A Guide to Europe’s Secret Drug Capitals
If you’re not in Colorado or Washington, and you’ve ever spent more than $100 on weed at once, you’ve probably taken a relaxing vacation away from criminality in Amsterdam. That’s because smoking a joint legally in a beautiful European city, surrounded by both erudite Dutchmen and shit-drunk Scottish stag parties, is generally much more preferable to hot-boxing your friend’s car in a parking lot, slamming the music off and ducking behind the seats every time another car drives by.
But where are other Europeans supposed to go to snort, smoke or ingest in peace? Coke-heads used to have that Bolivian jail where you could buy fishscale direct from the prisoners, but that’s now banished to backpacker lore, ruined by swaths of international media attention and a warden who realized that presiding over a state-funded gak factory probably wouldn’t look great on his resume.
In 2013, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) conducted a study of 42 European cities, analyzing local waste-water (sewage, essentially) to determine which drug was most widely used in each area. Some of the results were as you’d expect, but there were a few in there that stuck out a little, and those are the ones we’ve laid out below in our guide to Europe’s secret drug capitals.
Photo via Jean-Pol Grandmont
Shockingly, Antwerp—a city full of diamond traders and fashion students—is also full of cocaine. In fact, Europe’s coke capital is so keen on the stuff that nefarious pigeon fanciers have started doping their racing birds with performance-enhancing gak.
One potential reason behind the Belgian capital’s fondness for blow is that almost 25 percent of the cocaine shipped to Europe from South America makes its way through the country, and a large chunk of that through the port of Antwerp. Conveniently—and kind of unbelievably—only two percent of the containers passing through the port each year are actually screened, meaning not a lot gets seized.
And lucky for the city’s residents, that bountiful supply translates into low, low prices; at an average of $68 a gram, it kind of makes sense that it’s so widely used.
Cannabis growing all over the hills of Lazarat. Photo by Axel Kronholm
The bucolic town of Lazarat is slightly different from many other pastoral Albanian towns, in that its green pastures are mostly made up of cannabis plants, which produce around 900 tons of bud every year. Families can survive off a harvest for a whole year—and growing really is a family business, which is probably why it’s not a good idea to fuck with the kush farmers of Lazarat.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, 800 police surrounded the town. Upon realizing they were boxed-in, residents decided to base their response on the archetypal Michael Bay drug dealer—by grabbing some RPGs and machine guns, and blasting the overwhelmed cops off their turf. Thousands of plants were destroyed, but in the end the police retreated.
The Traditional Costumes of Peasant Women in Germany and Alsace
Traditional costumes have virtually disappeared, but until the 1950s, this kind of attire was very common across Europe. From the color and cut you could conclude whether a woman was married, how old she was, which family she came from, and how wealthy they were.
In 2008, Eric Schütt started looking for women who still wear traditional clothes for his photography project called Burenkleider: Burska Drasta, or Traditional Costumes of Peasant Women in Germany and Alsace. The women in these photos are never seen without their traditional costumes. They wear their costumes in the house and outside. In many cases, they are the last ones in their village wearing the clothes with their original purpose, and the other villagers look at them like as if they’re flamboyant, exotic birds. Some of these women have died by now—Eric’s photographs are the last document of this disappearing phenomenon.
This Is How Europe Does Drugs Now
The 2014 European Drug Report came out last week and told us exactly what we already knew: that Europeans are very fond of drugs. Here are some handy heat maps for those of you who don’t know how to read.
Kiev’s Euromaidan protesters began 2014 the same way they ended 2013: by rioting in the streets in an attempt to bring down their government. Key victories have already been won, with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigning. The demonstrators also forced the annulment of a new anti-protest law that was, ironically, the cause of much of their protesting.
The protesters haven’t been contented by this. They are still out in the streets, demanding the head of President Viktor Yanukovych and the staging of fresh elections. What began as a protest against the Ukrainian government’s close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin has become a focus for wider discontent. However, Yanukovych seems in no mood to relinquish his power. As the social unrest spreads across the country, its first post-Soviet President, Leonid Kravchuk, has gone as far as to warn that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Dozens of people have lost their lives in just the last two days of violence.
At the end of January, VICE flew to Kiev as rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at police and the city turned into a battlefield.
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For three weeks, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters have been flooding the streets of Kiev, occupying government buildings and taking over the city’s Independence Square. Initially, the demonstrators were expressing discontent at President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to pull out of a deal that would bring Ukraine closer to joining the European Union.
After an initial brutal police crackdown, the protests have grown in size and are now more about toppling the government and putting an end to corruption than joining the EU. The police have tried and failed to clear the tent city that has sprung up in the Independence Square—also known as the Maidan—and the occupied city hall that has been dubbed the “Revolution HQ.” Protesters remain in the streets, despite the below zero temperatures.
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