On a daily bases I walk through Dam Square in Amsterdam and on a daily bases I see something there that would strike fear into the hearts of most mortal men and women. In the middle of the square stands a figure wearing a dark cloak as black as the darkest night and holding a scythe as old as time itself. He is Death. He is the Grim Reaper. He stands there constantly, as if waiting for something or maybe someone.
I am not the only one that sees this entity of death either. Every now and then a passing tourist stops and looks up at his terrify visage as well. Does this mean they are to fall under his scythe? I don’t know but they stop momentarily, slowly lift their camera and take a photo with out realizing the payment he will demand. You might think he insists on taking their souls for the fatal snapshot but a Euro or two will usually do. He’s even happy to pose with children if their parents pay.
This is because he is really one of the many street performers that can be seen in Dam Square during the tourist season. There are at least half a dozen human statues regularly present. Some can stay still for hours (hardly blinking) but others don’t do statue like things (standing still for example) and are just there to pose for photos in their costumes. This seems a bit like cheating sometimes since they are covered from head to toe and wear masks. Some have put a lot of effort into making their costumes but there are a few who look like they simply rented a rubber mask and outfit from the local costume shop.
I’ve often wondered; with so many of them in one area do they ever have arguments over territory. Maybe any dispute is settled in a display of skills through the medium of a staring contest and any strike action involves constantly moving and refusing to stay still.
There are other types of street performers around Amsterdam as well. Jugglers, Magicians, Comedians and so on can mainly be found on the Leidseplein. There are few every now and then on Dam Square but that area is mainly the territory of the human statues. This also makes walking through the square feel like a Scooby Doo episode when the eyes of a painting follow someone.
However, the strangest street performer I have ever seen has to be the rather timid looking 50+ man who can sometimes be seen performing in Leidseplein. He arrives a few minutes before show time to slowly set up his rather complex looking rig of gymnastic equipment in front of all the people having a drink outside. Just at the point they might think the real performer is about to come out he suddenly strips down to a shiny gold posing pouch and starts to display his acrobatic skills. As strange as it might sound it is hard not to be impressed by what he can do and I hope when I am his age I can still be half as flexible. However, there is also something very scary about a man in a posing pouch walking around, holding out a hat for payment after the performance that just makes you give him money. It’s scarier then the Grim Reaper.