It is impressive to know that the world’s biggest outdoor birthday party is held on the ‘Kings Day’ in the Netherlands. Kings Day marks the birthday of the King Willem-Alexander and observed as a national holiday on the 27th April.
Celebrations include concerts and special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam. The festivities are organized by local associations called ‘Orange Committees’.
Flea markets are held on streets at which people sell their ‘used goods’ or ‘second-hand goods’ to large crowds. On Kings Day, the Dutch Government permits sales on streets and forgoes the tax.
Every year, participant’s turn-up in orange clothing and accessories in honor of the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules over the Netherlands. From fabric to food, everything is orange and the color choice is sometimes called as ‘Orange Madness’ or ‘Orangejkte’.
The orange barmy army is a familiar sight on TV when Holland is playing in a sports game.
Keeping the spirit of orange celebrations active, the Netherlands Consulate in Mumbai partnered with the local government to organize ‘Amsterdam City – Online Bicycle Tour’ on the Kings Day.
Besides this event, the ‘Netherlands Meets Mumbai 2021’ program will have sessions on mobility, dredging and culture. The idea is to explore synergies in multiple-sectors between the two countries and convert them into partnerships.
Bart De Jong, Consul General of the Netherlands in Mumbai in his opening remarks said “Today, 27th April is the Kings Day in the Netherlands and this Saturday, 1st May is the Maharashtra Day and we thought that this is the apt opportunity to organize our annual ‘The Netherlands Meets Mumbai Week’. The ‘Week’ is a yearly event in which we celebrate and also showcase Dutch Culture and expertise especially in those areas where we have cooperation with Indian partner. This includes life sciences and health, agriculture and technology, circular economy, water infrastructure and other sectors. Due to the pandemic, we decided to go ahead with the events virtually, so sit back and enjoy the historic city center in Amsterdam on a bicycle.”
Manisha Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary & Chief Protocol Officer Government of Maharashtra said “I have had the good occasion to visit Amsterdam twice in the recent past, and I remember Amsterdam amongst the prettiest cities that I have visited. We have explored Amsterdam extensively on foot, on tram, by boat tours, and by bicycles. Each tour was equally enjoyable and different than the other. And though the main purpose of our visit was to study the best practices of liquid and solid waste management and to study the circular economy, we also enjoyed Amsterdam’s many parks, museums, open air eateries and its great hospitality. It would have been nice to be present in Amsterdam today, but given the current COVID-19 crises, this virtual tour is a welcome substitute.”
Sebastian Behringer, a professional tour guide led the tour of Amsterdam city live on his bicycle and Giovanna Tomaselli, a freelance tour guide moderated the session with photographic references and responded to questions.
The one-hour tour started from the ‘Central Railway Station’ which is at north of the city center, crossing downtown to arrive at the ‘Rijksmuseum’, Dutch National Museum dedicated to Art and History in Amsterdam.
During the journey, Sebastian talked about the lifestyle in Amsterdam, historic canals, museums, famous paintings, old-buildings, stock market, football, waterways, food, Ice skating and a lot of other things while safely navigating his way on the cycle tracks.
What we saw?
- Tulips are in full bloom between March to May, and adds to the cities décor
- Worlds only floating flower bulb market filled with vibrant colors and fragrances of fresh flowers
- Old-Small houses that are only 3 windows wide since bigger houses were taxed in the earlier period
- Dams square
- Kings Palace
- Rijksmuseum underpass – the only museum in the world where cyclists pass through a tunnel
- Van Gogh museum
- Visuals of pedestrians, cyclists and people boating in the canals
- And many more beautiful locations were covered
Sebastian also highlighted the benefits of his multi-modal transportation smart card, but like for most others, it is easier for him to get around on a bicycle.
Keeping an eye on his bicycle Sebastian revealed ‘around 1 lakh bicycles are stolen each year, therefore he uses 3 locks for security. But when he is out on his carbon road bicycle, the locks outweigh the bike’ he said in good humor.
Similarly, about 20 thousand bicycles are blown away in the canals due to high-pressure winds because they are parked incorrectly. Extensive dedicated parking spots are created to avoid such damages.
Carolin Rietveld, Deputy Head of Mission at the Netherlands Consulate in Mumbai in her closing remarks said “Cycling is a healthy form of exercise. It doesn’t produce harmful emissions, keeps cities accessible and livable. Cycling is Amsterdam’s fastest growing mode of transport and I am glad to share these statistics with you”.
- An average Dutch person cycles for 880 kms a year.
- There are over 1mn bicycles in Amsterdam – 4 times more than the cars.
- 80% of the people own a bicycle in Amsterdam of which 60% use it daily.
- Cycling is an important part in the mobility-plan of Amsterdam.
My sincere Thanks to Sebastian for this wonderful and entertaining tour of Amsterdam city. I enjoyed this beautiful journey from the comfort of my home. Events like these are very motivating and distracting from the ongoing pandemic news. Looking forward to physically experience the bicycle heaven in the future once the crises is over.
Cover image: Flower market in 1900.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai