Longer articles about living in the Netherlands, Dutch society, culture and travel plus third party content from our partners


From billion bulb exports to Rambo: Here’s 10 things about tulips

From billion bulb exports to Rambo: Here’s 10 things about tulips

Spring is officially here and that means the tulip season is almost upon us. You'll still need a little patience before the tulip fields are in full bloom, but here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands' eponymous flower - which actually originated around the Mediterranean. 1 Dealing with cut tulips Dutch grandmothers have many wise tips to make the most of cut tulips. For a start, they say you should leave the flowers wrapped up in paper and put them into a vase of water (at room temperature) overnight. This will keep them fresh for longer. To stop the blooms drooping, push a pin through the stem just under the bloom. This is supposed to stop them growing - which many cut tulips do. A good bunch of tulips will last for well over a week, but beware of those bargain bunches of 50 tulips for five euros... they may well be past their prime. Mind you, we are very fond of the wonderful shapes which tulip petals form once they've been in full bloom. 2 Tulip varieties All new tulip varieties have to be registered with the grandly named Koninklijke Algemeene Vereeniging voor Bloembollencultuur (KAVB). It has over 8,000 different kinds on its list. Among the most popular sorts are the Strong Gold, the Leen van Mark, the Debutante and the Viking. 3 The black tulip A book by Alexandre Dumas about a competition to grow the elusive black flower.  No one has yet succeeded but some have come close. On the market today are the Black Parrot, the Queen of the Night and the Ayaan Hirsi Ali, named after the Somali refugee turned Dutch MP and anti-Islam campaigner who now lives in the US. Operation Black Tulip was also the name given to the process of deporting German nationals who lived in the Netherlands after World War II. 4 A major industry The amount of land dedicated to growing bulbs in the Netherlands has soared by almost 75% in the last 35 years. Most bulbs are grown in the sandy soils of Noord-Holland but Drenthe, Flevoland and Overijssel are doing their best to catch up. The tulip is still the most popular bulb by far: almost half of the bulb fields bring forth tulips. The Netherlands exports some two million bulbs a year and has almost 400 growers. 5 What you see is not what you get Few of the riotous blooms you see in the Netherlands in spring are going to end up in a vase on your sideboard. They are being grown for the bulbs. Once the flowers are in full bloom, the heads are stripped off and discarded. The bulbs themselves are harvested by big machines later in the year. Then they are washed and the dried roots and bulblets are removed by hand, a process known as bollen pellen. The bulbs are then graded according to size. Big bulbs are sold and smaller ones kept to plant next year. It takes two to three years for a bulblet to become big enough to sell. This video is a bit long (thank you Tractorspotter) but does show just how highly mechanised and unromantic the process really is. Most of the cut tulips which you buy in shops have been grown in greenhouses. They are first planted in sand boxes and stored in a refrigerated room. Then they are moved into greenhouses to speed up the blooming process. This means growers can ensure a supply of tulips over several months. 6 An emergency foodstuff During the last bitter winter of World War II when people in the Netherlands were starving, tulip bulbs became a source of sustenance. The war had stopped trade and there were plenty of bulbs to be had. The papers published recipes for potato, cabbage and tulip bulb stew. The bulbs, minus their green flower bud, took about as long to cook as potatoes and their taste is not dissimilar (apparently). 7 A stock exchange boom In the 17th century, Haarlem became the centre of tulpomania, or tulip madness. Bulbs like the Semper Augustus could fetch prices of 10,000 guilders, which was what you would have to fork out for a house on one of the canals. The speculative bubble burst and instead of bulb-shaped gold ingots, tulips became tulips once more. 8 A craze The craze for tulips – the wackier the flame patterns the better – was satirised by the artists of the time. Jan Breughel II, for instance, painted an allegory on Tulipomania which features monkeys as bulb traders going about their business. To the right, one of the speculator monkeys is hauled up in front of the magistrates while another pees on his stock of Semper Augustus, presumably already made worthless by the crash. The painting is on show at the Frans Halsmuseum in Haarlem. 9 A tribute When French artist Claude Monet visited the Netherlands in 1886 he loved the tulip fields around The Hague so much he painted them five times. He sold all five paintings to Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s art dealer brother. Vincent van Gogh, as we know, preferred sunflowers. He did have a reddish-brown tulip named after him last year by the Keukenhof when his work was that year’s theme. Other famous folk who have had tulips named after them include Mickey Mouse, Rambo, Armani, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Abba 10 Tulip events The Keukenhof, which opened for the 2016 season last week, came into being in 1950 when local bulb growers and exporters decided they wanted a showcase for their varieties. The park proved to be an instant hit. Now in its 67th year, the Keukenhof is a major tourist attraction and attracted a record 1,175,000 visitors last year. Every year the Keukenhof displays are centred around a specific theme. This year it’s the Golden Age. Museum De Zwarte Tulp is in Lisse where much of the bulb action takes place and is housed in an old bollenschuur, the sheds where tulip bulbs were processed and stored. Amsterdam has a tulip museum next to a cheese museum and we think both are simply an excuse to sell stuff to tourists. From 20–24 April, it's Corsoweek in the Bollenstreek - the area south of Haarlem where bulb growing is concentrated. The floral procession between Noordwijk and Haarlem takes place on April 23. Throughout April, Amsterdam has its own tulip festival. If you can't get enough of tulips, Haarlem's Frans Hals museum (with all the great paintings), local brewery Jopenkerk and the Keukenhof are working together on a Tulpomania tour, which runs until May 16.  More >


A good read: the best Dutch stories on the web this month

Cooking for refugees, real green electricity and a ban on short skirts. Ahead of the holiday weekend, here is our pick of the best longer reads from the international media and DutchNews.nl over the past month. From lawyer to chef Website Quartz carries a fascinating story about Syrian lawyer Kamal Naaje who is now cooking for hundreds of asylum seekers at an Amsterdam refugee centre.  'Dutch food is good - the volunteers are very generous in bringing it to us - but it is bland. We’re not used to it. We like spices,' Naaje tells Quartz. Read on First, pronounce inburgering Deciding to go through the inburgering process and learn Dutch led Molly Quell to discover that some people still think CD-Roms are the height of new technology. And that her dog likes to eat language books. Read on A WWII ghetto in Amsterdam Israeli news website Arutz Sheva looks at the Amsterdam district of Asterdorp, an Amsterdam ghetto where Jews were charged inflated rents during World War II ahead of being deported. Stephan Steinmetz has written a book about the enclave and spoke to the website about his findings. Read on Laser lights Wired interviews Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde - the guy behind the Smart Highway and Smog Tower - on his most recent project, Windlicht, which pays homage to wind energy in the form of a laser light show. Read on Cyber security According to Computer Weekly, IT security is about to rival cheese, tulips, windmills and flood defences as an export from the Netherlands. The Dutch, the website says, have implemented several initiatives in the public and private sectors to improve cyber security, or ‘heighten’ the digital dykes, as it were – with success. Read on Is the Netherlands becoming more prudish? Hema dropping Easter, a ban on short skirts and a row over topless feminist university students... the Dutch papers have been asking if the Netherlands is becoming more prudish or simply kow-towing to Islam. Read on A mother's story Munira Subasic lost 22 relatives in the massacre of Srebrenica in July 1995, including her husband and son. In this interview, she talks about burying the bones of her son and her feelings towards Radovan Karadzic, jailed for 40 years for war crimes. Read on Football legend No round-up would be complete without a long read about Dutch football legend Johan Cruijff, felled by lung cancer at the age of 68. This Guardian analysis of what made the Dutchman great is a must for football fans. Read on  More >


