Amsterdam looked like an abandoned city. The stars overhead flickered as Will and I walked the cobblestone streets, over old stone bridges, past countless hundreds of bicycles, along the tram line towards Central Station. A near-perfect silence lay over the usually bustling city, broken only by a constant tinkling of glass issuing from the pubs and the sound of our shoes on the cobblestones. It was the first time I’d seen Amsterdam in five or six years, and the streets were completely empty. In a city known for being a party town for the 20 something backpacker crowd, it seemed odd that it would be so quiet at any time of the night, let alone at around 10pm.
As we turned onto one of the main streets leading through the center part of Amsterdam, a battle cry of sheer exultation went up. Every pub in the city exploded with sound. The sheer volume and intensity of it was almost frightening. The roar of thousands of invigorated football fans echoed through the channels, shook the foundations of the cathedrals, and then died as suddenly as it’d come. Glasses clinked quietly again, the city waiting, watching.
It’s just my luck. Somehow I tend to end up in the right place at the right time more often than not. We hadn’t planned to show up in Amsterdam just in time for a huge football game to go down, but we weren’t about to waste the opportunity to check it out.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen more orange in one place. Banners were strung across almost every surface, streamers hung in the streets, bikes and people alike sporting bright orange decorations; there were enough balloons alone to coat the city in orange rubber. What they do with it all after the World Cup, I don’t know/don’t want to think about it.
Will and I wandered on, marveling at the decorations, peering into the tiny pubs the entire population of Amsterdam had somehow managed to cram themselves into, and listening as roar after roar went up. I know absolutely zip about soccer, but it would seem that the Netherlands were doing really well. At last, with a bout of cheering and screaming that echoed through the city for ten minutes or more, the game ended. Thousands of people poured out of the pubs and into the streets, dancing and singing drunkenly. As they disappeared down alleyways on bicycles and mopeds, still chanting loudly, I realized we were more or less lost, and a blister was forming on my left foot…