All done with lockdowns? Can’t wait for life to get back to normal? Fed up with staying inside all day? We know just what you mean. In fact, we’re pretty sure you’d like to make a little trip over to Amsterdam… Well guess what? We missed you too! Today, as the Dutch Covid-19 measures are gradually lifted, we give you a taste of how Amsterdam after lockdown feels right now. Let’s hope we can keep this thing in check, so you can hop on that plane and head back to lovely Amsterdam soon!
This weekend was the last “intelligent lockdown” weekend in Amsterdam, it was a beautiful day.
I was meeting with friends in the north part of Amsterdam, on a small artificial beach on the waterfront. We had a plaid to sit on, brought beer and wine and cheese. We smoked a joint. It was busy on the small city ‘beach’ but in a pleasant way, we all had enough room. The virus seemed under control.
Amsterdam Lockdown Under Control?
The last time we met was also during lockdown on King’s Day, over a month ago. That turned out to be one of the best King’s Days ever. No crowds to get stuck in, not that grim atmosphere that always evolves at the end of the day, when the drugs and booze from the night before – and the long day – start to take their toll. That’s when all the unmet expectations start settling in.
But not so this last King’s Day. We just stayed all evening, sitting, drinking, and smoking,on the bricks of Noordermarkt square. We kept our 1.5 meter distance – just like all the other small groups sitting there in the evening sun. The atmosphere was laid back, the city peaceful. It felt as if Amsterdam had been given back to its inhabitants. (It also felt as if all the inhabitants were young and healthy, but okay…). Sure, we didn’t have all the fancy stuff we usually have, but that was fine. We improvised for a greater cause, and that brought us closer.
Amsterdam Lockdown Lifted
We hadn’t seen each other much these past months, me and my friends. Maybe it was no coincidence that we didn’t meet again before this last intelligent lockdown weekend.
Because yesterday, on Monday June first, at 12 sharp, it finally happened. Amsterdam reopened its bars, restaurants and terraces, movie-theaters and museums. Restrictions applied, of course. Tables were spaced 1.5 meters apart, visitor numbers were limited, and 30 guests inside was the absolute maximum. Health check interviews before entry. Apps for reservations. The works.
Restrictions aside, though, it was all actually happening. It was a beautiful day, it was a national Holiday. There were terraces in the sun and people were on those terraces and they were smiling. And the waiters didn’t wear mouth masks, so it all did look completely normal. It seemed common and uncommon at the same time.
Uncertainty In The Air
It was busy but it didn’t get crazy, the city wasn’t flooded. Something uncertain remained in the atmosphere that I couldn’t quite grasp. Was it the uncertainty of the virus flaring up again? Or did it have something to do with the strangeness of it all?
As if this whole intelligent lockdown of 11 weeks had never happened. As if it was all just a silly game that came to an end on this exact and set time and date. And we all ran out and sat ourselves back on a terrace chair in the sun, ordered a drink and that was that.
In this particular part of the world, or at least for the people on the terraces, everything was back to pretty comfortable, once again.
And maybe that was precisely it. It was as if nothing had really happened. As if nothing was really happening.
George Floyd died 7000 kilometers away from Amsterdam.
Somehow the re-opening of the city at noon reminded me a bit of New Years Eve. It’s that particular sense of tense energy and excitement you can feel in the beginning of the evening. You know the drill. You do the countdown, midnight arrives, and there’s fireworks and cheers – it’s the New Year! Then, quite quickly, the feeling of a fresh start turns into that realization that everything is still exactly the same. That nothing is really new. That nothing has changed.
Many people experience the first of January as a bit of a gloomy day. Alcohol definitely plays a part here, but I’m sure the ‘nothing changed’ factor is part of the hangover for many.
Amsterdam Is Still Here
On this same day at 5pm, more than 5000 people gathered on Dam square to protest against racism. The crowd marched for George Floyd, who suffocated to death for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman.
No need to say the protesters were breaking the ’30 people maximum’ rule. And it was impossible to keep their 1.5 meter distance during this peaceful protest. Although people did their best. There were a lot of mouth masks, but certainly not everyone was wearing one.
Still there was no sense of uncertainty to be felt there. People were there and together for a greater cause. Something was happening. Something might change after all.
On the other hand, whatever may change, for better or worse, I’m happy to report that Amsterdam is still here. Let’s stay safe and sensible in these weird post-lockdown weeks, and hopefully we’ll see each other by the canals soon!