‘How could you do this, Karadzic?’ asks Srebrenica mother

Munira Subasic, president of the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’, will be in court when former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic hears his verdict at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), writes Jesse Wieten. ‘This will be an historic judgment for both the victims and Bosnia and Herzegovina,’ Subasic said in an interview with Dutchnews.nl. Munira Subasic lost 22 relatives in the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995, including her husband and son. During the Bosnian war the ‘safe haven’ in Srebrenica was protected by Dutch soldiers under the UN flag. Over 8,000 men and boys were murdered and buried in mass graves when the enclave was over-run by Bosnian Serb forces, in what was Europe's worst atrocity since World War II. ‘At the beginning of the war I could not and did not believe that it would happen,’ Subasic said. ‘I could not believe that our neighbours would turn their backs on us and that they would turn into perpetrators. I could not believe that teachers would turn against their students, raping and killing them. 'The situation in Srebrenica and, I am sure, everywhere else in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was unimaginable. It is hard to explain what I saw and heard. I saw people getting killed and dying because of hunger. I heard cries and screams. It was unbearable.’ 11 counts The genocide in Srebrenica is one the 11 counts against former Bosnian Serb political leader Karadzic. ‘I hold Karadzic personally responsible for the loss of our loved ones,’ Subasic said. ‘He was the alpha and omega of the war of aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who ordered the killings of innocent people just because he thought they were different and unworthy. He was the one who ordered who would live and who would be killed.’ ‘Karadzic ordered and Ratko Mladic killed with his army,’ Subasic added. ‘They tortured and raped innocent civilians and Karadzic could have stopped it if he wanted to.’ Mothers One year after the massacre in Srebrenica relatives established the movement of ‘Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves’ with an office in Sarajevo and a centre in Srebrenica. The mission of the organisation was to gather more survivors and family members of the victims who had disappeared or been killed in Srebrenica, Zepa and other regions, and to learn more about the fate of those killed or who had disappeared. Subasic became the president of this association. ‘Our actions are important,’ she said. ‘What happened in the past cannot be changed but we can learn from the past so that our grandchildren can live in a better and more prosperous, peaceful Bosnia and Herzegovina.’ ‘Over the past 20 years, we have given our utmost to seek truth and justice,’ Subasic continued. ‘We have tirelessly worked on making sure that there is a memorial centre in Srebrenica-Potocari. We have been and still are witnesses at ongoing trials. We have and still are working with children whose parents were killed. All of our efforts have been and still are to make sure that the past is not forgotten and that future generations will learn from the past.’ Arrest As president of the association, Subasic visited the ICTY in The Hague many times and she has seen many war crimes suspects in court over the past years. Her relief was immense when Karadzic was arrested in 2008 and he was transferred to the Tribunal’s custody. ‘I feared that the political apparatus would prevent Karadzic's arrest,’ she said. ‘Nevertheless, with the changes in international politics, he was arrested. I would say that he was arrested when Europe wanted him to be arrested.’ ‘I have seen Karadzic in the court room and I despised him,’ Subasic added. ‘I still cannot believe that in the 21st century, a doctor, in Karadzic's case a psychologist, would commit the crimes that he has committed. I asked myself how and why? How could he do it? I hope he will get life imprisonment, not only for the genocide in Srebrenica but for all of the municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina where genocide was committed.’ Subasic’s husband Hilmo was identified and buried in 2004 while the remains of her son Nermin were only found in 2013. Their remains were found in two different mass graves 25 kilometers apart from one another. Two small bones ‘I gave birth to a healthy baby boy who grew up to be a handsome young man,’ Subasic said. ‘Now, I have only buried two small bones belonging to him. Among the approximately 6,500 graves, his grave has the least and smallest bones or remains buried. 'I have a grave for both of them and their graves have their names on them. That means a lot to me as it would to any mother. This is proof that they lived and that they were loved. They have not been erased. This is why it is important to find every single victim, they deserve to have their names known and engraved.’ Despite the seeking for justice, the seeking for the truth, the travelling to face the likes of Karadzic, her grief will never fade away. ‘I last saw my son in Srebrenica before they took him away from me,’ Subasic said. ‘Now, as I am in my 70s, I am alive but I am not living, and the greatest injustice is waiting for justice.’  More >


New calls to release Morgan, killer whale caught off Dutch coast

New calls to release Morgan, killer whale caught off Dutch coast

By Senay Boztas There was a tidal wave of reaction when the American park chain SeaWorld announced it would stop breeding killer whales and end controversial ‘theatrical shows’ last week. But scientists and activists are concerned about what this means for Morgan, an orca found off the coast of the Netherlands in 2010. This female killer whale has ended up living ‘under SeaWorld’s care’ at an amusement park called Loro Parque in Tenerife. SeaWorld, which operates in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio, built its brand around a leaping, splashing killer whale known as Shamu. But ticket sales suffered and animal rights protests rose after the release of a 2013 documentary Blackfish, about an orca called Tilikum who was responsible for the death of a SeaWorld trainer and two others. Now, though, the orca known as Morgan is the subject of a new short film that is starting to tour film festivals, giving an impression of what life in a concrete tank might feel like for these massive animals. Nursed back to health Morgan was found in a severely weakened state in the Wadden Sea and she was nursed back to health at the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk. Although activists say she was brought into the Dutch facility on a 'capture, rehabilitation and release' permit, she was then transported to Loro Parque on the Spanish island. In 2014, the Dutch Council of State ruled this decision was correct as there was no 'realistic alternative' or possibility to release her into the wild: Morgan’s family group had not been tracked, they said, and they believed she was too young to find enough food for herself. Now, the Dutch government says Morgan is nothing to do with them. A spokeswoman for nature and animal welfare at the Dutch government says: ‘Since she went to Spain, the responsibility is with Spain.’ Meanwhile, the Free Morgan Foundation campaign group alleges that Morgan’s capture and transfer were effectively ‘whale laundering’, in a white paper published last year. Dr Ingrid Visser, founder and principal scientist of the Orca Research Trust in New Zealand, says the SeaWorld announcement only increases the impetus for Morgan’s release, and is convinced scientists could find her family. ‘One of the big issues is how Morgan’s ownership falls under Seaworld, because wild-born orca cannot be sold and traded or used for primarily commercial purposes under EU law, and she is a wild-born (annex A) orca (Appendix 2 species),’ she explains. ‘These animals travel 100km a day, dive to 300 or 400m depths and have intense social structures and dynamic lives: they are deprived of all this in a barren tank that doesn't even have a fish painted on the wall. They do the same show three times a day; nothing changes. It is Groundhog Day for whales. Morgan is a poster child for all that’s wrong in the industry.’ Campaigners believe Morgan was considered valuable in captivity as she brought a new blood line to captive animals that were widely in-bred. A spokeswoman for SeaWorld confirms that she would be covered by the new announcement to stop breeding. However, Loro Parque – which would not respond to inquiries directly – is sending mixed messages. On March 18, it said in a press release: ‘Since the orcas are not the property of Loro Parque, we have to respect the decision made by SeaWorld.’ Reproduction rights Then it cited Spanish and European Community law ‘considering reproduction as an inherent right of all the animals.’ So, it said, ‘it is one of the principal functions and obligations of the zoological park to ensure that the right to reproduction is respected.’ A member of the public who recently attended Loro Parque has posted a video online that Visser claims is of Morgan receiving an ultra-sound, which can be used to check for ovulation or pregnancy. But Heiko Grimm, director of the short film I am Morgan – Stolen Freedom, believes that if breeding attempts stop, the way is clear to release her. ‘The whole situation could now change for Morgan with SeaWorld’s latest announcement to stop their breeding programme,’ he says. ‘Because of that, Morgan is not essential for SeaWorld any more. Additionally Morgan is a good candidate for a sea pen or sea sanctuary because she was born in the wild. ‘Can the last part of her 'capture, rehabilitation and release'  permit now be fulfilled? I believe so,’ he said.  More >


Video: A Syrian refugee family in the Dutch village of Kessel-Eik

Video: A Syrian refugee family in the Dutch village of Kessel-Eik

It is now five years since the start of the Syrian conflict and since then, thousands of Syrian refugees have come to the Netherlands to make a new life. The conflict has triggered the world’s largest displacement crisis. Half of all Syrians have fled their homes, around 4.8 million of them have become refugees outside the country, mostly in neighbouring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. The Thomson Reuters Foundation has been following Hanadi and her family who now live in the Netherlands. They had a middle-class life in Damascus, until the fighting closed in around them. They sold all they had and fled to Turkey. The team first filmed Hanadi and her family in 2014, when they had been in their new home in the small Dutch village of Kessel-Eik, for three months. Sixteen months later the team visited them again to see how Hanadi was getting on in her new European home. For the first part of the series, please visit the website.  More >


Jobs, language, the weather: why don’t international students stay on?

