Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When the Party Sails Into Town

Every five years, the city of Amsterdam hosts a massive maritime party, with tall masted ships from all over world docking behind Central Station for a crazed rowdy party. The event is called Sail Amsterdam and it lures over three million people into a city whose population covers around 800,000. In short, it is mayhem and a wonderful time to be in the city.

The whole thing lasts five days, which is a good thing because had it been a full week, I may have died.  It is both a FOMO sufferers grandest dream and worst nightmare.  There are dozens of events crammed into every day, into every hour so to even begin scratching the surface you need to put in 18 hour days and be willing to hustle.
It all kicks off with a parade of all the ships coming into the harbour.  Between working late and getting up early enough to get a good spot on the parade route, I think I welcomed day 1 with roughly two hours sleep.  But no matter, this was exciting.  This was a rare event and I was witnessing it from the very beginning. Bring on the ships!!

Once the parade ending, there was no time to waste. I had already seen the crowd estimates for the weekend so in order to be able to see the ships up close, we had to be on our game.

We ran to hire a small boat to take us on a tour.  With the waterways still relatively calm, we were able to get a great view of the ships as they were setting up.

We were even fortunate enough to catch the sunset from our aquatic vantage point. How lucky were we?

And still run to be in position for that evening's fireworks.

Day 2: Another early rising but still excited. Today, we will actually visit the ships.  I'm with another group of friends, who have not seen any of the ships, so we start off the day with another boat tour.

The lines are a bit long but we manage to get aboard the Colombian vessel and spend some time chatting with the crew.

Then more walking around, another round of fireworks and some bar hopping thrown in for good measure.

Day 3: Getting wearier.  I'm hung over and my sneakers are beginning to wear thin from all the walking.  New people, new boat tour, only now we have to wait over an hour to get on the tour and the boats are packed so tightly in the harbour that you could easily walk from one side to the other without getting wet.

There are lines everywhere, the port-a-potties have reached biohazard proportions and I'm pretty sure the Colombian crew is now eyeing me suspiciously whenever I walk by.

I am too worn to realize that when my friends say that we should all sign up for a bike race on the water, what they really mean is "Wouldn't it be funny to get Berti, who does not know how to ride a bike, to sign up for this fuckery?" I sign up, turn around and instead of following suit, they are all positioning themselves for a good photo position.

Somehow I win the race, collect my winnings (a plastic water bottle and a coupon for who knows what?) and continue to the ferris wheel because why not?

Day 4:  All of this happens again.  The early morning, the boat ride, the walking, the bar hopping- I end up at a Cuban bar I never knew existed-but I don't have the energy to reach for my camera, which is fine because I now have more photos of each ship than I do of my own family.

Day 5: Fuck these ships.  Fuck each and everyone of them in their fucking shipholes. They need to go back from whence they came. I'm over this shit. I'm tired, sunburnt and my feet hurt.  I stay in bed...until noon when I can no longer help myself and head back into the city for one last look. After all, parties like this only come around once every five years...

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