A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Koninginnedag is nearly here, and this year it will be exceptional, as the Queen abdicates after ruling for 33 years, and her son becomes King Willem-Alexander (the first king for 123 years!).
Are you braving the crowds and heading to Amsterdam for the day? Have you already bought/borrowed/made/found your orange outfit? Planning on spending Queen’s night in The Hague?
This year will be special, and I’m really looking forward to being part of it in some way, despite looming thesis deadlines. But if you are not going to make it to the Netherlands this year, don’t worry, because April 30th is great every year. Here’s a little story about what I did last year, to give you a flavor of how to get involved in a typical Queen’s day in Leiden.
Having seen the crowds the year before, and convinced that the weather would only be so-so, we decided to forego the boozy trek to Amsterdam to celebrate Queen’s Day. But what could we do here in Leiden that didn’t exclusively involve beer and orange wigs, but would still let us enjoy the day and meet people? As well as parties, Queen’s Day is also a day for scouring through flea markets and picking up bargains, so we decided to set up a stall and try to sell some handmade arts and crafts.
We spent the weekend making postcards and framing some bargain-priced student artwork. And of course baking cakes to bring in the crowds – carrot cake with echte Hollandse wortels! (that’s “real Dutch carrots” to you and me)
We woke up at a pretty ungodly hour, when the rest of the Netherlands was sleeping off its hangover from the night before. We found a spot almost immediately, right near our flat and at the end of a load of stalls run by kids selling their old toys. Even at this early hour (birds still tweeting a dawn chorus in the nearby park), we were suddenly hit by the realization that it was hot. Really hot. After weeks and weeks of cold and rain. Holland never ceases to surprise… So we trotted off home to change and came back with sunglasses, sunscreen, shorts and a smile. We fixed up our stall and sat eagerly waiting for our first customer. And we waited. And waited.
An elderly couple stopped a meter or two in front of the stall. She seemed entranced by our carrot cake, and read the sign out to her uninterested husband. “Oh, carrot cake,” she said, “Well! My my. It’s not everyday that you see carrot cake. No, no, you often see carrot tart, but carrot cake! Well, that’s not something you see every day, now, is it? Well, now!” And so on and so forth she went, ignoring both our eager faces and her husband’s bored look. As obviously fascinating as our cake was, she did not buy a piece, nor did she look at our art, and they eventually shuffled on their way.
This really describes the whole day. People came and went, mostly staying behind the imaginary one-meter safety zone, commented on how yummy our cake looked, and overlooked what we were actually selling. Piece by piece the cake sold. Turns out it was delicious. Really! One lady even came back to get the recipe! Lesson learned for next year: cake, cake, cake.
We spent a couple of hours of sunning ourselves and watching families with young kids getting super excited about the toys they’d just bought for only 50c. Then, friends started dropping by, and it was obvious that the hungover section of the population was waking up. A lot more orange appeared on the streets, and Dutch flags started popping up more and more.
As lunchtime came and we sold our last slice of carrot cake, we decided we’d had enough. I think unless you’re in the main flea markets in Amsterdam, Queen’s Day is about kids selling toys to other kids. So, we hurried with the crowd to buy beer at the supermarket before it closed at 1. What followed was a gorgeous sunny afternoon in the park, watching the party boats steam past. I even got a sun tan! A bit.
I’m glad we tried something different this year, and it was fun to be part of the event rather than a passer by. But it’s the social side of Queen’s Day, and the feeling of it being a festival, that kind of sets it aside from other Dutch celebrations, so I think a boozy afternoon with friends ended the day in the right spirit.