Thursday, May 17, 2012


Koninginnedag, or Queensday, is the Netherlands biggest national holiday. The day celebrates the birthday of the Queen. In fact, although the current Queen's birthday is actually January 31, April 30th is still observed as it was the birthday of her mother and predecessor.

Queensday is for everyone. In all cities. The streets become filled from very early on with flea markets. And not just a few stalls or a few streets, simply all over the place. It is the one day of the year sales can be made without any taxes. In many cities, people stake out their place on the street the night before with chalk or tape. In 2011 over 290 euros was exchanged! And everyone dresses in orange. Some dye their hair orange. Some wear orange hats. Orange socks. Orange leggings. Just one giant orange festival.

I went with Lautaro and two of his friends and we arrived the day before Queensday to Haarlem, a suburb of Amsterdam, where we had a couchsurfing host arranged. Anne was great. She took us to the nearby beach by bicycle that afternoon, a nice 30 minute ride. And cooked dinner for us with a fresh salad from her vegetable garden. We went out for a beer at a very very local brewery called Jopen, and then called in an early night so we could spend the full day in Amsterdam.

They don't recommend taking the trains in for Queensday due to the hundreds of thousands expected, but we did anyway. We left early so it was not too bad. After arriving in Amsterdam, we walked around a few of the neighborhoods, with people selling stuff everywhere! It must be what the flea market in heaven looks like. Amsterdam is FULL of canals, and the weather was perfect out, so we sat at the edge of one for a few hours with plenty to view.

An Amsterdam tradition is to go on a boat for Queensday. The canals were filled with all different types of boats, a good portion overloaded and full of dancing and inebriated people. Some intricately design boats as well. We even saw one boat sinking as they scooped water out! Later, we went to one of the central plazas, where there was a big carnival with lots of rides, so we took the ferris wheel up for an overview of the orange madness.

Our host was funny and she ended up getting quite drunk, so she managed to lose us for a few hours while she searched for a friend. Instead, we lounged in another neighborhood plaza, taking in the sun and people watching. This plaza was full of hippies, people dancing to the blasting techno in the street, people doing miscellaneous drugs, and other funnily dressed people, so it was pretty entertaining to watch all the bonanza, yet still be comfortably lounged in the sun at the same time. Later, we went to another neighborhood filled with restaurants, each which had a tent on the street, so we samples a bunch of different kinds of food.

All in all, a lot of Dutch pride was seen!

Lau hauling one of the girls backpacks.
Dutch beach. Host in green.
This is in Haarlem. Many streets were chalked out the night before for flea market stall locations
Bicycling to the station on queensday
Filled streets
Now this boat is a bit overloaded.
And this is only the main plaza of Amsterdam

Taking in the sun by the canal

Barney rubble and his frat guys on their boat, it appears. Maybe they are singing 'I'm on a boat'.
The canal is starting to fill
Someone handed me a guitar with 4 strings that they bought at the flea market for 6 euros. I tried to play for money, but it was an immense failure.
This boat is flooding.

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