A record 90,000 international students are currently studying at Dutch universities and now account for some 10% of the student body. Despite programmes encouraging them to stay, most of them leave when they graduate - even though many would like to make the Netherlands their home. Molly Quell finds out why. In 2013, EP-Nuffic, the organisation for international cooperation in higher education, started a programme called Make It In The Netherlands (MIITN), aimed at retaining the foreign students who studied in the country, but left after graduation. When MIITN was launched, the numbers were pretty bleak. According to Nuffic, 70% of international students wanted to remain in the Netherlands when they graduated, yet only 27% actually did so. International students are said to cost the Dutch taxpayer an estimated €108 million per year and that money, according to official reasoning, is only recouped if those students stay on after graduation and work. ‘The recruitment and retention of talented international students is of great importance to the Dutch knowledge economy,’ says education ministry spokesman Michiel Hendrikx. Jobs Yet, despite the increasing internationalisation of the Dutch economy, the number one reason the students depart is because they are unable to find a job. 'My decision to stay or leave is based purely on career prospects,' says Molly Harper, a bachelor’s student from Britain studying plant biology. Bulgarian Marko Markov, who is taking international business and management studies, agrees: 'I would stay on in the Netherlands as long as I can find a job,' he says. The MIITN research shows the main reasons for the lack of employment options are the subject studied, the language, legislation and being unfamiliar with the Dutch labour market. Aastha Tyagi who is pursuing a degree in international relations at the VU university in Amsterdam, cites discrimination as another reason. 'It seems as if it is harder for international students to get jobs,' he said. Mismatch However, there is a mismatch between the subjects students are taking and the jobs market. 'Students’ study choices could be better, given the demand in the labour market,' says MIITN. This is an issue which affects Dutch as well as international students and a number of programmes are underway to try to improve the balance. International students themselves cite the language barrier as the most difficult obstacle to overcome. Lucas Milani, despite studying one of the more in-demand specialties by pursuing a master’s degree in medical and pharmaceutical drug innovation, does not expect to remain in the Netherlands, as he feels he would 'need to speak Dutch fluently'. Language barrier Not being able to speak Dutch weakens students' positions in the labour market but efforts to stimulate more students to study the language are also failing to have much impact. MIITN originally proposed developing online courses or MOOCs, and encouraged universities to make their language courses more accessible. Ultimately the MOOC became an app. And at the same time the Dutch government was acknowledging that learning the language is crucial to integration, it was cutting the subsidies for low cost language courses offered through local councils. The Dutch government’s own statistics suggest one needs 500-600 hours of study to master Dutch at a level of work proficiency. Bachelor’s students would need to tack 5-6 hours on to their study schedules to obtain that proficiency before they graduate. The prospects are even worse for master’s students, whose programmes typically only last one or two years. Socialising Yet even if students learn Dutch, there are still serious problems with integration. 'The Dutch students that I know have been really nice and helpful but when we socialise, I feel like I am not part of their group,' says Tyagi. MIITN acknowledges the integration issue and has instituted, among other things, a buddy programme to facilitate understanding between Dutch and international students. Even within English-language programmes, integration is an issue. 'I was also put on an entirely Dutch team for one of my latest projects and I was constantly being mocked for not being Dutch. The teachers would come to us, speak Dutch all the time and ignore me,' says Desislava Petkova, an art and technology bachelor’s student. Paperwork But not all the problems are social and cultural. There are many very practical problems such as residency permits for non-EU nationals. International students who have graduated from a Dutch university can now take one year to search for work upon graduation through the orientation year programme. Even getting internships to complete their degrees can be difficult. 'I am looking for internships in government offices over the summer, but the language has been a barrier,' one international student said. Further adjustments also now allow employers to employ recent graduates as highly skilled migrants without meeting the normal salary requirements. Morshed Mannan, who recently completed an LLM in law, credits the orientation year permit with helping him stay here. 'This means you can search for jobs and even start working as soon as you graduate,' he says. Weather While Nuffic and other agencies can certainly make improvements for foreign students, all the resources of the Dutch government cannot change another factor that is often cited by international students for leaving after graduation: the weather. Desislava Petkova says 'I dream about sunny beaches and palm trees'. Milani also cited the dark and cold weather as the main reason why he plans to move back to his native Brazil. Yet, despite the uphill battle, the MIITN programme has shown some improvement in retention rates. A recent study by Nuffic showed that 38% of international students who wish to stay are now doing so, compared with the 27% when the programme began. Ultimately, however, there may simply not be much any government programme can accomplish. And the MIITN programme doesn’t credit itself for the positives of Dutch society either. Bulgarian student Marko Markov says:  'As a gay man, the experience of not being discriminated against or abused is just amazing.'  More >


10 things you need to know about Easter in the Netherlands

10 things you need to know about Easter in the Netherlands

Easter (Goede Vrijdag, 1e and 2e Paasdag) takes place next weekend (March 25-28) and this year, coincides with the clocks going forward - so less sleep on Sunday! Easter Monday is a public holiday but Friday is a normal working day, apart from government workers, lucky things. Here is our updated list of Dutch Easter habits. Easter breakfast box If you have children at a Dutch primary school, they, rather you, will probably have to make an Easter breakfast box which they will give to another child in their class. This is a shoe box beautifully decorated with Eastery things and should contain all the ingredients for a delicious breakfast. Some schools have banned jam and sweet things, white bread and even chocolate eggs… which is a little odd. But hey, a cheese sandwich can be festive as well. Brunch An extended breakfast with all the family and friends on Easter Sunday – and possibly Monday if you are greedy. All sorts of rolls, cheese, ham, eggs, eggs and eggs. You may find the butter is in the shape of a little spring lamb (aah). Brunch will also include Paasbrood. We are not sure what the difference is with Kerstbrood apart from the fact it is wrapped in a yellow bow rather than a red one. No Easter brunch is complete without matsos – the Jewish crackers. Decorations The Dutch are very keen on Easter eggs and spring-related decorations, and many homes will put up willow branches hung with tiny wooden eggs and bows. Over the years these have become bigger and more elaborate, the supermarket shelves are groaning under ornaments and soon they will resemble Christmas trees. Egg painting The Dutch also like to paint boiled eggs in pretty patterns. If you want to do this, be sure to buy a proper egg stand at Blokker or Intertoys so you can colour your egg without getting paint all over your fingers and the rest of the eggs in the box. Easter egg painting is number 5 on the Dutch folklore centre’s list of the top 10 Dutch traditions. And according to the Dutch egg marketing board, we are going to eat 35 million eggs next weekend – not counting all the chocolate ones, that is. The Easter Hare Yes, the Dutch do have Easter egg hunts but don’t forget, the Netherlands has a Paashaas – Easter hare – rather than a bunny – well, it does rhyme better. Flower at St Peters in Rome The Dutch flower industry has for 29 years supplied the 42,000 tulips which are sent to Rome to decorate St Peter's for the pope’s Easter day appearance. Every year the pope – wherever he comes from – says in his best Dutch ‘bedankt voor de bloemen’ – the highlight of the Dutch television news coverage. In 2013, however, shock horror, the new pope Francis said it in Italian! Easter attractions There are, of course, Easter markets, special Easter brunches at restaurants and Easter events at amusement parks.  And there is the Paaspop festival which has taken place over the Easter weekend in the Noord-Brabant town of Schijndel since 1985. Paaspop, which attracts some 15,000 people, is seen as the unofficial start of the Dutch festival season. This year's event includes Dutch evergreens Golden Earring, Eurovision hopeful Douwe Bob and the Fun Lovin' Criminals. Many Dutch people also seem to consider visiting an out-of-town retail park selling furniture - a woonboulevard - to be a traditional Easter activity. Easter fires Easter fires are lit in various parts of Europe and probably have pagan origins. In the Netherlands, most are found in Drenthe, Groningen, Overijssel, Twente, Friesland and Gelderland but there are all sorts of regional variations about what is burnt and when. The village of Espelo in Overijssel has the world record for the highest hand-built Easter fire – 27 meters and no cranes allowed. St Matthew Passion This work by Johann Sebastian Bach is always performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on Good Friday (two performances). It is the sort of thing which people say you should have done once in your life. Some people go every year. Vlöggelen Okay, we’d never heard of this before, but it seems that in the Twente village of Ootmarsum, the good folk take part in a complicated ritual which involves much of the population winding through the village hand-in-hand, singing Easter songs. They also raise children up in the air which is said to represent the rising of Jesus from his tomb. We’d have to see this to believe it. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers   More >


Windlicht is a led laser light show on a wind farm (update)

Windlicht is a led laser light show on a wind farm (update)

This weekend's planned showing of a new project by Studio Roosegaarde focussing on the 'beauty of green energy' has been cancelled because the wind is coming from the wrong direction. The project involves beams of green light dancing across a wind farm in Zeeland but the weather has scuppered this weekend's planned laser display. Artist Daan Roosegaarde says has been inspired by the traditional windmills of Kinderdijk. At the same time, the installation is a tribute to modern ways of harvesting wind energy. 'There’s a lot of "I want it, but I don’t want to see it",’ Roosegaarde said in an interview with Wired. 'I think that’s weird. I think they’re beautiful, to be honest.' Keep a watch on the studio's Facebook page for new dates.   More >


How to go Dutch: ‘First, learn how to pronounce inburgering correctly’

How to go Dutch: ‘First, learn how to pronounce inburgering correctly’

