The Queen's Birthday Party

I had a great time celebrating Queen Beatrix's birthday yesterday. It's amazing what happens in this country every April 30: The main streets of every village, town, and city are transformed into rows upon rows of endless flea markets! Days ahead of time, folks reserve their plot of sidewalk with chalk or tape, and on the morning of the 30th (or, in some cases, on the evening of the 29th), people begin peddling their wares. Bargaining is encouraged. Everyone is off work, with the rare exception of those working in restaurants or with public transportation. Almost everyone wears orange (the royal color), and almost everyone is outside.

The hottest spot to celebrate Koninginnedag is Amsterdam. They say that 3 million people converged on the city last year. (Less than a million live in Amsterdam, and only 16 million live in the whole of Holland!) Last year I went to Amsterdam, but this year I (mostly) stayed put in Almere. I biked with my friends Marjan and Maaike to Almere Haven, the oldest part of our city, and we very much enjoyed ourselves there. My most prized purchases include: a copy of the video Abba: The Movie and a brightly colored shoulder bag from Greece.

Last night I traveled to Utrecht and had dinner with my friends Heidi and Michel. The main course: asparagus. It was incredibly delicious.

Fact of trivia: April 30 is actually the birthday of Beatrix's mother, not that of Beatrix herself. Because Beatrix was born in January, the royal house decided to maintain the celebration in April, when the weather would be more conducive to outdoor celebrating!