Sunday , March 7 2021

The tone is still, the city is silent: “This is unreal”

True, ten to nine turns out to be the worst time to start interviewing people. “I’m in a hurry,” someone says, half running, half walking. An old woman looks at her watch as she walks. “There’s no time,” he apologizes. “You have to go home.”

“I’m going to run now”

Also, the road along the Utrechtse Singel is empty. Very empty. The only one who runs now and still has time, is Anne. Also check your cell phone to check the time, five minutes before you have to be inside, but it is possible for a while. “My house is just around the corner.”

It comes from a friend, there is food, they started early. “It’s weird that there’s a limit to our nights,” Anne says. Another look at his phone. “And now I’m going to run anyway.”

Liza and Tjalling think it is much quieter on the street now than it was yesterday. The couple takes a night walk on the water every evening, this time a little earlier than usual. “It’s really crazy,” Tjalling says. “This walking path is usually the pandemic amusement park, it’s always busy. And now you see people walking faster, they’re in a hurry, there are no groups of young vagabonds making noise.”

Silence before the storm

He says it looks almost old and new. People run home. Silence before the storm.

Suddenly, somewhere, no idea where the voices sound. There is a countdown. Ten! We! Eight … And then the church tower lets her hear it: it’s 9 o’clock at night. For the first time since World War II, there is a curfew in the Netherlands, not because of a war between armies and countries, but because of a war against a virus.

See here how the beginning of the curfew has gone in the rest of the Netherlands. The article continues after the video.

There are explosions, fireworks, a ray of light in the clear sky. A boy roars from the window of his two-story apartment: “Yeah, everyone’s going home !!”

Patrick listens and smiles. The student lives on the street here, yes, he also hears the bells in the church tower and yes, he must enter immediately after this interview. “I just had lasagna with a friend. We saw a movie. It really ended exactly ten minutes before the curfew.” Well thought out, because it’s also exactly a ten minute drive to get home to Patrick.

Quieter than midnight

He enters, closes the door behind him. And this is actually the time, a few minutes past nine, when it is quiet in Utrecht. Quieter than midnight, because now the city has to do without groups of young people, people who do not walk, without night athletes.

Johan calls it “a little scary.” Dog Sansa is Johan’s license to go out on the street. He usually always makes his last lap at eight in the evening, now after the curfew. “Sometimes I wanted to experience that,” he says. “It’s unreal. I’ve lived in Utrecht for years, but it’s never been so quiet.”

Suddenly you feel it all

“People have disappeared like snow in the sun,” says taxi driver Mimoun. He’s waiting for guests, but he doubts he’s going to take another trip tonight. It will probably be a night turning your thumbs up, watching videos on your phone, listening to the radio and killing the silence.

Striking: Suddenly, you hear things you don’t normally notice in a noisy city. An empty beer can rolling on the cobblestones. The ticking of traffic lights (which are now suddenly superfluous due to lack of traffic). People closing the window of their house. Cyclists closing their bikes.

No dog on the street

Like Roy, with his businessman Thuisbezorgd’s well-known orange cube backpack on his back. And with the statement of an employer on the phone. “Just to be sure, I have it with me,” he says. It has not been reviewed yet. “I like to ride a bike and work this out,” he smiles. “Watch out. There are no dogs on the street. I can easily drive anywhere.”

This dog is wrong. It is precisely the dog owner who walks around the city with ease, the bowel movement of their Fikkie suddenly gives them a freedom that the dogless do not have.

Anyone walking down the street without a dog can be checked by downtown police. Police officers drive through one of Utrecht’s main streets with cars and bicycles. An agent also monitors your informant.

“Without a statement, you will be fined, madam,” the officer said. Strict look, great breakthroughs. But there was an explanation, so there was no fine. If they have already dealt a lot, the officer could not or did not want to say so.

Finish the afternoon shift

A young woman is being checked in the bike lane later, she takes the statement from her backpack: she works at the Altrecht healthcare institution, she has just come from an afternoon shift. At the Neude, Nico is waiting for his bus, he owns a restaurant. “I’m legally out,” he says, waving his statement. Not long after he gets on his bus. He is the only passenger.

It is so empty at Utrecht Central Station. Noah, a security guard by trade who has just finished his shift, takes a picture of him with his iPhone. “That’s weird,” he says. “That’s something you’ll still know in three or four years.” Two agents arrive, who do not check, but ask if there is an explanation.

Noah nods behind his face mask, which suddenly seems so superfluous in an otherwise deserted station.

No groups, no parties, no walkers

The later you arrive, the quieter you are in the city. There are no youth groups, no parties, no night walkers. The clock strikes ten o’clock at night. The sound resounds over the water, over the canals, resounds against the houses.

The silence that was set just before the curfew was not quiet before the storm. There was no storm. It was a silence for an even greater silence.

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