Amsterdam is well known and for good reason – its history; its great museums, its extensive canals and of course, the “Red Light District” and “Coffee Shops”. In my previous visits, I’ve walked past a few “Red Lights” (waved at some girls and said “hello” much to the amusement of a Dutch friend) and walked into coffee shops looking for an actual cup of coffee.
I’m at a dinner/dance at the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. It’s a good time but the music is starting to wind down. A local friend says “it’s time to explore the dark side of Amsterdam”. “What? The dark side”? What can that mean in Amsterdam? Trouble can’t be hard to find past midnight (as in any large city) but with “red lights” and “coffee shops” already in the open, what is “the dark side”? Where is “the dark side”? I’m curious and naturally tag along with a small curious group. We wind our way deep into the “Red Light” district looking for a “special Bar”. We go down a dark alley (that you wouldn’t go down in a group of less than 12) and end up at “the Bar”. It’s jam packed at 1:30 a.m. and we can’t get in. It’s protected like Fort Knox and has many CCTV cameras. No worries.
We make our way back down the street to a small bar called “San Francisco”. It’s just opening- it’s only open from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Our group of 12 enters and it’s like a private lounge- a dirty, beer soaked and odd private lounge. We’re told that it is owned by “the mob”. The doorman “Mike” is the toughest guy I have ever seen. Not terribly tall but broad- like the Hulk. My friend quietly says “he looks like a cross between a baboon and a pit bull”. He looks everybody up and down and then declares whether or not you can enter the bar. Most are not allowed entrance. “Mike” starts talking and softens up after a cigarette. He’s wearing body armour and hates his job. “San Francisco” defies description – it’s a Euro weird, Wild West Saloon just waiting for trouble.
It’s the turning point. Another drink (I don’t need one) or is it time to head back? My local friend is ready to leave so it’s time to leave. I have absolutely no idea where I am or what time it is. But it’s time to return from the dark side.