Queen's Day

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

On April 30, the Dutch celebrate Queen's Day. It is the birthday of the Queen's mother and is the only day of the year when people can sell things to each other without a permit and without paying taxes. Thus, it is probably the world's largest garage sale! It's too bad Chris isn't here -- he'd love it. A friend of ours found one of the KLM houses for 50 cents! We've already started a box of things to sell next year.

In reality, though, it's probably also the biggest birthday party anywhere. In honor of the royal family (the House of Orange), people dress up in all manner of orange regalia. Huge orange hats, orange boas, orange fur pants, orange coveralls, orange hair -- if it's orange, somebody is wearing it. The bars and restaurants hire bands and DJs and put large speakers in the plazas or on the streets. They blast the loudest possible music! It officially starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m., although the partying begins in earnest the night before in popular spots like the Leidseplein.

It is very popular to cruise the canals on a boat and to have a blasting sound system on the boat. Our apartment is close to the intersection of two canals, so there were often times when there would be a boat traffic jam and the sound systems would compete for who could be the loudest. It was so amazingly loud that I started calling friends in the U.S. and putting the phone out the window saying "Listen to Queen's Day!".

In the Vondelpark (Amsterdam's Central Park equivalent), only children are permitted to sell things. They set up stands where they sell chances at games (darts, grab-bags, etc.), things they have baked, or toys they have outgrown. Several talented souls play their instruments and have the case available for donations. It's quite nice.

The weather was poor this year -- a downpour mid-day -- so apparently what I witnessed was much more low-key than most years.

Still, the city got totally trashed with plastic beer cups, orange balloons and paper, junk that people tried to sell and didn't, and everything else you might imagine when a whole city throws a giant birthday party. The plastic cups alone litter some of the plazas several inches deep. The amazing thing though, is that by the time I got home from work the following day the Central train station and surrounding areas were completely clean. You would never have known that there had been a huge party the day before.
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