Thursday, May 5, 2011

Queen's Day & Tulips!!!!!!

Queen's Day, lots of tulips, and clogs. It's been a very Dutch week for me. Last Saturday was Koninginnedag, an official holiday that celebrates the Queen's birthday. Technically Queen Beatrix's birthday is in January, but the holiday remains on April 30th (the previous Queen's birthday) so the Dutch can celebrate in warm weather. 
Koninginnedag in Maastricht is pretty tame. The real party takes place in Amsterdam with more music, people, and drinking. However, we still managed to enjoy the day with warm weather and the largest flea market (vrijmarkt) I have ever seen in my life! On Queen's Day the Dutch government allows people to sell their goods (more like junk) on the street without paying a sales tax. It's a very kid-friendly holiday where kids sell their toys and baked goods throughout the park. We also saw a lot of young musicians performing on the streets. We threw a couple of euro cents to some beginning flute players playing at one of the vrijmarkts. It was very cute. Jaap and I bought some CDs and another kitchen good for myself. We spent a whopping 3.50. Woo hoo!
Vrijmarkt at the Stadpark. Jaap wearing the Dutch color.
The Stad park had some pavilions set up with live music and food. We listened to a big band perform while enjoying some drinks. Here's a picture of Jaap enjoying the holiday. I'm not sure if you can tell, but he was dancing in this shot. One of his signature moves. Now...on to the tulips!
When most Americans think of Holland they think of clogs, tulips, and windmills. Oh, and of course legalized marijuana. I have yet to experience the joys of coffeshops and smoking pot in the Netherlands, but I can now check the Keukenhof off my list. What a sight! The Keukenhof is very unique and like nothing you have ever seen before. Jaap's parents treated me to a day at the Keukenhof. I'm glad I was able to go there with Jaap's family and enjoy it with others. Jaap was really sad he missed it. Just kidding. :) Special thanks to Jan and Trees for the trip! Het was gezellig!
The Keukenhof is famous for large fields covered with huge blocks of color from different types of tulips. Unfortunately, we were about a week or two too late and the tulips in the fields have come and gone. However, there is still a lot of see at the Keukenhof and the gardens are really spectacular. Throughout the park there are different pavilions that house more exotic flowers as well. 
Did you know that the Netherlands is the number one exporter of tulip bulbs in the world? These people really know their flowers. It's one of the many little things I love about living here. I once bought 50 tulips at the market for 5 euros. That's ridiculous! I've gotten into the habit of buying flowers at the market once a week to bring some more color and nature into our apartment. I love that buying flowers is so affordable. 
I feel so Dutch!
Dutch people, on the other hand, keep many plants and flowers in their homes and gardens. Gardening here is serious business. Jaap is responsible for watering the plants in our apartment. I forget that we even have them. I'm pretty sure I was born without a green thumb. My former roomate and very close friend, Debbie, had a great saying when we lived together in Boston. She used to say, "Elena, this is where plants come to die." It's so true. I've killed every plant I've ever had. For now, Jaap can water the plants and I'll keep buying my tulips at the market. :)
Jan enjoying the clogs. 

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