Monday, May 02, 2005

Queen's Day

There are a few crazy days on the Dutch calendar. None is more so than Queen's Day - Koninginnedag. This is when the whole country goes on a mild-mannered drinking and profiteering spree.

The whole shebang kicks off on the night before, Queen's Night as it is called. This is the night those with any form of partying streak go out and celebrate the forthcoming (official) birthday of the Queen in the traditional manner of cramming themselves into or around bars and downing quite a few jars of the golden happy juice.

That night, I met an increasing number of friends in a bar on one of the "Nine Streets," so named because there are nine of them, and they are streets.

Despite the sheer numbers of people out, there is rarely any trouble. It's all very good natured and thoroughly friendly. A great night to meet new people. In many cities in the world, especially in the UK, this number of people drinking this amount of alcohol would have resulted in fights every five minutes and police on every corner.

The following day is Queen's Day. Supposedly the Queen's birthday, it's actually the birthday of her mother. But who cares. So how do people celebrate this day? Well, by royal decree, anything goes. People are permitted to wear what they like, so they wear as much orange as is humanly possible. They are permitted to buy and sell things on the street, so from early morning, people set up stalls and sell stuff they don't want. 95% of it is stuff that no one else wants either, but there are usually some good little bargains to be had and the Dutch, who have trading in their blood, get up early to snap them up. This means for those of us with nothing that morning in their blood except alcohol find that when they emerge to buy things, the things that are left are not even attractive to people who are hung-over and sleep-deprived.

This Queen's Day was spent on a boat. It's my first time on a boat on Queen's Day, and whilst the canals do at times get very congested, it is actually less congested that the roads get over certain narrow bridges. And tro get stuck in the middle of several dozen boats is a pleasure compared to being stuck between several hundred people. At least in my opinion. Some people may prefer the other way round.

Trends this year included: boats of people wearing all white instead of the traditional mostly orange (Is white the new orange?); Then later a boat of people all dressed in black (Is black the new white?).

As ever there were constants: Hastily erected podiums at key spots and the Museumplein turned into a music festival; People (mostly men, but not exclusively) urinating in every half-unused corner.

As ever the low percentage of police and trouble was a source of amazement. It must be something about the occasion and the soothing effects of the colour orange. Because it ain't the same when Ajax play Feyenoord, that's for sure.

After the boat trip - for which I will release some pictures soon - there was a mini-festival of up-and-coming British bands, London Calling. But this I will speak of later.

So I say, enjoy the weather (if it's nice where you are) and wear orange as often as possible. Even if it clashes with your hair.

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