The crowds, the merch, the dancing girls. What’s not to love about the Queen’s Day Vrijmarkt (free market) in Maastricht? Dan and I wandered down around 9:30 this morning to have a celebratory cup of coffee on the Vrijthof and then wandered over to the Stadspark just past Onze Lieve Vrouw Plein to see what was on sale this year.
For the uninitiated, the Vrijmarkt is a yearly tradition during which anyone can spread out a blanket on Queens Day and sell used and new goods as part of a massive flea market. Many of the sellers are families, but several antique dealers and people who probably specialize in flea markets make an appearance as well. The goods are pretty variable; this year there seemed to be more toys and fewer kitchen appliances than last year. And why anyone thinks I would pay for a VHS tape this many years after the format died its quiet death is beyond me. Still, if you are a bargain-hunter in the Netherlands, this is one of those golden opportunities regardless of what city you are in.
Food and games sold for a modest fee are also available at the market. Most notably many families bring waffles or sometimes cupcakes to sell. Proper food carts were there as well to round out the usual fair cuisine of friets and frikandels. The games general run the usual gambit of throwing activities. We even saw a game where you could throw 3 eggs at a person for just 1 euro. After learning that people were being awarded eggs at a local bowling alley during Easter; I’m beginning to wonder if there is some special relationship with the humble foodstuff here. At the very least, why would you want to throw an egg at someone’s head? You couldn’t do that in the US; what if they got egg shell in their eye?
This year the market extended into some stalls along the river and many of these were staffed by nonprofit organizations and clubs. The extra space was nice as it extended our stroll through the booths and blankets.
Of course another important feature of the Vrijmarkt are the performing children. If a family has children under the age of 13, you can bet one of them will be attempting to busk their musical, artistic, or standing-like-a-statue talents. Some of the kids were actually pretty good and were probably making a nice bit of money to buy candy with later. It looks like you only have until puberty to perform at the Vrijmarkt as we didn’t see anyone older than maybe 13 performing there. At that time you apparently get booted out into the wilds of Maastricht to ply your trade. And street musicians do not do a brisk business in these parts.
In addition to the joyful noise created by all these kids, Queens Day in Maastricht boasts a great deal of official musical events (mostly sponsored by Heineken. There were two stages set up in the Vrijmarkt itself and we caught a brass band playing in the gazebo on the Vrijhof while walking home for lunch. We didn’t really stick around for these events, however we did happened by a street music group with what appeared to be a bass mandolin. I didn’t get a picture of the musician playing it, but these guys were really talented.
In the end, we didn’t find anything that we wanted this year, but it was still nice to explore. In the afternoon, I did some work and we enjoyed some homemade kip sate and Maastricht beer (mmm…Wiekse Witte) for dinner. A good start to the long weekend.
What did you do for Queens Day?