Maybe a King’s Not So Bad …

Koningsnacht 2014I’m far from being a monarchist, but having a monarchy has its moments. Like this weekend. Queen’s Day has always been fun — and nowadays is more about having a good time than celebrating a monarch — and now the first King’s Day has also gone over well. We celebrated King’s Night a bit more than the Day, but we still got out and wandered around the city a bit during the day, although we skipped the heavy crowds of the vrijmarkt this year.

Our house is close to one of the multiple stage areas around the city, so as soon as the live music started up, we could hear it all clearly from home. We enjoyed some from our terrace, as we grilled out, and then after dinner, we decided to go out and see it in person. The sounds of the salsa band playing were particularly enticing. As it turned out, I even knew the trumpeter. It’s Robert from the Kat in de Stad books! We weren’t the only ones enjoying the music. There was a growing crowd, but still enough space for dancing.Koningsnacht 2014After listening for a while, we decided to wander around, checking out more of the festivities. The streets were blocked off from auto traffic, so the streets were a free-for-all of people and bikes. Mainly people. Lots and lots of friendly people. It was a really positive vibe, as it is every year. We decided to head over to Neude, where another of the big stages was set up, but not before stopping for a glass of prosecco along the way. Wine, beer, coffee, soft drinks, and food … all of it was available from a variety of stalls and restaurants. It was a bit like my New Orleans days; open containers allowed! The first place we got our prosecco from even had fluted plastic glasses for it!Koningsnacht (Neude)Koningsnacht 2014By the time we got to Neude, it was getting darker and the crowds were getting bigger, but still everyone was having a great time. We stopped for another glass of prosecco before heading over to Janskerkhof where another big party was getting under way.

There was a big stage with live music and lots of lights and colors. The music wasn’t my favorite, but visually the area looked amazing!Koningsnacht 2014Koningsnacht 2014Koningsnacht 2014Koningsnacht 2014Koningsnacht 2014After taking in the sights, we finally finished the loop and headed back to our own neighborhood to enjoy more of the party. We watched some of the music for a while and then decided to head home. That didn’t mean we were done for the night, though. The weather was so fantastic that we decided to do what many a Dutch person does and set our chairs out on the sidewalk in front of our house. That way, we could enjoy the music and do a bit of people watching. We stayed out there until the music ended at one in the morning, exchanging greetings with lots of passers-by. We had a truly gezellig evening!Koningsnacht 2014For King’s Day, we had a leisurely start to the day and watched a bit of the royal family taking part in their own festivities on TV. We then headed out around noon — while things were still quiet — and enjoyed the sunshine and the friendly atmosphere. When we got to the Oudegracht, we even saw a band that we’d seen last year that we really liked. I wish I knew their name, because I’d love to see them perform again. They have a super cool, blues-y, Morphine-ish sound that is fantastic.Koningsdag 2014We were feeling pretty mellow ourselves, so after a walk to Mariaplaats — before the crowds arrived — we headed back to enjoy some more of the bands playing in our neighborhood, finishing the day relaxed and happy.Koningsdag 2014Koningsdag 2014

Queen’s Day(s) Later

Although there was a great deal of celebrating this week for the last Queen’s Day, my silence hasn’t been the result of the world’s largest hangover. With a break in work for a few days, I decided to take a bit of an impromptu vacation, even it there was no travel. Since I write for a living, it was kind of nice to take a short break from blogging, as well.

Still, I couldn’t resist posting a few photos from Queen’s Day and mention a few of the interesting things I found out watching the investiture of the new king. The day itself went smoothly, with no major issues, although two anti-monarchy protesters were arrested — unjustly, as it turns out.
The vrijmarkt (the massive yard sale) went on as usual, although it was definitely a little thinner in places than in past years. It turns out that Utrecht typically has one of the largest vrijmarkten in the country. We wandered through a good chunk of it, but didn’t end up buying anything this year.

Overall, it was definitely quieter this year. Either more people went to Amsterdam to be there for the royal events or more people stayed home to watch it all on TV. We were in and out, watching the abdication in the morning, then heading out to the vrijmarkt, and then heading home again to watch the actual investiture of the king. We seemed to catch a lot of spots in town in between performances, but still saw a few impromptu performances.
Music to Go
As for the investiture (it’s not technically a coronation, since the Dutch royals don’t actually wear the crown), it was interesting to watch. Maxima, the king’s wife, was stunning in her blue gown, but her attempts to keep from grinning like mad were fantastic to watch. Lots of people were commenting on it. By the time they finally took the boat tour in the evening, there was no stopping her smiles.

Interestingly, the investiture of the king is almost more of a political event, in that the king swears support to the country and the members of the government then also swear support of the king. (However, the royals are ceremonial and even Queen Beatrix lessened her involvement toward the end of her time as queen.) During the ceremony, each individual from the government stood and recited a pledge of support. What was interesting to see was that there was both a secular and religious response, depending on the preference of the politician.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a few links to other articles about the abdication/investiture, and also the Go Fug Yourself photo recap of both the dinner and the investiture. It’s worth checking out their site for some bits of interesting gossip about various attendees. They did quite a bit of research!

