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


Dutch words every foreigner in NL uses, even if they don’t speak Dutch

There are some Dutch words which just sneak in to the conversation, either because we use them so much or because there is no equivalent in our own tongues. Here’s a list of 10 Dutch words every buitenlander uses from day one. Lekker: the proverbial first word everyone seems to learn and which describes just about everything which is positive. Even people who say they don’t speak a word of Dutch will use the odd ‘lekker’. Borrel: for some reason, we don’t go for drinks, we always have a borrel. And if you are young expats working in an international environment you may even have a vrijmibo Btw: always pronounced bee tee wee and meaning tax, not ‘by the way’. Atv: unlike btw, atv is often pronounced in the English way (by English speakers), as in ‘I’ve got an ei tee vee tomorrow. Lucky you. Gemeente: perhaps it is because foreigner have so much to do with the good folks in the town hall, but everyone talks about the gemeente, never the council. Makelaar: those other good folk who find houses for extortionate fees. Bel: when you have been in in the Netherlands a few weeks, everyone seems to stop phoning. We bel, as in ‘I’ll bel you tonight’. Horeca: as in working in the horeca… it's a terrifically handy term – hotel, restaurant, cafe – and one which the rest of the world could easily adopt. Apotheek: another word that just sneaks in, even though there are plenty of respectable foreign language equivalents. Storing: a word which all Dutch railway users will get to know very well. This list was first published on Netherlands by Numbers. Feel free to suggest more.   More >


10 Dutch statues inspired by novels

10 Dutch statues inspired by novels

Literature as an influence for sculpture? Well, why not? Here's a collection of Dutch statues which have been inspired by children's books and novels. 1 Miffy The internationally famous and merchandised-to-the-hilt Nijntje, or Miffy as the inscrutable bunny is called abroad, has a statue on a square named after her in Utrecht, the home town of creator Dick Bruna. 2 Dikkertje Dap Annie M. G. Schmidt created the little boy in the red wellies who wants to slide down the neck of a giraffe (and does). Frank Rosen’s sculpture at Amsterdam's Artis zoo shows the benign giraffe bending over to help Dikkertje Dap get on board: ‘Boem! Au!!’ 3 The Titaantjes Three pals are leaning back on a park bench in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam watching the world go by. They are the Titaantjes (Little Titans) who, one day, will do great things. Or not. The sculpture of the three characters from Nescio’s engaging story (1918) is by Hans Bayens. It also bears the famous first sentence of the book: ‘Jongens waren we - maar aardige jongens.’ (We were boys then - but nice boys). 4 Family Feenstra Afke’s Tiental (Nienke van Hichtum, 1903) is the heart-warming tale of a poverty-stricken Friesian family of ten and the small events that mark their lives. Nienke van Hichtum – who was married to revolutionary firebrand Pieter Jelles Troelstra - based her story on the Feenstra family from the village of Warga which is where you can find Suzanna Berkhout’s statue. 5 Marten Toonder The Toondermonument in Rotterdam (Pepijn van den Nieuwendijk with Luuk Bode, Boris van Berkum and Hans van Bentum) is a tribute to writer and artist Marten Toonder, who is best known for his cartoon featuring bumbling Olivier B. Bommel and his clever pal Tom Poes. The monument shows a number of Toonder characters, among which the inimitable Markies de Cantecler. 6 Bartje Bartels Bartje Bartels is the main character in two books by Anne de Vries which describe the fortunes of a young boy growing up in a poor farming community in Drenthe. Bartje is a bit of a non-conformist: he famously refused to pray for brown beans, or in his native Drents ‘Ik bid nie veur bruune boon'n!’ His statue, also by Suzanna Berkhout who must have specialised in the depiction of rural poverty, has for some reason been repeatedly defaced, wrenched from its reinforced pedestal and kidnapped. It is, for the moment at least, in Assen. 7 Kniertje Yet another story of hardship is Op Hoop van Zegen, a play from 1900 by Herman Heijermans set against the background of the fishing town of Scheveningen. Grinding poverty, exploitation by a wealthy ship owner and death at sea are the jolly ingredients of this incredibly popular and enduring saga which was filmed no fewer than three times, the last time in 1986. In 2008 it was turned into a musical, in spite of the bleak storyline which could only inspire dirges. Kniertje is the long-suffering widow who loses her son to the sea and rampant capitalism (‘De vis wordt duur betaald’ is her famous lamentation: We pay a heavy price for the fish). Her statue, on the Scheveningen boulevard, is officially a monument to the fishermen’s wives (Annie van der Velde) but has been dubbed Kniertje for obvious reasons. 8 Woutertje Pieterse Multatuli set this book in a bourgeois milieu in which a boy given to day dreaming is trying to find his way. Multatuli, who’s main claim to fame is Max Havelaar, never meant for the story to be separated from Ideas, a collection of miscellaneous texts, but his widow thought otherwise. The statue, by Frits Sieger at the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam, shows Woutertje and Femke, the daughter of a washerwoman whom he defends against some rowdy boys intent on spoiling her freshly laundered sheets. 9 Hans Brinker Hans Brinker did not spring from the mind of a Dutch author – he was thought up by American author Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865 - but he deserves a place in the list if only for having no fewer than three statues to his name, in Spaarndam, Harlingen and Madurodam. All show him with his finger in the dike saving the country from flooding. 10 Erik Erik of het Klein Insectenboek (Godfried Bomans, 1941) is the enchanting and funny story of Erik who finds himself inside a painting on his wall of a meadow with sheep and lots of creepy crawlies  ahead of a school test on insects. Erik meets a score of interesting characters and learns some valuable lessons, but when he uses the information from his visit in his test he fails miserably. That’s grown-ups for you. Erik op de Vlinder by sculptor Mari Andriessen can be found in a leafy corner of Bloemendaal.  More >


