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Koninginnedag.

May 4, 2010

Like other areas of concentrated marine debris in the world’s oceans, it is thought, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed gradually as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents.


I learned my first big lesson in photography this week. I’ve read just about every Beginner’s Tips and Photography 101 website there is, and I had taken in the words that these sites printed, with their tongue-in-cheek lesson number 2 (after the number one tip of Take Your Camera Everywhere), but I didn’t really GET the lesson. Until Friday, April 30.

Koninginnedag.

Queen’s Day.

That’s right. The biggest street party I may have ever seen. This is coming from someone who’s been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and barely made it through the Running of the Bulls in Spain.

We almost didn’t go, too. It had been threatening to rain all day, and we weren’t sure what to expect (other than crowds), and it just seemed like a lot to take in.

But then I remembered that the whole reason we had moved to Europe was to see what it’s like to live here, and since Dutch people celebrate Queen’s Day, damnit, so were we.

And since orange is the color of the day, we ransacked our closets accordingly.

Michael had an orange Volcom t-shirt that worked well enough, but I had to make do with an orange-ish coral cardigan. That I had just bought about a week before. What lucky timing.

And we headed into town and the bus took this wild out-of-the-way route to the station – because most streets in city centre were closed to automobile traffic. Then we were dropped off about a block from the station, and we made our way past riot police and drunken teenagers to Stadhuisplein, where there was a DJ and even more crowds dancing to his music. And that’s where I took the above picture. Of our own version of the Great Garbage Patch.

We bought ourselves some beer, which weren’t that badly priced considering the venue.

But there was more to see. We still had the main city square to check out, where we saw that even the deceased take part in the festivities, so I took a picture.


Johan Frederik Rudolph van Hooff (29 August 1755, Eindhoven – 13 June 1816, Utrecht) was a Dutch Patriot politician.


But we still needed to hit Pub Street. Which I knew would be the absolute dead center of the party.

And guess what.

It was!

Alas, here is where Photography Lesson Number Two hit me full force.

ALWAYS CHARGE YOUR BATTERY.

My freaking battery died!

I actually did take several pictures between getting dropped off near the train station and the battery dying one left turn before Pub Street, but because I had been so busy trying not to capture the dozens of temporary urinals that had been set up and the four times as many men using them, I don’t think any of them give a good impression of what Queen’s Day was truly like, and I won’t be sharing them.

Feel free to check out other people’s pictures for a visual representation of the day.

But for this post, I’d rather use words and no pictures to give somewhat of an accurate description than to use poor pictures to give a less accurate feel.

The feel of what it was like when we squared our shoulders and entered the crowd. And then immediately had to turn our shoulders and suck in our stomachs and try to shrink as much as possible to fit. It was absolute madness. Music was blaring from speakers set about ten feet apart and every now and then you might actually come across two speakers in a row that were playing the same song.

I had no idea if I was stepping on people’s toes or just the trash that was in every space possible. Most bars had windows set up so that you could buy alcohol without attempting to enter the building. Paramedics were enjoying Coca Cola from rooftops, watching over us on the street.

I lost Michael twice, I think. I wasn’t so great at navigating the crowds. I was too worried that if no one gave, a stampede would start. So I was always the one who gave. At one point, someone’s drunkenness took over and that person tripped, and an entire wave of people all started to go down, and I watched in amazement as 100% of affected persons came up laughing. No one was angry or upset. They all found it absolutely hilarious that they almost went down into the trash-strewn and beer covered street.

I suppose a good mood is the most you could ask for in the name of crowd control.

Somewhere around the halfway point of Pub Street, I requested that we take a break from the crowd. So we stopped and ate sushi.

Our second dinner for the evening.

Michael and I eat two meals for one entirely too often!

Oh, and a drunk guy led us to our seats. I started to ask a question about the menu, but then Michael pointed out that the drunk guy didn’t actually work at the restaurant. That’s the kind of madness that takes over the country on Queen’s Day.

Our waitress asked us where we were from, and we told her the United States, and she seemed confused, so Michael said, “The US?” And I said, “America?” And then she understood. Then we asked her where she was from, and she said Vietnam, and then she told us that April 30 is a holiday in Vietnam, too – it is the day they celebrate defeating America.

Then she left, and when she returned to our table, she apologized for phrasing it that way. She tried to explain that it was a holiday to celebrate the reunification of Vietnam, and it wasn’t about defeating America so much as just getting their country back, and we told her it was fine, we weren’t offended.

And we weren’t. I understand why a nation might celebrate the end of a war.

After (second) dinner, we went back outside and people watched for a bit until I decided I had had enough, and we walked home.

And though we had each had three beers and entire bottle of sake, I’m pretty sure we can claim the title of Most Sober People in All of the Netherlands that day.

They have another party coming up soon, too. Liberation Day. I don’t know how we’re supposed to keep up!

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