Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Moose and the Jubilee

Before I start talking about the trip, I have to say that the Serbian Government is absolutely brilliant when it comes to official holidays.  Serbs celebrate most of their holidays for 2 days instead of one.  So for New Year's, State Day, May Day and Orthodox Easter we get two days off.  Genius!  This April was the best month ever with 2 long weekends almost back to back.  The first one, Orthdox Easter, went from Friday to Monday, and the one that just passed, May Day, went Tuesday-Wednesday, so Phil and I took Monday off and had a really nice 5 days off to go to Amsterdam.

My friend L, from high school, was planning to visit us in Serbia when we first planned this trip.  I thought that coming all the way from Puerto Rico, she had to see more than just Belgrade, so I suggested that we meet up during this awesome long holiday in a fun place in Western Europe,so we got our tickets without a second thought.  Fast forward three weeks before departure, and I am trying to find a place to stay and there was NOTHING.  Booked solid, outrageous prices, and I'm like WTF! So, I went online to figure out if there was a concert or a conference, or something, and there it was, plain as day, Queen Beatrix's Jubilee, also known as Queen's Day, also known as the biggest party of the year since the Love Parade stopped happening in Berlin circa 2004.

Phil channeling his inner moose
Now, I don't know anything about monarchies, but if you had seen us this weekend, you would think we were big fans.  Also, this trip went from a fun, mellow, me-and-L-bicycling-around-town-catching-up-good -time to a full blown, 5-people-in-one-room-partying-on-the-street-wearing-crazy-costumes extravaganza.   Phil, our mutual friend A, and L's friend from Paris (Van Gogh impersonator extraordinaire, B) decided to join us last minute, and the hotel was all sold out, there was no other way out than to pay for an extra cot to be wheeled into the room and to share twin beds.

I had been to Amsterdam once before, about 10 years ago, for about 1.5 days, so all I remembered was really wanting to go back, how pretty everything was, and how hard it was to get oriented.  10 years later,  it all still holds true.  After four days, I still didn't know my way around, not even to our hotel.  To me it all looked exactly the same; picture-perfect houses in narrow, cobblestone streets along the canals. I absolutely loved it.  Loved the bikes, loved the street food, loved the row houses and loved the people.  After this weekend, the Dutch have trumped the Australians in my book for friendliest, funnest people.  I don't know if it was the festivities or what, but everyone was incredibly cool and nice, their English was phenomenal and they just have everything you could want/need a short bike ride away.  Not to mention how liberal their politics are and how well they take care of the environment.  During the Queen's Day celebrations, they applied the reusable mug at the Christmas Market concept to beer glasses. So everywhere you went, if you got a beer, you paid a 1 Euro deposit on your cup and then you would return it after you used it and get your Euro back.  Amazing!

We did a good job of doing all sorts of activities.  Cultural: Van Gogh museum, Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum; Touristy: Canal tour, walking tour, churches; Fun: Queen's Day stages and beer stands; Nature: bike ride along the tulip farms; Immature; Phil scaring children with his moose hat at the park, walking around the Red Light District with french fries dipped in mayo in one hand and a beer in the other, probably only 30 minutes after having dinner.

The Queen's Day celebration surpassed my expectations.  The streets were packed to the max, and so were the canals.  Party boats full of people dressed in orange, blasting music and drinking beers passed by left and right, and on the streets, everyone was out of their front door, either chilling at the doorstep or on the street.  Restaurants and shops were either closed or were serving special Queen's Day fare.  Beer kiosks were set up at every park and every square.  There were stages with live music and folky bands and people were dancing, all wearing orange lays, t-shirts, hats, glasses, etc.  too cool.  We also got some orange goods so that we could fit in with the locals.  This is definitely a city I would move to in a heartbeat.

Going native

So beautiful even I can't believe I was actually there

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