Five years ago Molly Quell moved to the Netherlands as the wife of an academic for a short term project.. Now she's single, has fallen in love with the country and finds herself in the unexpected position of having to integrate. We’re far enough into the New Year to have reached the point where people have dropped the pretense of their resolutions and gone back to sleeping in, ignoring their gym membership, boozing it up and spending too much money. I, however, have kept mine. It’s not because I have more willpower or am a more moral person (hell, I’m still in my pajamas and just had four chocolate chip cookies for lunch.) It’s because at the end of this year I have a looming deadline. The dreaded inburgering. This website just finished running a three part feature about the exam and, after reading those horror stories, I thought it would be fun to try it out for myself. Integrate Due to the current terms of my visa, I am not obligated to integrate. But I want to. Having permanent residency makes a number of things easier, including negotiating contracts and finding housing. It also means I don’t have to wait anxiously every year to find out whether or not my visa will be extended. I have two choices: Inburgering or NT2. Supposedly, the integration exam is easier, so I figured I’d take my chances with that. The integration exam has five components: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and (the infamous) Knowledge of Dutch Society. (I arrived in the Netherlands prior to January 1, 2015 when the rules changed. You should check with IND, your lawyer or an astrologer to make sure you’re on the right track.) Four-fifths of the exams is essentially speaking Dutch. And my Dutch language proficiency is limited. I moved to the Netherlands in 2011 with my partner who had taken, what was supposed to be, a year-long post doc position at a university. Shortly after we moved, we enrolled in a course at a local community centre offered by the local government. When the course began a few weeks later, I’d found a position working at a nearby international school. Let me be frank. Working 40 hours per week, with an hour commute each way is challenging. Add to that a three-hour long course twice a week, as well as five hours of homework a week and it is exhausting. Tolerable, but exhausting. No English When you factor in the utter dysfunction of the course itself, co-taught by two instructors who didn’t seem to like each other very much, a lack of syllabus or even class schedule and the refusal of the instructors to speak to us in English (so much so that, on the first night of class, the teacher would not tell me where the bathroom was because I couldn’t ask the question in Dutch), it was terrible. I vowed I would not set foot in another Dutch classroom and, as I was expecting to move back to the US shortly after the course ended anyway. it didn’t seem too unreasonable. Instead my partner was offered another position. We stayed. Then, the relationship ended. And I stayed. Upon deciding that I did want to stay here, I revisited my anti-Dutch language stance. I was no longer in the position of living here because of someone else. I was choosing to live in the Netherlands and, as such, I wanted to learn Dutch. So I found a friendly Belgian to teach me. He is a retired engineer who is spending his golden years travelling the world and tolerating a group of foreigners butchering his language. Unlike my previous experience with learning Dutch, I actually enjoyed the experience. We discussed the news, we read Suske and Wiske, I baked cookies, his wife gave me flowers. Most surprisingly, my Dutch improved. I was starting to understand the conversation among my colleagues at lunch. I could chat a bit with the other dog owners at the park. If this was a fairy tale, the story would end here, with a fancy script reading 'And they all lived happily ever after. The End.' Don’t believe Disney. Life is not a fairy tale. Residency In 2015, my immigration lawyer pointed out that I could, in 2016, apply for permanent residency. No more fees paid to IND. No more anxiously waiting to see if I could stay. No more gathering paperwork in triplicate. All I had to do was pass an exam and I would be home free. Since the lawyers fees and the IND fees alone would finance a nice vacation every year, I was interested. Then a few months ago, my visa renewal was rejected. IND had, again and without notice, changed the paperwork requirements for my residency permit. Ultimately (and after spending a lot of money on my lawyer and my accountant and a lot of hours at IND) it was approved. The day I received the approval letter, I had a Dutch lesson. I walked in and asked my teacher what I had to do to pass the inburgering exam. ‘First, you should probably learn how to pronounce inburgering correctly.’ We found a textbook, I ordered it and a week later, my doorbell rang, during dinner, of course. The DHL guy handed over a package with the course materials which I put down on the stairs before rushing back to save my pasta from boiling over. Five minutes later, I thought I heard suspicious noises coming from the living room. My dog was using the box as a chew toy. CDs I was able to rescue the course materials from the clutches of my dog’s jaws and fortunately they were unscathed. A few days later, I felt like a kid on the first day of school as I took my shiny new textbook and folder of materials to my Dutch lesson. My Dutch instructor went through it approvingly. He emphasised the importance of using the e-learning portion, so that I could listen to the pronunciation as well as practise it myself. The e-learning programme was contained on the eight accompanying CDs. I haven’t had a CD-rom drive since college. I didn’t even know they were made anymore. I even asked the ICT department at work if I could borrow a laptop with a CD-rom drive. The student helper at the desk didn’t know what a CD-rom drive was. I was officially old. But, fortunately, not out of luck. Buried in the fine print, in a brochure, there was mention of the e-learning programme being available online. One quick trip to the website later and I was set up. Purple Easter I’ll spare you the gory details of the first few weeks of the course. There was a lot of counting (but only to twelve) and naming of colours (does anyone else confuse purple and Easter in Dutch?). There are also a lot of lessons about body parts and bleeding. A child bites its lip till it bleeds. Another child cuts its finger on a knife. I’m unclear what message this is sending to foreigners. The weekly lesson allotment from this textbook takes about 1.5 hours to complete. I’m still using another textbook on conversation which my instructor and I had been using before I decided to take on the inburgering exam, which is about another hour of homework. Plus 1.5 hours in lessons per week. Plus, I am also working every day with a language learning app for about 15 minutes. All told, that’s about six hours a week on Dutch. Which may not sound like a lot, but I work around 50 hours a week, plus I volunteer, plus finding time for exercise, household chores and, ya know, the occasional Netflix binge. I’m also in the very privileged position of being able to afford textbooks and private lessons. So if Game of Thrones could push back its start date, I’d really appreciate that. Molly will update on her progress in May  More >


Nijmegen – From Barbarossa to Bob Hope

Nijmegen – From Barbarossa to Bob Hope

For a city as modestly-sized as Nijmegen, it has a significant place in Dutch history. In fact, it is thought to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, and in 2005 celebrated its 2000th anniversary. Stephanie Dijkstra finds out more. When the Romans arrived in the area and set up camp, the camp was quickly accompanied by a new market: Novio Magnum – and with a little bit of imagination, you will realise this is the origin of the name Nij-Megen. It was home to 12,000 Roman soldiers, and was flanked by Oppidum Batavorum, or City of the Batavi, which was inhabited by Roman civil servants, tradesmen and a few Batavi (an ancient Germanic tribe). In 270, after squashing a Batavi uprising, the Romans built a fort which later came into the hands of the Franks and even later became part of the empire of Charlemagne. This fort was destroyed and rebuilt over a period of centuries, until Barbarossa (Red Beard, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Italy, Germany and Burgundy) decided this was where he wanted to build a castle. Today, you can still visit the Barbarossa ruin, located in what is now called Valkhof Park. A visit to Museum het Valkhof in the city centre will allow you to witness some of the archaeological finds made in the city. The museum itself is a delight in many ways: the entire back wall is made of glass, offering a view of the tree-lined pathway behind it and giving you the feeling you are taking a walk through the woods every time you enter the main passageway. And the rooms, with their collections of objects from prehistory, the Romans and the Middle Ages – as well as other exhibitions – are light and far from stuffy. Students Nijmegen is what the Dutch call a ‘student city’; it is home to Nijmegen’s Radboud University, as well as to the HAN hbo college. All in all, almost 39,000 students live in the city, making up 29% of its population. My tour of Nijmegen started at the Valkhof Museum and from there took us through the city centre. It was a sunny Saturday and the  town was full of students, locals, young couples with children and a sprinkling of Germans, as Nijmegen is just a few miles from the German border. First stop was Bairro Alto (which you will recognise by the words Hollandsche Spoorweg written over its window), Nijmegen’s answer to Starbucks. Housed in a former travel bureau and ticket office built for the Dutch railroad company, it is now a cozy place to stop for a cup of coffee or tea, as well as salads and sandwiches. You can even pick up a picnic basket and blanket (which you return when you are done). From there, it is a short walk to the Grote Markt, which you cross to go through an archway leading to a quaint little street that wraps around the Stevenskerk which dates from the 13th century. The church itself is magnificent in resplendent white and gold, with a gleaming stone floor and the tombs of many local dignitaries, including that of Catherine of Bourbon. American bombers Beside the Romans, Nijmegen was also involved in another, more recent, important chapter of this nation's history: World War II. On February 22, 1944 16 American bombers – presumably mistaking Nijmegen for a German town – dropped their bombs, killing 800 people and ruining substantial portions of the inner city, including the tower of the Stevenskerk. Then, just seven months later, in September 1944, Operation Market Garden started; an unsuccessful Allied attempt at securing the bridges across the river Meuse, the lower Rhine and the Waal so they could enter the German lowlands while avoiding its Siegfried defence line. As part of their efforts, the Allies started to liberate Nijmegen, but the Germans defended it tooth and nail. The fighting drove out tens of thousands of local inhabitants and when the Germans left, a few days later, they set fire to what was left of the inner city. Front line But that was not the end because Nijmegen was now on the new front line, and Germany bombed the city time and again, trying to destroy the bridges which were still intact. In short, during the last few months of the war Nijmegen found itself in the middle of a battlefield. By the end of the war, some 2,200 people had been killed and 10,000 wounded; 5,000 homes and 500 shops were destroyed and 12,000 people were left homeless. Nevertheless, during the war, Nijmegen became a popular place for allied soldiers who were on leave. At a certain point it was home to 150,000 allied soldiers – almost twice as many as there were local inhabitants – and was visited by both Bob Hope and Vera Lynn. This created something of a dilemma after the war, when the local inhabitants, well aware of who had dropped the bombs on February 22, were torn between their appreciation of the allied soldiers and the naked fact of the bombing. As a consequence, the bombing was swept under the carpet for decades afterwards; only recently becoming a topic that could be discussed openly. Rebuilding After the war, the city focused on rebuilding and repairing the damaged buildings – unlike Rotterdam, for instance, which only aimed for a return of 10% of its historical appearance. And now, the city is working on another ambitious project. In 1995, after a surge of water, caused by heavy rains in Germany and France, threatened the people of Nijmegen, the city decided something had to change. Instead of merely strengthening its dykes, it moved them 350 metres further back, creating a wider flood plain for the Waal. As they have done throughout history, the Dutch have come up with innovative and impressive plans that will not only ensure a city’s safety, but also its beauty, its atmosphere – and room for growth.  More >


