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Princess Juliana's death
Rating: (4.6) (28 Votes)

The Hague, Netherlands,
March 28, 2004

Pros: Easy to get around on bikes
Cons: none

Hello everyone.

Things are going well in A'dam. I spent the day getting caught up on what I missed in the NCAA - now that the Badgers are out of it and my bracket is obliterated, it has been tough to stay on top of it considering it's not on TV here. But thanks to CBSSportsline.com, I paid $10 and can watch every game live as well as the highlights and interviews. I also got caught up on American Idol - William Hung is AWESOME!

Last night Julie and I went to see a band, the String Cheese Incident, at a small club in A'dam, the Melkweg. It was great. We went with Chris and Melanie and their "woolly" friends (Rick the Ramblin' Bear, Ed, Jason, and Monique) who came to town to see the band. I had never seen them before but knew I would enjoy them. It was a great show. It made me think back to when I was studying in London in '97 and met Labo and Seeman in A'dam for Phish. The whole crowd was American, most of which were college kids studying somewhere in Europe. It was a fun night. But, it started out strangely...

As Julie and I were riding our bikes to meet Chris, Melanie, and Co. for dinner I turned a corner and moments later heard a crash. I immediately knew it was Julie since she is a bit of a disaster on a bike. She had crashed with another biker. He hit her (it was definitely his fault) and crunched her front tire. The bike was unrideable. When he realized that she was American, he asked her if it was her bike or a rental. I thought that was a funny question but luckily, it was our bike since it will probably cost a few bucks to fix vs. a $100 deposit for a rental. At dinner, we talked about how if we were Dutch, we would have debated bike traffic rules with the other biker. And how if we were both Americans, we would have argued about who was going to pay to have the bike fixed. Being that it was a Dutch-American accident, we simply grabbed the bike, locked it up, and the man said “sorry”. We went to dinner and did not let this ruin our night. This evening however, we rolled it over to the bike shop so that Julie can get it fixed tomorrow.

On the travel front, we have decided that as much as we don't want to, we are going to take a pass on the Olympics. As we started to investigate the trip, it became apparent that it was going to cost us about 2 or 3x what a normal week trip would. So instead, we are going to do something else, we're just not sure what yet. But we are planning a week+ driving trip of Umbria and Tuscany for June. And we have a few long weekends planned for the summer to Prague, Champaign France, and Cinque Terre with the Corwins (instead of the Olympics). We have also started looking a bit more seriously into a safari, probably early 2005.

Last weekend we had a great 4 days snowboarding the Alps in Garmisch Germany, about an hour south of Munich along the Austrian boarder. It was awesome, but you'll hear about that soon. For now, here is our day in The Hague paying our respects to the late Princess Juliana...

The Queen’s mother and former Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Juliana, died last week at 94 years old. Her funeral is on Tuesday but for about a week, she laid in state at her birthplace, Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. Julie and I decided that we would take the train over to see her but more importantly, catch a bit of Dutch culture that surrounds the circumstance – the death of a monarch.

So we headed over to the train station and 45 minutes (EUR 20 roundtrip for 2) later we were in The Hague. We walked from the train station through town. The Hague felt like any other Dutch town, complete with canals and typical Dutch homes. From the train station, we walked through a very Arab neighborhood. It seemed like the whole city was Arab. There’s nothing to say about this, it was just interesting. However, on a side note, apparently The Hague is a very split city, with half the population being very wealthy Caucasians and the other half being poor North African immigrants. There have been some major problems in the Netherlands with the immigrant population. This issue seemed to have come to a real head about a month ago when the country had it’s first school shooting – a teenage immigrant was suspended from school so he came to school the following day, walked into the lunchroom and shot his teacher in the head at pointblank range. This has opened up a big debate (surprise) as to how immigrants are handled in the Netherlands and whether they are properly integrated into society. Incidentally, this group, who has populated most of the major cities of Western European, is largely to blame for the new rise in anti-semitism as well.

Anyways, sorry for that sabbatical, but we walked from the train station and made it to city center after walking about 10 minutes. The city center was nice. We walked along the obligatory pedestrian shopping district. It had many of the same crappy chains that A’dam has but there were also many beautiful stores. As I mentioned above, The Hague has a very wealthy segment and therefore, the upper crest of society needs nice places to shop. The wealthy are attracted to The Hague for two reasons – the Dutch royal family live there and The Hague is the home of many embassies as well as some UN facilities. As a result, the residents of the city and surrounding suburbs tend to be very wealthy. So for these people, there are nice stores. We stopped into a very nice kitchen store. While Julie surveyed the goods, I asked the clerk if they had a store in A’dam. She told me no. I told her that she should open one and she said, “no, they can come here”. It was almost like the city is insecure about being the second city of the Netherlands and feels that it is deserving of it’s own independence.

Well, from the store, we continued walking to the palace. We saw tons of barricades around but people seemed to be going about their days as if nothing was different. I was a bit surprised. I guess I expected to see people very solemn. We made it to the palace but everything was locked up. It didn’t make any sense. I couldn’t figure out where everyone was. I wanted to ask one of the multitudes of police who were patrolling the palace where to go to see the princess but I felt silly asking. As if the answer wouldn’t have been “duh”.

The police presence was also something that I found interesting. C’mon, it’s the Netherlands. And it’s the former Queen, not the sitting Queen, that died. Nobody really cares. What kind of threat were they expecting? I’m sure Al Quaida was scheming something big.

But we continued walking around the palace walls and finally found everyone. There was a huge line. I guess the Dutch don’t have anything else to do on a Saturday morning...just like us.

