Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sail and Strike

A spectacular event has captured the attention of Amsterdam this week. This nautical festival, called "Sail 2005," only happens every five years. Tall-mast sailing ships and massive naval vessels from all corners of the globe parade in from the North Sea and fill the IJ harbor, just north of Amsterdam's Centraal Station. The typically-lonely docks and quays are swarmed with curious visitors, a constant stream of free concerts entertains the public, and fireworks pop and dazzle down by the waterfront every evening. Something like 2.5 million visitors celebrated the event in 2000, and early estimates were for at least that many at this year's event.

Coincidentally, this week also happens to be the week that the city's garbage workers and street cleaners went on strike. Strategically timed for seven days in late summer and coinciding with Sail 2005 as well as another beloved local festival (the Grachtenfestival), trash receptacles have been overflowing for days now, and litter drifts through the city streets like tumbleweed in an old western film. The city was requesting for residents to keep their trash inside or on their balconies -- but honestly, how could they really expect individuals to do that especially with alley cats and vermin threatening to make a terrible mess that would personally have to be cleaned up by each resident? So of course, the trash piles up on the street corners, and things are smelling kind of bad these days ("Daddy, let's talk about stinky")...

The sanitation workers are all supposed to go back to work tomorrow, but their statement has definitely been made...

So much for the city trying to put its best foot forward for the millions of visiting eyes. Isn't that how it always seems to work?


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