Dutch company launches plan for recycled plastic roads

Dutch company launches plan for recycled plastic roads

Dutch company KWS Infra is developing a new sort of road made from recycled plastic. This, the company says, will not only cut down on plastic waste but reduce CO2 output from road building and usage, and make roads more sustainable and safer. Esther O’Toole reports. An estimated eight billion tons of plastic is floating around in the oceans and 55% of our plastic waste is still incinerated. Innovative Dutch companies have been busy looking at feasible ways of fishing the plastic out of the sea and shipping it to shore. Now KWS Infra, part of the VolkerWessels construction group and the biggest road builder in the Netherlands, has come up with a plan to turn that kind of plastic waste into roads. The roads themselves would be made from prefab sections prepared offsite from 100% recycled plastic and brought en masse to the building site, with road markings and guard rails already in place. Being light weight and easy to transport they could take months off construction times. The fabric is thought to be more durable than asphalt and needs little or no maintenance, being weather proof and impervious to weeds. The other major advantage is that they are hollow allowing space for piping, electric cables and – another hot topic for VolkerWessels – internet connections. Internet VolkerWessels is now investing in multiple projects for urban renewal and connected city innovation, including placing internet receivers along roads, be they antennas and masts or embedded in street lights and wind turbines. Plastic roads fit into this picture perfectly. If the space inside the decking could also be used to house net connectors, losing reception in a tunnel would become a thing of the past. Driverless cars, cheap and affordable ones too, will be on the open market as early as next year. What benefits will be reaped from these innovative technologies when they begin to converge? With uninterrupted mobile internet connections along all main highways, a long commute could be set to become the most productive part of the day. No wonder then that VolkerWessels is not having trouble garnering interest for their projects. Rotterdam city council was the first to show interest in piloting the PlasticRoad, in early July. Interest Since then the company has had interest from cities all over the world and are looking to finalise partnerships with plastics and recycling experts soon, spokesman Anne Koudstaal told DutchNews.nl. The aim is to have a team in place by December and to run a feasibility pilot within three years. ‘We are feeling very positive about it,' he said. 'All the good reactions [to July’s announcement] are a huge boost for us and the idea. It makes it all seem so much more realisable.’ If all goes to plan, the roads themselves may in turn be recyclable. This would bring PlasticRoad completely in line with the ‘cradle to cradle’ notions of the circular economy being implemented by other innovative ideas such as The Ocean Clean Up Project and the Plastic Madonna art project. The Netherlands, despite being one of the smallest countries in the developed world by land mass, has one of the highest carbon footprints per capita; especially in relation to fossil fuel use and cement production. Cutting emissions related to road usage and building would seriously reduce that footprint. Especially when one considers that the road network in the country covers approximately 135,470 km and most of it is tarmacked.  More >


