Today was the most important day of the year for the Dutch: Queen’s Day. Everybody should experience this monumental block party slash mass garage sale at least once in their life. Nowhere else have I ever experienced so much humanity in such close quarters for so long over such a large part of a city. Three quarters of the city wears orange. Boats fill some canals bumper to bumper. People pack the most popular streets making even walking impossible, never mind bicycling or driving a car.
A few years ago Queen’s Day meant heavy-duty partying from the evening before (Queen’s Night) until at least late afternoon for us. Beer flows through the streets as water through the canals. We wandered the Jordaan (drunkenly) feeling half insider and half outsider.
But after eight or ten Queen’s Days the spectacle of the crowds and the partying becomes too familiar. More recently it’s become a quest to buy as much needed baby stuff as possible, as cheaply as possible. Kyoko researches the best neighborhoods to shop, and maps out our schedule… beginning at an ungodly early hour. Of course she knows what she’s doing and this year we scored a high-chair, lots of old wooden toys, modern toys, three buckets of baby-lego, cute clothes, two Bobike Mini child seats and more, all for maybe €100. The lightheated salesmanship and negotiations over how many cents will be paid for a toy make it all fun. Our partying was limited to sitting on our friends’ roof terrace afterward.
So why tell you about “Koninginnedag”? Well, because the bakfietsen are instrumental. All of the WorkCycles and MacBike rental bakfietsen get reserved months in advance by people and organizations planning to sell their goods or put on a show.
We and many others carry our new possessions home by bike too. It’s pretty much the only practical way to do so considering you can’t get a car within kilometers of the busy areas. Cycling might sometimes be slow or frustrating but you can usually find a quieter street to ride along or at least walk the bike through the crowd for a couple blocks. This year we took Kyoko’s Bakfiets Cargobike and a WorkCycles shop errand bike with two 60cm x 40cm plastic bins.
On a more somber note there was an attempted attack on the Royal Family, who was in Apeldoorn for the event. Some guy sped his Suzuki Swift (a small car) through the barriers in an attempt to hit the open bus the Royal Family rode in during the procession. He missed the bus but hit a number of bystanders. Some five people were killed and about a dozen wounded. The Dutch Royal Family has always travelled with minimal security and has never previously had a seriously threatening situation. Similarly the Dutch ministers are known for riding bikes around like normal people The press is speculating that this era of innocence has just ended.