When getting off the train in Amsterdam Sean and I notice immediately how different it is from London. Amsterdam is sunny, young and bright, the commuters on their clickity bicycles are wearing colours! Turquoise and yellow, with their blonde hair flapping behind them. This place is cheerful and bright and everything London was not. When we left London we could not help but notice how everything was so grey. The people wore only grey, the skies were always grey, the buildings were all grey and no one ever smiled. Mrs Thatcher seemed to have affected the soul of her countrymen and women and the weather as well.
As we stepped out of the train station, me with the giant neon sign over my head that said TOURIST and skinny Sean with his ginger ‘fro and omnipresent Rugby shirt, we were approached by a young girl about our age. Sean would go on to refer to her as bouncing Betty. She notices our Canadian pin and tells us she is from Abbotsford. This is great, we are from BC as well and she is working for a youth hostel and would like us to stay, she even has the free tram tickets and instruction to get us there. Sounds good and after all she is Canadian, who’s more trustworthy than a fellow Canadian?
Upon arrival at our new accommodations the first thing we notice is that the people that work there are all dressed in maroon coloured robes, and there is a photo of a Indian man on the wall. Oh shit! Where are we?
Against our better judgement we check in. After all it was clean and cheap. But we know we have checked in to the cult of the Rajneesh, and this is the Rajneesh hotel. We both had heard about this cult and decide not to spend much time hanging around during the day or night. After all they are surely after our non-existent trust funds.
But how will the brain washing take place? We were really curious, all we knew of brainwashing was Patty Hearst. I notice the air ducts, maybe they will leak gas into our room? Yah, no, that is stupid, but they are going to try something and we were ready. We check the place out looking for clues. I notice the showers are co-ed which is fine with me because we have just spent several months tree planting and co-ed showers were the norm. Sean, however, is not okay with this. So I offer to stand at the entrance like Helga the protector to defend him from any groups of 5 tall blonde dutch girls that come to use the shower while he is. He thinks about it and decides the showers will be fine after all!
We head out each morning and eat our bread and mustard on a cold bench, they are not going to trick us! We noticed that the building next to the hotel is called a “Mystery School”, clearly this is were you end up after the brain washing is done.
Nevertheless, Sean and I love Amsterdam. The museums and art galleries are amazing and the food is fantastic. We decide that the coffee shops are off limits just in case it affects our futures as diplomatic envoys. But what seems to evade us despite looking very hard is the Red Light District. We can’t seem to find it. Finally I risk embarrassment and ask for directions. Yes, I actually asked for direction to the prostitution zone. Sean is pretending not to know me but is thankful for the help as we are and have been for days, just meters away. As a kid from Prince Rupert, it’s a strange thing to witness groups of Japanese tourists taking photos of scantily clad young women standing in red lit windows.
It is our last night in Amsterdam and our new friend John persuades us to join him at the pub in the Rajneesh hotel. We are reluctant, but go and have a great time and start to regret our suspicions . He also can’t believe we have not come for the morning breakfast we are truly nuts in his mind. Okay fine we will give up our cold street bench and day old crusts for a Rajneesh breakfast. The breakfast room is the pub from last night but set up for breakfast. As we load our plate with the yummy offers of chocolate spread and sprinkles, (Yes I could have been eating chocolate spread on my bread instead of mustard) I get to the desk and its Bouncing Betty, she gives me a little cup and says “help yourself!”
It is the biggest punch bowl I have every seen. Even bigger then the one my aunt uses for her eggnog at Christmas. It is full of a rainbow of pharmaceuticals, uppers, downers, in-betweeners, “Bennys”, Quaaludes. You name it, it is all mixed up in there for the taking and yes, free…No thank you!
In unison we eat and leave. If we had a high five ritual we would have done that in the street. We had done it, we uncovered the mystery. We had a whole new swagger to our step and our non existent trust accounts were still intact.