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The Calm after the Storm: Light Festival by Boat

Posted on Feb 1, 2018 by

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The Light Festival was on the verge of ending and I hadn’t seen more than two of the artworks. I didn’t like that there was no map on their website to signal where the exhibits were displayed as in the previous years, and I didn’t bother to look for them. But then, only a few more days till the end of the festival, a friend convinced me we shouldn’t miss it, so we booked a boat tour to see the water route. The day we chose turned out to be the day when the big storm of January hit the Netherlands. The strong winds started in the morning and intensified throughout the day. Trains and flights were cancelled, even the trams stopped in Amsterdam. There were videos all over the internet of people , roofs and heavy containers being blown away by the wind. I thought, there is no way we can still go for the boat ride tonight! But we called them and they said the ride is still on, because the wind will stop in the afternoon. And, indeed, it stopped.

The evening was unexpectedly quiet. The calm after the storm is the perfect way to describe the mood. There was almost no trace of wind, the streets and the canals were empty. We booked a small boat, for about ten people. It was cosy and warm, and we had mulled wine.

Light Festival Amsterdam 2018

The other passengers in the boat were all tourists. While the guide was telling stories about the Light Festival and Amsterdam, I was charmed by the silence of the canals. It was my first time riding a boat in the dark, and I quickly realised it’s a different story from daylight sailing. It’s one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever done. Or it could be just that the timing was perfect. The day was loud and agitated, the weather was consistent with my mood – I’ve been through an agitated period lately, doubting and questioning everything in my life. After a few minutes in the boat, silently floating on Amsterdam canals, a peaceful feeling surrounded me. It was so beautiful to hear the rippling of the water while looking at the orange-yellow lights of the houses, the light installations and the occasional swan passing by, disturbed from its rest.

Quickly, the guide’s stories about Amsterdam became just background noise for me and I would hear only parts of the discussion: how deep are the canals, how were the houses built, what this and that means and all the usual tourist curiosities regarding the city. I became quiet and drifted away in my own world, waking up for the few pictures I took or when someone would address me. But most of these pictures are taken by my friend, I wasn’t in the mood for it.

I liked the relaxed approach of the boat company very much: while providing mulled wine for everyone, they also allowed us to bring whatever food or drinks we wished to have, they let people smoke the ‘special’ cigarettes if they so desired (no, I wasn’t one of the smokers, my peaceful feeling wasn’t the result of that). There was nothing pretentious about the tour, it was friendly and felt as if I was riding with my friends rather than strangers I just met. It was a perfect night, and since I didn’t tell you much about the light installations, I’ll give you a visual tour.



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  2. Amsterdam in January: What to Do | Amsterdamian - Amsterdam Blog - […] the evenings, you can enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival, which is still on until around 20 of January. Nowadays…

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