The Orange Queen and the Rabbit King- Sparkles and Devine in Nether-NetherLand

Oh- that's where Amsterdam is!

Having made our way through Hungary, Prague, the Black Forest and errr… Utrecht, and we finally made it to Amsterdam and our buddy Ron.  With no time to waste, Aimee and I set about getting to know the city via the Sandeman’s New Europe Free Walking Tour.

The  tour took in the ‘sights’ of the red light district.  For anyone who has not had the pleasure (and frankly who will admit to it except my mate Tom-arse), women stand in glass windows wearing….. well, little enough that I could see one of them had a bikini-line shaving rash.  Now, if you are interested in making the acquaintance of one of these young ladies, you approach the door, wait for her to open it, and then negotiations ensue.

Apparently. this is the 'real' Amsterdam

But if she doesn’t even open the door- BURN! You’d better go across the road (literally) to ‘Oude Kerk’ the oldest church in Amsterdam, and start praying.  Apparently, sailors coming in to town could bulk ‘pre-pay’ the church for absolution for their intended red-light sins- how convenient!  Our intimate knowledge of the district was thanks to the very Aussie, Aussie Joe, our tour guide.  He advised us that much of his information was included on the tour script, but added, with a smile, that the guides also do their own research.

On the walking tour we also learned many wonderful things the people of Amsterdam did to assist Jews during WW2,  the story of Anne Frank being just one of many examples of wartime solidarity- the city takes care of its own.  Joe told us that even today in Amsterdam, while you are there, you are part of the city, no matter where you come from, or what your religion is.  Being very liberal, it is multicultural and has an amazing quirky unique style all of its own.  Completely different from, say, Utrecht.

Despite being able to urinate for free in convenient public urinals, men peeing in alley-ways is a worldwide phenomena. These plates are designed to give a 'spash back' effect. Question. Do men need to go in the corner?

Amsterdam’s history is colourful, and Joe shared many tales that don’t always appear in the guide books.  For example, the city’s women attempted to persuade authorities that it was unfair for men to urinate for free (there are ‘pee’ stations set up for men all around the city) while women had to pay to use toilets.  In protest, thousands of women gathered on Amsterdam’s many bridges, and in unison, dropped trou and peed for free.

And when France invaded the Netherlands, and Louis Bonaparte was put on the throne, he insisted that a census of the population be completed, and all family names noted down.  However, as the conquering power did not speak Dutch, some 10% of the population chose ‘new’ surnames. Far be it from me to attempt direct translations, but many had names with meanings such as ‘Bottom Flower’, ‘Off the Pants’ and ‘Cherry-Popper’ and  few more I won’t mention in case my mum is reading this.  I’m told some of these names continue in use today.

The Dutch got another good giggle over their tricky language, when Bonaparte attempted to learn some for his first address to his new subjects, and announced proudly to them  “I am your rabbit!”

The ground work done in Amsterdam, Devine and I were about to embark on our biggest challenge yet:  Queen’s Day, which is a public holiday in the Netherlands (and as you know, there is almost nothing Aussies love more than a public holiday).  Wait, doubters.  It’s not all orange cupcakes and sipping tea.  Queen’s Day celebrations aint for the fainthearted.

The infamous Ron!

Now, Aimee and I knew Ron from Summer Camp days in the US,  and we’d done our share of partying.  We also bonded over camp specific challenges- like how to sneak 12 supposed-to-be-sober counselors back in to camp 2 hours past curfew in the Camp Bus, which, by 2am was awash with the stench of vomit, and a liberal dosing of ground up cheese flavoured popcorn in the carpet.  As I was the driver, and Ron the other ‘grown-up’ we spent the following day waiting to be called to account for our sins.  I might add, Ron was principally responsible for the inebriated state of the occupants.

So, I had high expectations from Ron in his home town of Amsterdam.  He didn’t disappoint.  To celebrate Queen’s Day,  EVERYONE dresses in orange, sells their unwanted things on the streets, and heads to the city centre to take part in Europe’s largEST street party.

Well worth the One Euro....

To get us in the mood, Ron made us a gift of some stylish orange sunglasses, and at noon we began our trek, along with thousands of others, into the city via a dangerously overcrowded tram.  Once on foot, we investigated various street stalls, buying chicken on a stick, sweet treats and indulging in early afternoon beers.  Using nothing but our charming accents, like modern day pied-pipers, we enticed a couple of orange leis off two small children, who were selling their no longer wanted toys on the footpath. (A €5 donation from Ron may have sweetened the deal).  Leis securely round our necks, we topped off our outfits with orange cowgirl hats, and headed for the party.

Not the types to stand on the sidelines, we got in to the spirit by paying a handsome local lad €1 for the privilege of having a photo taken with him.  We asked him if he wanted to go Dutch, in English, but he just smiled and covered his bare nipples more closely with his suspenders.

At one with the orange people

It was a stunning day, and as we moved deeper into the heart of the city, the crowds grew thicker, the music louder, and the air was heavy with the aroma of food from vendor’s carts.  Dotted all around the city were DJ towers, and like an answer to the siren’s call, Ron guided us to where all his friends were waiting, and found the beer stand to boot.  As you would know, there is nothing an Aussie likes more than a beer in the mid arvo sun and nothing the Scots like more than being drunk most of the time.   Now, despite the fact that we didn’t speak a word of Dutch (and Aimee barely any English) I think we blended in as locals just fine.

When things get weird in Amsterdam, even the camera gets weird!

As the sun began to settle over the cityscape, Aimee and I met Ron’s lovely friends……. and then we proceeded to meet most of the rest of Amsterdam.  Just a note here, fellow travelers- if you hate crowds, pressing up against strangers and lots of loud music this is NOT the place for you.  Me- LOVED it.  Had a tad too much to drink, and attempted to phone my twin Pauly from the quiet of a pub toilet, hoping it would be 3am in Australia, (which is unlikely seeing as it was 3am in Amsterdam), and unluckily for 3, failed miserably.

Meeting the people

Who doesn't fancy a man in orange?

With the friendly Euro-Bobbies. They love an Aussie cuddle.

So after just 16 hours of partying, which involved, I am a little embarrassed to say, succumbing to the temptation of eating McDonalds around 3:30am, we decided to head for home.  It was a massive party, great people, great atmosphere and now I too love the Queen of the Netherlands, bless her little orange cotton socks.

Due to some flight issues, we had to leave a little earlier than planned.  Ron, thanks for an amazing unique incredible time that I will never forget (except the bits I cant remember).

Onwards to Espanola and the mysterious language of horse whispering….

Hasta luego!

Sparkles xoxoxox

About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Apparently, there are people who go traveling and just see things and nothing weird happens. I'm not one of those people....come on holiday with me and find out why!

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