I walked a new way and ended up walking through Amsterdam's Red Light District, which I had not been to yet. I was surprised to all of a sudden find myself in the middle of the district, surrounded by sex shops and prostitutes in windows. A block away, I was in a nice residential district. I can see why the Rick Steves' guidebook says that the Red Light District is one area to avoid walking through at night. I walked through at 6:00 p.m. and it was certainly filled with unsavory characters. I didn't take any pictures of the prostitutes in their windows because there are signs prohibiting pictures, which I understand.
I took this first picture because I was struck by the scene of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in the background just one block away down the small street, which is filled with prostitute windows, coffeeshops and sex shops (notice all the red lights). You might have to click on the picture to enlarge it to really see the scene.
Perhaps this is a commentary of the loss of the Church's influence, which in the sixteenth century Netherlands was very strong. During that time, the Netherlands was one of the centers of the protestant reformation.* The second picture was taken practically from the steps of the Oude Kerk of a coffeeshop and sex shop almost side-by-side across the Oudekerksplein (Old Church Square). When I walked past them, I found that the coffeeshop is called "The Old Church Coffeeshop." It must be a difficult scene for the priests (or whatever they are called in the Reformed Church) and congregants to pass as they go into their church for services.
*For more information about the Reformation see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformation. One interesting sidenote is that the Reformation led to the Thirty Years War in Europe. This war ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which established the notion the nation-state and its sovereignty within its geographical boundries. This is the basic foundation that all international law is based upon.