My total of five nights in Amsterdam were a bit of a blur. Yes, some substances contributed to this synopsis, but the real determining factor was that psychologically it was just a stopover. In my head, my trip is Istanbul to India. Experiences before I embark on the exact trail, although fun and enjoyable, are really just putting in time. I was on the ground to obtain an Iran visa and Amsterdam seemed like as good or better of a place to kill the week I expected to have to wait as any alternative.
It was Champions League week. I was excited to watch the soccer matches. Usually I follow the Euro-wide elite club tournament at home in Canada, but the game-watching culture is very different. Independent of the absence of global football mania in Canada general, due to time change, I would normally watch the matches live while munching a sandwich during a lunch break starting at shortly after noon my time. Observing the games during the evening in a bar in Western Europe is, not surprisingly, a more engaged experience.
On Wednesday evening I wandered to Leidesplein with the intention of finding a pub. I elected a bumping one on the corner of the main square. I grabbed a pint at the bar and found one of the few remaining seats in the joint. I shared a table with a couple of Brits. As the first half progressed, the looks we initially exchanged graduated to words and eventually we were shooting the shit.
They were in town for a few nights on a cheap mid-week deal. I noticed that they had been intently following the screen hosting the Chelsea – Shaktar Donesk match and so inquired as to their football club allegiances. One was a Liverpool supporter and the other a Chelsea boy, but tonight they were both die-hard Chelsea fans. They were quick to explain how they had bet a combined 500 euro on Chelsea to win the match. Awesome. At this point Chelsea were up 2-1 with 40 minutes to play.
Soon the Ukrainian club scored to pull level 2-2. Hearts sank, including mine. Forever an Arsenal supporter and frequently a Chelsea hater I found myself pulling for their win. It’s always fun to have skin in the game (sometimes especially when you don’t actually). At the base, I figured that if the Brits finished the session 500 euros up that I would have some drinking buddies with some quid to spare – a recipe for good, cheap night.
The match continued, the beers flowed and the Brits gradually sank into resignation. It appeared increasingly unlikely that Chelsea would be able to net a triumphant goal. Four minutes of extra ‘injury time’ were added on top of the 90. Looking forlorn, my buddies were searching for the positives of a draw: well at least we’ll get a good night sleep, etc.
In the 94th minute Chelsea was awarded a last gasp corner kick. It was 11 men in the opposition penalty area, including the Keeper, Cech. The ball was swung in and the manager’s late substitute, Victor Moses, rose above to bury the ball in the back of the mesh. We, like a good quarter of north London and one Russian billionaire, exploded. Jubilant hugging, high-fiving and dancing ensued. It was awesome! Definitely a departure from the slight eye brow raise the event would have provoked had I been at home watching the match during lunch break.
The winners settled our outstanding tab and we walked direction – Red Light District. Conversation flowed, but repeatedly returned to our good fortune, usually accompanied by a back slap, a contented laugh, a high five, or a combination thereof.
Our present outlook inspired our pace and we were in the district within no time. We conspired to pass a smoke at Amsterdam’s original institution, Bulldogs, before grabbing multiple beers at different bars.
The red windows had a noticeably higher occupancy rate than the two previous nights and I can only imagine was the neighborhood looked like during summer’s high season.
Towards 0130, we discussed the idea of checking out a live sex show. Spurred by the liquor I was vocally in favour of this plan. It seemed like a unique event in Amsterdam and one of the few things I would prefer to have some mates along for the experience. Hitting up a raw flesh-on-flesh performance solo pushed my already-broad parameters of creepy and this presented a good opportunity to check it off the list. Plus, with their winnings and flowing generosity, I might even do it free.
The idea was brushed aside shortly after its birth by one of the guys. He was already starting to lament his age (easily 30+) and insisted he didn’t want to spend the remainder of the night over the toilet like he had Monday eve.
Soon thereafter I said goodbye to them and moved on. It seemed a shame to kill my buzz and so wandered around making other friends and watching the goings on. I called it a night towards 0300. It was day 5 of a 7 day bender – when in Europe…