An American Couple in Delft
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Queen's Day

It’s April 30, Queen’s Day in the Netherlands. This is a major big deal here. A neighbor of ours, originally from up north near Groningen (not nearly as easy to pronounce as it looks) tells us that in that area, the people don’t have nearly the attachment to the House of Orange, the royal family, as they do in this area, and here it’s bedlam. We opened up our front door this morning and the first thing that told us this was not an ordinary Saturday in Delft was the sounds of the dueling bands. As we wandered around town, we saw that there were bands everywhere. Some of the smaller streets were totally blocked by nearby restaurants setting up tables and chairs for strollers to have a beer and whatever food this particular place offered, and there was a lot of that.

Saturday is market day in Delft and usually the fruit and vegetable vendors, along with those who sell notions and things, are in the market area. Today, the regular market people were not to be found but the area was packed with other things. On this day, the Netherlands is a giant flea market. There are carts and blankets everywhere with people laying out their goods. Some of these folks have a professional setup, as if they do this all the time, with items that are wrapped and price tags that look like what you’d see in a store. Others have garage sale motif; lay all your junk on the blanket and see if anyone wants any of it.

There were also street musicians, kids, who were playing their instruments with the cases open looking for a couple of euro bucks. Two precious little girls, about ten or eleven, were playing classical violin versions of "This Old Man, He Played One" and that perennial kidlet favorite, "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Every time someone put some change into her violin case, one of the girls would grin from ear to ear. It was delightful. Later in the afternoon, in a less than prime location, a boy of about the same age was playing his violin but very tentatively. Lynn is a sucker for an underdog, so she dropped some change in his case, too. She said he smiled at her with his eyes.

One of our favorite places in town is the Beestenmarkt which I’ve written about before. In the winter, it was covered over for several weeks with an ice skating rink. Since it’s become warmer, the cafes all bring out tables and chairs into the square. I had lunch there yesterday with an American friend and the difference between yesterday and today is hard to describe. Yesterday was an ordinary, quiet Delft afternoon; today was not as there were probably a couple thousand people in one square block. As we approached the Beestenmarkt from a side street, we heard music as we did everywhere. But when we got there, instead of it being someone’s garage band whose idea of "better" is "louder," here we had Delft’s version of the Philly Pops. We thought we had gone to heaven. We sat down (this was not easy to do - one had to keep an eye on the tables looking for people about to get up and then haul our collective tuchas to the table before someone else beat us to it) to have a beer. The first thing we heard them play was Al Caiola’s oh so American theme from The Magnificent Seven, the kind of thing Peter Nero and the Philly Pops plays all the time. I was beside myself. We discovered that they make about ten appearances a year and we’re excited to hear an orchestra again.

The friend with whom I had lunch yesterday came here for Queen’s Day in Amsterdam. He had been here before for that celebration and told me that there really wasn’t a central focus, that people sort of meandered around looking at the things for sale and listening to the music. It was very much that way here. The only official activity that I’m aware of is Queen Beatrix’s whereabouts. Each year she visits a neighborhood in one province and this year the province was Zuid Holland where we live and, coincidentally, where she lives. We’re not close neighbors although we used to be closer when we lived for the first several weeks in Den Haag where the palace is. The chosen neighborhood this year to be graced with her presence was Scheveningen, our old neighborhood. A Dutch friend told us she will go there, walk the streets for about an hour and a half (that doesn’t sound too good, does it?), presumably with her entourage, and then go home to leave the celebrating to everyone else. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

In the evening we went back out for dinner. Things quieted down some. At 9 p.m. it’s still very light but little ones have to get to bed. It became pretty apparent which vendors were the pros and which were the amateurs. The pros had left with almost no trace that they had ever been there. The amateurs just got up and left, leaving all the junk they couldn’t sell on the blankets on the sidewalks. They didn’t want it anyway, and nobody bought it, so it was trash. And as we listened to the Delft Dans Orkest (I’ll let you figure that one out - visually it sometimes isn’t too hard) play on the Markt Square, the trash crews had already dutifully started cleaning up the mess.

I’ve enclosed two pictures taken from the same spot: this one and this one. They are from the end of the street that we will move onto in July. One was taken at the height of the celebration; the other was taken 24 hours later. What a difference a day makes.

See all of my pictures of Queen's Day.


2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008