Sunday, 27 April 2014

Koningsdag: Celebrating the first King's Day

For the uninitiated, I rather imagine the vast expanses of orange across The Netherlands this weekend was a surprise. In the centre of town yesterday I saw a group of American tourists being led on a sort of city tour. The guide was holding up one of those paddles with a number and an American flag attached; you often see them in European port cities during the summertime: cruise tours..."Do Venice in a Day"... I do wish I'd been able to hear what the guide was saying. "Here we see the Dutch in their natural habitat, quaffing lager and donning the national camouflage."

One of the many beer stations
It is incredible, really, to see the Dutch turn out on a national holiday. It is as if all the rules have suddenly been thrown out the window. I have also never seen so much beer ingested as I have this weekend. (My part in this was very minor, I assure you...). This weekend was the first King's day (Koningsdag). (The first in over a hundred years, I might add). Last year, Willem-Alexander ascended the throne to become King - what a marvellous day it was too! Such a party atmosphere and national celebration. I was curious to see how it would be this year. Would it be quite as grand? Would the music be just as good?

It was 'no' on both accounts, merely because if the country had huge parties every year, there would be no money left for things like housing and schools. The national spirit of celebration was still in evidence though. On Friday night (Koningsnacht) I went out to join the throng in drinking and dancing and revelling. Everyone wore orange or the the flag's colours, red, white and blue. It was a great atmosphere. It was rather like wading through rubbish on the market squares though - the ground sticky with spilt beer and other unmentionable things. As I've said, the amount of beer being consumed was just mind boggling. The crowd felt very young (or maybe it's just me...they all looked about 18...) and I was glad to leave them to it after midnight.
Decked out in orange!

I woke several times throughout the night from revellers on the street below the attic room. At one point a woman was yelling for her young man, "Marco, Marco? Marco!" I was very tempted to put my head out the window and yell, "POLO," and be done with it. The bells of the Martinitoren began pealing at about 8 o'clock - a lovely, melodious sound, but not really what I wanted to be knocking around my head after a late night.

I put the telly on right away and sat down to enjoy a morning of coverage from De Rijp and Amstelveen, where the Royal Family would be visiting. In both cities along the streets were stalls that helped to explain the history and heritage of the place. It was lovely to see the family all partaking, shaking hands, listening to each stall vendor, giving a hand to make cheese, taste local foods, try a bit of sport....children sang for them, there was dancing, the mayor gave a few words. The typical sort of Koningsdag. It was great to see how easily everyone interacted. The Dutch Royal Family is beloved by their people, which has been said before many times, and on days like this we can really see it.
Vismarkt Muziek

Throughout the Netherlands, each city had festivities with music and food. I found a vendor selling Oliebollen and immediately bought six. Little piggy, I know, but since you can only get them at Christmas, New Year, and Koningsdag, I have to make it count. Why they aren't sold year round is beyond me. I would have them every week!

The weather was unseasonable warm (I went without socks - in April!). In Groningen there was a lot of music going on throughout the city. There was also a Vrijmarkt set up where one can find anything and everything, second hand. As I say, a really nice atmosphere throughout the city - everyone having a party. In a way, it is nice to see everyone taking to the streets. You get caught up in the atmosphere of it all, and it leaves you tingling.

Such excitement and fun!