The irony about the planned attacks on Amsterdam's red-light district is that in my experience, that part of town is very safe. There is an obvious but very polite police presence that seems to materialize when needed and unobtrusive when not. Tourists are gently persuaded not to photograph the women in the windows but accorded the status of guest.
Sherry and I were tooling around the area the night before Queen's Day (Queen Juliana's Birthday, April 30). As we browsed the many, uh, shops and cabarets, we couldn't get over the crush of people having a good time in anticipation of the holiday the next day. We had never seen anything like it. It was as if the entire country had descended on the city, bought a drink a made several thousand new best friends. Part carnival, part block party, part bacchanal, Queen's Day is like what I imagine Independence Day is like at Hef's house. Only everybody is invited. This is not how it is in other parts of the city or country and it's not for everybody, to be sure, but what struck us was how polite and friendly the Dutch seemed. Yes, there were your garden variety drunks and stoners here and there, but much less than I've seen, say, in Boston's Combat Zone.
We were trying to make our way through a knot of people when, from the other end of the crowd, the group parted as if directed by Moses. Just then, we saw a little old couple carrying groceries walking down the middle of the street. The revelers had noticed that Grandma and Grandpa were having difficulty getting home, so everyone spontaneously moved aside to let them through and then coalesced again after they had passed.
This doesn't necessarily mean anything other than illustrate the moment when we fell in love with the Dutch people.