Amsterdam Tulips and other Herbs
In its years of glory Ajoblanco countercultural magazine published at the beginning of summer a special issue, a travel guide. It talked about from the legendary Magic Bus, a DKW linking Paris and Kathmandu via Kabul and Tehran, to the freak capitals of Europe (the meaning was not the same as today). Amsterdam was the chief. By vocation and by will.
A couple of friends caught the June 1976 special and went on there. Obviously they were the envy of the people for a long time. 76 Ajo recommended not sleep in Voldenpark, it was just recently banned, it was better to try on Christian Youth Hostel or Rozengracht sleepin. Other recommendations were to wangle one Use It, a kind of program about what was going on in the city, a few cheap restaurants addresses and other fashion venues as Paradiso and Melkweg, the famous then, Milky Way.
Amsterdam represented in the end of Spanish dictatorship, in the seventies, paradise. A freedom symbol. A beacon in the darkness. A pills supermarket. Rolling paper.
Coffee shops stand still. For the Dutch each person is free to decide about their own health, do not need a state that will safeguard what is best or worst for its citizens. Hide the negative effects that drug phenomenon can lead do not removes them so Dutch law distinguishes between hard and soft. No distinction with the rest of the European Union on the first, however the cannabis can be consumed, with some restrictions on licensed premises. Coffee shops dispense even with varieties menu, according marijuana or hashish origin at doses never exceeding five grams, seeds, or units and ready for consumption joints already rolled. There are also shops dedicated to provide all kinds of paraphernalia, assorted pipes, rolling papers, matches with the image of Che or a Jamaican flag … Coffee shops have been extended and now go beyond the downtown red light district. Where the windows openly suggest the use of the premises. Amsterdam has also been always broad-minded, as long as taxes were paid.
Bloemenmarkt is the only floating flower market in the world. Over Singel canal waters, between Koningsplein and Munttoren fifteen shops are mounted on barges, but that’s virtually impossible to appreciate from the road. They offer quintessential national product: the tulip. A bulb from central Asia which arrived in Anatolia in the eleventh century and from there up to the Al-Andalus. In the XVII came to northern Europe and in the Netherlands. Bulb crop became a truly obsession. Get refined flower petal and unique colorations became insane. The tulipmania hit the pockets and the common sense of the Dutch. Bulbs of the most curious and rare varieties were sold at exorbitant prices: the Admiral Van der Eyck, Childer, Viceroy o Admiral Liefken, could cost, in the same order, between the 1.260 and 4.440 guilders. The one named Semper Augustus, the most valued variety, reached in Haarlem market, six thousand guilders, when an average annual salary amounted to just one hundred fifty. The irrationality and excess demand created what today would be called a futures market, it means air was sold as a perspective bulb trade at a specified time. Over time air was devalued popping in one of the first speculative bubble that has been reported. In 1852 the Scottish journalist Charles MacKay summarized the period in his book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.According MacKay there was who had invested fortunes up to one hundred thousand guilders in the purchase of just forty bulbs. Currently the bulb is still sold but now at affordable prices, worldwide. Netherlands accounts for 87% of world production. Four billion. Of these just over half are engaged in the cut flower market. In Amsterdam Floating Market there are tulip bulbs of all kinds, in bulk, with labels alluding to the city, with Rembrandt portrait, wrapped in Delft clogs. There is no limit than imagination. And the phrase is not from Ajoblanco.