Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) is a celebration of the Dutch Queen's birthday. Technically, it's not the queen's birthday. It's the now-deceased queen mum's birthday... but the new Queen Beatrix's birthday is in January and the weather is shit at that time of year so now the queen gets to stroll around and wave at everybody singing her happy birthday for her mom. Sweet.
Not that it really matters - most people just want to dress in orange, get drunk and stoned. And by 'most' people, I mean 'tourists'. I think most Nederlanders actually just stay at home and enjoy a day off.
So the festivities start in The Hague on Koninginnenag (Queen's Night), the eve before. The quaint old-town city turns into a giant carnival with flashing games and whirling rides. A performing stage is set up every 150m throughout the city centre as well as snack bars and bar stands.
Eventually hauling ourselves out of bed the next day, we got ready for the actual celebration in Amsterdam. With orange hairdye, orange face paint, orange (silk) shirts and any other orange paraphenalia we could get our hands on, Mills and I looked like we'd fallen into a tub of tartrazine.
We headed into Amsterdam (getting more than a few stares) and met up with the rest of the expat group. From what I can remember, it consisted of: two South Africans, one Irish, one Italian, one Ukrainian, five Americans, two Dutch, one Indian, one American-Dutch-German and one Moldovian for good measure. Moving from place to place was fun as we had to keep this mish-mash of foreigners together - and I kept ending up with the two shortest in the group. In a crowd of very tall Dutchmen, everyone wearing orange and I was trying to look for two 4-ft-something ladies. Fun game.
The streets are absolute chaos as, just like the night before, there are stages set up at every corner. Trading laws are effectively abolished on this day which means that anyone and everyone can sell anything they want. There are jumble sales, lemonade stands, buskers, game stands, karaoke... some entrepreneurs even rent out canal-side spaces to be used as public urinals.
But the anarchy is not limited to the streets. The way to do Queen's Day, it seems, is by boat. Self-contained parties float up and down the canals - rocking with their own DJs and booze. And if they need to stop at a pub or for any other reason, then you just get as close to the edge as possible and simply boat-hop from yours across any others in your path. It's very social.
After a long day of partying (and losing my return ticket and my drink in the bowels of a port-a-loo), we decided to call it a day.... not before the obligatory mayo frites and kroket. I still have no idea what the gooey stuff is, they call it mince meat but I challenge anyone to actually agree with that description.
When it comes to visiting the Netherlands in spring, make sure to plan your trip around Koninginnedag. Definitely worth the party!