Go Fug Yourself: Abdication/Investiture

11 Things You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know About the Dutch Monarchy

NY Times: A King Takes the Throne, A Nation Celebrates

Dutch Squared

The Devil’s Stone


All day a storm had raged through Utrecht, with howling winds and driving rain. Roof tiles blew loose and the cart horses were skittish. By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted, cold, wet, and on edge.

In a house on the Oudegracht, roof tiles that had been damaged in the storm allowed water to drip into the living quarters of Henk and Ingrid. The constant but irregular drip stretched their already frayed nerves as they sat in the weak light of flickering candles, buffeted about by stray gusts of wind snuck into the home. The damp chill of the day had worked its way into their bones and they soon retired to their bedroom to huddle under the covers in the hope of bringing an end to this miserable day.

Yet sleep was elusive that night as thunder continued to crack overhead and the sound of the churning Oudegracht below poured itself into ears desperate for peace and silence. Henk and Ingrid tossed and turned, until finally they fell into a fitful slumber. As the storm finally began to dissipate, their furrowed brows began to ease and peace settled over Utrecht.

Suddenly, shortly after midnight, a crack louder than any thunderclap rent the longed-for silence. Henk and Ingrid bolted upright in bed as their ears rang from the loud noise. Before their hearts could slow their galloping pace, another loud bang split the air and shook the house. Henk lay paralyzed with fear, but Ingrid leapt from the bed and raced to the window.

Peering out through the cracks in the shutters, she looked down onto the street in search of the source of this terrifying noise, certain that she would see the streets and houses tumbling into the canal below. Nothing else could explain the awful noise and the shaking of the house.

As she looked upon the scene below her, she began to wish her first thoughts were true, for they were preferable to the unholy sight she saw instead. There on the street beneath her, the Devil and his minions played a horrible game of marbles. But rather than small glass balls, the feared creatures used massive stones and boulders.

Again the bone-shaking crack of the stones ripped through the night and Ingrid slowly backed toward the bed, her hands covering her face as if to block the image from her mind’s eye. As she whispered to Henk the horrible sight she’d seen, his face grew paler than the full moon that hung in the sky.

The devilish game continued through the night, and Henk and Ingrid sat clutching each other, whispering prayers that soon this nightmare would end. As dawn approached, the monstrous sport finally drew to an end and the Oudegracht once more returned to normalcy.

When everyone was sure the coast was clear, the people who lived along the canal carefully crept from their homes and began to speak in hushed tones about the devils they had seen and heard that night. A few more candles were lit in the local churches and prayers were fervently made in the hope that they would never pass a night like that again.

Yet as darkness fell once more, the residents withdrew into the darkened rooms of their home, unwilling to risk being seen by the ungodly game players. As midnight approached, people felt their pulses quicken and their breaths become shallower as their ears strained for the first sounds of the stones striking the ground.

Despite their anticipation, the almighty crack of the devil’s game of marbles still shook them to their core. For another night, the residents along the Oudegracht sat wide awake in fear of this demon sport that made sleep impossible. Bang went the stones, causing the houses to shake and the shutters to come undone, letting in the ghostly light of the moon that served as a lamp for the creatures down below.

The next day, unable to bear another night of terrified wakefulness, the residents turned to their priest and begged for help. The canny priest had the devil’s stone chained up, and called upon God to prevent the devils from breaking the chain.

That night, Henk and Ingrid and the other residents along the Oudegracht said their prayers and went to bed, hoping that they would finally be able to sleep. As the Domtoren struck midnight, they heard the rattle of chains, but the rock remained still. Soon the chains grew quiet and a sense of peace settled upon the street. One by one, Henk, Ingrid, and all of those who had been tormented began to drift off to sleep, as the stone and its chain remained firmly in place.


OK, so I took some liberties with the legend of De Gesloten Steen (The Closed [Locked?] Stone), also known as De Duivelssteen (The Devil’s Stone), but the stone does exist and it is chained up at Oudegracht 364. The legend that devils were keeping residents awake with the boulder until a priest intervened was already in existence in 1520.

Seeing as today is Halloween, I figured this was a perfect time to tell the story of the Devil’s Stone. However, if you’ve got a nervous disposition and spook easily, just tell yourself the stone was put in place to prevent wagons from damaging the corner of the building and that it has nothing to do with devils. Just ignore that thump in the night.

De Gesloten Steen

Koninginnedag, Take Three

Tulip Burnout
Happy Koninginnedag! Queen’s Day is upon us once again, and so far this one, our third, looks to be excellent. Fine weather, no hangover, no tragedy … The music has started back up already, and will probably go all day. It started last night and ran until after 1 a.m. Last night’s performances included a country/rockabilly group, who also did a reggae song called “I’m Allergic to Ganja”, which they amusingly/weirdly pronounced ganya. I know that’s the Dutch pronunciation of -ja, but the song was in English, so I was expecting the English pronunciation. It made me laugh, anyway. There were also a band doing ’80s hits. They ended, not surprisingly, with Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone”. For those not aware, Golden Earring is a Dutch band.

Anyway, we’re off to wander around and check out what’s being offered at the Vrijmarkt, an open flea market of sorts that is going on all across the country. I got some nice mugs and a royal tin the first year. If nothing else, it will be a slight break from all the music. We’ve just been serenaded by a band doing Dutch country of sorts. We’ve heard variations of “Jolene” and now I think they’re doing a version of “Islands in the Stream”. It’s interesting.
Flying Dutch Flag