Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 8: Koningsdag!

For the past 100+ years, the Netherlands have had a queen. Last year, however, Queen Beatrix abdicated her throne to her son, Willem-Alexander.

Every year, there is a special celebration day set aside on the Queen or King's birthday. This year, the celebration was on April 26. Even though King Willem's birthday is on the 27th, they couldn't have the celebration on a Sunday, so Koningsdag (King's Day) was on Saturday.
Koningsdag was wonderful! It was so great to be in Holland for this celebration! 
The day is mostly for children... parades, carnivals, singing, and the like. The evening is for the grown ups, who go to the bar to have a few drinks.

My day started at 8:00 when I awoke to the sound of glorious church bells (more on them in a later post), ringing out 'today-is-Koningsdag.'
At 10:00, the town square had 'singing' which we went to. 
Practically the whole town showed up! Everyone was wearing red, white, blue, and orange. 
Originally, the Dutch flag was orange, white, and blue, but the orange faded to red, so the orange was changed to red, and now the flag is red, white, and blue! But orange is still a big part of the culture, especially because of Willem of Oranje (also known as William the Silent, or Willem of Nassau), who led the Dutch revolt against Spain in the 1560's-1640's (The Eighty Year War).

(The Town Hall, where the singing took place.)

Before the singing took place, everyone who had a balloon, let them go free! It was SO. COOL!!! (Though, no doubt, bad for the atmosphere.)

Here's some samples of Dutch singing... Their music is very bouncy and polka-ish (at least the patriotic stuff).

Here is the mayor singing along:

He attempted to lead us in the national anthem... but it didn't work out too well.

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
ben ik, van Duitsen bloed,
den vaderland getrouwe
blijf ik tot in den dood.
Een Prinse van Oranje
ben ik, vrij, onverveerd,
den Koning van Hispanje
heb ik altijd geĆ«erd.

In English...

William of Nassau
am I, of German blood.
Loyal to the fatherland
I will remain until I die.
A prince of Orange
am I, free and fearless.
The king of Spain
I have always honoured.

The second verse is about fear of God and God's direction. A very popular verse to sing in church, which we did. Twice.

Since we didn't get to go to Loevestein Kasteel, we decided to visit a different one during the afternoon. This one was closer by.
This castle is called Doornenburg, and we got to tour it! Yay! One of the things I specifically wanted to do in Holland was tour a castle.

Here is the outer wall, which  led into a courtyard (and then the castle was across another bridge).

Not only is there a moat around this outer wall, there is a moat around the castle too!

On the left side of the picture is the castle's chapel.
During World War Two, Doornenburg was a hideout for German snipers. After the Netherlands was liberated from the Germans, the Allies had to make sure all snipers were out of the country. Therefore, the RAF flew over and bombed Doornenburg. It turns out that there were no Germans inside... and a perfectly good, old castle was destroyed for nothing. 
Fortunately, a huge restoration effort went on and the castle was restored to what it looked like originally! 
The chapel was not bombed, and is still the original. It's foundation isn't on stable ground, however, and is slowly sinking on one side... You can see it lean. It's pretty funny. 

In the late 1960's, a TV show called Floris (based off of comics of the same name, I believe) was set in Doornenburg! It looks like a great show (sadly it's only in Dutch. Happily, I'm learning Dutch).

We went on a tour... which was also in Dutch. There was a very nice young lady who translated for us. On the tour with us were a Christian couple from Gronigan who came to see the castle just because of the TV show! It was kind of funny. 

The inside of the castle reminded me of Beowulf.

(The big beams are called "Moeder" [mother] and the small beams are called "Kinderen" [children])
(The cellar where they would hang up the meat to dry. One of the steps leading into the cellar was bigger than the rest. If you lived in the castle, you would know that. If you were a thief trying to steal meat, you would step too far and fall, causing a commotion, and alerting someone to your uninvited visit. Now the cellar a party room with a nice bar and piano.)
(Staircase in the wall!)
(See how thick the walls were? They were thick for insulation, protection, and structural integrity.)

Some of the people who lived in Doornenburg in the Middle Ages had their portraits commissioned. Now, in one of the rooms, there are replicas of the outfits they wore in the portraits! Very cool. Also, there were lots of old buttons and such from the Middle Ages, which were cool to see.
We also learned the origin of the term "pair of pants." Ever asked yourself "Why is it called a pair when there is only one"?
Here's the answer!

They actually used to be a pair! Kind of like leggings, except without the connecting part. It all makes sense now. The men would pull one up as high as it would go, and then the other. I believe they had some sort of way of fastening the pants, but I can't remember what it was, and I neglected to take a picture.

In another one of the rooms, they let us try on some armor.

(Me and my dad.)

In the castle tower, there was a super cool model set up of Doornenburg during an attack!

Outside, Tintin had yet another flashback to our East Coast trip in 2012...


We also got to ride some Trojan Horse wannabes:

Outside the outer wall there were some friendly(ish) Oreo Cookies Cows.

You don't see those too often!

On our way back to my aunt's house, we drove through a corner of Germany! Woohoo! Five different countries under my belt now! (America, Canada, England, Holland, Germany!)

After a nice dinner of pancakes (to be discussed in a later post), we walked around one of my Grandma's childhood haunts... Bredevoort. This city is known for it's bookshops. My grandma said that when she was young, nearly everyone ran a bookshop out of their homes! There are still many outside book stalls. You pay by "honesty slot." It's a little hole in the door, where you can drop your money. I really admire the trust of the Dutch. In America, you would never be able to run a bookshop by "honesty slot" but in Holland, that works just fine!

 (There were lots of bookshelves just full of books standing next to people's houses. Hence the honest slot... if it was after closing time, you could still buy a book!)
(It reads: "Bredevoort. Book City" or "City of Books")

I would have loved to stay longer, but Grama was tired, so we kept walking. She just happened to be walking passed someone's house (remember, the Dutch don't close their curtains), while I was looking at some books, and, as she peered in, her cousins peered out! So we sat with some extended family for a bit and my mom got to discuss quilting with some distant relation of some sort. It was quite nice. My poor dad had to try and communicate with my grandma's cousin's husband, who only spoke Dutch. 

I can't wait to go back to Holland, so I can explore Bredevoort in full!

Thus ends day eight... Stay tuned for more...


  1. What a beautiful day. I enjoy your 'eye' for the detail/quirky.

  2. I bought a book in Bredevoort. I'm looking forward to your Dutch pannekoek post :).

  3. I am really enjoying reading about your vacation in the Netherlands. Altho I have visited the Netherlands twice, I am learning so much more about Holland from your blogs. What an experience you have had! Grama