How to bank in the Netherlands, with full service and support in English

How to bank in the Netherlands, with full service and support in English

Have you just arrived in the Netherlands? You will notice that a lot is different here: the language, the food, but also the way of banking. We would like to help you find your way around financially. Welcome to the Netherlands. First things first: a Dutch bank account The first thing you need in the Netherlands is a current account with a debit card and credit card. Your employer will use this to pay your salary. And you will need it to shop and to pay your rent, for example. Opening a current account is easy and you can do so at ABN AMRO even before you receive your Dutch citizen service number (BSN). Once your account has been opened, you will receive a complete package to manage the account: a debit card, a credit card and tools for online banking. And did you know that in the Netherlands you can do all your banking online from your computer, tablet or smartphone? Our Mobile Banking app can be also set to run in English, German and Spanish. We offer you more than just an account Once you have settled in, you may have other needs or queries regarding your financial situation. You may want to ask about insurance, savings or investments, for example. Or maybe you need a loan. And possibly you will consider buying a house. Did you know that this can offer you interesting advantages? Our experts will gladly give you advice that is tailored to your personal situation. In English, of course. Or in one of the 25 other languages we speak. Welcome to our experts at the International Clients Desks Our staff will be glad to help you with information and advice on all your financial matters. They know the rules and legislation governing expats and many of them either come from outside the Netherlands themselves or have worked abroad. They are therefore aware of the financial problems you may encounter, but also how they can resolve them for you. Banking with ABN AMRO also means banking in the way that suits you, on a device of your choice, 24 hours a day: through our International Clients Desks, by telephone, via Internet Banking or Mobile Banking. That’s how to bank in the Netherlands. At ABN AMRO. The advantages of banking with ABN ARMO Full service and support in English 24/7 Internet Banking in English Mobile Banking apps in English, German and Spanish Financial advice in more than 25 languages at one of our IC desks Money transfers and withdrawals from cash dispensers in Europe at no additional cost Worldwide access to own personal accounts More information? Please visit abnamro.nl/newcomers to find out about banking in the Netherlands. Or call 0900 – 8170 (you pay your usual call charges set by your telephone provider) or +31 10 – 241 1723 from outside the Netherlands. // // //   More >


10 buildings worth a visit during Dutch Heritage Weekend

10 buildings worth a visit during Dutch Heritage Weekend

Saturday is the start of Dutch National Heritage Weekend when over 4,000 listed buildings up and down the country open their doors to the public. Some of these remain firmly closed during the year but on this occasion the owners grant a privileged peek to the curious. And the best thing is it’s absolutely free! This year the organisers of the Open Monumentendag have chosen to highlight the arts & crafts movement. This is where DutchNews would go if it could be in ten places at once. 1. Menkemaborg, Uithuizen A stunningly beautiful estate from the 17th century, choc-a-bloc with artefacts of the time and impressive architectural features. The garden was re-created using the original design from 1705. Sat 10am – 5pm 2 Atelier Roland Holst, Oude Buisse Heide, Noord Brabant It doesn’t really get more artsy and craftsy than this. This hobbit house of a little studio was designed in 1918 by the Netherlands’ first female architect Margaret Staal-Kropholler for artist Richard Roland Holst and his politically active, poet wife Henriëtte Roland Holst. Roland Holst loved the design and told Staal-Kropholler: ‘(..) There’s nothing about it I don’t like. It’s lovely and rural and practical at the same time and I wish it was there already on that beautiful spot on the edge of the wood.’ The studio is still used by artists and descendants of Roland Holst but is also in use as a holiday let. Sun 11am-5pm 3 The Jan de Jonghuis in Schaijk This is an example of the so-called ‘Bossche School’ of which architect Jan de Jong was the main representative: a starkly classical style with a strict emphasis on proportion much used in the Dutch church architecture of the time. ‘DISPONERE MOLEM CONDECET SAPIENTEM ET ORDINARE STRUCTOREM SPATIA CORPORI TECTUM MENTI PARARE STRATUM’ was De Jong’s dictum which is cut into one of the stone lintels of the house. It means roughly that a home needs to be a roof over your head but also a place conducive to contemplation. Sat & Sun 1pm – 5pm 4 The Talens paint factory, Apeldoorn It’s actually Royal Talens, an honour bestowed on the paint makers in 1949 by queen Wilhelmina who dabbled in art and used Talens products. Just how many great works of art have been made using Talens paint is unknown but the factory has been going for a hundred years so it can be rightfully called a monument to art. Sat 10am – 5pm 5 Radio Kootwijk Radio Kootwijk is a broadcasting station built in 1923 in the middle of the Veluwe national park. In 1929 its international telephone service was inaugurated by queen mother Emma whose words to the Dutch colony of Indonesia were ‘Hello Bandung, can you hear me?’. The station was decommissioned in 1982 with the arrival of satellite communication. The building is a great example of 1920s architecture. There are guided tours and an exhibition to explain the building’s history. Sat & Sun 10am-5pm 6 Kasteel Huys Heyen, Heyen Yes, it’s one of those, a private pile from the 16th century. It was built by the Spaenrebock family who went on to live in it for centuries. The house was shot to bits by the Germans during World War II but in 1949 artist Peter Roovers bought and lovingly restored the stronghold on the Meuse. Of the historic interior nothing remains but the history of the house makes up for that. Ask the owners to show you the little window in the dungeon, they’ll know why. Sat&Sun 11am – 5pm. 7 Huis Deenik This house in Amsterdam dates from 1882 and was built as a calling card for builder Zeeger Deenik. Architect I Gosschalk was given plenty of scope for crafts: the façade unites wood, brick and fancy plasterwork. The painted interior of the main room is a beautiful example of 19th century arts & crafts. For more listed buildings open in Amsterdam go to the website. Sat & Sun 10am – 5pm 8 SS Rotterdam Now a hotel and restaurant, the SS Rotterdam was once the flagship of the famous Holland-America Line. Between 1959 and 1997 the ship made over 1,000 voyages. Its pristine ‘50s interior should be enough to entice you aboard. For more listed buildings open in Rotterdam go to the special website. Sat 10am – 5pm 9 The Westkapelle lighthouse This splendid building didn’t start out as a lighthouse but as a church tower which accounts for its un-lighthouse like exterior. You can climb all the way up to the top, or go towards the light so to speak. It’s only 8 (eight) floors, or 53 meters. The view is spectacular. Sat 10am-5pm 10 The Fundatie van Renswoude In 1754 Maria Duyst van Voorhout, a so-called ‘vrijvrouw’ or member of the aristocracy, left her considerable fortune to a foundation which had to make sure that ‘the cleverest, most intelligent and most capable youngsters should be selected to learn mathematics, drawing, painting, sculpting and "oeffeningen in sware dijkagien of dergelijke liberale kunsten"', by which she meant building dikes and other useful public works. The foundation still supports youngsters who, for some reason or another, cannot get a grant for a university education. The building that houses the foundation retains many of its original 18th century features. Sat 10am - 5pm  More >