It’s that time of year again – get ready to file your tax return

It's tax return time again. You've got until May 1 to hand in your annual tax return and this year, like every year, a few things have changed. Here's a handy overview of what you need to know. 1 The Dutch tax year The Dutch tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. You have until May 1 to file your tax return, unless you ask for an extension and the tax office is fairly relaxed about providing one. Dial the toll free number 0800-0543 and ask. If you file your taxes through a tax adviser, than the agency can request an extension (usually free of charge) for you. 2 Who has to file an income tax return?If you received an invitation from the Dutch tax office to file your income tax, you are required to comply, even if you had no income. The letters are typically sent in the month of February. If you live in the Netherlands currently or have done for part of the year you may also file a tax return voluntarily. You may, for example, expect a refund or you have received undeclared income. And who knows, perhaps you will be entitled to money back. 3 If you are a new arrival Tax filing for the year you arrived in the Netherlands is different from filings for residents with a complete tax year. You become liable for tax the moment you arrive but you might find the tax office has a different date - such as the date you registered with your local council. The tax office should use the actual date you arrived, so if there is a discrepancy, let them know, via your tax advisor. 4 The 30% ruling If you were recruited from outside the Netherlands and you meet the minimum taxable salary threshold of € 36,889 (2016), you might be eligible for the 30% ruling. This allows employers to pay staff 30% of their salary free of tax. The rules for benefiting from this tax break have become more complicated as of late, and a tax advisor can help you find out if you qualify. For more on this, see blueumbrella.nl/faq. 5 Worldwide income and double tax relief Residents of the Netherlands and non-residential tax payers should report their entire worldwide income in their income tax returns. This worldwide income may include revenue which the Dutch tax office is not entitled to tax because of bilateral tax treaties. To avoid a situation where you have to pay tax twice in both countries over the same source, the Netherlands grants a credit to compensate for the tax owed outside the Netherlands. This is commonly referred to as double tax relief. 6 Company cars If you have a company car and use it privately to drive more than 500 kilometres a year, you will have to pay tax on it. The tax is based on the value of the car when it was new, including taxes, and varies depending on how energy efficient the vehicle is. Find out more 7 Mortgage tax relief and other tax breaks The maximum amount mortgage holders can deduct from tax is gradually being reduced and last year the amount was cut to 51%. This means that if you are a high earner and pay 52% tax on some of your income, the mortgage tax relief break is only 51% - in other works, your mortgage will cost you a little more. You may also be entitled to tax relief on the cost of childcare and on some extra healthcare costs. 8 Remember your Digid From this year the government wants all personal tax returns to be made online or via a special app, and that means you'll need a Digid, the personal identification number used for all contact with government departments. So it is no good trying to complete the form on April 30 and then discovering you don't have the all important number. Be prepared. For more information contact Blue Umbrella at phone +31(0)204687560, e-mail info@blueumbrella.nl or website www.blueumbrella.nl  More >


It’s nearly spring, and Amsterdam is ready to celebrate with 500,000 tulips

It’s nearly spring, and Amsterdam is ready to celebrate with 500,000 tulips

Tulips have long been synonymous with Amsterdam and yet in recent years, despite tourists being able to buy everything from soap to maracas in tulip form, the real things have been largely absent from our streets. Esther O’Toole went to meet Saskia Albrecht, founder of the Tulp Festival Amsterdam, who’s on a one woman mission to put the tulip back in full view. In 2010, Saskia Albrecht was an experienced and reputable landscape gardener, responsible for the Open Garden Days at the Museum van Loon, when she hit on the idea of designing a special event around tulips. With hundreds of varieties, her favourite flower offered endless potential for spectacular springtime displays and, she felt, something quintessentially Dutch to boot. ‘I’ve always been busy with tulips, it seemed natural’, she says. With much planning, the first three-day tulip weekend was put into action at the museum, but it didn’t go exactly to schedule. It was too cold and the tulips didn’t come out on time. The following year, it was too hot and they bloomed early. Though she was able to continue her experiment successfully for a third year the weather remained a risk and the event was ultimately cancelled. For all her best laid plans Albrecht had to admit that ‘nature was just going to do it’s thing’ and she would have to go back to the drawing board. Then she visited Istanbul. Istanbul Whilst there Albrecht heard that a massive tulip festival was taking place, but she could find no sign of it. Eventually, she managed to contact the organisers and was given a tour of the displays of millions of blooming tulips in the parks. More than a bulb for every one of the 14 million inhabitants of the city, a happy coincidence apparently. That was when the idea for the Tulp Festival Amsterdam struck her. Her initial efforts hadn’t failed because they were too ambitious, but because they were too small. Greater scale would allow for better management of the variables and so the dream of a tulip festival, with a bulb for everyone of Amsterdam’s inhabitants, was born. Tulip Mania Tulips were first introduced to the Netherlands in the 1600s when they were brought back from Turkey by Dutch merchants. In 1637 the popularity of the flower amongst Dutch collectors had reached such a height that a single exotic bulb could sell for more than the annual income of a skilled craftsman, an unsustainable price. The economic bubble created by tulip sales burst and the government capped prices, but Holland would be forever synonymous with the flower. Being annuals makes tulips more expensive to plant on mass than their perennial cousins and so, especially in the last years of recession and budget cut backs, they have been replaced in public displays by the cheaper daffodil. Dutch tulip growing has been almost exclusively for export and that’s what Albrecht wants to change. 2016 2016 marks the second year of the festival. Last year they planted over half a million tulips in beds and pots around the city and this year they have done so again, pushing on towards that ultimate goal of a bulb for every inhabitant. The festival runs from 31st March for the whole month of April, giving more than enough time for visitors to catch swathes of tulips in bloom whether the weather is cool or warm. Successful partnerships have been established with Ibulbs, one of the major wholesalers of tulip bulbs, who have provided 30,000 for this year’s festival and head up the ‘Bulbs4kids’ program for primary schools. This means there will be huge displays in the Vondelpark come April, planted by local primary school children, that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. ‘I hope that from next year it won’t just be the Vondelpark, but also parks in north and east Amsterdam too’, Albrecht says. Highlights Planting in large pots has been a secret of success that will be coming back again this year. Potting the flowers allows for far more control over the bloom time. You can keep them inside until the last minute, if need be. It also allows for more flexibility of placement and the ability to ‘plant’ where there are no flower beds: ‘In places where there is nothing else, it’s a great substitute and in this way you can also display far more flowers’, Albrecht noted. Look in the fountain on Museumplein, alongside the roads on Van der Pekstraat in Noord, the wharf outside the Eye film museum and Nemo, the science museum. Some 30,000 bulbs have been planted in beds near the Maritime Museum and 25,000 more at the Rijksmuseum; everywhere there is an effort to make the displays complement the architecture. The site specific planting of Albrecht’s city-wide design is cleverly developed to make the whole city light up with colour, come April, and she has personally overseen it all; running the charity alongside her freelance work. ‘Together we make the city beautiful, I want to inspire people to do that,’ she says. Tulp Festival Amsterdam runs from March 31st to the end of April at locations throughout the city.   More >


Dutch documentary awakens euthanasia debate about wider rules

Dutch documentary awakens euthanasia debate about wider rules

A recent Dutch television documentary on euthanasia in which a 68 year-old woman suffering from semantic dementia was given a lethal injection may well herald a turning point in what many consider to be an increasingly broader - and unacceptable - interpretation of the rules. Hanneke Sanou assesses the reactions. The documentary, broadcast by public broadcaster NTR in Feburary to mark the start of a week of discussions on euthanasia, followed three clients of the Levenseindekliniek, a clinic for people who want to end their lives but whose family doctor is unwilling to cooperate. Some cases include people with mental problems or dementia, and people who consider their lives to be complete. Earlier this month an advisory commission rejected the norm ‘a life completed’ as grounds for euthanasia if the person requesting it does not also suffer from physical problems constituting ‘unbearable and hopeless suffering’, the basis on which Dutch law allows euthanasia to take place. All cases are reviewed by a committee which determines if doctors acted in accordance with due care. Deterioration The story of Hannie Goudriaan, a former health care worker, begins in 2008 when she starts to notice ‘something not right in the head’, as her husband Gerrit Goudriaan puts it. His wife turns out to be in the early stages of semantic dementia, a disease that gradually erases meaning from words and concepts. She tells family doctor Gert Bloemberg that if she deteriorates to the point where she can’t recognise loved ones or is unable to communicate she no longer wants to live, a statement she also puts in writing. Several years later, in 2014, Hannie decides the time has come but her first port of call, the family doctor, now doubts whether she is mentally competent enough to confirm her initial wish. The doctor, overwhelmed by the complexity of the case, decides that there are insufficient grounds. Remco Verwer, the doctor in charge of her case at the Levenseindekliniek, to which the couple then turns, becomes convinced of her wish to die. Hannie, by this time, has lost much of her understanding of words and seems to use the word ‘Huppekee’ (something like ‘there goes’) as a substitute for the act to end her life. Nothing left Meanwhile Hannie is shown fit enough to drive a car and enjoy the occasional outing. According to the review committee’s report, which states that doctors had acted with due care, Hannie then has an unusually lucid moment during a talk with a SCEN doctor ( SCEN stands for Support and Consultation in cases of Euthanasia in the Netherlands) during which she ‘clearly and calmly’ repeats her wish to die because ‘there is nothing left’. The final scenes show Hannie as she is given the injection, murmuring ‘terrible’. Reactions to the programme were immediate, and mixed. In the NRC clinical ethicist Erwin Kompanje professed himself ‘gobsmacked’ and ‘worried’. ‘If she was able to clearly state that she was suffering and wanted to die while the point of the euthanasia was the lack of the ability to communicate, then there is a contradiction there. Especially when you consider that semantic dementia is a progressive illness which can’t suddenly improve.’ (..) The fact that many health professionals had expressed similar doubts ‘could precipitate a discussion about the limits of euthanasia: ending the lives of people who can no longer confirm their wish by people who have no primary involvement, based on subjective interpretation of empty words and earlier living will should not admissible anywhere, including the Netherlands,’ he wrote. Slippery slope Professor of cognitive science Victor Lamme wrote in the Volkskrant that euthanasia in the Netherlands is on a ‘slippery slope’ and that euthanasia is used to ‘solve other problems than putting an end to unbearable suffering.’ According to Lamme Hannie Goudriaan was ‘under pressure’ to keep to her declaration of intention even though ‘a person with dementia becomes a different person’. He also points to the societal pressure on the elderly. ‘Which problem is euthanasia supposed to solve? The elderly cost time, money and effort. Modern society is unwilling to provide all three,’ he wrote. There were many who thought the documentary ‘touching and beautiful’.One Volkskrant reader said she thought she had been watching a 'totally different documentary than many others': 'I saw a loving couple grieving because one of them was deteriorating more and more.' Quick process According to Volkskrant journalist Maud Efting who has written extensively about the subject of euthanasia, the ‘euthanasia process was shown in the documentary as relatively very quick. 'In twenty minutes Hannie Goudriaan came to her end,’ she wrote, implying that this is one of the reasons the film was criticised so vehemently. In her considered piece on the programme she quotes family doctor Gert Bloemberg as saying that Hannie Goudriaan’s suffering was perhaps not shown ‘sufficiently’. Tragically the term ‘Huppekee euthanasie’ will now probably enter the language and this is doubly ironic when you consider that it was the lack of language that was at the heart of it.  More >


