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Amster-Ban: Rethinking Travel Word-Association

Would you go to the beach and not take a dip in the ocean?  How about a trip to Vegas without gambling?  Or a week in the Keys without a blender drink or a hammock or a Jimmy Buffet song?  I would.  Because I know there’s lots to be done at the beach that doesn’t involve water, I love Vegas and I don’t gamble, and I’d be bored in a hammock after ten minutes or so (though I would never pass up a blender drink and have absolutely nothing against a steel drum version of Margaritaville.)

Of course, I’m asking these hypothetical questions for a good reason.  Each of the things I listed above are examples of travel word-association. I can name a place and an activity will pop into your head.  New Orleans–jazz.  Maine–lobster.  Napa–wine.  And when most people hear Amsterdam, the next word that pops into their heads is marijuana.  But that’s all about to change.

You see, there’s a new law going into effect in the Netherlands.  This law bans tourists from purchasing marijuana from the ubiquitous coffee shops particularly popular in Amsterdam, the nation’s largest and most-visited city.  When I heard of this new ruling, my first thought was more of a sound than a thought–the whistle and boom of Amsterdam’s tourism industry crashing and burning.  Or, rather, not burning, as the case may be.

I sincerely hope my prediction is incorrect. Because I can honestly say, smoking or non-smoking, Amsterdam is a lovely city to visit.  It was certainly the highlight of my ill-fated Europe trip two summers ago.  Would I go back?  Absolutely.  Would the new ban effect my stay at all?  Nope.  So I have hope that what Amsterdam lost in its counter-culture draw it will regain when people sober up and notice that hey, this is a charming city full of museums, canals, and the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere.

Of course, for those who simply can’t have a good trip without, well, something a little trippy, there’s always the Red Light district.  I’d strongly suggest heading to the Bloomenmarket or the Vondelpark instead, but hey, whatever works for you.

What do you think?  Will Amsterdam–and the Netherlands in general–suffer from this new ban?  Or will people eventually realize what I already know–that it’s a destination that can and should be appreciated outside of the coffee shop? 

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