The American Book Center is a Dutch institution

The American Book Center is a Dutch institution

The American Book Center has turned into a Dutch institution and Lynn Kaplanian-Buller has been its director for over four decades. In this interview, Lynn tells Brandon Hartley what originally brought her to the Netherlands and how two postcards once helped the business pay its rent for an entire year. How did it all start? The American Discount Book, Magazine Retail and Distribution Centre was started by two Americans, Mitch Crossfield and Sam Boltansky, in 1971. Mitch already lived here in Amsterdam and Sam had a lot of books back in Baltimore. Mitch said to him: ‘Everybody speaks English over here and there’s not enough books. You should send them over and I’ll sell them.’ Mitch had a hard time selling them to other bookshops due to a cartel; an arrangement which prevented others from breaking into the business. Mitch told Sam to come over to Amsterdam and around Christmas in 1971 they were walking along the Kalverstraat. They came across a jewellery store and made a deal with the owner to take it over. They shipped the books over, didn’t change much in the store and maybe added a few shelves. They didn’t even change the carpet [and officially opened for business in 1972]. That’s around when I walked in looking for magazines, which were cheaper there than elsewhere. I spoke with Mitch and talked my way into doing security over the weekend. By Sunday night, he left me alone in the shop and from there I started doing administration and just stayed. Taking a step back, what originally brought you to Amsterdam? I was travelling with my ex-boyfriend at the time. We were going to go overland to India and we sort of got stuck here. The city was so nice. We were walking around one afternoon and I was running out of things to read. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and I thought if I could find a bookshop to work in I could read cheaper. So what was the next big thing that happened with the ABC? [Lynn shows me two postcards. The first features a man in a blue sports jacket standing in front of a window in the Red Light District. Inside, a woman in a dress is smiling at him. The second is a photo of the same woman standing in a doorway beside the window. A long haired man is sitting in her place. Each includes the caption 'Window Shopping in Amsterdam'.] This is a photo of Sam and it was taken by Mitch. At the time, there were absolutely no postcards of the Red Light District available in Amsterdam. They got releases from the models and we put them together. We sold so many of these postcards that we were able to pay our rent for one whole year. I think we eventually sold over two million of these cards. We've also recently produced a new line of postcards, entitled Typical Dutch, which show iconic images with their phonetic pronunciation in Dutch. We're hoping to sell 2 million of them, too, as postcards, posters, or as blank notebooks, all made on our Espresso Book Machine. And after that? Eventually, Mitch went back to the states and we opened the second store in the Hague. It opened in ‘76 and we expanded to Eindhoven and Groningen. I met my husband, who trained as an anthropologist, here. Then, when I was five months pregnant, I was asked if I wanted to run the place. I said ‘sure.’ We eventually bought the stores with my sister. That was in 1983. We didn’t know what we were doing. We figured it out as we went along. What sort of challenges did you face in the early days? Back in the ‘70s and into the ‘80s? One was the opening hours. [The Amsterdam store] was open from nine in the morning to 11 at night, seven days a week. That was way more hours than other shops on the Kalverstraat. There was an ordinance that said that stores for tourists, like diamond cutters and movie theatres, were OK. Places that sold magazines and newspapers could also stay open late. At the time, the Red Light District was full of dirty book shops. Whenever someone would come by with a cap on and say ‘you’re open too long’, we’d say that we catered to tourists and sold books and magazines just like the shops over in the Red Light. ‘When they stop, we’ll stop,’ we told them. What were some big events of the 1980s? We opened a new, larger location down towards the V&D on the Kalverstraat. Nike is in there now. We were there from 1986 through 2005. The [two shops in Eindhoven and Groningen] were only open for five years each. We opened another shop in Leuven in Belgium. We also had that one for five years. The shop on the Kalverstraat was enormous and, originally, we only rented half of it. We eventually filled the rest and started hosting weekly lectures and other kinds of events. We moved our warehouse in there too. This was back in the pre-internet days when anything ‘backlist’ wasn’t easy to come by. Not in this country, not in a lot of countries. Your business has always catered to lots of English speaking expatriates and travellers. What about Dutch people? Oh, definitely. They like to read these books in their original language. You can get a trade paperback from us for €11 or €12 that, if it’s ever translated into Dutch, will cost double that over 18 months later. The Amsterdam store has a big tree trunk running down the middle of it and your event space is called the Tree House. Why the tree theme? When we took over the space where the Tree House is located in 1998 we had to call it something. As a kid, I really liked tree houses. They’re special places. You couldn’t just go into a tree house. You had to be a member. It was a special place where you could ponder deep questions with others and keep secrets from grown-ups. It was also closer to the store on the Kalverstraat, practically in its backyard, much like a tree house. When we were planning our current Amsterdam location, we had a brainstorming session with the architect. We thought it would be really cool to build a tea house on the roof. Someone suggested that we paint it green so the entire building would be like a big tree. That idea didn’t come together but the tree theme reminds all of us that books originally came from them. However, we do have an [environmentally friendly] green roof here on the building now. Where did the tree trunk in the Amsterdam location come from? I have a friend who’s in charge of the Vondelpark and all the green stuff over there. He knew the guys that have to remove trees around the city. We got one that had to be sliced into two pieces and fit around the steel column in the centre of the store. It came from Osdorp. What would you say is the secret of the success behind both of your current locations? They serve as a ‘home away from home’ for Americans and others who are staying in the Netherlands for a while. A bookstore can often serve as a safe third place from home and work. It’s a place where people can hang out, browse the shelves, and be inspired. We’ve always tried to be really welcoming. We also invest in people. It’s not about widgets. We’re not selling widgets, diamonds or shoes. Those are all fine things to sell but this is a community of people who care about ideas. I know you’ve had a lot of famous writers come to the stores for events ... We’ve had quite a few. They weren’t always famous at the moment they were here though. We had David Baldacci after he wrote his first book and only six people showed up. We hosted Stephen Fry. That was really nice but we had to have him speak at the church over there [since so many people came]. Patti Smith has come and she’s coming back in October. This time she has two new books so that will be good. Spike Lee has signed here. Dionne Warwick too. David Sedaris has been here several times. A lot of publishers know that if one of their authors is coming through, even if it’s only two days' notice, we’ll arrange a flash mob to show up since so many people subscribe to our newsletter and follow our website. You can learn more about the history of the ABC, explore its events calendar, and shop online via its website [http://www.abc.nl].   More >


Moving to the Netherlands: should you rent or buy a home?

Moving to the Netherlands: should you rent or buy a home?

