Koninginnedag (Queen's Day)
Queen's Day is a huge Dutch celebration that takes place every year on April 30th to celebrate the queen's birthday. This year, Queen Beatrix decided to abdicate her throne and pass the crown onto her son Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima. Above, you can see Google and Yahoo recognizing this day. This was a very special (and the last for a while) Queen's Day. The celebration begins the night before when the town fills with markets, music, beer, and people wearing orange. The streets are packed with drunk people wandering around the city and it's almost impossible to move. I went into town to check out the markets, but ended up getting stuck in a crowd for almost 30 minutes without moving. Once I had finally broken free of the traffic jam, I decided I had seen enough and headed back home for the night.
Since the new king was being sworn in today, his first appearance in public afterwards was his speech on the balcony of the palace in Dam Square. Although I have already seen the royal family since I've been here, I really wanted to see Willem-Alexander as king, so Lori and I decided we would venture to Amsterdam to watch his speech. So many people warned us against going because of the crowds, but we decided to be proactive and go extra early to get a good spot. We left at 5:50am to catch a train and we made it to Dam Square fairly quickly. There weren't too many people there when we got there yet, so we ended up being about 5 people back from the very front of the viewing area. As the hours passed, the square grew busier and busier. By the time the king was bring sworn in, it was packed. We got to watch the former queen and the new king and queen sign the official documents on a huge screen set up outside, which Lori and I appeared on a few times as members of the cheering crowd! Shortly after, the royal family came out onto the balcony to wave and give their speech.
After the speech, Lori made our way out of the crowd. We grabbed some lunch at Walk to Wok and collected some free stuff before hopping back on a train to Utrecht. While biking in Utrecht, we got to see some really interesting music displays in the streets and we stopped for a bit at each one. We hung out in an ice cream shop for a bit to get some "king" flavored ice cream according to the lady working there, we split a fresh stroopwafel, and biked back to campus to take a nap. It was amazing to be a part of such a classic Dutch celebration, especially since it will no longer be Queen's Day but King's Day now and it may never be the same. It was also a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see an event like this that made world news.