10 great things to do in March

10 great things to do in March

From beautiful kimonos and flying acrobats to leaping horses and films that matter, here's our pick of the best things to do in March. Admire Breitner's kimono girls For the first time, all the paintings of a girl in a kimono by Dutch artist George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) are being displayed together. Based on new research, the exhibition displays for the first time the full series of 14 paintings. Most of them feature the young Geesje Kwak, who posed for Breitner between the ages of 16 and 18. The paintings also include a hitherto unknown Girl in a Red Kimono from a private collection. As well as the paintings, the exhibition also includes drawings, sketches and photographs used by the artist in the preparation of his paintings. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam until May 22. www.rijksmuseum.nl Gasp at top show jumping Indoor Brabant is one of the world’s top show jumping events and features show jumping and dressage for horses and ponies for several international prizes, including two World Cup finals. It attracts around 250 horses and their riders, many of whom are in the world top 10, such as Scott Brash, the current number one in show jumping. There is also the chance to see carousel riding, which is team dressage with two columns of riders performing synchronised patterns. Indoor Brabant has grown so fast - visitor numbers have reached 65,000 - that last year the organisers added a second ring. Brabanthallen, Den Bosch, March 10 to 13. www.indoorbrabant.com Dress up as a superhero The Dutch version of the American Comic Con event covers comics, films, games, graphic novels, cosplay, science fiction, fantasy and cartoons. There are meet & greets with actors, artists and cosplayers, the newest films and memorabilia such as the 1969 Dodge Charger from The Dukes of Hazzard, Optimus Prime and the Autobots from the Transformers films and the Batmobile from 1966. Among the stars at the event are the actors John Ratzenberger (The Empire Strikes Back), Billy Dee Williams (Return of the Jedi), Eugene Simon (Game of Thrones) and Doug Jones (Fantastic Four, Hellboy), the cosplayers Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club and the writers and illustrators Brian Froud, Tony Moore and Steve Scott. Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, March 26 and 27. www.dutchcomiccon.com Take in a Broadway show The Tony award-winning Broadway production of the musical Pippin comes to the Netherlands. The story of a young man searching for meaning in his life and his time with a circus was written by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) in 1972 and directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse. This production is the 2013 revival directed by Diane Paulus (Cirque du Soleil) which won four Tony awards. Theater Carré, Amsterdam, March 9 to April 10. www.carre.nl Pick whose side you're on It rates as one of the most eagerly anticipated films of this year. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a $2 million-plus head-to-head between the two superheroes. It has Ben Affleck's Batman (casting which got the fan boys grumbling) facing off against Henry Cavill's Superman (first seen in Man of Steel) because he fears what will happen if Superman is left unchecked. Meanwhile Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) creates new threat Doomsday, so differences between superheroes must be set aside to save Metropolis from destruction. Director Zack Snyder promises lots of practical special effects rather than just the usual display of CG. Also in the mix is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who will get her own film next year. Oh and Jeremy Irons takes over from Michael Caine as Batman's faithful butler. Cinemas around the country, March 24. Find out about human rights The Movies That Matter festival screens around 70 feature films and documentaries dealing with various human rights issues. For instance, A Good American, in which whistleblower William Binney says the NSA could easily have prevented the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. Or 3 and 1/2 minutes, 10 bullets which shows the aftermath of a shooting when four boys were asked to turn down their music. In addition, there is a full programme of debates, Q&A sessions, workshops, talk shows, seminars and masterclasses. Filmhuis and Theater aan het Spui, The Hague, March 18 to 26. www.moviesthatmatter.nl Catch a genius in all his glory The David Bowie exhibition, which moved to the Netherlands from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, had its closing date extended following the announcement of Bowie's death on January 11. There is just over a month left in which to see the hundreds of objects, including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork and rare performance material from the past five decades from the David Bowie Archive. This is a fascinating and comprehensive look at the career of the man who has influenced music, art, design, theatre and contemporary culture for the past five decades, and will no doubt continue to do so for some considerable time. Groninger Museum, Groningen until April 10. www.groningermuseum.nl Wander through some gorgeous antiques The European Fine Art Fair is one of the world’s most prestigious art and antique fairs. It is certainly the largest, and it has the strictest system for ensuring the objects on offer are of the highest quality. It offers Old Master paintings, sculpture and furniture from all periods, modern and contemporary art, classical antiquities and Asian art. Newer sections cover 20th century design and applied arts, drawings and limited edition prints, antiquarian books and manuscripts and even wallpaper. MECC, Maastricht, March 11 to 20. www.tefaf.com Celebrate an opera anniversary To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Dutch National Opera has inaugurated the Opera Forward Festival to celebrate new work from a new generation of artists. Among the operas being performed are Il matrimonio segreto (the secret marriage) by Domenico Cimarosa which is a coproduction by the National Opera Talent, the Netherlands Touring Opera and Opera Zuid, and the world premier of Michel van der Aa’s chamber opera for soprano and 3D film Blank Out, with Miah Persson and the baritone Roderick Williams and the Netherlands Chamber Choir on film. There is also the first performance in Amsterdam of Only The Sound Remains for which Peter Sellars has combined two pieces by the Finnish Kaija Saariah and taken noh dramas as his inspiration. Muziektheater and other venues, Amsterdam, March 15 to 25. www.operaforwardfestival.nl Wonder at the artistry of acrobats The spectacular and artistic Cirque du Soleil circus company returns to the Netherlands with the show AmaLuna. It’s about a mysterious island ruled by goddesses and what happens when a group of young men wash up on the shore. But it’s really about the high quality of the acrobats, clowns, dancers and singers, and the amazing lighting and costumes. Big top, next to the Arena, Amsterdam, March 17 to May 1. www.cirquedusoleil.com  More >


Master cyber security with a Webster University degree

Barely a week goes by without a new cyber security scare - a corporate website paralysed with a sustained attack by hackers, a phishing expedition that nets millions of euros, or a major government information leak. Good reason then, for Webster University in Leiden to launch a new Master of Science course in cyber security this year. ‘Here at Webster, we look at relevant trends in society and aim to take a leading role in them. Cybercrime is very relevant these days, and it’s a development that needs to be addressed,' says Webster director Jean Paul van Marissing. 'We’ve been one of the biggest providers of educational training to the military since the 1980s, and that expertise, along with our connections at the CIA and NATO, makes it possible for us to set up this programme.' The course will teach students to deal with sensitive areas like fraud, theft, information protection, terrorism, digital forensics, intelligence and counter-intelligence, says academic director doctor Islam Qasem. 'An MS degree in cyber security is one of the most currently "in-demand" qualifications in the world,' he says. 'With the proliferation of internet and smart devices, there is a lot of sensitive information in cyber space that needs to be adequately protected.' Open day You can find out more about the cyber security course on March 19, when Webster is holding an open day for prospective students at its Leiden campus. Webster University is the only certified US university in the Netherlands, offering both bachelor's and master’s courses taught by experts in their field. ‘There is no such thing as a typical Webster student,’ says spokeswoman Joijcelyn Hoost. ‘Our classes are small, you really get to know your teachers and it is a great way to build up an international network.’ Leiden itself is a city with a rich past and a bright future – where you see students, bicycles, canals and charming buildings all in one place. The city has been a centre of historical and commercial importance for centuries, where new ideas and philosophies were explored and education cultivated. This heritage of education is still very much alive today. In the heart of Leiden is Webster University, offering bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in business management, the behavioural and social sciences, international relations, and media and communications to a small, highly motivated and international group of students. And if you are already forging ahead with your career, Webster even has an Amsterdam annex where you can study for an MBA or other master’s programmes part time. Find out more about Webster's degree courses, study options, flexibility and what you can expect from the only accredited American university in the Netherlands on March 19. You will also be able to meet heads of department, students, staff and faculty members. Sign up online  More >


