Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) is the day when the whole of Holland celebrates the birthday of the Dutch Queen Mother by getting blind drunk before 11am, dancing in the streets and being as crazy as they can be. This is farther proof that even the Queen mother dislikes Dutch circle parties and will do anything to make sure her party is a lively one.
Everyone goes orange crazy (the “oranje gekte” starts) to show their support for the Dutch family (The House of Orange). There are orange banners and decorations, orange colored drinks and foods, orange dyed hair and lots and lots of orange clothes and crazy accessories. This makes it a particularly depressing day for anyone with orange color blindness. Most of the time they probably don’t even know what is going on and just think it is a bit busy for some reason.
The streets become packed with people celebrating. Moving through cities such as Amsterdam in large groups becomes an impossible task. The current of the crowd is too strong and before you know it part of your group is washed up on Dam square while the other half is being dragged towards Museum Plein at a speed of 12 knots.
No matter how hard you try not to you will end up wearing beer, even if you are not drinking it yourself. It’s a side effect of inebriated people trying to carry more beer than they have fingers.
Under age drinkers will attempt to join in on the festivities by concealing the alcoholic drink of their choice within innocent looking fizzy pop drinks bottles. To them this is the height of deception and completely undetectable by even the greatest of minds. To the rest of us it is extremely obvious due to their loud giggling, singing, constant fighting over the contents of the bottle and the fact that Dr Pepper has suddenly become strangely fluorescent blue in colour.
Because of the vrijmarkt (free market) on Koninginnedag the Dutch can and will gather all their unwanted belongs from their house, take them outside, dump them on the street and proceed in a desperate fashion to sell them for a few coins to any passers by using any means necessary. Crack addicts trying to score money for drugs have more subtlety and dignity.
Amongst the items usually available in the vrijmarkt it is still possible to find things such as 80’s aerobic workout VHS cassettes, top of the pops music cassette tapes, 2D game floppy disks and other discontinued entertainment media formats. It’s entirely possible that these items have been changing owners every Queen’s Day since 1985.
Dutch parents will force their children to sing, dance, juggle, mime, play musical instruments, recite poetry, reenact Shakespeare or simply stand on their head for money in a way that has been outlawed by most third world countries.
Vondelpark in Amsterdam becomes a children’s market (a place where children sell their unwanted toys and not where parents sell their unwanted children). This makes it possible for parents to see all the money they spent on toys for the last 10 Sinterklaas pakjesavond get traded in for Pokemon cards.
Selling toys at the children’s market is a defining moment in every child’s life. It displays something of the kind of adult they will grow up to be. Will they be honest and generous or will they try to sell those free McDonald’s Happy Meal toys for 50 cents each?
By 7:00 the streets are empty once again because everyone is far too drunk to do anything. Crushed plastic beer glasses and unsold junk is all that remain like some kind of bizarre post apocalypse movie scene (possibly one about the zombie apocalypse at Glastonbury).
(Originally posted on April 29th 2010)
Regular readers of this blog will already know the story about my crippling speculoos addiction, how I was unable to control myself and the long, difficult struggle I went through to become a normal and productive member of society once again. I have been clean for several months now and no longer find myself under the control of its delicious goodness. My life is back to normal.
Or at least I thought it was until I recently discovered this in our kitchen:
Ok. I know I ‘maybe’ sometimes over exaggerate the whole speculoos addiction thing in the name of comedy (the stuff is just so damn amazing) but I honestly have no idea how this happened. I’m not intentionally hording the stuff.
I am serious. I didn’t even know that they were there. It was only while rummaging through one of the kitchen cupboards recently that I discovered this stock pile scattered amongst the other breakfast goods, hidden behind the tea bags, cereal and hagelslag.
They are not half empty either. They’re all full. This is the kind of obsessive compulsive addiction hording behaviour that would put a crack addict to shame. How many more jars might I have hidden around the house without even realizing? Did I hijack a delivery truck while in some kind of speculoos induced haze?
This isn’t everything either. There is even speculoos ice cream in the freezer and biscuits in the biscuit tin. This is not a joke any more. I really do need help.
Do you realize I’ve been living in Holland for almost ten years?
