Bigger intro than I planned for it to be. Every year, on April 30th, we celebrate Koninginnedag. Queensday. Or better said; we celebrate the b’day of our former Queen Juliana; since Queen Beatrix decided to keep the holiday on April 30th as a tribute to her mother. Our royal family is also known as the House of Orange. Therefor everyone dresses up in orange outfits, the entire country is decorated with orange balloons and flags. There are orange pastries, banners and drinks. You name it, it’s orange. You’ll also find open air concerts everywhere, not to mention lots of beer and food stands on the streets. There are big ‘freemarkets‘. Think of freemarkets as a sort of national garage sale. Lots of fun.
But not today.
This year, Queensday 2009 ended before it even really begun. We had a wonderful morning here in Gouda, but what we didn’t know was that—at the same time I was taking these photos—there was an attack on our Royal family; who were celebrating Queensday in a town called Apeldoorn. A car tried to ram the open bus carrying our Royal family, it hit the crowd first and dragged 23 people with it on its way to the bus, killing five of them before crashing into a monument. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Our flags ended up flying half-mast, which is very confronting on a day that is supposed to be a huge, happy national celebration.
For that very reason I wasn’t sure about posting these photos, but decided to go ahead and post them anyway. As tragic as the attack was; not posting them won’t change what happened. Up until that horrible moment, Queensday was a lot of fun throughout my country—Queensday is just a really big deal to Dutch people, kinda like what the 4th of July is to Americans.
So here’s a little about how we experienced Queensday morning in Gouda, when all was still well in my country.
J-man was all excited about Queensday. It’s not easy being a boy’s mom, I tell you. So many things to think of. Leaving the house without a couple of dinosaurs, a dragon or other prehistoric animals is unthinkable.
On our way to the festivities, we bumped into this poor girl. She’s been carrying that cheese for ages. The girl must have arms of steel by now!
Normally, when you take this route, you see the town hall peeking out through the buildings. Not this time around. There’s a huge stage blocking the view. You see, in Gouda it’s all about Queensnight in stead of Queensday. I guess aging comes with more than just crows feet and love handles; I honestly don’t know 2/3 of these artists.
The kiddo begged me to climb up there and get him an orange balloon. Yeah sure, kid, I’ll get right to it. Just lemme kick off my heels.
This was the first thing I saw as soon as I walked around the town hall. It cracked me up. I went over to this guy, and told him I simply had to take a photo. He was a good sport and posed for me, and told me I could find the shirts at a site called Large. I thanked him, walked on and just laughed, and laughed and laughed.
Everything was covered in balloons. From Greek restaurants to cute little tapas bars and everything inbetween. Told you Dutch food is really hard to come by in the Netherlands!
The town hall looked very different—maybe even more impressive—with all these prestigious flags hanging from it.
I love the little canals you see here and there. They’re a big part of Gouda and lots of other Dutch cities. And when you look up, chances are you get to see more than just bird poo in your eye. The most gorgeous balconies with beautiful ornaments are all around.
But you don’t have to go very far here to find art. In fact, it’s as easy as looking at normal buildings and houses. This has always intrigued me.
We pass yet another church on our way to the freemarket. Lots of churches here.
We also happened upon this bike. I simply adored it. Stealing bikes is a very Dutch thing, so guess what I have parked in front of my house now!! (just kidding). But seriously, just how cute is this bike?
Here we are. Welcome to the freemarket. It was pretty crowded, the weather was amazing, everyone was in a great mood and we had a great time.
Lots of things to do and see. For the young as well as the old. I was really good at this, took home all their prizes!
You can find anything here. From cute little girls playing their violin.
To cute little …. hmmm … yeah. That’s it! What she said!
There are lots of inflatable crowns for the monarchists among us.
And lots of poles to put them on if your head is too big. Or too small. Or when you’re a Republican.
Let it be known that the Dutch have a mercantile spirit! You just sell pancakes and coffee from your own kitchen. Through the kitchen window, that’s right. Think simple!
Or you just open up your toilet to ‘guests’ and charge €0,50 per pee. At least you hope they’ll just pee. Apparently everything goes on Queensday.
And I mean everything.
From dried out orange cupcakes parked on the floor…
To Mona Lisa’s. Orange bike anyone? I can steal it for you!!
These little guys were really doing their best.
Inflatable M&M’s? Are you kidding me?
If you want to sell some old clothes, that’s no prob! You just park your 4 arm rotary clothes dryer in front of your house, and you flaunt it, baby.
In between all the old buildings and churches flying the Dutch flag…
…there’s a beautiful and modern mosque. I was slightly disappointed I didn’t see the Dutch flag anywhere on it, though. Must admit that. Maybe there’s a religious reason for that?
The weather just got better and better.
But not for this puppy. He was a bit under the weather, I suppose.
It’s so much fun to see clothes hanging from fences. Not what you expect to see near a dig.
Time to go back to the car. My mini car. Passing several canals and typically Dutch streets on our way there.
We’ve also passed several Greek, Asian, Persian and Moroccan food stands. Olives? Baklava? Why must they tempt me so???
Ahhhh. There’s the exit (nooduitgang means emergency exit). Kinda hard to miss.
On the way home I took this photo—from a driving car, mind you— of the windmill right next to my house. It looked so utterly gorgeous in the spring sun.
Then we came home and heard the terrible news.
I’m sorry, sweetie. I know that, as your mom, I’m supposed to teach you that, though life can be beautiful, there are really bad people, who do really bad things to other people. I wish I could find the right words to explain it to you, but I can’t. I don’t understand either. I do know I never meant for you to learn it like this, so early on in life. But I guess that’s life, too, sweetie.