This year April 26 marked the first ever Koningsdag (or King’s Day). Previously, the day was celebrated as Koninginnedag (or Queen’s Day) however since the queen abdicated last year the Netherlands now has a king. The Dutch celebrate by wearing orange (the national color), selling things, and partying.
Since Koningsdag fell on a Saturday many people began to celebrate Koningsnacht (King’s Night) on Friday. In Amsterdam, carnival rides and food vendors set up to help people celebrate. Every other shop sold orange clothing or accessories. Streets were lined with orange balloons, garlands, and Dutch flags. Hilversum also had a carnival and food vendors along the main street. Mike and I forgot it was Koningsnacht and decided to head down town for gelato. We grabbed gelato then ran into some of Mike’s coworkers so we stopped to have a beer or two with them. I don’t know if that counts as celebrating Koningsnacht but I am going to count it.
Everyone told us that Amsterdam on Koningsdag is a must see sight and very crowded. I did visit Amsterdam on Friday so I feel like I got a taste of what it would be like on Saturday. However, Mike and I aren’t really crazy about crowds so we opted to visit friends in Zwolle. We still got the food, music, and all the orange but less crowds. We also visited a farm (more on that in my next post).
For those of you keeping track it has been about 8 weeks since I took my Dutch immersion course with Sylvia. I have been making the effort to speak Dutch everyday or at least read and listen to Dutch. Often my interactions are with shopkeepers or waiters so my conversations don’t usually last very long. Although last week I did have a nice long conversation with a shopkeeper. We discussed a wide range of topics from artwork (the shop sells art and curios from around the world) to living in the Netherlands. I got to use some vocabulary that I don’t often get to use so it was very exciting.
In addition to my regular errands, I have gone to a few events to meet people and practice my Dutch. Normally, I am not very social but learning a language forces me to be social. You may remember that I recently learned to paint in Dutch. I also checked out a couple language cafes in Amsterdam where I met other Dutch speakers including my friend, Joanna. She and I have begun meeting a couple times a week to work on our Dutch. It is great to have someone to have a language partner who is learning with you and cheering you on. To anyone else learning another language, I highly recommend learning with a friend or two.
For most of my adult life I have lived in an apartment and someone else took care of the landscaping and the garden. When I moved to the Netherlands that all changed. Now we have a house with a little garden that needs a lot of help: trimming, weeding, planting and general cleaning. Over the winter it was too cold to do anything in the garden but now that it is spring, Mike and I can begin to fix it up.
The stone tiles need to be cleaned.
I also discovered that the lanterns are all rusted so just removing the wax and replacing the candles won’t work. We also need some chairs.
Mike wants to put in a chiminea and plant some mint maybe a couple other herbs.
Our front yard is a little overgrown even after trimming the bushes. However, the front yard requires less work than the garden.
Here is my ideal renovation for the garden:
Wish me luck, I’ll keep you updated on what we do with the garden.
As many of my friends already know, I love cemeteries and am very interested in funeral/burial customs. I have visited graves and graveyards from small and rural to large and cosmopolitan. On vacations I usually try to visit cemeteries or graves of note in the area. When I live someplace one of my favorite things is to visit the local cemeteries. Graves that are no longer visited by friends or family have a special place in my heart. I like to visit those graves in particular because I think it is important to remember those who came before us.
Right after college I surveyed and documented an historic cemetery. It was overgrown, the headstones were cracked or otherwise broken, and except for the occasional township employ largely forgotten. It took me a little over a year to complete the project and during that time I grew to know (as best I could) the inhabitants. Before picking of where I left off documenting, I would revisit other graves and pay my respects. Sometimes I would bring my family and introduce them to my most recent friend. I wasn’t related to any of the inhabitants but they were special to me nonetheless.
This spring the weather has been beautiful and perfect for visiting the cemetery. Noorder Begraafplaats is one of the most colorful cemeteries I have visited. There are flowers growing everywhere and the trees are in bloom.
The children’s graves that I saw were often covered with toys and lanterns. Some headstones, like those below, were whimsically shaped and it is easy to imagine a child choosing the design. Rarely have I seen graves that show so much personality.