June 19, 2009

hermitage opening: ballet, concert, fireworks and the queen

there wasn't much news about the concert at the opening of the hermitage but wouter and i met up at 7 pm on the blauwbrug. a huge line of suited vips were waiting for security, and wouter pointed out the ex-prime minister Wim Kok, and several other ministers and bank presidents.

crowds jammed up for half a kilometer on the west bank of the amstel

the river had been sealed off between the blauwbrug and the magere brugge. at the mouth of kaizersgracht a huge barge was parked, presumably to prevent any watercraft from ramming through. i had never seen so many policemen in amsterdam. we joked that today would be a good day for thieves in the rest of the city...

the public part of the program started at quarter to ten, when there was still some daylight to go. there had been a few drops of rain earlier, fortunately now it was cloudy but dry.

the vips sat on the riverbank opposite (if you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can make out queen beatrix - she's the only light dress in the front row).

the houseboats had the best view of course - some of them were festooned with yellow tape saying Politkovskaya- protesting russia's failure to arrest either the killer or the men behind the assassination of this fiery russian journalist. people on the riverbank houses had called friends over for wine and snacks and a party spirit was everywhere ...

the program started with a military band, and then there was a ballet (pas-de-deux), which could be seen quite well thanks to a large screen.

some years ago when these screens started i used to think - well - might as well watch it on TV... but there is much to be said about the conviviality of a large crowd sharing the event. the night sky and the reflection on the water added their own rhythm to the dancer's steps.

after this there was a concert, mussorgski's "pictures at an exhibition".

some of us had been perched precariously on the bridge railings over herengracht, cracking jokes about the purity of the water below us (yes, that's how these pictures came about!).

in the end, wouter decamped to another party, and ruth, anne-marie, janka and i walked down to cafe schiller in rembrandtplein where i was introduced to hoegaarden grand cru beer - an excellent brew - sweetish, fruitish, gentle, yet pulling a punch of 8.7%.

well, three beers later, now it's nearly 4 am as i type this...

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