I finally have internet here again which means I can finally post about the game. Yes I used finally twice in the same sentence. I’m that excited, ok?
It was quite the experience. I’ve had two weeks now to process everything but it’s still hard for me to put into words exactly how it felt to be there. I went alone which was ok. It was kind of disappointing because I was supposed to meet a friend but she ended up getting sick. Getting there on the train was a bit of a fiasco, involving a ticket mix up but that could be a post all by itself.
Once I arrived in Amsterdam I made my way through the sea of orange to Museumplein.
It was funny because as I was walking down this main street I realized that I didn’t actually know exactly how to get to Museumplein. I mean, I’ve been there dozens of times but it’d been years. I had a general idea so I decided to just follow the masses of people. They all seemed to be walking in the same general direction. It worked out but I did end up taking a rather round about way. Turns out, not everyone in Amsterdam was going to Museumplein to watch the game. Psh.
One of the things I love most about the Dutch is their enthusiasm for all things Nederland. The orange outfits ranged from impressive to just hilarious.
This? Was probably not even the weirdest outfit there. Just the weirdest I got a picture of.
The area was set up to hold 100,000 people. They estimated there were 180,000 people there. When I say we were like sardines I’m not exaggerating even a little. There were times I was moving through the crowd and my feet weren’t even touching the ground. I’ve been to many rock concerts and outdoor festivals but I have never been in a crowd that was this jam packed. Generally in big crowds there are breathing areas where people are spaced out a bit more. Not here. We were shoved, shoulder to shoulder as far as you could see. If you could see the screen, you were smooshed up against people on all sides.
Oh right, have I mentioned that Dutch people are statistically the tallest people in the world? Yup. Have I also mentioned that I’m 5’4″? So when I mentioned seeing the screen I really meant the people who were 6′ and above.
This picture (and all crowd shots) I took on my very tippy toes with my hand stretched as high above my head as I possibly could.
Not even joking, this…
was my view for about half the game. Not actually bad to look at per se, but also not exactly what I came to see. My head was barely at their armpit height. Halfway through I decided to move around. I never actually found a good spot to watch from so I basically took my cues from the crowd as to what was going on in the game.
This is my very favorite picture from the trip. It was clearly a very intense moment in the game.
Being in the big crowd alone was overwhelming to say the least. Not that I was nervous or felt unsafe but it’s amazing how alone you can feel when everyone around you has a group. There were friendly people but mostly guys and I’m pretty sure it was mainly for ulterior motives. Actually, their motives were fairly clear in certain cases. One group of four guys was so excited that they put me in the middle and humped me from all sides. Fun. Another guy asked me (for his ::cough:: friend) if I “wanted to have sex because he’s very horny”. Charming. It didn’t bother me necessarily but it would have been nice to have my own group of people.
By the way, it was hot. The Netherlands is supposed to be all mild with the weather. You know, mid 70’s in the summer. Beautiful. Not this summer though. At one point it was 93 degrees. Ninety-freakin-three degrees. That, combined with the fact that there was copious amounts of alcohol being consumed and we were crammed together like cattle, made for a seriously smelly experience.
At one point a helicopter flew over and dropped orange gerber daisies on the crowd. It was very pretty but also perhaps to help with the smell? Please ignore my incredibly sweaty bangs. Gross. Also notice the guy next to me is several inches shorter than I am. Poor dude couldn’t see anything either. We would have commiserated about it together but he only spoke French and Spanish. Ah well.
The noise level was unbelievable. Not only was there cheering and yelling and singing but the vuvuzelas. Oh the vuvuzelas. Also, air horns. I’m not sure what’s worse. Honestly? I’m leaning towards the air horns. At least they have to stop when the user needs a breath. It was noisiest before the game started. While they were playing there were moments where the quiet was almost eerie considering how many people were there. It was quickly followed by shouts of excitement or disappointment but some moments the tension was something you could actually feel. That was the best part of being in that insane crowd, feeling every emotion of the game times 180,000.
Yes, there were moments when I was beyond disgusted. First off the smell, which I have already mentioned. Then there was the time I watched a guy just pee, right in front of me, in the middle of the crowd. He didn’t want to lose his spot. At that moment I was never so happy to be wearing tennis shoes instead of sandals. I may have looked like a dumb tourist but at least my toes weren’t anywhere near touching that filthy ground. There was also the beer flying through the air (why do people waste perfectly good beer? I don’t get it.) Then the vomit. And God only know what other liquids.
Amsterdam is generally a very clean city. Not so much when there’s a game apparently.
I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t stay for the entire game. About three quarters of the way through I went to the edge of the crowd. I just couldn’t handle being smashed against so many strangers anymore. It wasn’t like I could actually see anyway. I did stay until Spain scored their goal. There were only a few minutes left so I knew it was over. Plus? I. was. dead.
I wanted to catch a train as fast as humanly possible. I knew that I would only be ahead of most of the crowd by a bit but I hoped that it was enough of a head start that I could maybe get a seat. It worked. I had to stand until the first stop and after that I was able to sit down. I really needed to sit down, see above picture as evidence.
What an incredible experience it was. I really am glad I went. There were moments where I doubted my sanity in going. The train trouble getting there, the intensity of braving the enormous crowd alone and the stress of getting a flight home all made me wonder if it had been worth it. In the end I really think it was. It’s a story I’ll always have. That’s really why I did it, for the adventure.
And boy, from start to finish, what an adventure it was.