Travel Oops: The Queen’s Birthday — A Royal Rager?

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

The Orange crush streaming out of Centraal Station and on to the streets of Amsterdam indicated that the Dutch — especially young people — must love their Queen Bea.

© DirkvdM

© DirkvdM

Throngs of Dutch citizens waved flags and sported the Netherlands’s national color, orange — lots of orange. Revelers even dyed their hair in flaming shades of tangerine, tangelo and clementine.

To be honest, it looked like my roommates and I had stepped into a Florida citrus convention.

It was Koninginnedag — Queen’s Day, which recognizes the Queen’s birthday and is celebrated every April 30.  As an American, I could barely say it let alone did I know exactly what Koninginnedag would be like.

© Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage

© Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage

But, like her loyal subjects, I figured I could drink tea with my pinky up in the air, eat crustless cucumber sandwiches and wave to Queen Beatrix as she rode by in a horse-drawn carriage.

Leah, Amy and I, who were on a college study abroad program based 30 minutes away in Leiden, wanted to check out the whole monarchy thing.

However, as we walked out on to the Amsterdam streets, we got sucked into the detour to debauchery. People spilled out of the packed bars, slammed beers on the streets and sat on rooftops. It was clear that we needed to start drinking alcohol right away. It was 9:30 a.m.

© Stephanie Glaser

Dam Square © Stephanie Glaser

Fortunately, you could buy beer on the sidewalk. With our cans of Heineken, we hung out at Dam Square where partiers sang, danced, cheered, rode mini carnival rides and fell down in the streets.

The Queen must be a great sport since the flaming hair, drinking, carousing and yelling seemed more appropriate for a soccer match. Certainly, the elaborate, frilly ladylike hats and matching clutches remained in Britain and at the Kentucky Derby that day.

© Stephanie Glaser

Leidseplein © Stephanie Glaser

“Geez, how is Queen Bea’s carriage going to get through this crowd?”  I asked Andy, one of my friends who was scanning the crowd.

“Somehow, I think if the queen shows up, it’s going to be on TV waving from her living room.” Andy surmised. (Actually, Queen Beatrix gets out of the Dam of Amster and visits other Dutch towns that day.)

It became evident early on, however, that this wasn’t as much about the monarchy. And actually it wasn’t initially about Queen Beatrix. Indeed, originally established to celebrate former Queen Juliana’s birthday, the tradition of Koninginnedag was passed on to recognize Beatrix, Juliana’s daughter and the current Dutch queen.

Since, Beatrix’s birthday is in January, a brutal weather month in Holland for outdoor festivities, she decided the national holiday should remain in April. You have to love how practical the Dutch are.

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

This queen’s birthday was turning into a royal rager.

We wandered, joining the giant centipede of people, checking everything out. At one point, Leidseplein, was one big outdoor dance hall with live music.

In addition to orange, the Dutch show the rest of their true colors on this day. Normally, they are a tad reserved and it takes time to get to know the “Nederlandse.”

Get to know them we did. In fact, singing “Nederland! O Nederland,” I hugged numerous randoms that day. A bit later, Leah, Amy and I were shimmying in a conga line with three Dutch guys when one of them turned, grabbed me and kissed me full on.

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

In return, I snatched his orange scarf.  At some point, somebody had handed me the national flag, so indeed, by then, I felt very Dutch.

In fact, I felt confident enough to start speaking my very rough Dutch. It was a habit. When we all went out in Leiden and consumed a few beers, the linguistic litany began.

I had a tendency to ask people where they lived. “Waar woon jij?” It was very easy since it was similar to English. Once, at a party, I asked this beautiful man, Hans, where he lived five times.

“Waar woont jij?”

“Waar woon jij?”

“Waar woon jij?”

“Waar woon jij?”

“Waar woon jij?”

I’d like to think it wasn’t all at once like that.

His response the next time I saw him: “Je hebt mij gevraagd vijf maal ‘waar ik woon’” (You asked me five times where I live.)

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

At any rate, on Queen’s day, nothing could stop my halting Dutch, which was flowing — albeit in a clunky way. Determined to correctly pronounce “Koinginnedag,” which was seriously impossible after a few drinks, I enlisted the help of some followers of Oranjegekte  (orange madness.)

If anyone could help me, they could. Certainly amused at first, these revelers began to make me their project. With their tutelage, over and over I tried to say it. Finally, upon the verge of complete exasperation, I did it.

Koinginnedag was my “Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain.” I said it correctly once. But I was proud, and I was Dutch for the day.

amy steph and leah

8 thoughts on “Travel Oops: The Queen’s Birthday — A Royal Rager?

  1. I’m SO proud of you even attempting to speak Dutch. My Mother was Dutch, and she tried and failed to teach me, I just howled with laughter at the guttural sounds. Yo this day I can only speak 2 words – both of which are unsuitable to write on a family friendly blog.

    • I actually feel like I got pretty good at the guttural “g.” I really gave the language a go. I still remember when I was practicing Dutch with a friend of mine and he asked me to stop and please continue in English because I was so basic and slow. I have to admit I got a bit irritated since I was thinking “well, who else is trying to speak your language?”

      I never learned any unsuitable words — usually those can come in handy! Thanks for the comment, Lottie! Cheers. 🙂

    • It’s funny, Julie, because I never became fluent — too hard to practice since the Dutch all speak English and they’d prefer to use it when talking to a total novice in Dutch like me. Although I never got too far with Dutch, I do like it because some of the syntax is the same as English. I definitely can identify it immediately if I hear it being spoken.

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