet find humor in it as well, as seen in this wall of beer.

There are also chocolate shops all over.  Of course! A major industry since the 19th century, today it forms an important part of the nation's economy and culture. There are over 2,000 chocolatiers in the country, both small and large. Today, chocolate is very popular in Belgium, with 172,000 tons produced each year, and it is widely exported.

The Triennial was in Bruges this summer. Held once every three years, this artistic route, with surprising installations by celebrated artists and architects, is spread right across the city centre. It was fun seeing unusual exhibits in unexpected locations.

Unknown to us - Belgium's history is intertwined with those of its neighbours: the Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxembourg. For most of its history, what is now Belgium was either a part of a larger territory, such as the Carolingian Empire, or divided into a number of smaller states.  Belgium finally became an independent country when it separated from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1839.

The Church of the Holy Blood is very interesting.  The upper chapel is colorful and highly decorated in the Gothic style, while downstairs is a contrasting bare-stone 12th-century Romanesque chapel, a somber place that’s almost devoid of decoration.

I can't resist sharing one more piece of eye candy, but be sure to check out the rest of our Bruges photos HERE.

- Marcia

A'dam Red Light District tour

Posted by Marcia on July 30, 2018 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

The Red Light District tour that we took was arguably the highlight of our time in Amsterdam.  The tour was 100% completely focused on prostitution.  Many other RLD tours incorporate coffee houses (marijuana shops), museums, etc., but this one did not. Our guide Mark, the originator of That Damn Guide, is an ardent liberal feminist, and for him, the most vital thing about the area is that the rights of the women are respected.

Here is a brief outline of what he discussed:

  • The history of the Red Light District and of prostitution generally in Amsterdam
  • Today’s legal framework nowadays which has both good and bad points
  • How gentrification is impacting on the area and the business
  • Exactly how the women rent the spaces and what’s included
  • How much the women tend to charge their clients, how to negotiate
  • Security in the area and the role of the management companies and the police
  • Men for women behind the windows and speciality, transgender alleys and the so-called elite streets
  • Sex shops, live sex theatres, peep shows, strip clubs

Much of the following info is a mix from our great tour and the webpage

"So how does the Red Light District work?"  From about noon until long after midnight, the girls stand behind red-lit glass doors, dressed in fancy underwear, looking to attract the attention of passers-by.  Men walk up and down past the windows, and if they see a girl they like, they knock on her door, she opens and they shortly negotiate what will be done, for how long, against what price. If they agree, the man enters, and door and curtain close behind him.

"Does the customer really pick the prostitute?"  Yes and no.  Often, the prostitute will use subtle movements to indicate to someone passing by that she's interested in him.  The reverse is also true, where attitude can be used to discourage a potential client.  And during negotiations, the prostitute can opt to charge an exorbitant fee as a deterrent, or just refuse service.

"Why do some Amsterdam prostitutes have blue lights outside instead of red?"  To indicate they aren't really technically women, or born as such. They are transgenders, travestites, etc.

"How many prostitution windows are there?"  The city has 395 such windows. 

"Is prostitution legal? Do they pay taxes?"  Yes. Both prostitutes and their clients could do their thing legally since 1811. However, the ban on brothels (i.e. entrepreneurial organization of prostitution, or pimping) was only ended in 2000. Both prostitutes and brothels pay taxes, and brothels need to have a permit. Prostitutes even have a union.

"How much does sex cost?"  Amsterdam prostitutes behind the windows typically charge 50 euros for 15-20 minutes of oral sex and intercourse (both with a condom). Either one of those is 30 euros. If you want to stay longer, or do extra things, you usually have to pay extra, though a few offer extra services at no extra charge as their unique selling point.  Particularly when a customer is being rude, the prostitute may charge extra for ANYTHING beyond the agreed upon services.  "You want to touch my breast? - That wasn't part of the agreement, it'll cost $xx."  "You want me to take my top off? - That's $xx."  

"What about condoms and health?"  Use of condoms is not obliged by law, but you will hardly find Amsterdam prostitutes who will work without. Most women know the health details, and routinely take medical check-ups. Therefore, the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) isn't high. But not zero.

"How much is the daily rent for one window?"  On average, Amsterdam prostitutes pay around 85 euros for a small room during the day shift, and 115 for the night shift. The ownership of the windows is divided between many small landlords.  Prostitutes rent their desired room for specific dates and shifts - not monthly, or even weekly. 

"What is the standard length of time?" Payment is for 15 minute increments, however the average length of time for service is 6-7 minutes. 

"Are all prostitutes young and hot looking?"  Not always.  Two identical twins recently retired from over 50 years in the business - They were in their 70s!!  As they aged, they found a niche in the fetish market: bondage, cross-dressing, and more.

Runner up for the best story our guide told that night:  A prostitute and a client came to an agreement.  He entered the room and took off his pants.  He was extremely well endowed.  The prostitute told him that the rate was based on an average sized guy, which he obviously was NOT, therefore his price would increase per extra centimeter of length!  He paid. 

The definite best story of the night (again, second hand info from a prior event!):  Bit by bit, a crowd gathered in front of a store.  Inside the store, very visible from the street, was a naked man hanging upside down, being whipped.  The police eventually became concerned about the growing crowd, so they went to see what was happening.  They checked out the situation, and laughed.  Then they realized that the gawkers were holding open glasses/cans of liquor while standing in the street.  They ticketed the bystanders for open intoxicants!

Out of respect for the workers of the Red Light District - do not take photos showing the faces of the prostitutes.  Even though it's legal, many workers do not tell their family or friends how they earn their money.

- Marcia