Thursday, June 30, 2005

Amsterdam: a Pocket Guide

Things you could do in Amsterdam in 1974:

1/ Sleep in the Vondel Park, in the company of like-minded travellers

The Park Posted by Hello

Hard to imagine this happening today. In 1972, out of the goodness of their hearts (and possibly a touch of devil-you-know pragmatism’), the Dutch stopped walking their dogs in the city’s largest park and ‘gave it over to young summer visitors’.

The young visitors accepted this gesture with the grace of a kid grabbing an ice cream and proceeded to erect so many tents that by the end of the first summer the entire park was an ecological disaster.

In the UK, that’d have been it. But the Dutch, being Dutch, gave it another try. This time they restricted the sleeping area, banned the tents, provided a medical centre and police post, and started a government campaign to discourage young people from coming to Amsterdam without any money.

By 1974 it seemed rather tame. I remember a bucolic scene with girls in floral dresses and tousle-headed young men threading their way through the crowd muttering about tabs and Moroccan and Nepalese Temple Ball. I may have noticed these things for selfish reasons: I expect the luminaries of the Vondel Park Foundation had an entirely different point of view.

2/ Sleep in a Sleeping Boat

The Boat Posted by Hello

A kind of upmarket Vondel Park, for better-heeled hippies. Your correspondent has no personal experience of these establishments.

3/ Sleep in a Sleep-In

The Vondel Park, but with a roof. There were three of these in Amsterdam in 1974: non-profit, no curfew dorms of upwards of a hundred people, all paying around 3 guilders a night. Bring your own sleeping bag.

4/ Visit the Moses en Aaron Kirk, behind the Waterlooplein

The Church Posted by Hello

Deconsecrated Catholic Church transformed into incense-burning freak temple, with the help of a subsidy from the Youth and Tourism department. Music. Carpets. Flowers. Colourfully-dressed worshippers. Marijuana tea and cakes. Indonesian food. Even a free market, with hippy ‘artefacts’ for sale at rock-bottom prices.

We went here, on our tour of the city. I imagine the other Berthlings peering wide-eyed through the incense smoke. Your correspondent was of course an old hand at all this, having been in Amsterdam the summer before with Libby. And being with Libby meant spending an awful lot of time at the Moses en Aaron, partly because it was a great place to buy vegetarian nutroast, and partly because it was adjacent to the Waterlooplein, which meant we could also…

5/ Visit the Waterlooplein Flea Market

The Market Posted by Hello

Imagine ‘Bargain Hunt’ directed by Cecil B de Mille. You’ve never seen so much junk in your life. Divided roughly 50/50 between old-fashioned Jewish market traders selling anything that’d sell and incoming hippies selling tie-dye t-shirts. Also a great place to get clogs, which hurt.

It’s still there, I gather. But shrunk by government, to make way for a Town Hall and other municipal buildings. Go figure.

6/ Take a Ride on the Magic Bus

Oh God, if only I had a picture of this. Bernard Phillipus was a freelance tour guide who got fed up with talking about Rembrandt’s wife and decided instead to set up his own multicoloured dope-smoking three-hour acid-head guided tour of freak Amsterdam. Highlights included:

- A trip to the camel-dung storage bin at Amsterdam zoo, to help hippies tell real dope from the fake

- A ride around the Hilton to stare at the straights

- A side trip to a windmill outside the city, to stand in a circle and practice yoga exercises

- Sampling grass tea at the Lowlands Ween Compagnie boat (in those days only dry marijuana was illegal in Holland)

And all for the princely sum of 8 guilders. It must have been good, because I was out of my head the whole time but I still remember (almost) everything. Money well spent.

Naturally, we didn’t lower ourselves to any of this wonderful nonsense on the Bertha trip. We had our own Magic Bus.

7/ Visit a Club

The Paradiso. Or its sister meditation club, Fantasio. Or the Melkweg. Or the Hobbit, for macrobiotic food. Or the t’Cloppertje folk club. All I can remember about these places are the names. Don’t get me started on the streets.

