|Photo: Mariana Coan|
This week marks Gay Pride week in Amsterdam. The largest gay event in the Netherlands is celebrated in the Dutch capital with a host of events, culminating on Saturday for the fifteenth time with the world famous boat parade along Amsterdam's canals. The theme for this year's event is "celebrate".
During the week, film, art, poetry, sporting and theatre events are held. You can take a tour around Amsterdam and learn about the city's historical relationship with homosexuality. You can enjoy a special meal, BBQ, picnic or cocktail event or visit an exhibition, join any number of parties going on or take part in a debate or dance workshop. The events are numerous and varied to say the least. There are also many events linked to Europe and Africa Pride. For a full program of events and a map visit We Are Proud.
As the week's highlight, and for the second time in just a few weeks, the capital's canals or grachten will host a lively, colourful, well-visited event - the last time being less than a month ago when the Dutch football team came home to an "almost" victory parade.
This Saturday (7 August) 80 festively decorated boats will travel along the canals, carrying party-goers representing more than 175 companies and organisations. The event is one of the biggest of the year in Amsterdam, and has earned the Dutch city the title of "Gay Capital".
|Photo: Karsten Qualmann|
New this year leading the boat parade is the 'Europe Pride' boat. The boat will carry an orchestra playing the European anthem as well as members of the European Parliament. The European Union is committed to stamping out discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a highly visible participation in such a huge event is a manifestation of this.
The 'African Pride' boat is also new. The addition of the African contingent is significant; in many African countries homosexuality is still seen as a crime. Frank van Dalen, chairman of the organising group (ProGay) explains:
"In recent years in Africa it has not got any easier for homos, lesbians or transsexuals. With African Pride we shall show that homosexuality does exist in Africa and that it is not Western fiction or a dangerous export product. We want to show the gay community in Africa that they can count on our solidarity."
All of the boats will leave Westerdok at 14.00 and travel via Prinsengracht to the Amstel. The parade will be watched by up to half a million visitors who usually line Amsterdam's picturesque waterways.
During the day (and stretching well into the evening and night) there are also various events taking place on podia scattered across the capital, as well as in gay bars and on the streets.
The event is a symbol of the struggle that homosexuals have endured to be open about their sexuality, and this week is a chance to be visible and celebrate tolerance - not just within the gay community but the straight too.
Frank van Dalen says "The combination of party, culture and emancipation makes this event one of a kind."
The event is free and if you are travelling from outside of Amsterdam, you may want to spend much more than one day in the capital city. Hotels are widely available across Amsterdam (including gay friendly accommodation) and you can also save money on your hotel booking with http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/hotels.com who are currently offering a 10% discount on all hotels booked at hotels.com.