Saturday, April 26, 2014


For the first time in at least fifty years, the celebration of the Dutch royal house is pronounceable:  Koningsdag.  This is because last year, Queen Beatrix abdicated her throne in favor of her son, King Willem.  Luckily for everybody, King Willem's birthday (26 April) falls close enough to the original Koninginnedag (30 April), so the celebration can continue the way they've always gone, in all the DJ-blasting-orange-wearing-massive-crowd-party glory.

Oh, and the giant yard sale.

Just to make it all the more confusing, the original Koninginnedag was on Queen Julianna's birthday, and not Queen Beatrix's.  Queen Beatrix's birthday falls in January--not exactly party-weather here in the Netherlands.  When Willem took it over, his first act as ruler of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was to decree that Koningsdag would be on his birthday.  Given that there is only a difference of four days, this was either spectacularly lame, or egotistically brilliant.

But regardless of your opinion about his decision, the celebration remains the same:  1 million people will descend upon Amsterdam, wheere several pleinen are set up with massive stages for world-acclaimed DJs.  Much beer will be drunk; many people, too.  You will wear orange.  The King and Queen and their entourage descend upon one flyspeck town or other, wave and smile and shake hands with local dignitaries and pose for pictures with babies. (Getting hit by a car is not part of the celebration.)  And, if you have stuff you want to get rid of, you take it to the local park, set it out on a blanket, and sell it.  The celebration of the royal house by any other name, etc.

In Nijmegen, the crowd turns out at the Goffertpark, which is the largest open expanse of grass in the city.  I must confess that, until last year, I had no idea about this.  The years before I got pregnant, I was working and too glad just to have a day off; the year I was pregnant I was exhausted with first-trimester hormones, so it wasn't until last year, when we (kidlet and I) needed some fresh air and noticed everybody heading to the Goffertpark and followed them.

The primary reason I go to these sorts of things is because they're a great place to get kidlet's stuff.  I picked up 4 pairs of kidlet pants and 3 long-sleeved t-shirts for €5 (some his current size, others a size or two ahead).  Wooden toys, pricey even at secondhand shops, are sold for €1-2, or even less, depending on how desperate the seller is to unload his junk.  And, let's be clear--it is junk.  You're not going to find any hidden treasures here.  Real antiques (as opposed to collectable kitsch) are already being sold by antique dealers, and while you might luck out with a pair of genuine leather shoes or a stylish jacket, chances are you'll get exactly what you pay for.  There is a point at which the frustration of walking at a snail's pace while the person ahead of you oohs and aahs at every single piece of crap being sold cancels out the thrill of the hunt, though.  At that point, you find a gap in the blankets and cut through the rest of the park, secure in the knowledge that next year, there will be another one.

Nevertheless, it's fun, and in between the massive hordes of crap are cheery carnival rides and cotton candy vendors and the kibbeling kramen.  Kidlet woke up early this morning, so I was able to squeeze in a load of laundry and buy us a bottle of fresh-squeezed juice before we trotted off to the Goffertpark.  We had a nice picnic lunch once I was able to launch us over some sellers and into the empty green space, and shortly thereafter we found a nice little wooden toy toolbox for kidlet to play with, which he loved immensely and was content to sit in his stroller and play with for the next 45 minutes, while we wound our way back to the park entrance.  (Ordinarily, it takes me 5-10 minutes to walk the distance, so I'm not kidding when I say "snail's pace".)

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