8/ Eat Chips with Mayonnaise

The staple diet of visiting hippies.

9/ Get to know the Locals

The Culture Posted by Hello


All of which amounts to a bewildering choice, I think you’ll agree. And yes, we did go to the church. I've no idea how briefly, but Paul remembers eating Indonesian food for the first time there.

As for the rest – nope. Nada. None of that. Diddley-squat. Zip. Zilch. Total lack of recall.

So what did the Berthlings do in Amsterdam in 1974?

You guessed it…

10/ Visit the Red-light District

A Wanton Woman Posted by Hello

11/ Tour the Heineken Brewery

The Brewery Tap Posted by Hello

By my calculations, we were in Amsterdam for two nights and one day. But I can’t be sure because we were to some degree inebriated for the entire duration of our visit…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

God Bless the Dutch!

11:55 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

God bless Lucky Chick for leaving a comment!

2:01 pm  
Blogger broomhilda said...

Has Bertha broken down or is the driver too stoned to continue on just yet? Care for a brownie?

4:02 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Hang in there ladies. I'm having one of me crises of confidence. I need to track down a couple of people. But trust me - this journey will continue (cackle cackle)...

6:22 pm  
Blogger Ms Mac said...

Two nights and one day, not nearly enough time to do all of that! Fantastic pics. I think if were a hippy, I would prefer tobe one of the wel heeled ones! Does that make me a snob?

7:39 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Not really, Ms M. Just sensible and modern...

8:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came back from Greece on one of the last trips of the magic bus. A dutch (!) family with about 1,000 kids sat next to me and my hair froze to the window.

Happy days!

1:30 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Did it go to Amsterdam? At risk of getting nerdy, there were several outfits going under the name of Magic Bus in those days. Probably still are, in a post-modern sort of way. Bernard's Magic Bus tour never got any further from Amsterdam than the nearest tulip field. If he'd taken it to Greece, the entire course of history might have been different...

8:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're right the (not very, indeed at all) Magic Bus I caught was
Anyhow, it was billed as such. And I had to borrow a shekle or something off the lav. cleaning lady in Yugoslavia.
Remember Yugoslavia..?

10:06 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was involved with the Athens end of Magic Bus from '74 to '79 which included being a partner in the Student Inn and Peters Fireside Pub.....the latter, gone-to-god now unfortunately.
They were halcyon innocent days of free love and free dope! lol

I wouldn't have missed a moment of it for anything.

1:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this textes and photos from Amsterdam during the seventies, i was there many times for fun, i take one time magic bus from London to Amsterdam. It was also 3 or 4 lignes of bus betwen Paris and Amsterdam: Weri, l'autobus ( who was a very old bid with wood seats !!! ). My favorites laces in Dam was Melkweg and smalls coffe shops.

7:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took the Magic Bus from A'dam CS to Syntaka Square, Greece, in June 1976, which took 3 days. On the second day when we had a stop, I no longer ran to the 'powder room' for a wash as no-one else did, so went straight for the buns and the coffee. We had 2 drivers. I vividly going into a rather long mountain tunnel without the lights on, as the driver didn't have clue how to switch them on. So we drove by the lights of oncoming traffic. I was positive my hair had grown white. In Yugoslavia a little girl ran onto the road in the side of the bus. The driver was convinced he had killed her. Luckily, not. She'd had a knock but had ran back to her family who were camping in a lay-by. On the 3rd day I spent the night on the seat in the front of the bus, and was awake when the sun came up, shining right in my face, just as the cassette played the Beatles' 'Here Comes The Sun'. Wonderful. After a fortnight in Palestine, I did the same trip back, in reverse. One evening, the bus broke down at the Austrian border, so I shared my bottle Stroh Rum (80%!)) with my fellow travelers, and quite a few of us just slept outside on the ground, oblivious to the nightly cold. Sadly enough, no photos remain of that most peculiar month.
The Magic Bus should be re-instated.

5:19 pm  

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