03 mei 2019

King's Day - a Braveheart parody

Worries about the weather aside, wasn’t it a wonderful King’s Day? The city of Amsterdam became one huge flea-market network in the morning, as people haggled over second-hand blouses, books and bikes. The city changed again in the early afternoon, as the crowds swarmed to areas such as Jordaan and the Binnenstad for music, drinking, and copious amounts of face paint.

For a moment there was a terrific comradery in the air

Seriously, it felt like a Braveheart parody was unfolding around me, but rather than “Freeedom!” people were yelling “Atten!”. At one point I saw a man bedecked in orange dancing on the deck of a boat, named Oranje (or at least, that was the name spray painted on the side—the ‘e’ was actually backwards), when he dropped an unopened beer. He threw his hands up in dismay, inconsolable over the loss of such a precious resource—but a man passing by in a neighbouring boat deftly snatched the beer from the canal and tossed it charitably back. The first man and his friends roared with delight at this exchange, and for a moment there was a terrific comradery in the air. Then, one of the men promptly threw up.

A particularly special highlight for me was seeing the Extinction Rebellion activists in Amersfoort demonstrating in front of the Dutch Royal Family. Activists leapt into the water whilst banners flew above them, making us think about their message: if we don’t act soon, the inland city of Amersfoort may one day find itself to be a seaside town. However, I suspect what the ‘Koning Kroonkurk’ Willem-Alexander was actually thinking was: Gosh, that water looks awfully cold.

No matter how you decide to spend King’s Day, it’s hard not to have fun. As an international, these kinds of public ‘festivals’ are a wonderful way to experience many ‘typically Dutch’ foods and traditions, all the while silently comparing them to your own festivities back home; consider me a King’s Day fan, but I would say it falls far short of the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling of Gloucestershire. 

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