How I Ended Up in a Riot Van: Drinking My Way Around Amsterdam

The Netherlands

Before July 2018, I had never been to The Netherlands – crazy, considering how close it is to the UK. Since July 2018, I’ve realised that this was part of God’s plan (Cue: a grandiose Drake performance), waiting until I was ready for what Amsterdam was to unleash on us all.

Amsterdam, of course, is famous for a lot of things: world-renowned painters such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt; extensive canal systems; the tragic home of Anne Frank. Oh, and live sex shows, legalised sex work and the liberal availability of the devil’s lettuce. Amsterdam is the NSFW Eurocapital, so when you take to Leidseplein in search of a night out, readers, you better take that stick out of the mud.

Disclaimer: please drink responsibly.

River Amstel Amsterdam

20.00 – Getting a taste of local life

Our hostel was in Timorplein, a far-out part of the city near the Docklands in Amsterdam (this detail is important later in the story, readers) and not really where the action was. We had decided on a DIY bar crawl, but we needed to start the pre-drinks process before then. Thinking on our feet, we headed to our favourite supermarket for some pasta, snacks, and all the Heinekens. Long story short, we returned to a kitchenless hostel, ate our pasta raw (I’m not proud of it) and washed it down with our bevs.

Garms: on, beers: chugged, we paced it down to the hostel bar for happy hour. 241 shots meant we came face to face with the roughest liquor known to man – Jenever. Sure, the bartender recommended this Dutch gin with cola, but with no time or money to spare, we chose the most efficient way to drink without an IV.

Heineken on the river Amstel in Amsterdam

21.30 – The crawl begins

Perched sipping limoncello in the fairy-lit darkness, the convo turns mushy (as it so often does after shots). We were disrupted by a middle-aged man, arriving silently at our table with four roses before vanishing. My friends were fearful – stranger danger – but I was swept away in the soft music, soft lights, and soft petals, so I took mine gratefully and began posturing like Morrissey with his gladioli. Perhaps the limoncello had hit me harder; perhaps I was more travel-hardened; or perhaps I was plain naïve. Either way, my friends left their roses (I stuffed mine in my handbag) and ushered me out of the bar.

Blurry pic of two gal pals, a rose, in Amsterdam

00.00 – AmsterDAMNED

We had walked what felt like miles through the city: sipping bevs and snapping blurry pics. Eventually, a bar called AmsterDAMNED lured us inside with the promise of free shots. AmsterDAMNED by name, AmsterDAMNED by nature.

Now, readers, I’m sure you’re wondering when the riot van is making its appearance. Allow me to set the scene. We are four girls, an hour’s walk away from our hostel. The drinks have not stopped flowing thanks to the wheel of shots on the wall. We have scattered. One girl is getting to know a new American friend; another is getting to know a new Brazilian friend. One girl has had drums thrust into her hands by a zealous Dutch percussionist and is bringing the beat with him in the club (yours truly). The other girl is M.I.A, but it will later be discovered that she has been spinning the wheel of shots till it came off the hinges, accepting free shots from bartenders and customers alike.

Two pairs of feet on the A'DAM lookout in Amsterdam

I would always rather be happy than dignified.

Jane Eyre / My friend's Amsterdam mantra

??.?? – Amsterdam 1, Us 0

I didn’t know what time it was, I didn’t know where everyone went. Suddenly we were back together, but one of us was worse for wear. Lying on the bench, totally aloof, we tried to lure her out of her state with Burger King and water. Nada. Carrying her limp body from one bench to the next, Italians, Spaniards, French people, Moroccan people, Dutch bar staff and an American MMA fighter all tried in vain to bring her around. Still nada.

Without the help of these tourists and locals, I truly don’t know what we would have done. This situation was far from ideal, but if this experience taught me anything, it’s that you can meet the nicest people in the most unexpected situations. Still, much like my Lord and saviour Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder: how were we meant to get back to Timorplein at 3 in the morning with a man down? How had our picturesque day turned into such a messy night?

Bicycles and canals in Amsterdam

After what felt like HOURS of dragging our buddy from one end of the street to the next, our knight in shining armour(ed vehicle) came to our rescue. This copper wasn’t no scrub, leaning out the driver’s side of our future ride, trying to come to our aid. And, just as he did, my friend fell face first in front of his police van. Woop woop – it’s da sound of our ride home.

Snapchat photo, riot van, blue light

So, after a hopelessly messy end to the night, what else is a gal to do but make the most of her chariot? With the patient and her carer safely confined in their cell, me and my gal were able to enjoy this bizarre journey in peace. By peace, I mean giggling in disbelief, recapping the night’s antics, and talking big about our saviours.

Here comes the moral…

The moral of the story? I’m not sure there is one. A funny story, yes. A story that I have very much enjoyed typing out for you all, absolutely. But, there is no denying that, at the time, this was a scary situation – one that I wasn’t sure how to handle. If I can take any sort of lesson out of this mess of a night for you, it would be to always cherish your squad: I couldn’t have made it through without the support of my best gals, all of us with our friend’s best interests at heart. Also, although it’s easy to be wary and cynical RE: strangers, especially in a foreign country, sometimes you should believe the best in people because they were doing the best for us.

Finally, my motherly duties would not be complete without the following: don’t overdo the booze (my gal was NOT feeling so fresh the next day), show the Dutch popo some love from me next time you’re in Dam, and, if you ever find yourself in the back of a riot van, make better use of the blue lighting than I did.

We’ve all been there though, amirite kids?

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