A land of sticky stroopwafels, flowing canals that surround most cities and the chaos that takes hold of every city on April due to King’s Day. With just a couple of Google Searches some years ago, I quickly realised that these three components were what Dutch people definitely bragged about the most.
As soon as I arrived, the first bite I had of a stroopwafel was something magical. It was the perfect marriage of the smooth and syrupy caramel sandwiched between a soft, yet crumbly wafer. Just brilliant! For the first couple of months all my cravings for sweets would be quenched by this magical and innovative biscuit. Equally impressive were my first impressions of the numerous canals. These seemingly endless bodies of water snaking between the streets, with a barrage of little boats traversing them, will always be one of the main attractions of cities such as Amsterdam.
For any tourist or newbie in Holland these would be among the first attractions to taste or see. But the hype of both of these together will never compare to all the talk King’s Day generates in Dutch culture. With the stroopwafel and the canals living up to their name, I was anxiously waiting to experience my first King’s Day. To my disappointment my first edition of King’s Day felt flat. Convinced it had to be better, my second edition was equally as flat as the first one.
What could have gone wrong? My perspective was lost in the high expectations of the event. Trying to ensure the best day possible backfired terribly. Instead, the event felt like another generic party with no highlights, no memorable moments and nothing out of the ordinary. It was nothing compared to the grandiose promises I had heard from classmates and friends.
The third time had to be the charm, and with low expectations I embarked on another edition of King’s Day on 27 April: this time with an unforgettable positive outcome. Upon arriving in a mildly sunny Amsterdam I proceeded to follow three easy steps which I invite any reader to try in their quest for a different King’s Day:
First, dedicate a healthy amount of the day to aimlessly walking the streets of the city you are celebrating in. Doing so will ensure you find spontaneous energy-fuelled street festivities anywhere you go. Result? I briefly joined the Hare Krishna, a Hindu religious organisation, in a wild fraternal dance in the middle of Dam square. This was both incredibly enjoyable and spiritually uplifting, thus cancelling out the future sins committed on that day.
Second, make sure to approach random and bizarre individuals since they will create the longest lasting positive memories. Result? I met Mr Gasoline, a wild motorcyclist with a thick handle bar moustache and a tight blue and red racer suit. According to Mr Gasoline, he was riding down ’route 69’ on a mission to distribute his so-called famed “gasoline energy drink” which he dispenses straight out of a gas can. We tried his rather unpleasant guayusa-based energy drink and received a post card of Mr. Gasoline ’seductively’ drenched in water and lying on his bike. A scarring yet hilarious memory.
Finally, the fewer constrictions you have means the day will guide you and will lead you to amazing remote places. The morning of King’s Day I passively waited in Rotterdam with no plans until I was dragged to Amsterdam in a quick turn of events. Even more unusual, I ended up crossing the harbour to Amsterdam-Noord in the afternoon and exploring an area I have never seen. Exploration and curiosity were the icing on the cake for my day.
A Dutch friend once told me: “A truly ironic celebration, King’s Day celebrates the monarchy by filling the streets with anarchy and degenerate drunken merry makers. This is why it is the pinnacle of Dutch celebrations!” After two years, this statement makes more sense than ever before.
Pietro Vigilanza from Venezuela lives in Rotterdam since two years and studies IBCoM