Friday, May 01, 2009

Koninginnedag!


The whole country is recovering from Queen's day (which was yesterday). For some, they're recovering from raging hangovers. For others, they're getting bailed out of jail. And for the politicians, they're trying to figure out why the hell some guy tried to drive his car into the Queen. But more on that later. Queen's day actually starts with Queen's night, which is the night before Koninginnedag. Not the night of Koninginnedag. So for Queen's night I started the party at school, where the student society was hosting Koninginnenacht drinks. Then I met up with Niels, Ana, and Ari, and we decided to hit up the Jordaan, but first we stopped at Niels' place in the Red Light District to drop off stuff and meet up with his brother Jens and their friend Casper. Then we headed over to the Jordaan, to the Noordermarkt. It was insane. So many people. And the cool thing too is that it was mostly Dutch people, which never happens in Amsterdam. So we drank and danced Queen's night away in the Jordaan, migrating around the Prinsengracht. Queen's day didn't begin bright and early, on account of the late Queen's night. Niels and I set out from his place, and headed over to the Nieuwemarkt to get some cash and some food. Two very important things to have. The we just walked. We walked over to Spui, and then Koningsplein, and then decided to go to the Vondelpark. Easier said than done. To get to the Vondelpark we had to leave the canal belt, and it was a huge traffic jam of people. We were on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat and it took us about 25 minutes just to get the one block over the bridge and onto Stadhouserskade. It was just this huge crush of people and everyone was pushing, and to make matters worst they had lined the bridge with stalls for food and stuff, so it was just like this tiny funnel full of people. But we made it through (finally) and into the Vondelpark. The Vondelpark was actually quite nice. It was a more chill atmosphere than the rest of the city. There was a lot of people of course, but they had set up games, or were playing music, or just sitting in the park. Lots of families and kids, so that made it less of a drunken idiot atmosphere than other areas of the city. So we sat in the park for a while, to refuel, and then set out towards Jordaan. We walked all the way down Rozengracht, and then through Dam square and back to Niels' place. It was so noisy, and there were so many people everywhere, and the streets were just covered in garbage. We hung out at Niels' for a while, and then Ana joined us and we went for dinner on the Zeedijk. This really nice Thai place that our dutch class went to in the fall. Then we went back to Niels', and Jens and Casper showed up, and then Ana and I decided to head home. I was so tired, from combined lack of sleep and walking around in the sun all day. But getting home was an experience in itself. There were people everywhere, and I was just glad I hadn't drunk anything but water all day because I almost ran into so many people who just walked out in front of my bike. And the streets were like an obstacle course because of all the garbage and broken glass and everything. Whoa. But I made it home in one piece, and went to bed. I've never had a better sleep. So nice. I read a news story today with the official Koningennedag numbers from the Amsterdam police. Apparently 196 people were arrested in Amsterdam this Koninginnedag. This year, police had announced they would be cracking down on boat revellers. In total, eight people on boats were arrested, including four captains who had drunk too much. Some 36 people fell in the canals. Of them, 27 were on boats which sank. But this doesn't count the people who fell into canals and hauled themselves out, cause we totally saw a guy do that outside of Niels'. I wouldn't want to fall in those canals though, cause they were dirty. Very very dirty. Floating garbage everywhere.
So in addition to Koningennedag being a big country-wide street party, there is an official royal aspect to it. Every year on Koningennedag the royal family makes a traditional return to the Het Loos palace in Appeldorn. This is what they were doing when the "attack" happened. A guy drove his car through the barricades, through a crowd of people (killing 4 and injuring 17 of them), and narrowly missed the big open bus carrying the royal family before hitting a monument. He was a middle-aged Dutch guy from Gelderland who'd recently lost his job and his house, and he has since died from the wounds he received in the crash. I doubt we'll ever know why he did it, but they're saying that this will mark a big change in the accessibility that the public has to the royal family and politicians here. It's not unusual for MPs and ministers to bike to work, and the royal family themselves also bike around town like normal Dutchies. Not the Queen, but the princes and princesses. All in all, public figures in the Netherlands are much less sheltered and unapproachable than they are in most other Western countries, but that's also because nothing like this has ever really happened before. Of course this is all the babblings of newspaper editorials and the like, so we'll see what really results of this all. If you haven't seen the video yet, here it is with subtitles in English of what the announcer is saying - it was all caught on camera by the official TV coverage of the royal family's Appeldoorn visit. video

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