Queen’s Day(s) Later

Janskerkhof
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.
Vrijmarkt
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

A Queen’s Day Pause

Bea Bedankt
Every year — for as we’ve been here, anyway — this historic building/store on the Oudegracht hangs a photo of Queen Beatrix every Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). Somehow, I’ve always missed getting a photo of the picture until this year. It’s a good thing I got it this year, since it’s the last year Beatrix’s photo will be on display.

Today is the last full day she’ll be queen. Tomorrow morning, she officially abdicates and her eldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander will become king. From then on, I assume the building will hang a photo of King Willem for King’s Day. And yes, there will be a King’s Day in the future. The republican/anti-monarchy groups seem relatively small and low key — I only saw one anti-monarchy sign at the Vrede van Utrecht celebration the other week — but I think the group would grow if we no longer had Queen’s Day or King’s Day, a national holiday.

Queen’s Day is tomorrow, but it begins this evening (Koninginnenacht). The vrijmarkt opens in the afternoon and will be followed by a variety of bands playing at podiums throughout the city. The vrijmarkt — held in cities across the country — is essentially a massive yard sale. A large chunk of the northern part of town is designated for people to set out their wares/cast-offs for sale.

Usually on the actual Queen’s Day, the royal family goes to a different city/region each year and takes part in special festivities. As well as walking through the city/town and shaking hands and waving, they usually take part in various games and watch special performances put on by local groups. It’s kind of nice seeing them all getting involved and having fun, riding small ziplines and tossing toilets.

This year, however, the family will be in Amsterdam where the queen will officially abdicate at 10 a.m. at the Royal Palace. Willem-Alexander will go through the official swearing in and investiture at the Nieuwe Kerk at 2 p.m. The process is a little different than the British monarchy. You can read more about it in an interesting article here, which gives a bit more about the roles of the Dutch monarchy and info about the background of the family.

The events will be televised, of course, but if you don’t want to stay home and watch, you can engage in a bit of gezelligheid and join crowds at locations throughout Utrecht (and other cities) to watch on big screens that have been set up. Here in Utrecht, they will be at Neude, Janskerkhof, and the Stadhuisplein.

NOS will be broadcasting and including live streams, I think, for those outside the country who also want to watch. For the full schedule of the events, the royal website has a fairly detailed listing of who is in attendance and when various events will take place. For a listing of the numerous activities going on here in Utrecht, De Utrechtse Internet Courant has a good writeup.

There will, of course, be orange everywhere. I’m already wearing my new orange T-shirt. Hats, inflatable crowns, orange clothing of all sorts will be out in full force. Sometimes I think the sheer volume of orange on Queen’s Day could possibly even be seen from space as a faint orange hue.

Hopefully all goes smoothly tomorrow and everyone has a good time. It will be the first time since 1890 that the Netherland’s has had a king. Of course, Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima have three daughters, so Queen’s Day is just taking a short break and will be back with the next generation.

Royals and Trajectum Lumen

Expat Shopping

Expat Shopping
I’ve been here long enough that day-to-day life feels pretty normal and I don’t notice most of the differences. Yet occasionally I’m reminded of my multi-culture lifestyle. Today was one of those days.

The weather was nice, after a day of rain yesterday, and I wanted to get out and enjoy it. We decided to head to the Vredenburg market to pick up ingredients for dinner tonight and stop off at a few other shops along the way. First up was Hema, which can be a bit like Target in that you go in for one thing and come out with a whole bag of other things. It didn’t help that they were having a “vrijmarkt” sale this weekend, with lots of items marked down. I went in for a T-shirt to wear on Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) this week and came out with a new shower puff, a purple sweater, and the T-shirt (seen above with the crown print on it). I actually got out pretty light, all things considered!

After dodging the numerous people that hang out in one spot on Steenweg trying to get you to answer various surveys, we headed to the Centraal Toko, because that’s another shop I can’t resist going in when I’m there. It’s an Asian market with a nice selection of items that aren’t so easy to find in the normal grocery stores, including good ol’ Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, which I stocked up on, just because. We also picked up another bottle of Sriracha sauce, since we were getting low. I also picked up a can of Del Monte creamed corn, because that’s also a “foreign” food and I get a craving for it occasionally and can’t be bothered to make my own. You know you’re an expat when something like a can of creamed corn is a special treat.

However, the big find was a jar of molasses!!!! I had used the last of my jar of Grandma’s Molasses late last year and had been dreading going to the expat food store on Steenweg to buy more, because their prices are so expensive. They charge twice the amount the toko does for baking soda. A can of Libby’s canned pumpkin cost me more than €6 a number of years ago. I don’t use molasses often; in fact, I probably only use it to make my own bbq sauce, but the sauce just isn’t right without it.

When I see something pleasantly unexpected, I have a habit of somewhat loudly saying, “OH!!” I’m not snobby about what excites me. It can be a church in Mantova designed by Alberti or a bottle of black strap molasses on a bottom shelf of a store in Utrecht. G teases me about it regularly. But sometimes you just can’t contain your joy over a happy surprise!

After also purchasing some ras el-hanout spice blend, some ground cumin, and some spring roll/loempia wrappers, we headed next door to Blokker, another shop with a mix of odds and ends, mainly of the household variety. We went in to look at their food processors, since ours broke a while back, but before we made it that far, we were stopped by the collection of knick-knacks commemorating Queen Beatrix standing down and Prince Willem-Alexander taking the throne. It happens on 30 April, which is also Queen’s Day, a public holiday, so we figured we’d get a little something to commemorate the day. After all, how often do you get to experience a royal change of crowns. We were tempted by the kabouter/gnome, but decided to just go with the more useful placemats (seen in the photo) and we bought some matching coffee mugs, just for the fun of it. They were all 99 cents each, so hardly a big splurge. Still, a fun and useful way to remember the event.

By that point, we figured we’d better get out of there before we bought more silly stuff, so off we finally went to the outdoor market held every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. We picked up some shrimp for dinner tonight and I bought a big bag full of okra for dinner tomorrow or Monday. The toko carries okra, but the stall at the market has better stuff and for less, along with a number of other vegetables that are harder to find here. We were just about out of the market when we heard one of the vendors hawking his fresh strawberries. One more inexpensive impulse purchase and we were done, heading to the grocery store for a few odds and ends we couldn’t get at the market.

So that’s typical expat shopping. We embrace our new life here, buying items for the upcoming Dutch holiday, while also remembering favorite traditions and foods from home, be it America or Italy. With the sun shining and a good mood, it’s a fun way to shop and be reminded of how lucky we are to be able to broaden our horizons.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

Oranje

As I contemplated this week’s theme, I had originally thought to post photos of my dog and one of my cats, who are always together, despite their differences in size and species. But as I thought more about this week and the major national holidays being celebrated this week here in the Netherlands, I realized there’s another sense of together on which I could focus.

Monday was Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), where the entire country comes together to celebrate. Throughout the country, there are vrijmarkten (flea markets) set up where anyone can sell all sorts of things, ranging from household junkt to original art to homemade goods. Despite the crowds, at least here in Utrecht, there’s a real sense of friendliness and togetherness. Along with the vrijmarkt, there are concerts and DJs playing music, and a variety of other celebrations throughout the city, all with an overlying wash of orange!

This week — today and tomorrow — the country will also come together in remembrance and celebration. Today is dodenherdenking, in which all of the soldiers and civilians who died in wartime are remembered. At 7 p.m., the entire country will come to a halt, observing together two minutes of silence. A few years ago, I was at a concert, and although the show hadn’t started yet and the crowd was quite large and international, everyone joined together to observ the two minutes of silence. Tomorrow, 5 May, marks Liberation Day, celebrating the day that the Netherlands was finally liberated at the end of World War II. I live very close to the street where the liberating forces first arrived in Utrecht, and tomorrow a special statue of a polar bear will be placed on that street in honor of those forces, particularly the First Canadian Army, who were known as the Polar Bears.

This has been a week of togetherness, in both celebration and remembrance.

A Man on a Bike

Vrijmarkt

Orange on the Oudegracht

Dodenherdenking

Fijne Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag Domtoren
Today is Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), which is a national holiday. Tradition is to wear orange, visit the vrijmarkten (special flea markets on the street), drink a lot, listen to a lot of music (live and DJs) and generally have a gezellig time. I think we succeeded. Best of all, we got a respite from the rain and ended up with tons of sunshine and warm temperatures. Not a bad way to spend a Monday!

Utrecht’s Occupation

Wave the Flag
On 15 October 2011, people of all ages began gathering at the Domplein in Utrecht. The crisp, autumn morning saw signs being made, posters being hung, and people coming together to voice a frustration with the form of capitalism that has taken over in many countries. On this day, in cities and countries around the world, people joined together to show a solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not everyone there was an anarchist, nor were they all dirty hippies or a lazy bums (or any other needlessly pejorative terms). They were young and old, dreadlocked and neatly shorn, obvious protesters and people who look like someone’s granny. Many had different issues that they found particularly frustrating, but the point was that they were all feeling a bit fed up with how the super wealthy and the corporations seemed to be getting the better end of any and all deals.

Since that day many of the Occupy protests around the world, including the original Occupy Wall Street, have been closed down, sometimes with unnecessary violence and brutality. Other protests have popped up, often with mixed results, and frequently with seemingly unnecessary arrests. I recommend checking out some of the posts at nylondaze for some great photos and discussion of recent protests in New York.

While other groups have been shut down, often ages ago, the Occupy Utrecht group, which took over a small section of the square behind the old Stadhuis (city hall) in the center of town, has hung on through (lots of) rain, snow, and changing seasons. They’re still there, and while relatively small, they’ve been clean and organized and seemingly willing to talk every time I’ve gone past their camp.

However, they’re finally being asked to move. Well, at least for a day. You see, April 30 is a national holiday, Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). Mayor Wolfsen has decided that for the health of the protesters and others, the camp needs to go. The protesters obviously didn’t agree, especially when it was stated that they couldn’t return after the holiday. However, a judge has agreed with them and stated that they can return on 1 May. I’m not sure if they are going to move, but if they do, I suspect they will return, especially when you consider the history of 1 May, also known as May Day and International Worker’s Day. This is a day traditionally when labour and left-wing movements often take to the streets for demonstrations and marches throughout the world.

I’m not sure if I’ll be passing by the Stadhuisplein on Monday, although if the weather isn’t pouring down in buckets as it’s doing now, I may be tempted to go to see if they complied for the one day. I did stop by yesterday, though, and got a few photos. As you can see, it’s not a large, unruly camp. It’s actually condensed and become more organized over the months. With the current austerity measures vote and the recent collapse of the government, I don’t think it’s a bad group to keep around as a reminder that lower and middle classes shouldn’t be the only ones to bear the brunt of economic struggle.

Occupy Utrecht

Occupy Utrecht

Foto Vrijdag: Festive Domtoren

Koninginnedag Domtoren
I just realized I never posted my Queen’s Day photos. Oh well. This was probably one of the best/prettiest shots I took that day, anyway. It’s the Domtoren with the national flag and the House of Orange flags flying atop it. The photo was taken from the far end of the Plompetorengracht, for those of you who know the area.

Foto Vrijdag: Flags Flying

Koninginnedag
There are specific rules and specific dates when you’re allowed to fly the Dutch flag. It’s not like America, where you’ll see the flag flying yearlong in front of houses, offices, restaurants and just about anywhere else you could imagine. The Dutch flag is only brought out for special occasions. That said, it’s been prevalent this past week, between Queen’s Day, Remembrance Day and Liberation Day. Fortunately, the beautiful weather has led to some beautiful shots of the flag glowing in the sunshine. This photo was taken on Queen’s Day. I loved the light filtering through the tree and its blossoms and the flag providing a splash of color against the more neutral background. Both approaches to flying the flag have their benefits; I wouldn’t say that one is better than another. Perhaps the infrequent appearances of the Dutch flag make it stand out more when it does appear. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.