Gay Pride is a weeklong event in Amsterdam, featuring diversity of sexual orientation, partying and significant presence of the sponsoring brands all over the city centre. On the evening before Canal Parade, Reguliersdwarsstraat is one of the hot spots. The tiny street connecting Leidsestraat on the one end with Rembrandtplein on the other has been a hub of the gay scene for decades. I know it’s called the LGBTQ community nowadays, but the recent past of this neighborhood used to be mainly gay, with all the connotations the term has to offer.
Today, Reguliersdwarstraat has put on the pearlies. Female and male beauty everywhere, an endless rainbow flag in front of a facade of illuminated windows. Huge piles of speakers don’t lie: The volume of the dance music equals a starting AWACS jet before the installation of sound dampers.
The atmosphere is mostly friendly and laid back; it is a pleasure to see people enjoy themselves dancing …
… but there are also disturbing moments, for example when right next to me someone’s being arrested for pick-pocketing.
The annoyance is the pick-pocketing itself of course. During the weekend, a specialized squad of the Amsterdam police caught 47 criminals right off the street on and around Rembrandtplein alone, according to filmmaker Frank Buis of RoyalPress Amsterdam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zULb2VTAbfY).
I decide to proceed to a safer and more quiet environment, namely Prik Bar (http://prikamsterdam.nl/). The lovely place on Spuistraat keeps a profile as a neighborhood pub / tiny dance floor in one, serving trendy pink prosecco from the tap (!!). Two of the guys in front of the bar confirm my suspicion that many drag queens must be about half a meter taller than the rest of us 😉
Saturday during the day: Canal Parade
The last day of Gay Pride Amsterdam is dedicated to the Canal Parade (http://www.canalparade.nl/). Many people, basically residents, boat owners and their friends and family, have settled earlier in the morning on whatever they could occupy a place on.
Many a one without access to the privileged places will attempt to catch glimpses from the back rows.
At the intersection of Prinsengracht and Looiersgracht, a private party adds music and soap bubbles to the colorful atmosphere:
The number of pictures of the Parade itself must rise into the millions. I’m limiting myself to only four shots to give you an impression of the enormous crowd cramming itself into the tiny space along the bank and bridges of Prinsengracht.
Along the way I joined a group of friends for the rest of the afternoon and a good part of the evening. Next to Robert, Simon and Wolf we can see Frans listening to André here:
… and enjoying a sponsored soda with Ru Song there.
In the evening we all had a couple of beers near the Amstel and were lucky to have Ru Song with us who, due to his good relations with local Chinese business, was able to get us at table at Oriental City (http://www.oriental-city.nl/), where we had an excellent Cantonese meal.
After we separated on Dam square, I had to collect my luggage, which I had stored literally at the other end of the city. On my way there I stumbled across the same party I had seen in the afternoon. The soap bubbles had made space for a larger group of people in front of the house.
I loved how the girl’s painted finger nails on the boy’s neck are blending into the blue color cast of this mellow midsummer night.
When you’re at a party in Amsterdam, there’s always people who bring their dog(s) along.
They mostly interact, yet this one seemed to be distracted by somebody more interesting than a photographer crawling around with a camera in his hands:
In the meantime I had collected my luggage and it was getting late. Around midnight I realized that if I wanted to return to Nijmegen in the night I wouldn’t be back home before 2:30. Besides, I didn’t actually feel like leaving Amsterdam already. So I was lucky to find an inexpensive hotel room for another night, and be able to spend the better part of it, instead of in a train, at the neighborhood bar I mentioned earlier. Some of the patrons had started dancing gently …
When walking back to the hotel I was amazed to see Dam Square, during the day one of the busiest areas in town, almost entirely empty.
On Warmoesstraat, instead, I was fascinated by the multifaceted interaction I was witnessing at this late hour.
Finally I spotted a group of Mister B adepts standing in a tight circle, as if they already had started evaluating the weekend …
To evaluate the weekend for myself: It was a great fest, largely peaceful and friendly. The sort of celebration you come home after, feeling enriched and full of positive energy. The parade appeared to be much more diverse than many of a critic will make us believe.
The only thing I was missing a bit was content-related verbal conversation as part of the official program. When perusing the online brochure, almost all I found was parties. Hardly any public discussion, informative lecture, story telling event or political manifestation.
Considering recent developments in Russia, but also conflicts with Moroccan male youths, the difficulty to come out at schools or the fate of LGBTQ parishioners in conservative Christian communities in our own countries, I’ve been asking myself whether speechless celebration of diversity is sufficient.
Well, in the end it’s been a wonderful experience, and possibly it’s enough of a manifestation for the time being that a weekend like this seems to be so taken for granted in Amsterdam.