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Published: February 24th 2010
Traveling this part of the world is bloody expensive. This is learned the hard way by nearly all young backpackers from the Antipodes undertaking their first major overseas excursion. All of those overtime wages earned in shitty bars are immediately transformed into Monopoly money, their value free falling to the point of non-relevance. The tricks are many; similar numbered price tags lead many to overlook the devil's symbols - € and £, resulting in blown budgets and frantic calls to generous parents at 2am Australian time. Filial love goes only so far in explaning these life-saving 0% interest loans; perhaps the generous parents remember too well their times spent Living The Dream, camped on the floor of a leaking share house in wintery London, surviving on white bread and tomato sauce.
My first excursion here in 2006 was a strictly budgeted affair - breakfast was skipped unless supplied by the hostel, in which case it also constituted lunch; dinner was a kebab; beers were consumed at happy hour; wine was bought at the closest supermarket for the cheapest price. Admission to sights was avoided at all costs, except when no viable alternative was available. This bludger's mentality peaked in Amsterdam,
when a close friend who for privacy reasons shall be known as Bill, decided that the €26 entry for the zoo was too much, and that scaling a fence would be the smartest idea. Psilocybe cubensis
MAY have been consumed prior to the zoo excursion, and could possibly have been influencing his thinking... The fence separated us from a herd of deer and an anteater, all of which seemed to provide Bill with stronger motivation to complete his ascent. After verbal reasoning failed to stop him, a more physical brand of debate was introduced and he was eventually convinced that it wasn't such
a good idea and was lead to the nearby Oosterpark to play.
5 days later he was seen enjoying a slightly inebriated night swim in the port in Barcelona, so maybe it was just him.
3 years on I find myself in Europe again, living on a budget again, but seeing things from a very very different point of view...
2 months ago I relocated to Middle-Holland for the year, ostensibly to enjoy my days as a non-wage slave, but really to live with a girlfriend Fam (a Native). So far things
have been great, albeit FREEZING. There have been some hassles with the beaurocracy and getting my burgerservicenummer (BSN for non-Dutchies), and more pressingly, a job. But all that is boring, and I much prefer writing about stereotypes. So, without further ado, here follows tales of public sex, a Carnaval that eclipses Rio's and a house party straight out of Animal House.
Stereotypes are funny things. As an Aussie, one of the more popular European stereotypes revolves around The Netherlands' reputation as a bastion of free expression and liberty. Tales of coffee shops, smart shops, wild parties and public hookers do much to further this view, however venture outside of Amsterdam and the real Holland is a world far away from De Wallen. The locals here (in Wageningen) are fairly private people who work hard and are reserved in their expressions of joy. Like anywhere, this changes with the size of the town/city, but seeing as Wageningen is pretty small, things here are on the quiet side of placid.
Utrecht on the other hand, is a different story.
Enter the January 2010 edition of the Karmasutrabeurs (KSB), known to you and I as 'THE GIANT SEX FAIR!' Held
in Utrecht's exhibition centre, the twice-yearly KSB is a huge exhibition of everything legitimate that the adult industry has to offer. Seeing as this is the capital of sex, there was a lot to be exhibited. My intrepid partners for this expedition were Fam and our housemate, Dennis. The KSB seemed to be split into 2 distinct areas (distinct by content, not geography); live shows, and retail stalls. The live shows were then split into 2 further distinctions; participatory and non-participatory. The retail stalls were all very standard - plenty of sex toys, cheeky outfits and lubricants. There were smatterings of art and photography, but the dildo stalls held sway.
It must be said with a degree of embarrassment, the three of us were initially captivated by a stall selling AWESOME gold fish tanks. Oblivious to the near-naked nymphs around us, we focussed on gold fish. Epic fail.
So, live shows... There was something for everyone: stage performances every 10 minutes (standard strip shows & dance exhibits); live sex shows; S&M demonstrations; the Swinger's Cafe; the Voyeur; the Maze; the Ladies' Cafe; the Cinema and finally, the Dark Room. The S&M exhibit was the first we chanced upon.
It was also the one at which we spent the shortest time, with blokes being kicked in the bollocks not being our 'thing'. To keep it short, an overweight man wearing a baby's mask was 'attended to' by a dominatrix who resembled the ugly older sister of Nigella Lawson. It wasn't pretty. As we left he was being restrained in a tiny cage with a number of weights suspended from his peenie. Whatever floats your boat mate...
Next were the stage performances. These were pretty awesome; they ranged from bog-standard strip shows for football trips, to stunning dance performances and elaborate gymnastics. There were a couple of male performances, one of which is seared into my memory forever. Let's just say he was hung
After that rather brutal example of male genitalia, Dennis and I needed something to even things out. What better than a spot of live lesbian sex? We dutifully paid the €5 and settled down in eager anticipation. The 'artists' came out from behind the curtain, sauntered along the catwalk - each holding a dildo - and settled on a dubious bed. What followed was a tad disappointing, but it did go along way to
evening out the penis:vagina ratio. Dildos were employed as designed, porno heels remained firmly strapped to feet, and both women looked about as interested as if they were being read a stock market analysis by Peter Costello. Anyway, the ratio was looking much healthier.
The Maze was advertised as a "garden of delights, where no one is a spectator and everyone is a participant," or some rubbish like that. Other housemates eventually told us that is was a maze full of public spots for couples to get frisky, holes in the walls for hands, fingers, toes and any other appendages that could fit. We aren't exactly rolling in cash, so we decided to give it a miss and spend the € on something with a little more value. Like the Voyeur...
The Voyeur was attached to the Dark Room, which made up part of the Swinger's Cafe. The Swinger's Cafe was strictly for couples. I believe it was literally a cafe/bar, with heaps of couches and beds for play. Couples could have sex with whoever and however they chose. The Dark Room was the place for proper exhibitionists. It was a dimly lit room with a rotating bed
in the middle and plenty of space for anything the mind could imagine. A space carved straight from the head of De Sade. The walls were covered with 2-way mirrors, allowing the exhibitionists to exhibit, and the voyeurs to perve. A match made in heaven! The Voyeur was a dark seedy maze that wrapped around the outside of the Dark Room. Private booths were the norm, often filled with groups of young blokes copping a perve, and if they were lucky, a grope of the people inside. I'll have to say, it was
interesting, but as an erotic spectacle it was pretty deflating. The ground was littered with used tissues and for the main part it was populated by sketchy older blokes. The exhibitionists were mainly older than 40 and on the plain side of average in looks. The 'highlight' for me came when the oldest bloke in the room (+-70 and desiccated like a mummy) broke away from his games on the rotating table, rummaged through his suitcase(!) and came out with a strap-on dildo, saddled up and rejoined the fray. The smiles this brought were quickly extinguished when we realised that the booth next to us contained a solitary public wanker. The highs and lows of a liberated society!
We called it a night soon after and dragged our weary selves back home. Enlightening, uncomfortable at times, funny, eye opening, sad, and awe-inspiring. Melbourne's SexPo has a lot of ground to cover before it comes close to competing with the scale and content of Utrecht's version.
This has ended up being a lot more writing than I expected, and being out of practice i'm feeling the effects! We finally reached double-digits in temperature this week, but the caveat is rain. Last week, this sort of precipitation came in the form of 50 cent (coin, not rapper) sized snowflakes. Now, rain rain and rain. I'll write about Carnaval and our awesome house party soon, once my neck, left middle finger and shoulders recover from this bout of creativity.
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