June 14th, Netherlands vs Denmark - the first day of the Amsterdam World Cup experience. And as far as initiations go, it was a pretty good one.
I headed - via trusty two-wheeler of course - to the bustling neighbourhood of De Pijp. Specifically, to Marie Heinkenplein, a not especially touristy residential and commercial square (more of a semi-circle actually) about 10 minutes from the center of the city. More specifically yet, to Barca, a mildly upscale tapas bar.
I figured if it was full, I had a choice of several other spots right there - an Irish pub called O'Donnell's, and a few classic Dutch spots in De Beiaard and Cafe Kale de Derde.
In the end, Barca was all I needed and then some. Inside it was packed to the rafters with at least 4 large projection screens and a mix of trendy-but-hipster-free guys and girls. Outside were benches and tables and another 4 screens at least. This is scrubbed and clean Amsterdam, not the grittier one (there are at least 2 games left for that).
Average age: 28
Percentage expats and tourists: 10% - ideal for creating a more authentic Dutch atmosphere.
Average height: Preposterous
*Note - if you are going to come late to a pub anywhere in the world to watch football and hope to see the screen, choose a country where your typical male or female is not a giant.
Price of Heineken on tap: 2.50 Euros - quite reasonable
I was informed by the server that they don't serve food during games. This was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, but it made sense when you saw the mass of people they had to navigate through.
Vibe: Happy, patriotic, chill, hot, and by about the 30th minute, pretty loaded.
Nestled into one of the few remaining spots outside, I soon got to experience the easygoing openness of the Dutch and chatted with everyone around me. I couldn't see the much of the screen because of the reflection. I'll assume the planners hadn't counted on the sun appearing in the city. But given my more immediate scenery (photos below), I wasn't complaining.
My immediate neighbours were three very friendly med students, one armed with a Hello Kitty cellphone, and another who felt instantly bad for the Danish defender who scored the own goal to put the Dutch up 1-0. Behind me, somehow the bottom of a wine glass broke off. (Did I mention this wasn't a hardcore football crowd?).
Fine fellow fans Claudia, Marielle, and Mirte
Onto the action on the pitch... The Dutch squad came out pretty strong, giving the crowd 4 or 5 "Oooohhh" moments within the first twenty minutes.
The football songs were booming throughout the bar as of the 10-minute mark. These were incomprehensible to me, unfortunately, aside from "Hup Holland Hup, laat de leeuw niet in zijn hempje staan". This means "Hup Holland Hup, don't let the lion stand in his undershirt", as far as I can tell.
After a more worthy strike was scored at the 85-minute mark (by Dirk Kuyt - be very careful how you pronounce his surname here), the Danes were dismissed as expected and the revellers turned the streets to orange, setting their sights on the Japanese on June 19th. I'll be heading to a more raucous area to file the next report - wish me veel succes.
(P.S. Biking home through a sunny Vondelpark to shake off a 3-beer, no-food late afternoon buzz? Highly recommended)
Nervy times with only a one-goal lead, until...
...goooaaaallll! Kuyt tallies after Elia's solid effort