AM­S­TER­DAM

CHARM­ING AM­S­TER­DAM BILLS IT­SELF THE GAY CAPI­TOL OF THE WORLD, AND THAT’S BE­FORE PROB­ING ITS NO­TO­RI­OUS FETISH HALLS, DARK­ROOMS AND RED LIGHT DISTRICTS! STORY AND PHO­TOS BY MARC AN­DREWS.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

There are bi­cy­cles every­where in this city of less than a mil­lion and, as might be ex­pected, plenty of bois­ter­ous young tourists. Many have ar­rived from less open-minded cor­ners of the globe hop­ing to try their first hash cookie or space cake, splurge at one of the many sex shops or trawl past the city’s no­to­ri­ous red light district. One of the great con­trasts of Am­s­ter­dam is that places of ill-re­pute are of­ten nes­tled com­fort­ably in rather gra­cious 19th Century houses or lofty el­e­gant build­ings.

It’s about a half-hour taxi ride from the air­port to cen­tral Am­s­ter­dam, the sou­venir post­card part with charm­ing canals, grand old fa­cades and the sex and drugs bit, of course.

Am­s­ter­dam has long been con­sid­ered one of the world’s great gay cap­i­tals, with the city boldly pro­mot­ing it­self as the gay cap­i­tal. While that is de­bat­able, there is no dis­put­ing that Am­s­ter­dam is home to one of the world’s largest, most lib­eral and di­verse gay pop­u­la­tions any­where.

There are a num­ber of out and proud streets fly­ing the rain­bow flag, but War­moesstraat is per­haps the best place to start. Make a point to visit the RoB Am­s­ter­dam store to view a spec­tac­u­lar piece of wall art in­cor­po­rat­ing a huge va­ri­ety of dil­dos housed in arty or­ange plas­tic tubes. Who needs to visit the Van Gogh Mu­seum or Rem­brandt House when you can en­joy this in­ven­tive art for free?

You can also try Gays And Gad­gets on Spuis­traat for fetish­wear, toys and ev­ery­thing else you would ex­pect to be stocked in a store that pro­motes it­self as “the ul­ti­mate gay shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Plenty of the gay bars are found on War­moes­traat, but you’ll also find them spilling over onto Spuis­traat and Zeed­ijk, too. Pick up the city’s lo­cal free gay mag­a­zine, Gay And Night, to find out what’s on and where.

The city is also rapidly be­com­ing fa­mous for Am­s­ter­dam Fetish Pride and the four yearly Rapido par­ties that usher in a huge horny crowd from Europe and be­yond. Also mak­ing in­roads is the Bear Ne­ces­si­ties brand, held ev­ery two months, which al­ter­nates with the Lon­don party of the same name.

My boyfriend and I headed there for BN’s sixth birth­day party in Fe­bru­ary, meet­ing up with friends from Bel­grade, Berlin and Brighton at the same ho­tel. We chose the Grand Am­rath Am­s­ter­dam, which is, as the name sug­gests, rather grand but well-priced. If you like ye olde world wall­pa­per, wan­der­ing maze-like cor­ri­dors and rooms with se­cret hid­den cor­ners then let this be your place of res­i­dence.

We ar­rived in Am­s­ter­dam in the late af­ter­noon ahead of the big night out, look­ing for­ward to meet­ing up with our party pals. The next five hours were spent run­ning be­tween our ho­tel rooms work­ing out which out­fits

to wear, play­ing loud mu­sic down the long cor­ri­dors and hit­ting the ho­tel’s well­ness cen­tre for good mea­sure.

Fi­nally, we were all ready to go out and brace the cold, but not un­bear­ably so, win­ter night. We shared two cabs to the Odeon Am­s­ter­dam venue and the party was al­ready well un­der­way. There were two dance floors and a bal­cony area (noth­ing too fancy but a good space nonethe­less) while the mu­sic was good in a way that man­aged to be both sexy and up­lift­ing with­out be­ing ei­ther too cheesy or too in­dus­trial. The crowd was sexy, in that muted Dutch way, and very ap­proach­able. On the dance floor, sweat­ing it out and look­ing hun­gry-eyed, we met a hand­some cou­ple, Ser­gio and Al­bert, who told us they were hold­ing a chill-out af­ter the party if we wanted to join. Be­fore too long, seven of us were trav­el­ling back to their apart­ment for some après-party, Dutch style.

