Amsterdam's Plea: Visit, but Behave 荷京敬告遊客：歡迎來玩 請守規矩
文/Christopher F. Schuetze
It is not a problem many vacation destinations spend much effort worrying about or money trying to fix: the wrong kind of tourist.
But that is the challenge increasingly faced by Amsterdam, where visitor numbers have shot up more than 60 percent in the past decade, bolstered by low-cost flights, cheap accommodation and the ease of traveling across open European borders.
With its centuries-old canals, vibrant historic center and flourishing art scene, Amsterdam takes pride in its cultural riches. But there is a growing perception that some who come to the city are more interested in less high-minded pursuits — namely, marijuana and prostitution, both of which are largely legal — and may be doing more harm than good.
Other destinations have struggled under the sheer weight of visitors: the Galápagos Islands; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice have all expressed concern about "overtourism," with technology, including apps like Airbnb, often cited as a driver of the problem.
But in Amsterdam, it is not just the number of tourists that pose a problem. It's how they behave.
Officials are trying to address the issue. Femke Halsema, the new mayor, visited the red-light district in the De Wallen section of the city in July, the month after she took office. Soon after, her administration announced a set of measures intended to curb misconduct.
They include on-the-spot collection of fines as high as 140 euros ($165) for public urination, drunkenness or excessive noise (enforcement agents will be equipped with hand-held devices to take card payments); rigorous street cleaning; and the hiring of additional "hosts," or security workers in orange T-shirts, who are trained to give information and remind people of the rules, which include no drinking in the streets and no photographing prostitutes.
Iain Mills, a 24-year-old Briton who recently traveled to Amsterdam with a group of friends, is the sort of visitor the city wants to reach. Having taken a low-cost flight leaving midmorning from London, Mills was enjoying a beer on a canal-side terrace by early afternoon.
The convenience of the trip was just one of the attractions, he said. "It's not my first time in Amsterdam and won't be my last," he added.
Mascha ten Bruggencate, a city administrator who has been tasked with carrying out the new policies, said there was an obvious place to start. "The red-light district is symbolic of the problem," she said.
Seeking America's Quietest Spots: The Quest for Silence in a Loud World 尋找美國最寧靜的所在
The hiker trudged up a logging road and into a valley, tracing a route that seemed unremarkable. There were no sweeping views of the mountains that towered nearby. There was no summit to scale. Yet he stopped suddenly, jubilant, after about 4 miles of walking. He had found exactly what he was searching for: quiet.
"Let's see," said the hiker, Dennis Follensbee, "how we experience three minutes of silence."
In these loud times — with political foes yelling on television, trucks rumbling through streets, and smartphones chirping all around — who doesn't want a little peace and quiet? But some wilderness lovers have taken their aversion to the cacophony of the modern world a step further, traveling to some of the country's most remote areas in a quest for utter silence.
Armed with Google Maps, bushwhacking tools and 16 years of experience hiking in the area, Follensbee, a programmer from Lebanon, New Hampshire, is on an exhaustive search for the noiseless hollows and dells of New Hampshire's White Mountains.
"I know there must be places I can go to have peace," said Follensbee, 39, who has mapped 23 quiet places so far, though he has shared the exact locations only with family members and close friends. (If quiet places are widely known, he reasons, "they cease to be quiet.")
Connoisseurs of quiet say it is increasingly difficult, even in the wilderness, to escape the sounds of vehicles, industries, voices. A study published last year in the academic journal Science, found that noise pollution was doubling sound levels in much of the nation's conserved land, like national parks and areas preserved by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Noise that humans create can be annoying but also dangerous to animals who rely on hearing to seek their prey and avoid predators. "We're really starting to understand the consequences of noise and the importance of natural sound," said Rachel Buxton, a conservation biologist at Colorado State University who worked on the study.
In Washington state, Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist — part of a small field of experts who study natural soundscapes — has made it a mission to preserve what he calls "1 square inch" of quiet in Olympic National Park. He and other advocates have raised concerns about noise from loud Navy jets and other air traffic, but says he believes that Olympic National Park is one of only about 12 places in the continental United States where a person could listen for 15 minutes and hear no man-made sound.