A sea of orange is all I saw that evening when I was biking down the tiny alleys of Utrecht. Orange hats, orange rimmed sunglasses, wigs, and tee shirts you name it, the people wore it. It was an impressive sight for a foreigner like me to see for the first time, certainly a unique cultural event where the people of the Netherlands celebrate the birth of their King, Willem-Alexander. I call it unique cuz no other nation would have the need to celebrate the birthday of their monarch in such a way; I mean, it’s just a monarch’s birthday... But no, in this country if it’s the monarch’s birthday, everyone celebrates; musical performances, massive parties in the squares, the sea of orange clothes and faces painted with blue and red stripes and of course my favourite part, the ‘Vrijmarkts’. The vrijmarkts certainly made me really nostalgic as it reminded me of Sri Lanka with all the vendors on the streets, crowded squares cheap prices and lastly the chaos ;)
As for me, I spent my Koningsdag in the wonderful but quaint town of Goes. We spent our day strolling around the town’s vrijmarkt while I was meticulously looking for anything interesting to buy (being the antique freak I am). Lo and behold I came across a guy selling old original military gear (I believe most of those were taken by the Dutch Resistance in WW2); medals, dogtags, badges, coats of arms, swords, helmets, you name it. While fawning over them, I did notice the prices were a little out of my budget and I trudged away with regret. I was rather surprised to come across a Nazi insignia; I thought those were illegal over here and all... Guess selling stuff in the vrijmarkt has its perks :p
After that, it was a quick car ride to the sea side village in Oosterschelde. There we went oyster tasting and I managed to have one of the delicacies which were the Dutch Imperial Oysters ‘Zeeuwse platte’. I also learned about how the industry worked and evolved over there to what it is today. I got hold of a few massive lobsters too
Later on, I was fortunate enough to visit the part of the Deltawerken, which was one of the 7 modern wonders of engineering, to see the Oosterscheldekering dam which was part of the protective sea barriers which prevented the Netherlands from literally drowning under the sea. It was certainly an awe inspiring sight and it reminded me on the thin ice the people (and now me too) are walking on. I did however end up walking on quicksand as I stupidly ran out to the sea during low tide XD. And yeah, I ended up getting a foot sucked into the sand and almost getting stuck, pulled it out in the nick of time though.
My Koningsdag ended with a grand dinner, some great wine and a few ‘friendly’ games of poker and movies late at night. It was certainly a day well spent and an experience I’d never forget. I had had a truly Dutch experience that day, experiencing some things only the Dutch would do and things only the Dutch have with a lovely Dutch family and as an international student who has an insatiable thirst to explore, I couldn’t have asked for more.
And that day I discovered why the Dutch truly celebrate Koningsdag, it’s not really in support of the monarchy, nor is it a full an annual outbreak of patriotism and love for the nation; but what it is, is a great bonding moment, for friends and community. It is a day to have fun with your loved ones and friends and to form communities. No matter how you spend that day; be it partying, getting flat out drunk with your buddies or just walking around spying for antiques in the vrijmarkt, it does bring people close together and strengthens the bonds between them. I hope ya’ll had a great Koningsdag! :)
Droovi de Zilva