Setting: Amsterdam, October 2012
Characters: Chiara and Marta
A singer that your sister likes a lot is going on a European tour but won’t be performing in Italy? Be a perfect sister, let her choose a city and bring her there!
And so I did. After some barter, and excluding the cities I had already visited (“Marta, choose another one!“), we settled on Amsterdam.
The first day goes smoothly, maybe thanks to our well-honed travellers skills, and we brilliantly survive plane, train, the hunt for a place to stay (a pretty christian hostel, complete with evening chants, positioned in the middle of the red lights district) and our first tour of the city.
But it is on the evening of the concert that my tour-operator skills start to fail me and my procrastinating side emerges. Obviously, since I was so sure that it would be easy to find the concert hall, I have given only a glance to the address, and nothing more, so I find myself sitting on the comfortable sofas in the hostel taking screenshots of our route on google maps only a few minutes before we are due to leave. It will be easy to follow the map, I tell myself, and the concert hall must be big, I will spot it from a distance. But let’s leave a little early, you never know.
Once we get off at the underground station suggested on the Henekein Music Hall website, everything gets confusing, not at all clear and straightforward as I thought looking at the map. There is an anormous stadium in front of us, but I’m pretty sure they are playing football there, and there are no concerts scheduled. I pull out my phone and I start looking for the names of the roads we were meant to follow, but they seem to have vanished, and the people as well.
We walk for a good ten minutes, surrounded by weird futuristic constructions, none of which look like they could be our destination, until we see a cubic building covered in brightly coloured (and vaguely epileptic) leds. Well, it looks rock enough, doesn’t it? And that girl seems to be going there too. Let’s go.
Well, it turns out the cube is just a very kitch advertisement, and the girl is only passing in front of it, and we do too.
We find ourselves under an overpass, always following from a distance our Dutch Van Virgill, and I notice an unmistakable round sign (which for the moment I decide to misinterpret) showing a stick man crossed by a thick red line: no pedestrians.
But our guide seems unperturbed and moves on, and I, like a lost and anxious Dante with sister in tow, decide to trust her as she disappears behind a curve that leads to a bigger road, where I hope to find the concert hall.
As soon as I set foot on the sidewalk under the sign, our deus ex machina appears, in the guise of local policemen.
The car gets near us and stops, the window rolls down and we get reproached in a rather harsh Dutch by one of the officers.
After a moment of confusion and, let’s admit it, fear, I remember that I can actually speak English, and they can too, I hope. I ask them to repeat what they said, we aren’t Dutch. We are informed that the road we were following leads to the highway. Didn’t we see the sign?
I shrink into myself. We are looking for the Heineken Music Hall, I tell them, for a concert, we got lost.
After confabulating awhile between themselves, they turn to us again. It is too complicated to explain us the way, it’ll be quicker if we go with them. Get on, they say.
And so we find ourselves, still very shaken, (what if they arrest us or take us god-knows-where?) on the backseat of a Dutch police car, with two policemen chatting amicably with us, asking where we come from (just curious or are they trying to collect data?), whom we were going to see and whether it was our first time in Amsterdam. Thankfully the gene for friendliness is much better expressed in my sister than in me and she is the one keeping the conversation alive while we travel to our destination.
The Heineken Music Hall has the nastiest position of any building I’ve ever seen, if a position can be called nasty: it is very close to the underground station, but well hidden behind the stadium, in a pedestrian zone.
But pedestrian zones don’t scare the politie and so we get escorted right to the entrance of the concert hall, and we receive many curious looks (yes, that’s where all the people were). While the policeman at the wheel jokes with us: “now it’s your business to explain why you were escorted by the police”. His collegue gets off to open our doors (it’s not chivalry, they just can’t be opened from the inside). A triumphal and punctual arrival.