April 2016, and finally my first Kings Day, an overdue occasion considering I’ve been floating around Europe and The Netherlands for the past couple years. Since moving to Amsterdam last year in May, I had heard about Kings Day constantly (I missed it by 1 week last year!), seen the google images of orange boats jamming the canals and heard about the music and beer that turned the streets into non stop parties. Now was my chance to see what the fuss was about!
This Kings Day was special for me not just because it was my first one, but also because my cousin from the US had flown over to visit and also because I had handed in my thesis and was a free man, free from the shackles of student pressures! Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and the forecast for this year was overcast and rainy. That wouldn’t stop me!
My cousin arrived early in the morning, navigating the confusing train schedule that had been modified by the influx of orange smiles jamming into the city. I hadn’t seen her for what? Maybe 15 years? Of course we had stayed in touch, as families do, and because of our awesome family fb group as well as family talk knew what was happening in each others lives, but we didn’t know each other in the sense that we had hung out growing up with each other. Unsurprisingly, she was awesome.
She had a kind smile, in fact, it seemed like she was constantly smiling; a bouncing step and a confident tone. A hug later and it felt like we had grown up together and seen each other last week – that’s what I love about family so much. It was also incredibly cool to learn about her experiences growing up and working in the US. She had stories that shocked me and inspired me at the same time, and also made me proud of having such intelligent and strong relatives. We set off on two bikes (between the three of us!) rolling home, a suitcase dragging behind the bikes in real Dutch style. After resting for a short time, we set off into the city, to see what was happening and to ride before the rain starting pouring down.
As we arrived into the outer rings, we started to see more and more orange, more and more Dutch flags and more and more smiles. We heard music blasting from small boats floating happily around the canals, and saw people drinking and dancing on overcrowded platforms. Walking around the front of the Rijksmuseum, we saw market stalls filled with all sorts of trinkets, food, streamers and beer, lining up all the way into the city. As we continued to walk, music became increasingly louder and crowds more orange. We walked around to Vondel Park, opening a beer (Heineken of course) and talking while wandering around the various stalls. You would be surprised to find that on Kings Day, Vondel Park is filled with children performing – it could be music, magic, selling food, dancing or just asking for money. Curiously, it’s the only day (I think), where kids or anyone can set up a stall without permits and sell things. A way to give kids a chance to learn some quick business skills and make some pocket money.
As we wandered into the city, we started to see more costumes (a whole group of grown men dressed up as Minions!) and although it become increasingly harder to walk, it gave us a chance to soak in the atmosphere and the happiness all around us. We would walk past random alleyways and come across small block parties, people dancing and drinking under streamers upon streamers of orange. There were even canons shooting out orange confetti into the air, air that was filled with the smell of beer and weed in true Dutch fashion of course!
We continued walking the beautiful Amsterdam canals, content with soaking up the atmosphere rather than jumping into a bar, club or block party (in hindsight that woulda been a lot of fun!). We got hungry, real hungry, and so found our way to the apple pie at my favourite Winkel, as well as some wine at Cafe De Jaren and of course a cone of frites :). Before we knew it the clouds had taken over and dampened the somewhat sunny day, and although the weather was much better than expected, the greyness bearing down upon us didn’t give us the energy we needed to stay out during the night as well.
What did I learn from Kings Day?
It is a really fun day, in every sense of the word. Everyone is celebrating, dancing, and there is music everywhere. The boats and the canals were definitely a sight to see and made it feel like the whole city was out partying. This year apparently was much less crowded then previous years because of the weather, and its ridiculous to think that the canals would be so packed with boats normally that people can walk across them (but the google images show me it’s happened before!). It was a great day for me just because I got to spend the whole day getting to know my cousin and having really nice discussions with her. I think it was a perfect day to walk around, show her Amsterdam and also catch up.
I’m also glad we headed home before it got really messy. As the day goes on, you see many more people urinating everywhere, rubbish starts to build up on the streets and random shouting gets louder and louder!
What would I do next time if I’m still around?
- If you have visitors, get a rental bike 2 days before, because even if you go 1 day early you have no chance.
- Try to get on a boat, at least for a bit, it looks like a lot of fun.
As usual, a few snaps from the day below 🙂