The Dutch housing market has had its ups and downs in the past few years, so is it better to buy or rent? How do you know what’s the right thing to do in your personal situation? ABN AMRO, specialised in expat banking, can give you tailor-made advice. Expats are not always sure how long they will stay in one place or country. This makes it important to to think carefully about buying or renting a house. Renting in the privately-owned sector is very expensive. But buying isn’t always beneficial either. Buying or renting Are you renting a house at this moment? Then this might be the right moment to buy a house. The low mortgage interest rates and house prices are tempting, while private sector rents are increasing. On the other hand, the decreasing house prices can lead to uncertainty. Will they drop even further, and is now the right time to buy? Before making a decision, it is useful to take a look at the pros and cons. Which aspects are important for you? By carefully considering your wishes, you will discover what fits you best. Pros and cons of buying a house There are advantages and disadvantages to buying a house. One advantage is the fact that you can rebuild and furnish the house to your own wishes. You also build up your own equity and when you have completely repaid your mortgage, the house will be yours. But there are also a couple of disadvantages. You will have a lot to arrange financially. You also are responsible for the maintenance of the house and the costs will be higher because of the extra insurances and taxes. If you are sure of staying in the same place for a long period of time, then buying might be the best option. But what about renting? In some situations, renting is a better option than buying. If you rent, you can cancel your lease and move out quickly, and the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance of the house. The increasing rental prices and the limits to how much you can change in the property are among the disadvantages. Are there uncertainties about how long you are likely to stay in the Netherlands? If so, renting might be the best option for you. ABN AMRO the bank for expats ABN AMRO is the leading Dutch bank for expats. Our employees not only understand the language, they also understand your situation. They know everything about the financial rules and regulations for expats. They can give you tailor-made advice about buying or renting a house. Read more on www.abnamro.nl/house You can also contact the bank for other matters. When opening an account you will receive a complete package to manage your account: a debit card, a credit card and various tools for online banking. Other benefits include: 24/7 full service in English Internet banking, apps and documentation in English Financial advice in many other languages Worldwide access to personal accounts The ability to open an account without a BSN (citizen service number) Detailed knowledge on rules and regulations for expats Expert advice on payments, savings, insurance, credit, mortgages, loans and investments About ABN AMRO ABN AMRO is a full-service bank with many years of international experience. As the leading Dutch bank for expats, we have detailed knowledge of all financial and insurance rules and regulations international clients encounter. We make sure you don’t have to worry about your banking matters. Please visit one of our four International Client Desks or www.abnamro.nl/en to make an appointment with one of our experts. Disclaimer: This article contains general information which has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. This article therefore does not give you personal advice on whether or not to do something. Any decisions you make purely based on the information on this article will be at your own risk. We would be happy to help you if you do want personal advice. Simply get in touch with us through the website, by telephone or by visiting a bank branch to make an appointment. // // //   More >


Crab for breakfast? 10 facts about a Dutch still life featuring food

Crab for breakfast? 10 facts about a Dutch still life featuring food

Dutch still life paintings featuring food were all the rage in the Golden Age. Willem Claeszoon Heda (1594-1680) was particularly good at them. Hanneke Sanou looks at the hidden meanings in his Breakfast with Crab. All is vanity 1 An ‘ontbijtje’, or small breakfast, is a particular genre in Dutch 17th century still life painting, as were flower pieces, banquet pieces, paintings featuring dead animals and Vanitas paintings. But all were really vanitas paintings, or paintings that reminded the rich burghers of the Netherlands that everything – including their wealth – was transient. Fishy breakfast 2 This still life is called Breakfast with Crab. Did people in the Golden Age really have crab first thing in the morning? According to food historian Gillian Riley some did indeed have fish, or pie, for breakfast (accompanied by a frothy tankard of beer) but most would have bread and cheese and/or butter, much like the Dutch do now. Daily bread 3 Bread also features in the painting (right hand side) but it is white bread, a superior product that only the wealthy could afford. It was rye bread for the poor, or porridge or pancakes made of buckwheat, just the kind of thing that would now be considered the healthier option. Ceçi n’est pas un limon 4 The peeled lemon is not simply a peeled lemon. Like almost everything in Dutch 17th century painting there is a lesson to be learned and thus the lemon symbolises deceptive appearance: beautiful on the outside, sour within. Beware the beautiful looking man/woman for corruption may lurk inside, is the message. Disarray 5 On the right are some olives in a discarded little Delft blue platter. On closer inspection the whole scene is one of slight disarray, as if the breakfaster, once he’d dismembered the crab (with the utensils in the foreground) and drunk his fill, stood up hastily and ran off to his place of business. In fact, the rumpled table cloth and the up-ended gilded goblets represented another possibility for the artist to showcase his painterly skills. Who was Heda? 6 The artist in question is Willem Claeszoon Heda about whom not very much is known. He lived and worked in Haarlem and was considered extremely accomplished at rendering the gleam and sparkle of pewter, glass and silver. We would add that he was supremely good at olives as well. Glass 7 The glasses in the painting will look familiar to many. The Rijksmuseum has a beautiful collection of them. There are three glasses in the painting which, again, doesn’t suggest that three sat down to breakfast but rather that Heda was really good at painting glass. The big one in the middle is called a roemer which is meant for wine, as is the tall Façon de Venise glass. The knobbly bits were meant to keep greasy fingers from slipping, for instance after tackling crab. The small glass is probably a water glass. Realism 8 The depiction of the gilded goblets, the brightly polished tankard, the silver salt cellar all show how talented Heda was. Apart from acknowledging the usual moral message, the rich buyers of his pictures marvelled at the realism of the artefacts. The greater the ‘artificial miracle’ the greater the appreciation (and presumably the higher the price). What is that? 9 The rolled up bit of paper on the plate was used for sprinkling herbs. Well, we were wondering about it. Where is it? 10 If you want to see this particular painting you will have to travel to the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Other still lifes by Heda – and he never painted anything else – can be found in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.  More >


