City life during a pandemic: in photos

The City of Utrecht’s relaxed restrictions feign normality among the social life of its citizens and brings relief to the ones who have remained working.

From the city that has seemed to keep going when the the world has come to a halt, Utrecht is one of the cities that has kept its bustle alive during the global pandemic that has conquered 2020.

Employee at Utrecht coffeeshop, Culture Boat, a boat posed as a shop located on the water, says that despite the pandemic, the demand for the popular bud has not decreased.

Sybren Scharff has been working at the Culture Boat for three years, and the pandemic has not stopped him from being able to work.

The Dutch government enforced emergency measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in which they announced the closing of all restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops as of April 6.

However, the Culture Boat opened its doors to the public to purchase their products for takeaway.

Sybren Scharff

Sybren Scharff, an employee at the Culture Boat.


The Culture Boat

The Culture Boat in Utrecht.

As a Canadian who was in Toronto during a country-wide lockdown, Utrecht seems to be moving on, despite the ongoing quarantine period.

People sit by the canals

Many people in the city centre of Utrecht lay out by the canals, enjoying the weather.


Utrecht City Centre

In the middle of the city centre, people gather in crowds to visit the city’s shopping centre and surrounding shops.

From a North American country about a seven-hour plane ride away, the restrictions put in place by the Dutch government encourage the maintenance of regular social life.

There are many bicycles parked in the city

Rows of bicycles can be found around the city, as the vehicle is an extremely common mode of transportation for the Dutch.

Most stores in town are open, adorned with welcoming signs urging customers to come in, but to still cautiously keep their distance.

Throngs of people crowd around the weekly market stalls, buying fruit, cheese and the infamous Dutch treat, a fresh stroopwafel.

Grady van Eldik, market stall owner.

Grady van Eldik, a fruit and vegetable grocer at the market in the Utrecht city centre.

Grady van Eldik is a Utrecht local vendor of 17 years at the market located in the city centre. She can be found each week, three days a week with her array of fruits and vegetables tempting those who pass by.

van Eldik helping a customer.

Grady van Eldik puts fresh strawberries in a bag for a customer.

Eldik says that the pandemic did not slow her business, but in act bring a higher demand to the produce she sells.

Although parts of the city were initially shut down, markets remained open,People are still coming to the market because they trust our product and find it safer than going to a store with lots of people” Eldik says.

In the middle of May when the restrictions in the Netherlands are allowing Citizens more freedom, Eldik says the markets are only becoming busier.

Aside from the basic rules such as keeping a 1.5 metre distance from others and practicing basic hygiene, the Netherlands has enforced measures surrounding freedom in public life as of June 1.

For people that do not live together, they may gather in no more than groups of 3, along with practicing social distancing, according to the country’s government website.

At the beginning of this month, restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels opened its doors, allowing a maximum of 30 guests inside, and measures to keep the social distance rule in place.

The market is a little bit afraid. Many people are coming and talking to us, and although we appreciate the business we are getting, many people think the pandemic is over. It is not over, not yet” Eldik says.

Stepping out for an essential trip to the supermarket seems to be a trip people are forced to make in Toronto, Canada, with panic and tension evident in the air, as most people don’t dare to leave their home without at least a face mask.

Wandering the streets of Utrecht it is rare that you will see a person with a face mask, as most people walk around freely, allowing the thought of a global pandemic to dissipate.

Isabelle Maris

Isabelle Maris, Utrecht local and student.

Hotel management student, Isabelle Maris says her quarantine living in the Netherlands was not as restrictive.

Working at a restaurant, she stayed busy helping make deliveries.

While she was not able to see her friends when the pandemic first began, Maris says these personal restrictions quickly relaxed.

Spending a day in town with a friend, perusing the market stalls and then heading in the air-conditioned Hoog Catharijne to cool off, Maris appreciates the freedom the Netherlands is giving her during time, but still believes in the need to be cautious.

Isabelle Maris and Nazanin Abdul

Isabellel Maris and her friend, Nazanin Abdul walk through the city centre on a sunny day in Utrecht.

“I try to keep my distance, but even just going to the supermarket, people don’t really care anymore” she says.

Usually filled with customers leisurely enjoying the shop’s product, the now empty Culture Boat is much quieter.

outside of the Culture Boat

Outside Culture Boat, a security guard handles a line that often forms outside, allowing only two people to enter the shop at once.

“It is a lot less work now.  It’s nice to just be able to help people and go, but I do miss having the place full. It bring’s energy to the place” Scharff says..