NoHo Fo’ Sho: Queen’s Day
by Andrew Brokos | Published: May 20, '12
This is another photo dump/trip report from my travels in Europe. If you didn’t like the last one, you’ll probably want to skip this one too.
Emily and I were already planning to be in Amsterdam for the entirety of the SCOOP because of the sweet apartment we were able to rent, but we also wanted to be there for Queen’s Day, which is basically a huge citywide party in honor of the Queen. So we found a (relatively) reasonably priced hotel on the outskirts of town where we could stay for a few days.
In recent years, the night before Queen’s Day has become quite an event in itself. Since everyone has off the next day anyway, they start the party early. There are stages all over the city with free concerts, vendors selling beer and greasy food, even games and rides – it’s a real carnival atmosphere. The main squares are slammed with drunk and stoned (this is Amsterdam, after all) adults of all ages, and boats full of revelers cruise the canals.
Earlier that day, we’d purchased a special Queen’s Day transit pass that was supposed to be good all day, starting at midnight. Thinking ourselves clever, we stayed out until midnight so that our ride home would be free. Turns out most of the trams stop running at midnight, and those that still were in operation were extremely delayed because of all the people in the streets getting in their way. We waited forever and finally caught a train only to have it inexplicably kick all its passengers off several stops down the line.
Now more lost than ever, we and a few hundred of our closest friends tried to figure out where we were and how we’d get home. A few police officers stood around being unhelpful. Finally a bus pulled up that stopped about a mile from our hotel, which seemed like the best we were going to do. Suddenly one of those police officers was in a great hurry to insist that our pass was not good on that bus, because it was operated by a different department than the city transit. Pwned.
We were lucky to get unseasonably nice weather for Queen’s Day. It was mostly warm enough to walk around without a jacket, and the sun shone virtually all day. That’s a rarity for Amsterdam, especially in the spring.
In honor of the Dutch royal family, who descend from William of Orange, orange is everywhere on Queen’s Day. Everyone wears orange, all the streets are decorated with orange, vendors sell orange trinkets, etc.
Queen’s Day is very Dutch in that it is all about entrepreneurship and laissez-faire. For one day only, anyone can set up a stand just about anywhere (people mark off the best spots with tape days in advance) and sell just about anything, from food to alcohol to old household junk.
Vondelpark, one of the city’s largest green spaces, is set aside specifically for a children’s market. Some kids just sell their old toys, but others get much more creative and sell things like musical performances and even compliments.
One of the cool things about Queen’s Day, from an American’s perspective, is that people of all ages enjoy it together. In the US, we mostly segregate adult holiday activities such as drinking from children’s holiday activities such as games and pageants. On Queen’s Day, alcohol was sold and consumed in the children’s market just as it was anywhere else (though not by children), without any “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”-style moral outrage.
After exploring the children’s market, we hopped a tram over to the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most happening neighborhoods. On the way, we spotted a pretty creative decoration:
The revelry in the Jordaan was much more heavily focused on drinking. With tens of thousands of people consuming copious amounts of beer, there was a tremendous need for toilets, and some creative solutions:
The coolest people in Amsterdam have either boats or friends with boats. Armed with beer, music, and/or weed, they cruise the city’s canals to see and be seen:
Because so many people stay out drinking late the night before, the festivities actually wind down fairly early in the day on Queen’s Day itself. The makeshift street stalls have to come down by 8PM, and most people start heading home before then:
On our way home, we came across a small neighborhood gathering that had the feel of a block party. Very few places were still selling food, but we found a pizza place there that, though out of pizza, sold us some calzones. Tweens had themselves a little dance party while their parents chugged wine: