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

Queen Bea Says Bye

It’s an historic evening here in the Netherlands. Queen Beatrix made a speech on tv and radio tonight at 7 pm to say that she is abdicating on April 30. Those of you who are familiar with Queen’s Day will recognize the date. Prince Willem-Alexander will take the throne that day.

Queen Beatrix became queen in 1980 and is one of the longest reigning monarchs in current times. This will be the first time we’ve had a king in three generations.

It’s been fascinating to watch it in real time, even if the speech was technically prerecorded. Royal history has primarily been limited to marriages and births for me, and those were UK-related.

Not surprisingly, it’s big news here. TV coverage is ongoing and Facebook and Twitter are alight. Twitter here wasn’t even working well, since I’m sure there was so much traffic, since the Dutch are very involved with Twitter. Most of the trending topics were related to the royal family and the abdication.

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!

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.

World Blog Surf Day Goes Orange

world-map-logo-final-150px-ORThe theme of this third annual World Blog Surf Day is Holidays and Celebrations, in which expats from around the world write on the same theme, exploring some of the new holidays and traditions they (we) have been exposed to in our new countries. At first I was a bit lost on what to write about, since the Netherlands isn’t exactly drastically different from the US. Sure, I could write about Sinterklaas on December 5, but I felt like I would have to address the whole issue of Zwarte Piet, but I’ve yet to be able to put my thoughts on it into words without contradicting myself somewhere along the line. Fortunately, Giovanni came to the rescue with the quite obvious and fantastic suggestion of writing about Koninginnedag, otherwise known as Queen’s Day.

Geen Vrijmarkt
Koninginnedag is held April 30 each year and has become a national holiday. The origins of the day, however, go back to August 31, 1885. It started as a celebration of the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, and was known as Prinsessedag until her coronation in 1890. When Queen Wilhelmina’s daughter, Queen Juliana, took the thrown, the date of the celebration changed to her birthday, April 30. When our current queen, Queen Beatrix, took the throne, she decided to keep Koninginnedag celebrations on April 30, both as a tribute to her mother and as a sensible move since the weather is much better than on her own birthday of January 31.

Besides the sea of orange that overtakes the country — the Dutch royal family comes from the House of Orange — the most traditional form of celebration is the vrijmarkt, essentially citywide flea markets. Whole sections of towns are taken over by stalls of all sorts, ranging from full set-ups to blankets on the ground, as people sell their various odds and ends. Most are normal household items, although a few people take the opportunity to sell various arts and crafts. There are also food stalls of all sorts set up amid all of the household bits and pieces. Here in the Utrecht city center, the whole northern section of the city was given over to the vrijmarkt.
Browser's Paradise

More Orange
The whole day is one of festivities and fun, with many people taking their boats out to sail along the canals with friends, often greeting and meeting up with other boaters along the way. Some of the boats themselves take on new forms as adventurous people strap together multiple boats and pile on sofas and stereos to make the most of the outing!

This was my first Koninginnedag, as we moved here last year just after the celebration. We had heard all about it — including the Koninginnenacht celebrations at the bars the night before — and were looking forward to taking part in the festivities. A friend of mine from the US happened to be in town, as well, so things were looking to be quite exciting. In fact, it was all quite exciting, but not always in such a good way. Koninginnedag 2009 was sadly marred by an attempted attack on the royal family as they were heading to the palace in Apeldorn. After a morning spent meeting people and taking part in various fun and games, as is the family’s tradition, they were headed by bus to the Het Loo palace when suddenly a car came out of nowhere, running over people in the crowd, before crashing into a nearby monument. The royal family was unharmed, but sadly eight people lost their life. My friend and I happened to be watching the tv coverage of the royal family’s outing that morning before heading out — it has been broadcast since the 1950s — and so we saw the attack in real time and were left confused and then horrified by it.

Many of the public festivities were cancelled, obviously, although the vrijmarkt continued, as did many private celebrations. In fact, many people didn’t know about the tragedy until much later in the day. My friend and I did visit the vrijmarkt that afternoon and enjoyed the experience; I even bought a few odds and ends, including a Queen Wilhelmina mints tin. Still, the tragedy of the morning lingered in my mind. Hardly an auspicious introduction to what should be a joyful day of fun and friends.

When I decided to write about Queen’s Day, I couldn’t decide if I should mention the dark side of this year’s event. Yet, considering it’s been my only Queen’s Day, I suppose it’s almost impossible for me to write about this new holiday without mentioning it. Ultimately, I still had a wonderful time, meeting up with lots of friends the night before, making fond memories that help to counteract the not-so-fond memories. There was also a lot of happiness and friendliness as we wandered the vrijmarkt that afternoon. Fortunately, I also have many more Queen’s Days to come. Who knows, within a few years I might be selling some of our odds and ends on a blanket some April 30! But not my peppermints tin. I’m keeping that one.
Royal Mints

Don’t forget to visit Lily over at Fat Bride Slim for the next installment of the Expat World Blog Surf Day!

The event is also being covered on Twitter by Karen of Empty Nest Expat. Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said, “Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing–and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic.”