David Smerdon | June 14, 2012 14:41

Koninginnedag 2012

Koninginnedag, or “Queen’s Day”, is the most festive day on the Dutch calendar.  The 30th of April is the birthday of one of the Netherland’s former queens, Queen Juliana, and is marked by raucous celebrations, street merchantry, and lots and lots of orange.

First celebrated in 1885, the day has an unusual law in that anyone can sell goods without a permit (and without having to pay tax).  The result, I discovered, is that the streets of Amsterdam (in addition to being decorated in various orange paraphernalia) are jam packed with little stalls, as basically every local resident throws their very own garage sale. 

Stalls and children's bands littered every street

And they literally sell anything, from broken furniture to second hand clothing and toys, to odd bits of metal or wood with no discernable use at all.  Going with the street market (or vrijmarkt) are little pop-up bands, seemingly made of the children of the car boot sellers.  Five year olds on drums, kids cranking out rock guitar solos on the sidewalk, toddler breakdancers – you name it.

Tomorrow's Dutch Elton John and Phil Collins delight the street.

I had three flamboyant Frenchies staying with me for the weekend, and, along with my housemate and a few classmates, we attempted to navigate the surreal streets and canals, decked out in our organe finest, of course. 

The Parisians, naturally, managed to make their orange get-up look stylish.

Books, anyone?

On one of the streets, we came across a mock chess exhibition, with a “One Euro to Play, Two Euros if you win” sign next to the boards. It turns out one of the local clubs was having a fundraiser.  Naturally, I sat down and did my best impression of a wayward, naive Aussie backpacker in anticipation of a hustle.  Unfortunately, I was sprung by one of the locals half way through the blitz game, but collected the point a few moves later. 

"So how does the horsey guy move again?"

As I was about to collect my winnings, I commented how cool it was they’d got together to raise money for the club.  “Oh, it’s not for the club,” my opponent replied.  “We’re raising money for children in countries affected by wars.”  Burn!  Sheepishly, I pushed back the coins and made a sizeable donation to try to alleviate my guilt.

I was seated next to two future chess queens, complete with orange hair-feathers.

My karma must have been rebalanced, because the rest of the day was just fantastic.  The canals were crammed full of boats of every size, shape and seaworthiness, as locals and foreigners alike enjoyed the festivities in absolutely perfect weather.  The centre streets were amass with orange revellers, music, food and of course quality Dutch beer.  The action was fast and festive, because when the Dutch let loose, there’s no half measures.

So much orange...

Koningendagen - Bringing people together.

The scene at Museumplein. Spot the giant portrait of Queen Beatrix, hanging over the Rijksmuseum.

The main park, the Vondelpark, was a nice change of pace, with most people happy to grap a patch of grass overlooking the lake, enjoy some hippie guitar, take a peek at the random stalls or have a crack at the homemade festival games on offer.  After just finishing a week of the most intense exams of my education to date, lying on the grass, bathed in rare Dutch sunlight, soothed by Bohemian tunes and refreshed by a few Heinekens… I fell asleep.

I dreamt of ducks.  Orange, of course.

...Seriously.

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Author: David Smerdon

David Smerdon is a chess grandmaster from Brisbane, Australia. David attended Anglican Church Grammar School and Melbourne University. To qualify for the title of Grandmaster, a player must achieve three Grandmaster norm performances, and a FIDE Elo rating over 2500. Late in 2007, Smerdon achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm. In the July 2009 FIDE rating list his rating passed 2500, so he qualified for the title of Grandmaster. He is the fourth Australian to become a Grandmaster, after Ian Rogers, Darryl Johansen and Zhao Zong-Yuan. In 2009, Smerdon won the Queenstown Chess Classic tournament.

Source: Wikipedia

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