The Hobo Guide To Tripping in Amsterdam
Alright, so you’re in Amsterdam and your crew is mobilised and you’re all ready to embark on a psychedelic journey of the senses, or whatever the fuck it is that hippie at the Smart Shop called it. You take the little container from the dude, then it hits you – you don’t know Amsterdam that well and you have no idea where to actually trip.
You’ve heard of people stumbling though the Red Light District on it, but you don’t particularly fancy an existential panic attack whilst staring through a window into the eyes of a bored sex worker. You remember that Amsterdam has nice parks but it’s winter now and the trees are bare and creepy looking. You want to be indoors, but other (sober) people scare you while you’re on drugs, and you can’t go to your hostel because that Kiwi fuckwit across the room won’t stop yapping on about all the birds he’s banged on his first ever Euro trip.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Well, at least, I’ve been there.
Whether it was the seasons keeping me from tripping at old favourites like Vondelpark, or simply a matter of seeking novelty, a year spent appreciating local greenery and fungal communities in the ‘Dam led me to become increasingly creative with my trip spots. So here they are.
Magic mushrooms have been outlawed across The Netherlands since 2008. These days it’s magic truffles that are legally sold across the country at outfits called Smart Shops. They still contain psilocybin, the same active ingredient, albeit at lower concentrations, which simply means you have to eat more of it to get the same effect.
The staff at Smart Shops are completely lovely and will provide you with as much information as you need to ensure a safe trip; nobody wants any repeat incidents of tourists thinking they can fly. Some of what they say, you will know already, and other bits may err too far on the side of safety. One of the most important bits of advice, though, is something that seems pretty straightforward: the setting of a trip can influence it immensely. For the social environment, just make sure not to trip with anybody you wouldn’t spend a day hungover with, and if it’s your first time it’s best to go with close friends. As for the physical environment, it’s always good to find spaces that minimise cause for anxiety (bad weather, judgemental looks) while maximising trippy stimulation (nature, art).
So here’s where to trip.
Amsterdamse Bos (Forest)
Get there: an 8km cycle or public transport
Things to bring: speakers, extra clothes, snacks, groceries for dinner (there’s a communal kitchen near the cabins), small flashlight, bicycle (optional)
It was the middle of November and the winter winds were approaching when we booked a cabin for a weekend in the woods. It’s actually some of the cheapest accommodation near Amsterdam, so expect to see some cluey backpackers pre-drinking in the evening before heading into town. For us, though, it was just a way to get trippy outdoors and not have to manoeuvre through canals and bridges when we got cold and wanted to go home. It also meant that once the truffles kicked in we had no idea how to talk to the drunk British lads and Aussie woo-girls that were of course our neighbours, so we ejected ourselves from the situation and left for the forest trails en masse with paint on our faces and glowsticks in hand, much to their confusion. Though it would have been gorgeous to explore the woods in the day, the trails were easy enough to navigate at night, and our expedition was met with a dazzling light show by the sky, a beautiful church steeple in the distance and several mysterious floating lanterns. By the time we wandered back to our cabins we were easily the most cooked cunts in the forest, so we sat ourselves down with watercolour supplies and freshly brewed tea. As the Dutch say, it was pretty fuckin’ gezellig.
How to get there: 30-minute train ride from Centraal Station
Things to bring: portable speakers, beach towel, picnic rugs, swimming gear
It wasn’t quite summer yet, but the sun had made some brief appearances, as had the pale knees of eager Europeans. We were ready to trip outdoors again. We were after something new this time, and opted for the freshness of the Dutch seaside. At first, we were a little put off by the holiday hotels looming behind us and the throes of small children running around in the sand, but our worry quickly dissolved like the horrible nutty-arse taste of the truffles in our stomach juices.
You’re essentially doing what you normally would at the beach, except everything feels so much better, so you shouldn’t look too weird to the wider public. Plus, the beach is big enough to find space to do your own thing, so crank up the tunes and roll around in the sand like we did. If you do decide do take a dip, keep an eye on each other and don’t be idiots about it; when we went we stayed mostly dry, and still had a dandy time. If the sun gets too much, you can always opt to pay 5 euros for those sail shade things, but be warned, handling money on psychedelics will make no sense whatsoever.
Get there: free ferry from Centraal to NDSM-Werf – you can bring your bicycle on board and lock it up near the dock.
Things to bring: portable speakers, sparkly toys
A friend once described this place as a “derelict-ship-yard-turned-avant-garde-art-space,” and that’s probably as close as you’d get to an accurate summary. The area is teeming with the weird and the wonderful, from a self-sustaining houseboat to high concept hotels and cute cafés.
The main hangar building (across from the building with ‘MAKE ART NOT €’ painted on it) is where you want to be. Here you’ll find Kunststad, or Art City, an amalgamation of budget design studios and fantastical art installations. Picture this juxtaposed against the harsh setting of an abandoned dock building and you’ve got the industrial wonderland that is NDSM. If you feel like you shouldn’t be here, keep going, ‘cause you’re in the right place; it’s that weird interplay between the bleak and the creative that makes this place such a joy to trip in. You’re disoriented as fuck anyway, so you might as well relish in the compounded chaos of the truffle trip. Just make sure there aren’t any events on while you’re there – Europe’s biggest flea market, for example.
Get there: wake up – congratulations, you’re there.
Things to bring: cushions, candles, soft and fluffy things
Hostels are pretty expensive in Amsterdam, so if you’re with a group you’re better off paying a little extra to rent out a pad via Airbnb. This way you have your own private space that you have relative control over, and if you’ve managed to score a decent apartment you’ll be tripping in comfort, away from the elements and prying eyes of sober people.
Of course, you can feel confined indoors, it’s nice to have an exit plan and a destination in mind so you don’t end up walking through Dam Square trippin’ so hard you’da thunk your shoelaces weren’t tied. Our game plan for home trips was too load up the living room with as many mattresses, pillows and other soft things as we could -for ultimate chillin’ status. The candles and incense were a plus, as were the stores of snacks and ready-made dinners we had cached away for the tail-end of the trip (trying to order pizza at this time was an absolute shit show). In spite of all the effort we put into decorating the living room, though, the trippiest shit turned out to be bare walls in the bathroom – so look out for that, I guess. And don’t forget to bring some nangs.