Having your photo taken next to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch while wearing a mandatory face mask ruins the aesthetic appeal and, for many, detracts from the otherwise remarkable experience. Or does it?
Being a tourist in Amsterdam during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic may seem like a second-rate opportunity lacking the glamour and freedom that ordinary circumstances allow. Visiting the Rijksmuseum or Anne Frank’s House, especially if for the first time, are in themselves life-changing events. Standing in front of iconic, internationally renowned Dutch artworks, or looking around ‘The Secret Annex’, are experiences second to none.
Where one would expect the infringement of Covid regulations to taint the joy of seeing Vermeer’s ‘the Milk Maid‘, in fact, the restrictions make the encounter that much more memorable. Not only does one get to spend more time soaking in the sights, but one starts to feel like an honoured guest: a celebrity to go down in history as being among a small number of people who share this adventure under unprecedented conditions.
The reduced number of museum visitors competing for prime viewing space is just one bonus of being a tourist under pandemic constraints.
Another is being able to feel awe and intense appreciation for art, while the world outside collectively holds their breath until a vaccine is found.
The bragging rights of travelling around the Amsterdam canals in a cruise boat with only four other passengers (where, under normal circumstances, there is space for nearly 100 guests) is worth having to carry around hand sanitiser for peace of mind.
On top of decreased numbers of people allowed into tourist areas, lines and queues are done away with under these lockdown conditions. Where usually, one would have to book tickets for the Anne Frank Museum months, and sometimes, years, in advance, now everything is done online, and reservations are made just a few days in advance.
Upon booking your ticket for your chosen attraction, you pick a time allocation of when to arrive at the venue. Arriving between your chosen slot allows museums to monitor the number of people inside at a time, which in turn ensures that venues keep in line with the COVID-19 regulations. The friendly, helpful museum staff (who, usually, are kept very busy with large groups to monitor) now approach guests with a shared camaraderie at being in the same space under government restrictions.
Regardless of the benefits of touring Amsterdam without the tourists, the vibe and vibrant atmosphere of the usually bustling city is undoubtedly absent under the national lockdown.
While the tourism industry has remained as active as possible, the missing buzz of conversation in bars and restaurants are striking.
Though one can appreciate the magnetism of Amsterdam without the lines, queues and crowding, the heart of the city – it’s diverse people – is lost. On top of this, seeing the notorious ‘COVID REGULATIONS’ flyers at every entrance to every building does become rather bothersome. Although necessary, these regulations do detract from the atmosphere of adventure, and continuously remind one of the unusual, strenuous circumstances.
Flyers reminding one to wear face masks indoors, keep 1.5 meters away from others and to sneeze into tissues (an assumingly obvious request regardless of the pandemic, but not for everybody apparently) do get annoying.
On the other hand, for those who prefer to look at life with a ‘glass half full’ approach, being a tourist in a city during unprecedented uncertainty all over the world offers a unique chance to reserve a spot in history. While you may be wearing a mask in the photo of you next to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, your picture in front of the Royal Palace Amsterdam with virtually no other person in sight is certainly a worthwhile bargain.
Kathryn van den Berg
When trying to come up with an alias for my blog, I turned to words people have used to describe me for inspiration. The term 'control freak' popped up in my mind, but I'm not that confrontational and opinionated (anymore...). And so came into existence a happy compromise between my A-type personality and sense of humour.
Kathryn is The Control Enthusiast.