Queen's Birthday in Amsterdam
30th April is a Dutch public holiday called Queen's Birthday. It is not the birthday of the present queen (Beatrix) who keeps this day in honour of her late mother. Princess Julianna Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina was born on 30 April 1909 in The Hague as the only child of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik. She died on 20 March 2004, aged 94.
Nine years ago, my Dutch friend Arnie, who introduced me to the famous flower gardens at Keukenhof, told me that the best parties were in Amsterdam. While we didn't get a chance to trek as far as Amsterdam, I didn't forget what he said.
Today, my Dutch date took me to Amsterdam Rai train station to catch the number 4 Tram towards Federicksplein. At noon, we walked to Utrechtsestraat in search of the Tibetan restaurant "Tashi Deleg" where we had agreed to rendezvous with an Englishman I had met the previous night.
On this day, everyone can do anything. People take out their wares and display them on the street for sale. Children sell lemonade and tea, and some even try their hand at busking. Housewives declutter their closetful of memories, old clothes, kitchen stuff, and you-name-it. The streets everywhere (not just in Amsterdam) are littered with personal junk. Restaurants and pubs stay open with make-shift stands of food and drink.
The best part is the music. DJ'd music has taken over live bands. Radio stations put up their best DJ's in Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, Spui, and other places in Amsterdam. There are houseparties in buildings as well as privately-hired canal boats. The entire city of Amsterdam is live with music, food, drink, and smoke of all varieties.
By mid-afternoon, the streets are crammed with people. There is a sea of orange, for it is the national colour --- from Prince William of Orange. Had I been warned earlier, I would have worn my bright orange jacket instead of my boring blue outfit.
I tried whatever looked and smelled appealing to me as we walked along the streets of Amsterdam. After Vietnamese loempias (spring rolls), I sampled Indonesian satays, Brazillian barbeque beef steak, Tibetan momos (steamed dumplings), and Dutch poffertjers with hemel op aarde. Poffertjers are tiny round waffles covered with butter. Hemel op aarde is "heaven on earth" liquor. Don't ask me what's in the liquor - it simply tasted heavenly.
For drinks, I ordered Mojitos (Brazilian drink of mint and liquor and seven up), white beer (witte bier), and coca cola.
What a lovely spring day it was ! I demanded to try creative brownies. "Brownies?" asked my date quizzically.
They are called "Space Cakes," and you can only get them in coffeeshops.
Before long, I spaced out in Het Vondel Park by the small lake around which many people were relaxing in various positions. And when I woke up, I danced until the music stopped.
While we were sipping our beers to the setting sun, a middle aged man followed his outrageously-dressed wife offstage towards us. As he was passing us, he reached across (me) to tap my date on his shoulder.
"She's the best," he said, pointing to me.
We were both awed by what he said. Was I so noticeable dancing on stage? Perhaps, the only Chinese woman dancing to her lone shadow? Or did the man want to escape from his demanding wife?
Whatever the case, my date was very happy indeed.
30 April 2004 Friday