75 years ago Amsterdammers went on strike to support the Jews

75 years ago Amsterdammers went on strike to support the Jews

It is 75 years ago this year that workers in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas went on strike in a protest against what was to be the beginning of the large-scale persecution of Jews in the Netherlands. The 1941 februaristaking, or February strike, is commemorated every year on February 25. What went before On February 11, a member of the WA, a club of bully boys affiliated with the Dutch Nazi party NSB, was killed in a fight with Jewish and non-Jewish Amsterdammers who were standing up for the rights of terrorised Jewish citizens. Tension mounted and when, later that month, the German police raided Jewish ice parlour Koco they were met with a spurt of ammonia gas (used for refrigeration purposes). The German response was swift: on February 22 and 23, 425 Jewish men and boys were rounded up and deported to concentration camps Mauthousen and Buchenwald. Most perished there. The strike The Dutch communist party CPN was illegal at the time and from its ranks would come some of the most dogged resistance fighters. In this instance it issued a now historic pamphlet with the words Staakt!!! Staakt!!! Staakt!!!, an impassioned call for strike action ‘to show solidarity with the Jewish part of our society which has been hit so hard’. It was heeded en masse. Day 1 On February 25 some 300,000 people downed tools in Amsterdam. Trams stood still, docks stood deserted, shops and offices closed and schools were empty of students. Civil servants, too, joined the strike. People took to the streets to demonstrate against the German regime. Day 2 The next day the Zaanstreek, Kennemerland (Haarlem and Velsen), Hilversum, Utrecht and Weesp joined the strike. The 26th was also the day the Germans, who had been taken completely by surprise, retaliated. Clashes on the day left nine dead and 24 severely wounded. The aftermath Never before had there been a strike to protest against the treatment by the Germans against the Jews. Civil servants were fired and Amsterdam mayor Willem de Vlugt was forced to step down. Many were arrested and the city was ordered to pay a 15 million guilder fine. Communists The members of the CPN, already targeted by the Germans, were now even more at risk. At the end of February one of its members, 23 year-old Leendert Schijveschuurder, was arrested when he was putting up posters calling for a strike on March 6. He was sentenced to death and executed the next day, the first Dutch citizen to be shot by a German firing squad. Some time later, three other members of the Communist party were executed, along with 15 members of the Geuzen resistance movement on the Waalsdorpervlakte near Scheveningen in 1941. Many others were also to die in the same place. The song of the 18 dead The 18 executed men were honoured in a poem written by writer and resistance fighter Jan Campert, who died in concentration camp Neuengamme in 1943. This is the first stanza: Een cel is maar twee meter lang en nauw twee meter breed, wel kleiner nog is het stuk grond, dat ik nu nog niet weet, maar waar ik naamloos rusten zal, mijn makkers bovendien, wij waren achttien in getal, geen zal den avond zien. A cell is only two metres long And scarcely two metres wide, Smaller still the plot of land That I know not but where I will rest, namelessly and my comrades too We were eighteen in all None of us will live to see the night. Jonas Daniël Meijerplein The February strike is commemorated every year with a ceremony at the Dokwerker statue on the Jonas Daniël Meyerplein in Amsterdam, in the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. The square was renamed Houtmarkt in 1942 in a bid to eradicate Jewish street names. Jonas Daniël Meijer (1780-1834) was the first Jewish lawyer in the Netherlands. The square was the scene of the infamous raid on the Jewish community’s boys and men that preceded the strike.   The Dokwerker The statue of the Dokwerker (the dock worker) with his hands about to turn into fists, was made by sculptor Mari Andriessen. The person who posed for the statue was builder Willem Termetz whom Andriessen knew from their days in the resistance movement. The statue was unveiled by queen Wilhelmina in 1952. This year The theme of this year’s commemoration of the February strike is Verander in de ander, or put yourself in their shoes. Former mayor Job Cohen will open a photo exhibition about the 1941 raid on the Jonas Daniël Meijerplein on February 21 at 5pm. A complete programme of activities surrounding the commemoration can be found here.  More >


Second Iamexpat fair takes place in Amsterdam

Second Iamexpat fair takes place in Amsterdam

The IamExpat Fair 2016 will take place on Saturday, March 5 at Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek. The fair is the spring meeting place for expats and local businesses and is designed to support internationals in the Netherlands, providing them with everything they need in one location, on one day! The first edition took place last year. With more than 3,000 check-ins, 75 exhibitors, 20 free workshops and registrations from120 different nationalities, the IamExpat Fair 2015 was met with great enthusiasm by both expats and local businesses. Running from 10am to 5pm on March 5, in the Zuiveringshal West at Westergasfabriek, this free event will host stands from dozens of companies and organisations working in housing, careers, education, expat services, health and leisure and family needs. Free workshops and presentations will also be happening throughout the day at Het Ketelhuis and the North Sea Jazz Club. Visitors to the IamExpat Fair can: - Get assistance to find a rental property or understand Dutch mortgages - Meet with recruiters and companies that are hiring - Attend workshops about living and working in the Netherlands - Learn about advancing their career through professional development - Benefit from many special offers - Find local health and lifestyle organisations - Connect with like-minded locals and expats from around the world Whether you’re a new arrival or a long-term resident in the Netherlands there’s a lot to explore and understand: from finding a house, a new job or a great school for your kids, to choosing a trustworthy accountant, legal advisor or MBA programme, and much more. Don’t miss the expat event of 2016. Book your free ticket now  More >


Soul searching: Volkskrant columnist Nadia Ezzeroili says she is not Dutch

Soul searching: Volkskrant columnist Nadia Ezzeroili says she is not Dutch

It isn’t often that a newspaper column causes such a stir. But Volkskrant journalist Nadia Ezzeroili’s column entitled ‘Ik ben geen Nederlander’ (I am not Dutch) seems to have struck a chord with many. Ezzeroili, who is of Moroccan descent, directly addressed the Netherlands, the country of her birth, and told it that the relationship between them is at an end and that a separation, or even a divorce, is on the cards. ‘The words "I am Dutch" stick in my craw,’ Ezzeroili wrote. Her disenchantment with the Dutch lies in the fundamental Dutch refusal to accept her as one of their own, she maintains, and increasingly she labels herself Moroccan, ‘not from Moroccan chauvinism but to harness myself against your distrust and casual rejection’. Ezzeroili recounts how she’s stopped going to the hip bars and cafés frequented by the white chattering classes and is turning to waterpipe cafés. She is angry, she says. For all her education, her job and all the middle class trappings she’s acquired, true acceptance still eludes her, and for many who don’t have her level of education things are worse still. Judas kisses And it is not the supposedly Wilders-voting ‘Tokkies’ that make her feel unwelcome but rather the elite who dole out ‘Judas kisses to [MP] Khadija Arib in front of the cameras and mock her accent behind the scenes’. At a party she feels unable to comfort a young man of mixed Pakistani-Surinam descent who feels increasingly lonely the more successful he becomes. What she can’t bear to tell him is that ‘The Dutch dream is a deception. It’s a deception because it comes with a condition: that your background becomes unnoticeable to others.’ On a trip to Morocco, a country where she ‘would be much worse off as a woman’, she is welcomed: she has ‘come home’, an old man tells her. The Dutch show no such loyalty towards her unless she can elicit their approval by telling them ‘stories about my skating talents, my preference for stamppot over lamb chops and the fanatical attempts of my mother to learn Dutch’. Narcissistic navel-gazer The column, aimed at the white, middle class readers of the Volkskrant, generated a lot of response, some soul-searching and some online abuse. Ezzeroili was described as a narcissistic navel-gazer and a victim with no backbone. But others said she was spot-on about the way people with different backgrounds are treated in this country. Columnist Ebru Amar let rip in her own column on tpo.nl. ‘A mocro’s choice is simple: do I remain a victim or am I just as good as any Dutch person?’ she wrote in her usual abrasive style before slating Ezzeroili for choosing to be ‘a professional Moroccan. I can’t really interpret her whining in the Volkskrant in any other way’, Amar wrote. She also has a go at the paper: ‘Being pathetic, pointing the finger and whining about feeling excluded because of the colour of your skin are bound to make you a hit with the Dutch media. Add the curly hair, the smooth face of the post-adolescent, the discontented hipster gaze and you know: there’s a new kid in town and her name is Nadia Ezzeroili. Embraced by the respectable media who crow: WE’VE GOT HER!’ You are Dutch In a VN piece entitled Nadia Ezzeroili, you ARE Dutch,  journalist Henk van Renssen urged Ezzeroili to stay and not give xenophobes the satisfaction of seeing her leave. He did, however, express surprise at her description of a ‘warm and honest white working class and a cool, fearful and hypocritical (seemingly tolerant but hiding their racism) middle class. The Netherlands is split between people who reject the multicultural society and those who embrace it and try to find solutions if there are problems. 'That split runs through all classes’, Renssen wrote. Political scientist Meindert Fennema, also on tpo.nl, said Ezzeroili is right: background does matter and pursuing the dream comes with a price. He compared the columnist to successful writer and journalist Anil Ramdas who ‘desperately tried to ingratiate himself with the elite by slating the Tokkies' - the Dutch equivalant of trailer trash. Not so Ezzeroili who squarely blames the elite. Fennema concluded that ‘For Ramdas, the price for his successful adaptation was too high. He left for India as a correspondent, wrote the beautiful novel Badal, and shortly after returning ended his life.'  More >


