Digitized Decade 8: Singel Spaced

Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

Barbara and I flew from Glasgow to Amsterdam for the final week of what was only our second trip to Europe.Apart from a one-day train trip from London to Paris and back on a cold December day five years before, we’d never made it to the Continent before. But we got to Schipol Airport outside of Amsterdam on 1 May 2001.

Stepping off the train from Schipol at Centraal Station, we were rather surprised to see a pane of glass shattered near one of the front doors. Out on the square in front of the station, a telephone box was smashed, there was an incredible amount of litter on the streets, and what seemed like rafts of beer cans in the water as we walked to our hotel along the Singel Canal. While everything else looked like the tourist photos—bikes, trams, people walking everywhere—the garbage all around didn’t look quite right.

We got to the Hotel Singel (home of “Amsterdam’s Smallest Single Room”) and got settled in, then turned on the TV just in time to catch the evening news. We couldn’t quite make out what had happened the night before, but video from the night before actually showed someone breaking out the window at the train station, as well as a bunch of rowdy revellers. As we came to find out later, we’d unknowingly made it to town the day after Queen’s Day, a celebration of Queen Beatrix’s birthday that isn’t actually on her birthday. Remarkably, things got cleaned up pretty fast.

After the news was over, there appeared to be some sort of Amsterdam version of COPS that largely involved booting cars that had been parked too long (now, of course, we have Philadelphia-based Parking Wars).

And call me morbidly bashful, but I don’t think I would ever be able to use one of the portable “pyramid” urinals set up for Queen’s Day (and presumably other events) right on main streets in front of restaurants and other businesses.

The big event of early May in the Netherlands, of course, is it’s tulip season. Miles and miles of tulips in chromatic rows. More of that later. This shot was taken (I think) from a train.

The Digitized Decade is a look back at the first year of my entry into consumer digital photography.