Silence. I can’t stand it but I love it too. The sound of no messages, no emails, no notifications. It used to drive me crazy to be left alone. But now I have all the silence I want, most of the time. Corona helped take care of that. Beforehand, we lived under one of the flight paths of one of the busiest airports in Europe. Especially when the wind blew hard from the west, and the wind is always blowing in the Netherlands, the planes would come in, one after the other, with a roaring and a whooshing, their big silver bellies hovering overhead as they moved, somehow magically supported by the sky, their wings outstretched, the glass windows in the house trembling slightly, the wheels already down; if they weren’t just above my head, I might even be able to see a face looking down in my direction.
But now not only the sky is empty, or nearly so, but the city too. Amsterdam was getting overcrowded. The locals complained about it constantly. Give us our city back, they begged, making new laws to restrict the drug tourists, forbidding drinking in the streets. It’s not just meant to be a fun city to come and have your hen parties in, they said, and still, the tourists came, in droves, packing the streets, blocking the bike lanes, singing drunkenly down alleys where local Dutch students tried to get some sleep before their exams or work the next day.
Then in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March again and now April, you could walk down Leidseplein and see almost no one, certainly no foreigners. The only language you hear is Dutch. There are construction workers repairing and rebuilding some areas of the square. Restaurant owners are polishing and painting the tables – readying for the reopening they hope will come.
The city awaits, now, in silence, on tiptoes, holding its breath until finally the tourists will return.