From the out­side, their apart­ment block looked snug and even a lit­tle bland. In­side, how­ever, was a to­tally dif­fer­ent story. These guys had done some ma­jor prepa­ra­tion. The en­tire liv­ing room area had been re­con­fig­ured as a play­room com­plete with big screen porn, a ded­i­cated sling area, a mat­tress on the floor (with a pro­tec­tive lin­ing, thank­fully), boxes of toys and plenty of leather, ly­cra and rub­ber to try on at will. Ev­ery­one sud­denly was ei­ther naked or in some­thing brief and the chill­out, which was ac­tu­ally more of a hot-up, was un­der­way. It was a fine warm wel­come to Hol­land in­deed.

While much of the iconog­ra­phy of the coun­try cen­ters around time­less things such as tulips, wind­mills and, er, dykes, the re­al­ity is that Hol­land is one of the most for­ward­think­ing coun­tries in the world. They have long held much more re­laxed at­ti­tudes to­wards

Step in­side and you’ll quickly see the sling hooks on the walls, the dildo art­work and the hand­some, very tall Dutch men who are only too happy to as­sist.

sex and drugs, in par­tic­u­lar, than most other parts of the world.

Am­s­ter­dam is a kinder, gen­tler ver­sion of Berlin and a much pret­tier and sweeter ver­sion of Lon­don all rolled into one. You re­ally can’t go past the beauty of those me­an­der­ing canals, Venice-style bridges and tall Dutch hunks, right? Since the coun­try switched from a Queen to a King, the Nether­lands now cel­e­brates its big ban­ner day of Kon­ings­dag ev­ery April. Ev­ery­one goes crazy wear­ing or­ange (it’s a Dutch thing!), with many in­sist­ing on dy­ing their hair for the oc­ca­sion. The Dutch name for this or­ange mad­ness is oran­jegekte. You have been warned!

If you pre­fer some­thing more pink and with plenty of hot Dutch mus­cle close at hand, opt in­stead for Am­s­ter­dam Gay Pride which takes place from 26 July–3 Au­gust this year. It in­cludes the must-see Boat Pa­rade through the city’s canals where some 80 boats will take part to the theme of “Lis­ten” – fo­cus­ing on in­ter­na­tional sol­i­dar­ity with the 80 coun­tries where be­ing openly gay runs the risks of im­pris­on­ment or even the death penalty. So while there’s a sense of he­do­nism about the event, there’s also a deeper un­der­ly­ing mes­sage to the world. That per­fectly sums up this na­tion and city. They are truly naughty and nice at the very same time.

Hav­ing al­ready es­tab­lished that the Dutch are a gen­tle, car­ing breed of people, it also needs to be noted that the rub­ber scene in Am­s­ter­dam is boom­ing, with a Mr Dutch Rub­ber con­test now held an­nu­ally. For those who need to know, the Am­s­ter­dam Fetish Pride is from 29 May–2 June this year com­plete with par­ties, ac­tiv­i­ties, din­ners (mind the Dutch cheese, though!) and more. The red light district, in­ci­den­tally, is called De Wal­let­jes, in case you want to see what in­spired a lot of Gaga’s work.

As it is, Am­s­ter­dam of­fers ev­ery pos­si­ble scene that any­one could ei­ther wish for or imag­ine, which is also part of its mis­chievous back­room charm. While the build­ings may look pris­tine and whole­some from the out­side, step in­side and you’ll quickly see the sling hooks on the walls, the dildo art­work and the hand­some, very tall Dutch men who are only too happy to as­sist you with a smile, or more.

In some ways, the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager hid­ing from the Nazis in an at­tic with her fam­ily, gives true in­sight into the na­ture of the Dutch. They gen­er­ally go out of their way to help oth­ers and be re­spect­ful of dif­fer­ent val­ues. If only the rest of the world could be more Dutch, and more cities like Am­s­ter­dam, it’s fair to say planet Earth would truly be a much more lov­ing, beau­ti­ful and sexy place. As the Dutch say­ing goes, “Leef en laat leven” (live and let live).

more: gayam­s­ter­dam.com, am­s­ter­dampride.nl, am­s­ter­damfetish­pride.com

Go Dutch at the house of tulips.

The in­fa­mous red light district.

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