The visions of Hieronymus Bosch are centre stage in landmark exhibition

The visions of Hieronymus Bosch are centre stage in landmark exhibition

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) whose bizarre creatures struck awe and admiration into the hearts of his contemporaries and continue to do so today. Here are ten facts about this extraordinary painter whose work will be on show in a landmark exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum from February 13 to May 8. 1 What is his real name? Jheronimus/ Hieronymus/Joen/Jeroen van Aken, as he is variously called, hailed from the city of Den Bosch in the province of Noord-Brabant. In 1488 Jeroen van Aken began signing his work using the name of his native city and became Jheronimus Bosch. It is said that this was actually a clever marketing ploy: Bosch wanted his patrons to know where to find him (and presumably not go looking for him in Aken (Aachen), Germany, where the family originally came from). Bosch did indeed live in Den Bosch all his life and died there in 1516. The 500th anniversary of his death is the reason the Noordbrabants Museum is mounting this unique exhibition. 2 Bosch was in demand in his lifetime Born into a family of painters, Bosch was unlikely to turn to another profession. Fortunately he was extremely talented, and very successful during his lifetime. His outlandish iconography, so different from what was on offer from his contemporaries, far from repelling his wealthy clientele actually drew their admiration and Bosch paintings were in great demand. Aristocratic patrons included Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy and Brabant and Henry III of Nassau. 3 Where did the images come from? So how can someone who stepped outside his house to walk the short distance to his studio every day come up with such hallucinatory images? Man-machines and monsters engage in such bewildering activities that ‘a lively imagination’ just doesn’t seem to cover it. And yet that is all we are left with, although some hold that Bosch’s visions sprang from eating mouldy rye bread. Bosch’s depiction of cities on fire is said to spring from his witnessing a great fire in Den Bosch in 1463 – 4,000 houses were burned to the ground - as a child but even that is unproven. In fact, very little is known of his life at all. 4 Was Bosch a heretic? What is certain is that subsequent arbiters of taste did not quite know what to make of Bosch and his images. In 17th century Spain he was branded a heretic for his ‘devilry’ while the psychoanalytic movement of the 1930s had him down as a loony obsessed with guilt and sin (Bosch was a Roman Catholic). Others thought he must have been a member of the Brethren of Free Spirit, a sect trying to create a new garden of Eden mainly by means of unbridled sex. Later Salvador Dali and his fellow surrealists hailed him as a kindred spirit. 5 Symbolism Much in the paintings continues to defy interpretation but here’s what Stanley Meisler of the Smithsonian says about some of the symbols in Bosch’s work: ‘Although scholars don’t always agree on interpretations, this sampler suggests possible meanings for some symbols found in the paintings: pig: false priest; gluttony, fruit: carnal pleasure, rat: lies against the church; filth; sex, fish: false prophets; lewdness, closed book: futility of knowledge in dealing with human stupidity; flames: ergotism; fires of hell, flying monsters: hallucination of ergotism sufferers; devil’s envoys, keys: knowledge, lute and harp: instruments for praise of god and pursuit of love; breasts: fertility, mussel shell: infidelity, black birds: unbelievers; death or rotting flesh, knives: punishment of evil, rabbits: multiplication of the race, egg: sexual creation, key symbol of alchemy, ice skater: folly, funnel: deceit and intemperance; false alchemist or false doctor, strawberry: fleeting joys of life, love, owl: great learning, ears: gossip, spheres: alchemical apparatus.’ 6 How many Bosch works are there? How many works Bosch painted is unknown. A number of them perished; 24 have now been attributed to him with any certainty. Copies abounded, made to look conveniently older and authentic by exposing them to smoke, according to disgruntled art collector Felipe de Guevara who owned no fewer than 6 ‘El Boscos’.   7 Analysis and restoration The Bosch Research and Conservation Project  has been busily analysing and restoring Bosch’s work for the last five years. This has led to new insights and a ‘new’ painting was added to the oeuvre, no doubt to the delight of present owner - the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas, Missouri. This tiny rendering of the Temptation of St Anthony was previously attributed to one of his apprentices. 8 Persuasion Intrepid museum boss Charles de Mooij has managed to persuade museums all over the world to part with 20 of Bosch’s 25 surviving paintings, using participation in the prestigious project as his lure. Not included is his famous Garden of Earthly Delights (painted between 1480 and 1505) which was considered too fragile to travel. The Prado was kind enough to send the Haywain (1516), however, which is leaving Madrid for the first time in 450 years!. 9 Marketing Like many other painters Bosch has spawned a sea of tat, but tat, it seems, mainly targeting the young: Garden of Earthly Delight Doc Martens, leggings and skateboards, for instance. For the present craze for colouring books there is even a Garden of Earthly Delight colouring book for hours of colouring fun. 10 His Year 2016 is Hieronymus Bosch year. Apart from the exhibition, Den Bosch will be the scene of artistic interpretations of the painter’s work in theatre, dance and film.    More >


Dutch students help refugee artists find an online voice

Dutch students help refugee artists find an online voice

A project by Utrecht art school students has become a platform for artists who have come to the Netherlands as refugees to tell their stories. By Tracy Brown Hamilton Mahmod Kharrat, 22, is a professional photographer who specialised in portrait photography in his native Damascus. He has lived in the Netherlands for four months, and while he has found himself labelled as a ‘refugee,’ he identifies himself first and foremost with his art form. ‘I am a photographer; I always have been,’ he says. ‘It’s my job, and it makes me feel free.’ His haunting black-and-white portraits - mostly taken during his time in Syria - appear on a newly launched website that features the artwork and writing of refugees. Utrecht The Publisher, as the website is called, is the creation of six students at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. The students - Sacha Schemkes, Sophie Roumans, Sophie Dogterom, Welmoed Terpstra, Mirthe Vos and Jöran Zeeuw - made the decision to create a platform for refugee artists when tasked with completing an interdisciplinary project for a  college assignment. ‘We all felt we wanted to do something with refugees,’ Sacha Schemkes said at a recent site launch presentation at Pakhuis Zwijger in Amsterdam. ‘But we didn’t know precisely what.’ The group was concerned about the portrayal of the refugees in the mainstream press. ‘You heard a lot in the media about the refugees, but they don't have much opportunity to speak for themselves,’ Sophia Roumans says, ‘And that was our goal, to give a voice to the refugees.’ Social media The team began trying to contact refugees in Nijmegen, which has the largest reception centre in the country. Some 3,000 new arrivals reside there. ‘We approached people there, and contacted a Facebook group for refugees to find people who might want to meet with us, to see what could develop,’ Roumans explains. ‘And we met some very inspiring people.’ The students wanted the project to be a true collaboration. ‘We did not want to present it as something that we would do about them; we wanted to have their input into what they wanted to express,’ Schemkes says. ‘Not something the "white Westerner" says is good for them.’ Self-expression What they heard was that the refugees wanted a platform on which they could express themselves directly. Being art students, the developers of the site believe you can sometimes say more with a photo or a film then with an article. ‘The people we’ve met are very creative,’ they say. ‘We are very proud of the work we have received.’ The site is an eclectic mix of styles and art forms, from photography to poetry, all of which sheds light on the people behind the ‘refugee’ tag. Among the contributors is 16-year-old poet Tamara Mehhook, who writes about the pain a boy feels for his country, and the sadness at having to leave it. ‘Oh Syria… my home […] I am proud to be your son.’ You’ll also find recipes accompanied by the gorgeous food photography of Rada Assi, a mother of two teenagers who came to the Netherlands six months ago. Ten attempts Shady Zen Aldeen is a 27-year-old architect who wrote about his journey to the Netherlands, including his harrowing ten attempts to cross by boat from Turkey to Greece. ‘They left us stranded in the sea,’ he writes, surrounded by three-meter waves with no motor. Aldeen says he shared his story to help break the barriers between himself and the Dutch people. ‘It’s important for us to be able to project a positive image,’ he says. ‘So that people can know more about who we are.‘ Although he says most people have been very friendly, he has encountered resistance. ‘When I first arrived four months ago, we went to the centre of Nijmegen to hand out flowers to people, to say thank you,’ he says. ‘Some people refused to talk to us. Some people are afraid. They have a lot of ideas about us, and there is some prejudice.’ Dreams He hopes initiatives like The Publisher will help improve this. ‘I think we have to tell them more about ourselves, about who we are, our dreams,' he says. 'About our plans.’ The students behind the site also intend to continue their work on the initiative, beyond the college assignment. They believe artistic expression is vital for the refugees, both for their well-being and also for their livelihood moving forward. ‘The image people have of refugees is that of people in need. The focus is on how much money they cost, that everyone will need to be given a house,’ Schemkes says. ‘But actually we've met many creative people who say "I don’t need to be given a house, I just want to be able to do my work, earn my own money, and then I can look after myself". But they can’t do that because they don’t have a network, they don’t have the right papers.’ Sponsorship For now, the site can give refugee artists exposure, and hopefully access to the equipment they need - cameras, paints, computers. ‘Right now, we do everything ourselves,’ Schemkes says. ‘But now we want to find more sponsorship. With more money, of course you can do a lot more. So that’s what we’re seeking now.’ Most of the current work on the site has come from the network they have formed in Nijmegen, but now that the site has launched, they hope it will extend to other areas of the Netherlands. And there are ideas for taking the work offline, as well. ‘We would like to have an exhibition of the work, perhaps even a pop-up restaurant,’ Roumans says. ‘We have lots of ideas.’  More >