Thursday, April 30, 2009

Queen's Day

Today Laura and I ventured to Amsterdam for the yearly Queen's Day celebration, which honors the queen's birthday - just not that of the current one, Beatrix. Instead, they celebrate former Queen Juliana's birthday, mainly because it's more fun to get a day off of work in April than in January. Queen Beatrix still feels the love though, I'm sure.

I cannot even begin to express the enormity of Queen's Day in Amsterdam. It absolutely dwarfs any event I've seen before, including the more familiar St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. The city was completely packed with people from Amsterdam Centraal all the way to Museumplein, 3.5 km away - and probably much further than that. The massive crowds donned orange (the color of the Dutch Royal Family, The House of Orange) from head to toe, including orange suits, orange earrings, orange hats, etc. We were, at least for a moment, reminded of a game day in Gainesville*... but then we'd walk through a cloud of marijuana smoke and snap out of it.

Because Queen's Day is the only day of the year that people can sell stuff without a permit in The Netherlands, we passed street vendors (and regular people) selling everything imaginable. Scattered among the soft drink and beer vendors were people selling purses, stupid hats, bed sheets, orange face masks (for the swine flu, of course), cultural outfits, and bathroom time. Amsterdam residents charging € 1 for access to their bathrooms surely made tons of money from the ladies, who don't benefit whatsoever from Amsterdam's infamous street urinals.

Laura and I spent most of the day walking aimlessly around Amsterdam, like leaves drifting in an orange stream. Most of the excitement not related to buying street junk was centered around various musical acts throughout the city. The coolest place to be, though, was on a boat in the canals. Party barges regularly grabbed our attention, with their dancing passengers and booming music systems.

Figuring we had surely spent more than enough time in the enormous international crowd to ensure we'll be suffering from the swine flu next week (it's just the flu, people!), Laura and I headed back to Delft around dinnertime.

In fact, it wasn't until we got home that we discovered there had been a lunchtime attack on the royal family in Apeldoorn. During an event there, some lunatic crashed his car through a barricade - killing several people - en route to ram the royal family's bus. He ended up smashing into a monument instead. It's a terrible event to have happened on a day of celebration for the people of the Netherlands.

*Many of you might be wondering why I said Queen's Day reminded me of game day in Gainesville and not Clemson. The answer lies in the tackiness of the crowd - sorry, fellow Gator fans, but the blanket insult, "Gator fans wear jean shorts" didn't come out of nowhere.

1 comment:

Matt said...

For anyone interested in [English] follow-up on the Queen's Day attack: "Will Queen's Day Ever be the Same Again? and How Many Times Can a Country Lose Its Innocence?