(With a grin on her face)
Oh? In that case we should start talking Dutch all the time.
(Looking slightly worried)
Err… Let’s not rush into any rash decisions.
It is a widely excepted fact that tourists are strange. It is also a widely accepted fact that they do strange things.
At the start of spring confused looking tourists clutching maps suddenly appear on every street corner of Amsterdam like members of a badly organised invasion. If they are not busy interrogating the locals for hotel directions tourists keep themselves occupied by trying to put money through the card slot of the ticket machines at central station or by asking several times if a tram is going to the destination which is clearly written upon it in very large letters. They also get confused trying to work out if the Dutch euro is the same as the euro back home if they come from Europe and use the phrase ‘monopoly money’ a lot during their visit if they don’t.
When communicating with locals most tourists (especially the English) try to smash through the language barrier with the brute force of talking louder. When this fails (and when said local has been appropriately deafened) tourists will then attempt the opposite and employ a strange kind of sign language that involves a lot of pointing at maps.
People start doing strange things to try and please these visitors. The appearance of tourists suddenly makes it acceptable to stand in a public place and enthusiastically rant about nearby buildings. Such behaviour that would normally have locals crossing the street in avoidance will instead attract crowds of devoted listeners who want to hear about the time the architect visited Greece and got his foot stuck in a bucket.
Tourists also do things that they normally would never do in their own country. For example; entire families of tourists will happily take a stroll around the red light district because it is ‘famous’ and ‘has to be seen’ but they would never dream of taking the children for a day trip around the porn section of their local video store (and to suggest such things is apparently considered ‘crazy talk’. It’s just double standards if you ask me).
Tourists are strange… And that’s not even including the ones who only come for the red light district and coffee shops.
“Excuse me. Do you know where the red light district is?”
It was the kind of question I had gotten used to being asked in Amsterdam a lot. Usually it was asked by tourists with a look of cheeky excitement in their eyes who didn’t care if people will judge them. However, it had taken this gentlemen five minutes of silently standing at the same tram stop and several glances in my direction before he had cautiously made one last final check that the coast was clear, shuffled over the few steps towards me and quietly asked his question. It was as if he was worried that the police or his mother might be listening in.
We were quite far from the red light district, almost on the other side of town to be exact (Leidseplein). For a moment I wondered if he had been walking around Amsterdam for several hours, trying to build up the confidence to ask someone for directions. I informed him of the best way to get there and he thanked me. Our brief conversation had seemed to reach it’s natural conclusion so I continued to wait for my tram.
There was a short pause. “Do you know how much it costs?”
This was a new one. No one had ever asked me for a price comparison before. I don’t know why I let myself be dawn in to the conversation but rather than simply saying ‘no’ I started to make guesses and hypothesise that it probably varied depending on what services were being requested and how much the girl looked like Scarlett Johansson.
He nodded as if he was about to start taking notes. There was another short pause as he looked from side to side again. Then he asked a question I was really not expecting. “Do you know how it all works?”
Did I know how it all worked? I thought the question about the price had been strange but this was a whole new level. I didn’t know how to respond at first. Either this fellow thought I seemed like the kind of chap who paid regular visits to the ladies of the night and was deeply familiar with the correct etiquette and protocol of such matters. Or he thought I was a pimp. It was probably my own fault for trying to guess prices and making myself seem like an expert in his eyes.
I also wondered just how much detail he wanted this information in. Was he simply asking about how the business transaction and exchanging of money worked or was he actually asking how ‘it’ worked? Did I have to explain about the birds and the bees? The physical mechanics? The ins and outs (as it were)? This was suddenly turning into the kind of conversation I was not expecting to have until I had children of my own. Should I try to explain to this gentlemen that sometimes when a man and woman exchange a lot of money they have a special kind of hug?
I decided that the best course of action was to not make any more guesses and told him that I had never been myself. This had the effect of making it sound like we were discussing summer vacation destinations.
He seemed very disappointed by this, looked at his feet and then suddenly seemed to realize just how strange the conversation had been. He looked at me again and nervously shuffled away as if he was afraid that I would re-tell the conversation to his mother.