I awake at 10 am, having had an insufficient sleep on a Johanna couch. My mouth is dry, barren. There’s a crumby plate on the coffee table- I have vague recollections of a belated supper consisting entirely of Nutella toast. The sunlight is shooting daggers through the exposed window, refracting and magnifying its rays onto my unwilling body. It’s the morning after Koningsdag. I have class soon.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Koningsdag is that it’s preceded immediately by Koningsnacht, and a plethora of parties to sink one’s hedonistic little jaws into. Really, whether the end result was Poema, Stairway to Heaven, Winkel van Sinkel, the Tivoli, or indeed a wine-drenched night in, the end result was the same; bleary eyes greeting the activity-filled day ahead.
Many went to Amsterdam, and who can blame them; Amsterdam’s Koningsdag celebration is the jewel in the orange crown, worthy of a place on Fest300’s list of the best festivals in the world. Some, daunting the logistics of navigating public transport on one of the busiest days of the year, were entirely justified in spending an enchanting day closer to home. Indeed, one could hardly avoid the Koningsdag celebrations (except for one poor unnamed friend, who, having thoroughly celebrated Koningsnacht, spent Koningsdag ensconced in bed next to an unfortunate trashcan), they went right up to the doorstep. Kanalstraat, the main drag in the sui generis Lombok neighbourhood, had a flea market that stretched as far as the eye could see, seeming more like a Moroccan bazaar than a market street in Utrecht. A short walk down the road, at Jaarbeursplein, Utrecht’s annual Kingshouse music festival was gathering a crowd of eager punters, and it is there I joined a group of friends for a day of poorly executed dance moves and overpriced beer. We had, in the preceding days, been on a scavenger hunt for orange titbits and t-shirts, and all had outfits located somewhere on the continuum of ridiculousness. A particular favourite was a tacky orange boa, which is remembered by the trail of feathers strewn everywhere the wearer walked. I, informed somewhat by the rather Australian trait of wearing obscene clothing at music festivals, had borrow a lovely orange and royal blue dress from our co-president, Melodie (hi, thankyou!), which fit like a dream. The look was completed by a horrible florally decorated bucket hat from Action and orange fishnets from Xenos, worn over thermal long-johns to prevent total hypothermia. Stumbling down the road at 3 p.m., we came to the cold realisation that… perhaps it was a little exaggerated that simply everyone wears orange. Indeed, where orange was worn, it was usually just a tasteful headband or t-shirt. Although my dress was far too extravagant for the situation, I was relieved to walk past a lady in the exact same dress, which I believe I wore better.
We didn’t make it to the end of the festival. Eight o’clock arrived in what seemed simultaneously like eight minutes and eight years, and the allure of comfortable seating drew us back home. Kanalstraat is strewn with litter, detritus testifying to the gradual conclusion of the day’s festivities. While of course it looked better than a warzone, it perhaps did resemble the old mother’s admonishment that it was like if a tornado had hit the place. Suitably refreshed, we rather extravagantly splurged on a taxi to Cambridgelaan for one final hurrah. However, not an hour had passed before we felt the horrible tug of exhaustion in our legs and our spines. That is how I ended up on a couch in Johanna. I stayed up far too late watching David Attenborough’s Wild Planet (which I could not recommend more highly). And, yes- I have class soon.
Did we learn anything? Perhaps to tone down the orange for the next Koningsdag, for those of us itching to relive our exchange experience. Ultimately, it was a day of excess, celebration, and unmitigated happiness. I’m confident when I say I speak for every international in saying Koningsdag was a day that we’ll treasure. Now, I think I’ll sleep for fourteen hours.