Granted, ten to nine turns out to be the worst time to start interviewing people. “I’m in a hurry,” someone says, halfway through, halfway. An elderly woman looks at her watch while walking. “No time,” she apologizes. “Must go home.”
‘Now I’m going to run’
In addition, the path along the Utrechtse Singel is empty. Very empty. The only one who is running now, and who still has time, is Anne. She also checks her cell phone to check the time – five minutes before she needs to be inside – but it’s possible for a while. “My house is around the corner.”
She comes from a friend, ate there, they started early. “It’s strange that there is a limit to our parties,” says Anne. Another look at his phone. “And now I’m going to run anyway.”
Liza and Tjalling think it is much quieter now on the street than it was then at this time. The couple take a stroll along the water’s edge each evening, this time a little earlier than usual. “It’s really crazy,” Tjalling says. “This walking trail is normally the pandemic amusement park, it’s always busy. And now you see people walking faster, they’re in a hurry, there aren’t any groups of young strollers making noise. ”
Silence before the storm
It feels like it’s almost old and new, he said. People are rushing home. Silence before the storm.
Suddenly, somewhere, no idea of the place, voices are heard. There is a countdown. Ten! New! Eight … And then the steeple of the church suggests: it is nine o’clock. For the first time since WWII, there is a curfew in the Netherlands, not because of a war between armies and countries, but a war against a virus.
See how the curfew started in the rest of the Netherlands here. The article continues after the video.
There are fringes, fireworks, a flash of light in the clear sky. A boy roared from the window of his two-story apartment: “Yes! Everyone’s coming home !!”
Patrick hears and smiles. The student lives on the street here, yes, he also hears the bells in the steeple of the church, and yes, he must enter immediately after this interview. “I just had lasagna with a friend, we watched a movie, it really ended exactly ten minutes before curfew.” Well thought out, because it’s also exactly a ten minute drive for Patrick.
Quieter than midnight
He enters, closes the door behind him. And it is in fact the moment, at half past nine, when it is calm in Utrecht. Calmer than midnight, because from now on the city must do without groups of young people, without walks, without evening athletes.
Johan calls it “a little scary”. Dog Sansa is Johan’s permit to take to the streets. Normally he always takes his last turn at 8 p.m., now after curfew. “I wanted to experience that sometimes,” he says. “It’s unreal. I’ve lived in Utrecht for years, but it’s never been so quiet.”
Suddenly you hear everything
“People have disappeared like snow in the sun,” explains taxi driver Mimoun. He’s expecting customers, but he doubts he’ll do another round tonight. It will probably be an evening of twiddling your thumbs, watching videos on your phone, listening to the radio – killing the silence.
Striking: You suddenly hear things that you normally don’t notice in a noisy city. An empty beer can rolling on the cobblestones. The ticking of traffic lights (which are now suddenly superfluous for lack of traffic). People who close the window of their house. Cyclists who lock their bikes.
No dog in the street
Like Roy, with the well-known orange cube backpack from his employer Thuisbezorgd on his back. And with an employer’s statement on his phone. “Just to be sure, I have it with me,” he said. It has not yet been verified. “I like to cycle and work that,” he smiles. “Be careful. There are no dogs on the street. I can easily drive everywhere.”
This dog is not quite right. It is precisely the owner of the dog who walks in the city with ease, the saddle of their Fikkie gives them suddenly a freedom that the without dogs do not have.
Anyone who walks in the street without a dog can be stopped by the police in the center. Police officers circulate in one of the main streets of Utrecht by car and by bicycle. Your reporter is also being watched by an agent.
“Without a declaration, you will be fined, ma’am,” the officer said. Strict look, great progress. But there was an explanation, so there was no fine. If they have already been distributed a lot, the officer could not or would not say so.
I just finished the evening shift
A young woman is being watched on the cycle path further on, she takes her declaration in her backpack: she works at the Altrecht care institution, has just left an evening shift. At La Neude, Nico is waiting for his bus, he is a restaurateur. “I am legally out,” he said, waving his statement. Shortly after, he gets on his bus. He is the only passenger.
It’s just as empty at Utrecht Central Station. Noah, a security guard by trade who just finished his shift, takes a picture of it with his iPhone. “It’s weird,” he said. “This is something you will still know in three or four years.” Two agents arrive, they don’t 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 longer it takes, the quieter it is in town. No youth groups, no parties, no evening walkers. The clock strikes at 10 p.m. The sound echoes above the water, above the canals, echoes against the houses.
The silence that had settled in just before the curfew was not calm before the storm. There was no storm. It was a silence for an even greater silence.