Four days into my cycling adventure, I received a message from a college friend saying that he’d be in Amsterdam the next day. Although it wasn’t originally part of our plan, my companions and I decided to go. I was beyond pumped. I cycled my ass off through 4 hours of summer heat, trying to imagine what we’d get into in the Venice of the North. Everything I’ve ever heard of Amsterdam pointed to a party city with an “anything goes” vibe. For the most part, this was true, and I loved it. However, I managed to get arrested in a place where prostitution, the purchase and sale of marijuana, and being a drug addict is the norm: I slept outside.
In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the greatest idea to sleep in a park in a city notorious for its park-dwelling drug addicts. However, my friends and I pitched our small camp- consisting of 1 tent, 1 sleeping bag, and 1 hammock- in a set of bushes, and I managed to have a pretty smooth night’s sleep. I was at the peak of some lovely dream, when I was suddenly woken by, “Passports! Now”. As a foreigner in any country, this is the last thing one wants to hear. The shouting had come from a middle-aged female police officer with a sinister air to her. We were instructed to follow her (on her mo-ped) to the police station on our bicycles. My friend that we were visiting had gone for a walk and, upon returning to the campsite, the police woman had assumed that he was an addict and didn’t arrest him. We probably would have made a break for it had she not kept our passports with her.
Upon arriving at the police station, we were insulted (“I think you are really STUPID!”) and threatened for about an hour, which ended with her giving us an ultimatum: each of you will pay €130 or you will sit in jail. We repeatedly told her that we didn’t have the money, and she couldn’t answer most of the questions that we asked her. Still, she said, “You choose. I’ll let you think for a while”; she also let us know that there was a cappuccino, coffee, and hot chocolate machine behind us that we could use free of charge. Although it wasn’t a desirable situation, we were travelling with hardly any money and €390 was enough to last us for months. We repeatedly said that we chose jail, but after sitting in the lobby for nearly 3 hours and consuming countless hot beverages, we were told that we had to return 6 months later for court (something that she hadn’t mentioned at all in the previous conversations).
We took a photo outside of the police station, holding our yellow tickets up like the convicts that we now were. A delivery truck man nearby laughed and asked us what we got done for. “Sleeping”, we said in unison. After examining our ticket, which was in Dutch, he told us that the police woman had wrote that we were caught sleeping on the street: a blatant lie. We also later learned that the typical fine for this offense is €30, not the €130 that she had written down. Thankfully, we recorded all of this audio and are planning on writing a letter to…someone. Moral of the story? The Amsterdam police clearly have their priorities straight, and the city is obviously a much safer place thanks to this unpleasant woman ridding its streets of us.