What it’s like to live in Amsterdam’s red-light district

What it’s like to live in Amsterdam’s red-light district

(CNN) — Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district has long been one of the city’s most provocative neighborhoods thanks to its notorious window brothels.But the historic area has become something of a spectacle in recent years thanks to a dramatic rise in tourists to the Dutch capital in recent years.According to Femke Halsema, Amsterdam’s first female mayor,sex workers have “become no more than an attraction,” as a result of the “disruptive behavior” and “disrespectful attitude” of some tourists, along with the rise of camera phones and social media.As a result, the area is undergoing a major overhaul in a bid to protect sex workers from degrading conditions and reduce the impact of mass tourism.Sightseeing tours of the red-light district are coming to a close and there’s even talk of moving the window brothels to a neighborhood outside of the city center.The municipality of Amsterdam, one of many destinations currently tackling the issue of overtourism, has also teamed up with local residents to launch a campaign targeted at the millions of visitors who turn up each year.“We Live Here” is part of Amsterdam’s “Enjoy and Respect” campaign, which aims to combat unruly behavior such as urinating in the streets or canals, littering, drunkenness and loud noise.But what’s it actually like to live in a neighborhood synonymous with sex shops and drunken tourists?Here, six red-light district residents tell CNN Travel how they cope with the excessive noise, huge crowds and unruly behavior.

‘We learned karate to defend ourselves’

Martine Groen is in favor of moving the red-light district to an area away from the city center.Katja BrokkeMartine Groen, 70, has lived in a canal house on Oudezijds Achterburgwal for many years.I’ve lived in the red-light district since 1979 and started off in a small canal house. When my second child was born it [the house] became too small and we had to move.Me and five others bought a big building, which was originally built in 1450, on the canal Oudezijds Achterburgwal.It was a dump, but we cleaned it up together. In those days the neighborhood was extremely unsafe, with a lot of heroin junkies and dealers around.So we, including the children, all went to learn karate to defend ourselves. Today, only me and the neighbor above me are left from that original group.Now we experience a lot of nuisance from loud tourists. It started around six years ago.

‘I avoid the neighborhood at night’

I think they should just put the red-light district right on Schiphol Airport. They can put the girls over there. It’s the only thing those tourists come here for anyway.I really hate drunken Englishmen. It’s like King’s Day, a holiday we celebrate in the Netherlands each April, is happening every night.You can’t walk the streets in a normal manner because of the crowds. I avoid the neighborhood at night. It’s not fun anymore.Why don’t I move? Because I love it. Why should I leave? I love my house, and it’s close to everything. It’s a small area, so I can get out quickly and escape from the crowds.In the old days, junkies were walking around. It was unsafe, but we were together. We looked out for each other and kept our eyes on the streets. Now we all experience the same nuisances and we can’t do anything about it.I am very pleased with the ban on tours. But we are not heard by the municipality. Besides, what can they do? You can’t do much against mass tourism.Well, I guess they could make a red-light district amusement park. Everybody feels it has to change, but nobody knows how.

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