Amsterdam Memories from 1996

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Jun 2nd, 2006
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The year was 1996. By the time we got to Utrecht, the week long binge of Belgian beer drinking had kicked in. I was about to tell my friend about the purple bats, but he would see them soon enough himself.

Okay, it wasn’t quite a Hunter Thompson experience. After a long afternoon at the Belgique, we eventually wound our way to one of the Bulldog cafes in the red light district. Actually, Lance was just trying to get us to the red light district. Lance was our little leprechaun of a friend, and after a couple of beers, every time we talked about moving on to another bar, he would say, “Well, we could go have some more Belgian beer, OR we could go watch some bloke shaggin’ a bird”.

So we finally made it to the red light district, and truth be told, I believe we were in and out of two or three different Bulldog franchises, before we settled into one that was known as the Energy Coffeeshop.

Sure, we enjoyed the Connect Four. Who doesn’t?

But, we should have taken John’s advice and stayed away from the smart drinks. Still, naive as we were, we thought the smart drinks would indeed help us beat John at Connect Four. And then something snapped in ColoniAl’s world.

At first we thought he would snap right back out of it. But when he started talking more and more animated about the bad people that were out to get him, we began considering the idea of calling it a night (at 8pm), or at least getting ColoniAl back to the hotel.

But there was no sense in all five us heading back to the hotel. So somehow the taxi came and went, and I was left out on the town with Lance. And you know exactly how the subsequent conversation went, “Well, we could go have some more Belgian beer…”

And that was when I made my first visit to Het Elfde Gebod. The bar was practically empty when I walked in. I sat down at the bar and asked for an Orval.

The bartender checked, and he only had the warm bottle that was sitting out on display. So the owner said he would go upstairs to his apartment and bring down some more bottles.

The Orval tasted great. Almost as good as the 6 year old bottle we’d find at Duda’s in Fells Point a few years later … but you get the idea. And I had a few more.

The bar started to fill up. Everybody seemed to know everyone, and it had this real neighborhood bar kind of feel to it. People went out of the way to speak to me in English and try to include me in conversations.

By the time Lance showed back up again, we were all singing. Well, the only word that I could make out was “Amsterdam!” in the chorus. A cool place, and hopefully I’ll find my way back there this year.

As I understand it, Het Elfde Gebod translates as The Eleventh Commandment … so I think it’s safe to call this a religious pilgrammage.