Anyways, as we took our spot in line, a woman started talking to us. She told me how many bougoise Indonesians from Princess Juliana’s generation took the name “Juliana” and the birthday of April 30 (Juliana’s b-day). I thought that was kinda interesting.

As we waited in line, there were Boy Scouts handing out free hot chocolate. They were pretty cute. Scout leaders would be wearing backpacks holding the hot chocolate and the boys would walk around advertising. As a Dutchie would ask for a cup (and they did this often, after all, it was FREE), the Boy Scout would grab a cup and hold it under the scout leader’s spicket. We were a bit surprised that they weren’t handing out cups of Heineken.

As we stood in line, I felt a tad awkward. We had decided that we would try to fit in by leaving flowers for Princess Juliana. We thought about just making a donation to Hadassah for Chai but opted for the EUR 6 bouquet of flowers instead. I was beginning to think we shouldn’t have done this because there were no other people holding flowers. Were flowers for the deceased monarchy just a British thing – the images following Princess Di’s death comes to mind. Were the Dutch so cheap that they wouldn’t even buy some flowers to leave behind? As we weaved around the line, making our way closer to the palace, we finally saw some others with flowers. I felt a bit better now.

After about an hour in line, we made it to the palace grounds . It was a very pretty peaceful place . It was hard to believe that just over the walls was the busy shopping street we had just left. There were many people sitting on benches, enjoying the sun and eating, almost as if they were picnicking at the palace. We entered a temporary building where Julie relieved herself and I signed the condolence book. Next, we dropped off the flowers along the lawn and made our final approach .

At the door, there were 2 guards who were holding cool swords to deter anyone seeking mischief – I wonder if Bertil ever had to do something like this. I don’t know but it does not seem like an honor to stand in place and stare off into the distance guarding the front door of where a death princess lays but that’s just my view.

We entered the first room which was full of beautiful flower wreathes. Each one had a ribbon announcing which country or Dutch agency they were from. The one from the US was front and center. See, even when everyone hates us, they still respect us. Maybe the Dutch are just nervous that Bush might suspect there are WMDs in the Netherlands. Anyways, the flowers made the front room smell amazing.

We weaved out of the front receiving room with the flower wreaths into a small holding room. We then entered the dimly-lit room with the princess. There was some mellow music playing and 4 men in their 50s wearing uniforms and holding more swords. The coffin was covered in a purple and white cloth (I have no clue the significance of the purple and white since the Dutch color is orange) with one ribbon for each of her survivors – her husband and former prince, Bernard, the oldest daughter and current queen Beatrix, and 3 other daughters that I don’t remember the names of.

And after a few seconds, we were out of the room again and done paying our respects. It’s tough to think that the 20 seconds we spent with Princess Juliana was worth the 90 minutes we waited in line but it kinda was. It was cool to see this. Julie and I discussed whether Americans react in a similar way when a former President dies. Does everyone go to see him and pay his or her respects? No, but considering we, like most people visiting Princess Juliana, spent less than an hour commuting to see her, the entire country can pay their last respects. I doubt anyone in the US would travel a long distance to see Reagan when he passes but I’m guessing many (especially Republicans) would travel an hour to see him. Anyways, we were glad we went to see this.

Julie picked up a hot chocolate and we walked back to the main shopping street to find some lunch. As we walked back, we noticed that most of the store windows had a pictures of Princess Juliana, framed, with a black ribbon across the upper right corner.

The Hague seems like a very nice city. There are some nice plazas with statues and as a result of heavy WWII damage, a strange balance between old and new buildings. But we decided not to spend much time in town but plan to come back another time.

But for now, we wanted to wander among the stores for a bit more before finding a nice place to get lunch. Julie had pea soup and a brie sandwich; I had mushroom soup and salmon with pesto sandwich. It was good but the highlight of the meal was when the waitress gave me the bill and said “vierentwentig euro” and I knew that she was telling me I owed her 24 Euros! That is about the extent of my Dutch though.

Anyways, here are a few things I found pretty interesting about Princess Juliana:

*** Her husband, Bernard, is a German and was a member of the SS when they married in 1936. This was a huge controversy. Hitler used the marriage as propaganda citing it as an example of the alliance between the 2 countries but Juliana’s mother and current queen, Queen Wilhelmina, put a stop to the suggestions. Bernard’s Germany ancestry would come back as a source of suspicion many many times over the course of Juliana’s reign.

*** During WWII, Princess Juliana went to Canada while her husband Prince Bernard and her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, went to London. While in Canada, Juliana gave birth to her 3rd daughter. The Canadian government declared the hospital room as sovereign Dutch soil so that the new princess would not have splint citizenship. I thought that was cool.

*** As a result of having a daughter (the 4th one) with an eye problem, Juliana started to get involved in New Age teachings and even let her guru influence her annual addresses to the nation. Juliana started to believe that there were aliens on Earth and hugged and talked to trees. Kinda strange behavior for a sitting Queen.

In the end, I think the Dutch liked Juliana. They seem to be a bit fonder of her then her daughter and current queen, Queen Beatrix. Juliana was a fun woman and seemed to be in touch with the people. She was often seen riding her bike…so Dutch! She donated much of her time and money to children’s charities. She was one of the people. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s since the mid-90’s.

Well, that's about it for now. Julie's parents are coming on Sunday. We'll be in town for a few nights and then will head to Paris on Wednesday for 6 days. It should be a real nice trip.

Hope all is well with everyone and in case we don't hear from you, have a great Passover and Easter.