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Amsterdam isn't all about getting stoned...Really?

The big joke around Amsterdam these days is that it is illegal to smoke tobacco in the cafes, but perfectly o.k. to smoke a joint! Pure Amsterdam, or Thai, Manali black, Red Leb or whatever you fancy yourself.

What amazes me though about the ‘Dam is how cleaned up it has become. I recall my first foray into the town of iniquity. Having dumped the backpack and stashed enough money for breakfast essentials in my room, I headed out for a cultural evening, noting, en route, that my hostel was “just over the bridge and beside the canal.” How difficult could it be to find my way home?

Yes, I know now that there is more than one canal in Amsterdam – but why? London has the Thames, Dublin the Liffey, Paris the Seine – why must those Dutch make it so difficult, and then they make copious amounts of mind bending herb available at every café counter (I partook purely for research purposes!).

But, I’ve been back since and, still researching – I’m nothing if not a serious worker – I’ve come across some alternative cafes to the “alternative scene.”

Wynand Fockink - I know, try finding that when you’re stoned.

If beer's not your scene, try jenever, the Dutch answer to vodka or schnapps. Decked out much as it was back in the 17th century, this is as much a museum as a gin joint. Pilsteeg 31, between Warmoesstraat and Oudezijds Voorburgwal ;

Café Alto - any translation necessary? The Dutch claim to have been pioneers in introducing jazz to Europe. While that claim might be taken with a pinch of salt, it's true that in its day this dingy salon hosted some of the greats, including Count Basie and Duke Ellington. It's been cut down in size since then, so when the music starts at 10pm it can get awfully crowded. Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115, just off Leidseplein

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