I’ve always loved spring time in Europe, since my childhood days here. And though I’m in my native Germany at the moment, it’s the Netherlands in the spotlight this week.
The entire country’s getting ready for a first-of-its-kind holiday: Koningsdag or King’s Day.
Known for more than 120 years as Queen’s Day, the new name reflects a new monarch, King Willem-Alexander. He assumed the throne in 2013 after his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated.
Though the name is changed, the King’s Day celebrations will no doubt uphold a lively tradition. It’s best described as a nation-wide party in which the national color of orange gives way to “orange madness.”
If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
People young and old wear orange clothes, don orange wigs and even dye their hair orange. In Amsterdam especially, the celebrations take on a carnival-like atmosphere. Street markets, food vendors, concerts and parties are all part of the fun. Even the city’s famous canals are jammed with boats filled with music and dancing revelers.
King Willem-Alexander, his Argentinian-born wife Queen Maxima and three young daughters are extremely popular. King’s Day, April 27, falls on a Sunday this year, so the celebrations will take place April 26.
AmaWaterways passengers enjoying our Tulip Time cruise this week will no doubt experience some of the excitement. But Amsterdam’s lively traditions, rich culture, art and history are only a few highlights of this aptly-named itinerary.
Tulips in every variety, color and fragrance imaginable are on display as well.
We visit the famous Keukenhof Gardens, the world’s largest and most beautiful springtime garden. Open from March through May, it attracts visitors from around the world. They come to soak in the vistas of some seven million flowering bulbs set amidst winding paths and parklands.
The bulbs are planted in layers, blossoming at different times. For the past week, the entire garden is in full bloom, an auspicious welcome for King’s Day!
Keukenhof comes near the end of our seven-night itinerary roundtrip from Amsterdam. We cruise the Dutch and Belgian waterways in a trip made all the more scenic by the new life of spring. Flowers bloom, young livestock graze in bright green meadows and puffy white clouds dot bright blue skies.
What more could you ask for?
Passengers tell me they’d be happy to simply marvel at their surroundings from our comfortable lounge chairs atop the Sun Deck. But surely, they won’t want to miss the rest of the tour.
We visit Volendam, where the Great Enclosure Dyke holds back the North Sea. In Edam, we explore the Old Quarter of canals, quaint houses and bridges. Huge rolls of Edam cheese line store windows, and shopkeepers beckon with samples.
Arnhem brings back poignant memories of World War II, preserved so well in the Airborne Museum. In the alternative, there’s a chance to visit the magnificent Het Loo Palace.
In Antwerp, we encounter Flemish culture and the imposing Great Market Square. Art lovers will enjoy our special Rubens tour of the home and works of native son Peter Paul Rubens.
Along the way, there’s plenty of time to sample the famous Belgian cherry beer, hand-made chocolates, Belgian waffles and fries, known as frites. Enjoy optional excursions to Brussels and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bruges, a fairytale-like medieval city.
In the walled old town of Willemstad, we’ve arranged a private organ recital for our passengers. Then, it’s off to Kinderdijk and the best-preserved set of windmills in the world.
The rustic yet majestic 18th-century windmills are an iconic image and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with the tulips, it’s a site our passengers will not soon forget.
For more information about our beautiful AmaWaterways Tulip Time Cruises from March through May, visit www.amawaterways.com