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Few streets have had a longer or more torrid history than Zeedijk, which has been around since Amsterdam began life as a boggy hamlet. In the 15th and 16th centuries, its businesses serviced the lonely, thirsty sailors disembarking from the ships of the East India Company. By the 1970s, the only traffic Zeedijk saw was drug traffic. Tourists were advised to avoid the neighborhood at night because of the junkies and high crime rates. A few years back, the city started cracking down, and it's now much easier to accept the stray, dubious-looking character as merely part of the scenery as opposed to its definition.
There are several interesting sights along the Zeedijk. The 17th-century Sint Olofskapel (St. Olaf Chapel), named after the patron saint of dikes, sports a life-affirming sculpture: grains growing out of a supine skeleton (this used to be a positive message). It's now a conference center for the NH Barbizon Palace Hotel. Across the street at No. 1 is one of only two houses with timbered facades left in the city. Dating from around 1550, In't Aepjen (In the Monkeys) provided bedding to destitute sailors if they promised to return from their next voyage with a monkey. Each floor juts out more than the one below so rainwater falls directly onto the street and goods can be hauled up easily. Café 't Mandje at No. 65 was the first openly gay bar run by legendary lesbian biker chick Bet van Beeren (1902–67). It reopened in 2008, with much of the original interior restored, complete with trophy ties Bet snipped off customers. The Chinese community dominates the end of the street, where street signs are in Dutch and Mandarin. There are around 10,000 Chinese in Amsterdam, a 20th-century presence much younger than the Dutch in China (Taiwan came under Dutch control in 1624). The highlight is the Lotus Flower Buddhist Temple Fo Guang Shan He Hua (No. 118). Chinatown extends into Geldersekade and Nieuwmarkt and every year there are small (but colorful) Chinese New Year celebrations.
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We saw London, we saw France and lots more.
Day 1 (9/18) Amsterdam
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