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"Koninginnedag"


Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. As we have seen above, Koninginnedag attracts many people. This photo was taken near the railroad station and shows visitors from outside Amsterdam. "Provincials," they are sometimes called, or -to use the expression from the Amsterdam dialect (with its Yiddish influences)- from the Mediene. Typically, more than 500,000 people visit Amsterdam on 30 April. In 2010, there were about 750,000 visitors, which created great problems at the railroad station.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. One million guests is not unheard of. This means big business in one particular quarter of the city: the famous (or notorious) Red Light District, where prostitutes entertain their customers. Other Amsterdammers are less happy with the hundreds of thousands of visitors. To some extent, city-dwellers are always a bit prejudiced and needlessly hostile toward people from the countryside, but there is indeed a difference between the people of the large cities in the west (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht), which look to Britain, and the rest of the country, which looks to Germany and Belgium. Many provincials are insensitive to the subtle, unwritten laws of a cosmopolis. This sometimes creates minor tensions
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. One incident of Koninginnedag 2006 can illustrate this. Close to the Museumplein, I watched a group of people, dressed in orange, who were singing. But not the usual songs: they were chanting the mantras of an Indian sect that is called the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The Amsterdammers smiled at their fellow-citizens, whose dresses were for once very suitable. (Empty batteries in my camera, sorry.)
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. I heard a boy asking who these people were, and his father said, with all the geniality of the Limburgian dialect: "Those people, they are Jehovah's Witnesses." Our Hare Krishnas did not like it, but everything was explained with a smile. 
Sometimes, however, the city-dwellers can be really upset by the visitors. They are enjoying a nice day, often drink one beer too many, and then suddenly have to urinate, often in somebody's garden. The word wildplasser ("wild pisser") is the latest Amsterdam contribution to the Dutch language, and you can believe me that there's little geniality to that word. This photo shows a brilliant solution; a euro is about $1.25. (I do not know why the sign was not written in Dutch, but for this webpage, it's a lot easier.)

Brakke Grond. Photo Jona Lendering. Another complaint about Koninginnedag used to be that it was becoming too commercial. That was in the late 1980's. Several pubs had erected stages where bands were playing, and the festival was becoming too massive, and many people said that the eve of Koninginnedag was nicer. Perhaps, the people of The Hague, who traditionally celebrate what in their dialect is called the Kewnenginnen‚ch, have better understood that smaller is better.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. In recent years, however, the municipality has decided that one needs a permit to erect a stage, and the festival is now nicer than it used to be. Still, there will always be people who find something to disagree with. These orange helmets in SS-style are indeed not the most tasteful of all products, but it must be noted that they were not meant for Koninginnedag. They belong to the World Championship Football, which in 2006 was in Germany.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. Another perennial lament is that at the end of the day, the city is one big mess, because not everything is sold, and the litters are not big enough. However, on the first of May (which we do not commemorate), things look spic-and-span again. The people of the sanitation department are among any city's unsung heroes. This photo shows another municipal service that facilitates a nice Koninginnedag: the fire brigade. As you can see, the engines are not in their garage, but parked on a square that is carefully kept open.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. It shows that the town regulates all sort of things and is far more active than the people generally realize. Fortunately, Koninginnedag is really a day of joy, and I can remember only one serious incident. A couple of years ago, the railroad company was unable to transport all visitors, and some drunk provincials made havoc. This photo is more representative: two cops enjoying their leisure. Note the coffee cups in the car.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. In the past quarter of a century, Koninginnedag has become part of the Amsterdam tradition. It is debatable if it is really a celebration of the monarchy. The people who are dancing on this boat, dressed in orange, can probably also be critical of queen Beatrix, who is less popular than her mother Juliana, her late husband Claus, or her son Willem-Alexander. I think the best way to understand Koninginnedag is to see it as an enjoyable spring festival.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. Finally, a photo of a rock concert on the Museumplein. In the background, you can see the Rijksmuseum. When I took this photo, I was unaware that two of my friends were standing right in front of me; nor did they see me, even though I had climbed on a transformer kiosk. I discovered Suzanne and Matthijs only when I was preparing this picture for publication. © Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 30 April 2010
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