Thursday, May 10, 2007


konininnedag, or queen's day, is on 30 april. it all started when queen wilhelmina (the current queen's grandmother) decided that since she was queen, it would be just fabulous to give everyone the day off so they could celebrate with her. originally konininnedag was on 31 august, since that was wilhelmina's birthday, but when queen juliana assumed the throne about 50 years ago, she moved it to 30 april. the current queen, beatrix, has her birthday sometime in january. and since january is such a gross month to have a birthday in, and since she's queen, she gets to celebrate her birthday also on 30 april. (who said there's anything wrong with having two birthdays?)

on konininnedag, the royal family visits one city and one village in holland. this year the city was s' hertogenbosch, ("den bosch" to the locals), which means "the duke's forest" (hertog = duke, bosch = forest or woods). it's a gorgeous town about 30 minutes' drive from utrecht. the story about the city has something to do with the spaniards, who captured it several hundred years ago. they apparently built a series of waterways around the city turning it into an island of sorts. anyway the dutch took two years to claim it back, and they way they did it was to build all these dykes and then pump the water out of the moats and canals so that they could have access to the city. they held it for three months or so before the city finally had to surrender. anyway, it is a very catholic part of the country, in part thanks to the spanish who controlled this area for such a long time, so for many many years the queen did not visit this area on koninginnedag because she was protestant and "not welcome" here. times have changed, thank goodness, and now the people come out in hoards and droves to catch a glimpse of their queen b.

we celebrated with hans and tiny's family, who were all AWESOME. totally, wonderfully cool. we met them at their house and sat out in their achtertuin in the warm sunshine, doing typically dutch things. we drank some sort of really sweet, really gross orange liqueur out of tiny glasses and said "op de koningin!" "to the queen!" then we ate tompouce, which is like a really fancy twinkie but much much better, with orange frosting on top. and then we watched clips of prince willem alexander and princess maxima's wedding on tv. and then, finally at noon, we ended up making it down to the river to see the queen.

the queen arrived almost on schedule on a big, shiny, black bus. then she descended some stairs down to a boat on the river. hans and tiny's granddaughter, rosa, who is about 6 years old, got the special opportunity to sing songs for the queen with her school group, also on a boat near the queen. i mention this because jim, 2 years old, was WAY more excited to see his sister rosa than to see the queen. and who could blame him? he's never met the queen before! what does he care? the whole time we were down by the river, people were cheering and waving to the queen, while little jim kept shouting "rosa! rosa! waar is rosa? ik wil rosa!" how loving and adorable.

after we saw the queen get on the boat, we walked through the streets of den bosch, down to the town hall where we would be able to see her again. along the way, we passed a lingerie shop that had a mannequin wearing a really cool crown on her head in celebration of queen's day. well, i had been looking for that particular crown all of queen's night and day since i had seen a couple of other people wearing hats like that, so i walked in and asked if i could just buy the crown from them. they looked at each other with confused faces, because the hat was clearly not for sale and the dutch do like to follow their rules. if the hat is not for sale, you can't just buy it. that's not the way we do it here, i guess. but i said, please, queen's day is over tomorrow and i really want that hat. i'll give you money for it. they said something to each other in dutch and then told me that i could just have it! yay! so i finally got my sweet sweet crown! mijn kroontje!

we finally got to the town hall ("stadhuis") about 45 minutes before queen b did. it was packed already. and because the dutch are all so freaking tall (did you know that they are the tallest country in europe?), i could hardly see. but i ended up getting a couple good pics of the royal family. the queen is in the red hat on the left, and the tall guy is the next king, prince willem alexander. (incidentally, his birthday is 27 april, so queen's day won't be so far off, but they'll probably have to change the name.)

after the festivities, which included really beautiful paper fireworks, we walked to a bar in the neighborhood and partied. and partied. and partied. the streets were just packed with people celebrating. i got my picture taken with some really famous dutch soap opera star that i had never heard of before and don't know his name. i said, "you're famous here i guess." and he said, "yeah, a little." i guess it was a day of being really excited about people i've never met before in my life. i'm so weird.

i think one of the most fun parts of my day was playing with faye (4) and rosa. neither of them know english, though rosa knew enough english to count to ten. very cool. but rosa and i had a whole conversation about the tooth fairy for like half an hour. it was soooo wonderful for so many reasons: one, she doesn't know english, so i HAVE TO find the right dutch word and can't rely on her to help me out. two, she's learning dutch too so she doesn't have a lot of big words either. three, i don't feel self conscious talking to her because she's just a kid. and four, she's just a kid! that's so fun! anyway, our conversation went something like this:

me: rosa, waar zijn jouw tanden? (where are your teeth?)
rosa said something like "they fell out." but then showed me her adult teeth coming in.

me: in amerika, waneer jouw tanden komt uit je mond, dan de "tooth fairy" komt en gibt je geld! hebben jullie een toothfairy in nederland? (we have a tooth fairy in the usa and she gives you money when your teeth fall out, do you have one here?)
rosa: ja! en waneer mijn tanden komt uit, de tandenfee gibt me oorbellen en een zaklamp. (she got earrings and a flashlight from the toothfairy.)

i didn't know what a zaklamp was (and i don't even know if that's the right word anymore but it's a good guess) so i asked her and she had to pantomime it out. and then i learned it. how cool.

we caught the train despite the pleading from joyce and saskia to stay, stay, let's drink some more, the night is so early! we got home about 8:30 and just slept. the dutch say that if you want to truly celebrate queen's day, you ask for the day AFTER queen's day off, and now i know why!


teresa said...

does adam's hat say DONG on it? yeah, that's what i thought.

Erica Shane said...

I love the toothfairy conversation! So cute! -Erica