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The days the canals stood still

In December of 2021, I was returning from spending Christmas in Estonia. My flight included a 12 hour layover in Amsterdam, one of my favourite European cities. Still in the grips of the pandemic, I saw the city as I'd never quite experienced it before. Instead of busy sidewalks and the familiar wash of multi-lingual conversations, I spent most of my time completely alone. Most memorable of all, the canals were all but abandoned. With no tourist traffic, the only passers-by were small local vessels, and those limited in number, too. 

The water all around me was so still, the buildings were reflected without the tiniest ripple of disturbance. 

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A note

In December of 2021, the face of the pandemic changed again, as the new Omicron variant had just emerged in South Africa. The international airport of Amsterdam made it an early port for the variant in Europe, and as a result restrictions were reinstated. At the time of my visit, there was no indoor seating allowed at any restaurants and cafes, so I spent the whole day outside.

Mulled wine on the streets

Due to coronavirus restrictions, there was no indoor seating permitted at the restaurants, cafes, and bars normally abuzz with activity. Many establishments had chairs propped in the doorways, with hand-written signs scrawled on cardboard encouraging  patrons to order take-away, but others had a more direct approach. If they couldn't bring the people to the menu then by God, they were going to bring the menu to the people! All along the streets were pop-up stands selling mulled wine, sandwiches, cakes, and treats. With immense pleasure did I spend the day hopping from one mulled wine stand to the next. 

Quiet streets

I have always found myself drawn to the quiet streets of Amsterdam. On my first visit, we were sat on the side of the canal in the early evening and realized that it was the middle of rush hour, and we could hear the little girl playing on the other side of the canal. Where else can you find that kind of tranquility in a major metropolitan area?


Perhaps because of the lack of tourists, the swans of Amsterdam were a dominant force upon the canals. I found it difficult to get a good photo of them floating serenely by, however, because approaching the water would encourage them to veer towards me with the expectations of food. Eventually I ran the center of the nearby bridge, and thus succeeded in getting my shot.