You have to be a bit sheltered, like me, to make it to your early twenties and not know that one of Amsterdam's claims to fame is its Red Light District. Travel is such an eye-opening experience.
I was apprehensive about visiting a place dedicated to the skin trade. I wasn't sure what I would find there, but I was fairly certain it wouldn't be good. Part of my distraction walking across town was at least partially nerves. Anne Frank's story is sad, but I'm not sure she was much in my thoughts.
We passed a man weaving his way down an empty street, whispering "Coke? Cocaine?" as he passed. Was he buying or selling? Or was he merely the gate keeper? For it wasn't long after he meandered by when I realized where we had wandered. The lonely girl wearing a bikini and standing behind a glass door, watching us go by, kind of gave it away. A few doors down another girl in bra and panties sat on a stool, reading.
These windowbox-whores, what brings them to Amsterdam, to these rooms with the red front porch lights? Was this life a choice or a last attempt at independence and income? Do they like what they do? Are these women sad or merely bored in these early afternoon hours without customers?
I found the workers themselves hard to look at, with their blank stares, skimpy clothes, and tiny rooms. But the rest of the Red Light District, with its constant reminders of which part of town we were exploring, seemed far more interesting. You certainly cannot accuse it of being shy.