Around 9am, I heard the first of them: boom…..boom…..boom. In what was to become the soundtrack for the entire day, fireworks were being shot off in the dog walk area behind our apartment. At first, Churchill didn’t mind, but as the day wore on, they started to get to him. Every time I’d take him outside, he would get nervous and want to turn around and go back.
At one point, I had the delusion that the park near our apartment might offer some peace and quiet, so we walked down there. We made it to the park in relative calm, but once we entered, around every corner, another group of teenagers with bottle rockets lay in wait.
After deciding to abort the park portion of the walk, we wandered down Javastraat back to our apartment. The last block of the journey before turning onto our street, a group of kids started walking right behind us, throwing firecrackers in every direction. If he had the option, I think Churchill would have chewed through his leash and sprinted home.
Later in the day, we went over to Poco Loco in Nieuwmarkt to have dinner with some other expats. We ended up sitting by some Americans and 2 Nederlanders. When the conversation inevitably turned to football (not the American kind), I asked what team they rooted for. Their reply: “There is only 1 football team in the Netherlands: Ajax. The rest of the teams only try, and fail, to play real football.” (FYI: Ajax is not pronounced a-jax, but is instead pronounced: i-ax. Just a little tip for any of you who might move here in the future).
Poco Loco is a spanish tapas restaurant. Their waitresses were wearing dirndl’s (the traditional southern German dress – think of a beer wench). One waitress was wearing fake sideburns and a gold chain. I asked her what the deal was, and she replied “I am the pimp of the other girls.” Okey dokey then. We ordered the “Tapas Royale”, which was a chef’s selection of 6 tapas. There were all very good. We’ll have to go back sometime.
We had been warned ahead of time that Nieuwmarkt was “like a war zone.” The organizer of the expat dinner told us that if we went outisde, to stay pressed against the walls of buildings, otherwise we would risk getting hit. It wasn’t quite that bad, but it was definitely an experience.
If you want to know what New Years is like in Amsterdam, close your eyes (well, not really, otherwise you can’t read this part), and imagine this: Take several hundred thousand people, and put them outside. Spread them out all over the city, but concentrate a few thousand in an large square surrounding an old fortress. Now, have each of them posses somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 fireworks or so, and not even the cheap fireworks you expect kids to shoot off. No, some of these are professional-level fireworks that shoot high in the air, and make a huge explosion. Now, just have people randomly shoot them off from wherever they are standing. You can also climb on top of shelters, houses, buildings, and cars, and shoot them off from there. Basically, “war zone” describes it pretty well. I tried taking some video with my camera, but in the end I just put it away and experienced the celebration for myself, rather than through the lens of a camera.
To make matters more….interesting: public transportation shuts down from 8pm until 1:30am, so Roxy and i walked home, passing lots of drunk folks shooting off fireworks. I wondered how all this is allowed, since it would never work in the States, and then it hit me: Amsterdam is a city built almost entirely out of brick, with canals running everywhere. It’s basically fire-proof!
In the end, it was a fun way to spend the night. Good tapas, good conversation, a few pints of Dommelsch (which I just now learned is owned by AB InBev…..&%#$!!!!), and lots of fireworks! Happy New Year!