Monday, July 21, 2008

Take it outside

While I was home for Eva and Bret's wedding, Amsterdam underwent a dramatic transformation... on July 1st a smoking ban went into effect, which literally drove the smokers outside. Now I'm not going to lie, I'm a HUGE fan of banning smoking in public places, I love not having to come home after a night of hanging out with friends, and requiring a shower before going to bed (with wet hair). However, I think there are some issues here, that I haven't really seen too much of in Illinois (January 1, 2008) or Iowa (July 1, 2008). Mainly this is a space issue. Since the smokers are not allowed to smoke in the bars, they instead crowd around the entrances or lean in the door frame. I admit, if I was a smoker, I might have issues with standing outside in the cold rain, which I'm told is part of a normal Dutch summer. I feel kind of bad for those who are so addicted to nicotine that they can't go more than half an hour or an hour until they are back outside. Then there is an issue of being able to get in and out of the bar. I've noticed a problem because the smokers do stay so close to the entrance, that you have to walk through wafting smoke to go in or out, sometimes, pushing past multiple people just to get to the door. Finally I've found that because there are so many people congregated at the door of pubs and restaurants, it's often difficult for pedestrians to get around them. The sidewalks, are extremely tiny, forcing you to step into the bike lanes, which can be a physical danger when most bikers feel, rightly so in this city, that they have right of way.
The smoking ban has also caused some issues to arise, that I'm not sure I've heard of previously in the states. The main complaint that I have heard is that the smoking was what covered up the body odor that wafts through crowded pubs, clubs, etc. I've even read that there are some Dutch clubs that have adopted smoking machines which let out the supposedly harmless scent of cigarette smoke, to cover up the natural odor. Evidently this scent does not stick to your clothes and hair... seriously though wouldn't everyone having better hygiene and using deodorant be a better solution? 

Speaking of taking it outside... I've seen some weird street performances over the years... but I think this may top it. In the Leidseplein... the square I've talked about before, this man, in nothing but a thong-loin cloth, was doing tricks on a hanging rope from a free standing apparatus haphazardly set up in the walk way between the veranda tables and the bars. It was a very odd thing to see, and I felt it was a bit dangerous as the outer circles of the crowd were perilously close to the tram tracks. Not really a street performance I have seen before!
Finally this evening, I'm very excited to be able to offer some FRESH PHOTOS! CLICK HERE to look through some new images from the past couple of weeks... and as always feel free to comment on this post, or let me know what you are thinking about both my writing and my images. Thanks again for reading!

Until the next time...


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