Saturday, December 04, 2004

Gay Day

Early in August occurs one of the year's most fun days - The Gay Parade. This is when Amsterdam's gay community (and friends) gets together in gangs and each gang commandeers a boat, decorates it (and themselves) as flamboyantly (or as nakedly) as possible and cruises down several of the canals. The rest of the city lines the canals and watches, waves and cheers. Come late and it's hard to find a spot to see from. The sides of the canals are mobbed.

It's a fun day and there are remarkably few police to be seen despite there being so many people around. This is testament to the complete good-naturedness of the day. There's never trouble. There is frequent outbreak of same-sex kissing. And the only thing that gets thrown at you is condoms.

The party lasts on into the night. Stages erected around the city blast out dance music and kitsch classics. Bars overflow into the streets, the streets overflow into alleyways. Loud happy music is everywhere. Ironically, the grounds of churches seem to be the places the best parties are set up.

Later on there are more police to be seen, but it's not always easy to spot them. Especially the motorcycle cops who are just another group of guys in uniforms and leather trousers.

I finished the day with a beer in the middle of a street surrounded by drunken, exuberant lesbians. Amsterdam is a great city.


Coinciding with the above, but unrelated, is Parade. It's a Dutch word, so remember the rule: if it looks like an English word, it is pronounced very differently. Par-rah'-da. It's a touring mini festival, a bit like a theatre circus, that sets itself in the major cities for a few weeks at a time before moving on. You pay a little to get in and it's like a festival - with food stalls, bars and amusements. Then you can pay a little more and get into one of the mini-theatres and watch some local artiste(s) doing their thing. The only piece I saw was called Vlieg (Fly). It was about (in as much as it was about anything) a man who wakes up and finds he is possessed by a fly. He buzzes a lot, has sex with a fridge which produces an egg which he drops. Then he flies around the room on a wire. It was more entertaining and less bizarre than it sounds. Mainly because the chap doing it was very engaging.

The best bit about the day was that we went their by boat. By far the best way to get anywhere. I am fortunate to know a few people who either own boats or have access to them. And, on a nice summer evening, there is nowhere better to be than out on a canal in an open-top boat.

No comments: