Before I moved to the Netherlands, many friends teased me about going to a country that had legalized pot and prostitution. Naturally, I knew about this but I thought it was mainly in Amsterdam. But when I got here I discovered that if you stand on a corner too long in the old part of Utrecht, you can get a little high. When I say old, I mean streets that are 500 years old –that  kind of old. And I also discovered that  Utrecht (the fourth largest city in NL) has quite a busy red light district.

All I can say is that you have to see it to believe it.

There is a canal in Utrecht that has houseboats anchored along the side. Cars drive very slowly along the houseboats and the drivers are checking out the women that are available. This happens 24 hours a day. They look into the windows and if they are interested, I assume they pull over. But the flow of traffic is constant, so if a decision is made, you must move quickly to get out of the way. As I drove over the bridge (it is called the Red Bridge) of this canal on a Saturday afternoon, I saw about 50 cars crawling past the houseboats. I never saw a single person, just houseboats and cars. I wondered how they parked their car and entered the boat. To find a parking space in downtown Utrecht is a miracle in itself, and I am curious about how the drivers manage to park and then conduct business. I am already thinking of a new career move: valet parking. The best way I can describe this is to imagine the drive through at McDonald’s at dinner time…very slow, but a reward at the end.

This just fascinates me and I really cannot take it all in. I found out later that I was only looking at one side of the bridge, the other side is equally as busy.

This is legal and from afar, it looks like a unique business. Rarely are the police needed in this area, and I didn’t see any police presence that day.

Come to Utrecht and I will show you the Domtoren-the highest tower in the NL. I will show you cobblestone streets and canals built in the early Middle Ages. It is really a beautiful city of old and new. But I bet that I will hear you say: “can we go to that bridge and check out the houseboats?” Of course, I thought you would never ask.

Go to my post Midnight Run to read about my further adventures with the houseboats.

Recommended reading: Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld

                                          Private Hotel of gentle ladies by Ellen Cooney

                                          Keeper of the House by Rebecca T. Godwin


PS  has anyone figured out that there is a theme to the titles of these posts? Any guesses?

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  • Jane Moore Houghton  On April 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Movie titles?

  • Stan  On April 6, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Yeah, movie titles! You don’t know how happy I was to see Diner get early billing!

  • Alison  On April 11, 2011 at 8:11 am

    The Tippel Zone! The funny thing is that I’ve yet to see that area. I have no idea where it is, although I’ve heard about it and even learned about it before moving here. There’s also Hardebollenstraat here in the centrum for those that don’t want to deal with traffic, I guess. 🙂

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