The streets of Amsterdam are empty. The historic city centre, normally overrun by thousands of tourists on any given day, is eerily quiet. On Dam Square, pigeons easily outnumber people. The rows of canal houses bask in the sunlight and the first flowers blossom in the parks, yet the city doesn’t awaken for the spring season like the rest of the natural world. Instead, our cities are asleep, as humans have retreated to their homes for hibernation in quarantine. I never even dreamed of experiencing this silent, unsettling sense of surrealism: Amsterdam feels like a ghost town.
The World, The Netherlands and Amsterdam in Lockdown
The Netherlands is currently in semi-lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has swept our societies without mercy and quickly grew into a global pandemic over the course of a few months. Schools, libraries, offices, bars, restaurants and nearly all other non-essential shops have been closed. Air travel has practically stopped and European borders are slowly closing. The government has asked the public to practice social distancing to flatten the curve: stay at home as much as possible, only go out when needed (preferably alone), and keep 1.5 metres distance at all times. We’ve been told June 1st is our deadline, but we all fear an extension.
In Photos: Amsterdam in the time of Coronavirus
It’s been a few weeks and we are allowed outside for groceries and ‘fresh air’, but the virus still hasn’t reached its peak. Numbers continue to rise and hospital beds are becoming increasingly scarce. I’m staying at home, alone in my apartment. Moving my desk to my window has helped a lot, writing and teaching online in the sunshine. I haven’t hugged or held another person’s hand in weeks, but I am coping relatively well. I do a weekly grocery shop for myself and my grandparents and allow myself to go on a walk or bicycle ride once a day. That helps me stay sane.
One of those days, I decided to forego the park, the river, and the forest. Anyone could feel how our reality was slowly turning into a solemn chapter for future history books. I felt it too. I grabbed my bicycle and camera and headed into the city to document Amsterdam in photos: a capital city in the era of coronavirus. This is what I saw.