Saturday, May 26, 2012

Queen's Day in Amsterdam

I’ve been in New Orleans for Marti Gras, experienced Chicago after a Bulls 3-peat, and I’ve seen NYC on New Year’s Eve, but nothing had prepared me for Amsterdam on Queen’s Day!

Happy birthday to the Queen!

We arrived in Amsterdam from Luxembourg via the Hautes Fagnes on Queen’s Night, or the evening before Koninginnedag, Queen’s Day. A national holiday in the Netherlands, the day celebrates the birthday of the Queen of the Netherlands (Queen Juliana’s birthday actually, the mother of the current Queen Beatrix, whose birthday is really on January 31st: but who wants to celebrate during the winter?). The royal family is the House of Orange, and so the color orange has become the national color and on Queen’s day was to be seen everywhere; I was somewhat surprised the canals weren’t dyed similar to the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s day!

We didn’t join in the party that evening, instead we donned our orange apparel the following morning and headed into the city through Vondelpark. Queen’s day turns the city into one giant flea market as you can sell almost anything almost anywhere, but in Vondelpark the selling was reserved for the children. The entire 120 acre park was full of them; they were selling their toys, selling refreshments and snacks, playing instruments ranging from tubas to drums, offering face painting, games of luck, games of skill, everything you can imagine! Lauris had his portrait drawn by a lovely young artist for only one euro, and in our enthusiasm over a particular toy piece of construction equipment, we forgot we were walking around the city for the rest of the day and purchased a giant Liebherr 574 for santimes! It was truly fantastic, for some children their creativity must have truly paid off. We saw homemade arcade games, handmade jewelry, gymnasts performing, a dozen recorder players, and everywhere there was a sea of orange flowing on the paths.

Lauris sitting for his portrait
Upon reaching the east gates the children were replaced with a bit of an older crowd; the vendors were now selling beer, and the flute players were replaced by DJs spinning to crowded streets. Confetti bombs were going off, and music was blasting from speakers everywhere.

The canals were full of party barges, cruising to their own music with tightly packed dancers cheering every bridge they passed under. The banks of the canals were lined with revelers as well, but it seemed that the majority of people were on the move, via foot or boat as even the main mode of transport, the bicycle, wouldn’t get very far that day.

We wound our way through the city in an orange river and with the excitement of the day I forgot about being a tourist. My first glimpse of the Dam, Amsterdam’s main square, was not of the Royal Palace and Nieuwe Kerk, but of the carnival with screaming people aboard theme park worthy rides. Thankfully we were staying for a few days, and I would get a chance to see the sights on a different day.

As the day wore on the festivities slightly shifted from an enthusiastic party scene to a more… well, intoxicated one. The alcohol was flowing freely, and more and more trash was being thrown on the streets and in the canals. The public urinals (and don’t get me started on that, there were free urinals everywhere, but the use of a toilet cost between 1 euro and the price of a meal) started overflowing straight into the canals. The pickpockets came out to work, the number of slurring college students increased exponentially, and we even saw a man tossed into a canal after picking a fight with an entire boat of people. Of course, there were people that went swimming voluntarily as well. After a certain time the city was no place for children. Luckily a couple of friends had invited us to visit them, and after a quiet rest for mom and kids while dad checked out the canal-side party scene on Prinsengracht canal, we started the long trek back to the hotel.

The kids in Vondelpark were having a blast

Somewhere on quieter streets we passed a crowded tapas restaurant, and our stomachs immediately started growling. It looked like an awesome place, and judging by the crowd the food must have been great as well so Roberts ducked in to check if there was room for us. He emerged shaking his head, and just as we had decided to try our luck elsewhere a waitress came running after us. She set us up with a glass of wine outside at a table watching the cyclists zoom by, and before long she was ushering us inside to seat us in the hubbub for some of the best food I had on the trip. The place, Café Dos, and even though it wasn’t local food I would recommend it to anyone in the area… 

And for one euro you, too, can have an egg to throw at these enterprising young chaps!

And so ended our Queen’s Day experience. Our walk home brought us past a wine store whose purveyor sold us a bottle of Moselle wine before closing up, and we crossed canal after canal in the fading light until finally falling into bed. It could have been a dream, as the whole experience was so unreal! Though the next morning we did have an orange hat and lei, and a Liebherr 574 road loader to remind us of our adventure in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day…


  1. Very cool, Liene! Did you plan your trip to be there on Queen's Day, or was it a coincidence?

    1. Our trip was actually planned to coincide with the bulb fields blooming, but it just so happened the timing was right to partake in the Queen's Day craziness! We were lucky on both counts...

  2. I've never heard of this celebration, but it sure sounds like a fun day. Plus orange is my favorite color. hehehe

  3. That looks like it was quite the adventure.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...