The Evolution of Bingo (third party content)

The Evolution of Bingo (third party content)

The way that we interact with each other has changed. The rise and popularity of social media profiles helps us to maintain connections with our friends and family, especially those who live in different countries and cities. But keeping in touch online can never replace spending quality time with the people you love. Bingo has been a popular pastime in the Netherlands for decades. There are still active bingo halls in use but over the past ten years the game of bingo had moved from halls to the internet. Online bingo is a booming industry all over the world, enabling users to play from the comfort of their own home but the sense of community that made the game so popular in the beginning is sometimes lost online. If you’re tired of winning bingo online and not having your friends there to share the moment with, Dutch company Bingocams has developed a solution. In order to connect you with the worldwide bingo community they have created a site that combines the game of online bingo with webcams! There are all sorts of ways to connect with people on Bingocams. You can share your wins in real-time with other players using webcams, either during a group chat in the bingo rooms you’re playing in, or by using the private chat function. As well as playing online bingo with your family and friends, Bingocams enables users to interact in the online bingo community where you can meet new people and make new friends. Take a look at the video below to see how the site works: Head over to Bingocams today to sign up for a free account and see some winning reactions on the Live Win Moment board!  More >


That time an American woman had to convince her Dutch doctor she wasn’t a sex worker

The Dutch have very distinctive ideas about sexual health, as Molly Quell found out. A few weeks ago, I got a letter telling me I was old. Well, not in so many words. I got a letter, from the government, saying that because I am turning 30 this year, it’s time for a pap smear. In the Netherlands, women only start getting pap smears done when they turn 30 and then every five years. In the US, you typically start getting them done when you become sexually active or when you turn 18. From then on, you have them done once a year, during your yearly check up. (Though now the recommendation has changed to every three years.) Needless to say, I have had plenty of pap smears done. I call my doctor’s office and make my appointment, indicating that I got the aforementioned letter. When I arrive several days later for said appointment, the receptionist asks me for my name and the name of my doctor. I tell her and she looks at me and says: 'He’s not in the office today.' I shrug. 'Ok.' ‘Well then you can’t have an appointment with him.’ ‘Clearly.’ We are at an impasse. I politely tell her that simply because my regular doctor isn’t there, doesn’t mean I don’t have an appointment with another doctor and perhaps she should check her computer for just such a thing. She asks me what time my appointment was. ‘I think 11:30.’ ‘Well there’s no appointment at 11:30.’ I take a deep breath. ‘Could you check to see if I have an appointment today?’ She asks my name again and consults the computer. ‘Yes, at 11:25. You can take a seat.’ I blink several times and join the crowd in the waiting room. A few minutes later, my name is called and I introduce myself to the nurse who I very quickly realise isn’t especially well-versed in English. She has an assistant with her who, apparently, speaks no English at all. We go into the office and the nurse asks me to sit, so she can explain the procedure. After a few minutes of tedious attempts to explain in English, supplemented by Dutch, I tell her not to worry. I’ve had a pap smear before and I understand the procedure. The nurse eyes her assistant. ‘When was your last test?’ she asks. ‘A year or so ago, the last time I was in the US.’ ‘And why did you get it done?’ I try to explain that it’s very common in the US to have your first pap smear at an earlier age and that you get them more regularly. The nurse and the assistant exchange sideways glances. ‘We have some more questions,’ the nurse tells me. They proceed to ask some rather probing questions about my sex life, sexual activities, sexual partners and all manner of sexual habits. As I haven’t actually been a nun for my entire life, some of my answers are vague. This only seems to upset them more. Eventually, the nurse declares that I need to talk to the doctor. She disappears from the office and leaves me with the assistant who just stares at the floor. The nurse returns and tells me that there are no female doctors available, so I will have to wait. I raise my eyebrows. ‘Are there male doctors available?’ ‘Yes but do you want to see a male doctor?’ ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ I’ve already been here for an hour, I haven’t had the test and I’ve got work to do. If they gave a chimpanzee a medical degree, I’d talk to her. Or him. The nurse again departs and returns with a man who is at least 85 and probably speaks about as much English as your average chimpanzee. He repeats a number of questions I’ve already been asked and, at this point, I’m beginning to get irritated. ‘Look,’ I finally say, ‘I’ve answered these questions already and I’m failing to see how any of them are relevant to getting a pap done.’ The doctor and the nurse exchange uncomfortable glances. The assistant continues to stare at the floor. The doctor nods and says ok. The test, is, as expected, a pretty standard pap smear experience. Once it’s over, the doctor states that he wants to take a blood and urine sample. Because, he says, ‘he’s concerned about infection.’ Considering this gentleman had just had a more intimate moment with my private parts than I am able to have, I grow concerned. ‘Is something wrong?’ I ask. More uncomfortable glances. ‘No, no,’ the nurse says, ‘Just in case.’ She hands me a sample cup. I go to the bathroom, lock the door and do what any foreigner would do. I call my doctor back home. After answering a series of questions about pain (I have none) and discharges (also none), she tells me there’s nothing to worry about and chalks it up to a language barrier. I return my sample, say my goodbyes and roll my eyes about the absurdity of the Dutch medical system. The next day, my phone rings, and it’s my regular doctor. For the record, his English is perfectly fine. ‘So,’ he starts awkwardly, ‘I hear you had an appointment yesterday.’ ‘Yeah, it was a bit odd,’ I tell him. ‘I heard as much. As you know it’s not common for women here to get pap smears until they are 30.’ ‘Right.’ ‘And, typically, the only women who do get them earlier more often work in certain areas…’ ‘Your colleagues thought I was a hooker?’ ‘I think we would say sex worker, but yes.’ ‘I hope you clarified things.’ ‘Well, I just want you to know that if you are participating in or contemplating that sort of work, I would want to know, as there are certain health precautions…’ he went on, explaining that sex work is legal in the Netherlands and I’d still be a welcome patient at their practice. The Netherlands. Where regular medical check ups are strange, but sex work is welcome. Taken from Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style, an anthology of expat essays written by 27 women, who have all relocated to the Netherlands and are attempting to find a place in Dutch society. Buy this book  More >


10 great things to do this week: August 24-30

10 great things to do this week: August 24-30

From food markets and the new Woody Allen to Miffy's birthday celebrations and music under the trees, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Watch Woody's new film For his 45th feature film Woody Allen has put together an existential thriller which takes various themes from some of his earlier films. Like the wonderful Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and the stodgy Match Point (2005), the film's central conceit is a murder and the effect it has on the perpetrator. And like many of his films, it features an intellectual stewing in frustration and self-disgust, and a Pygmalion-type romance. The Allen tropes of philosphy, morality and the randomness or meaning of existence are also well to the fore. Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe Lucas, a jaded philosophy professor and womaniser who begins an affair with science lecturer Rita (Parker Posey) and begins to flirt with student Jill (Emma Stone). Nothing raises Abe's spirits until he overhears an anguished woman say she wants dead the supposedly-biased judge in her children's custody case. He decides to help the mother and serve society by killing the judge. His lack of motive will make it the perfect crime and it will do more good than philosophy ever could. Irrational Man is a good idea for a film which needed more work. There is some sparky chemistry between Phoenix and Stone and Posey uses her eccentricities as an actress to good effect. However, aimiable and humorous as it is, there are too many implausibilities in the script to make this a great Woody Allen film. Get a taste of Limburg Head to Maastricht for the four-day culinary event known as Preuvenemint. Over 30 stands fill the Vrijthof square from which the top quality restaurants of the area serve their specialities and best wines. And since the city is one of the gastronomic capitals of Europe, top quality means just that. In the evening there is live music on the outdoor stage. Vrijthof, Maastricht, August 27 to 30. www.preuvenemint.nl Check out the new cultural season The new cultural season opens with the annual Uitmarkt where opera companies, choirs, orchestras, theatre and dance companies, museums and many more offer information about their forthcoming performances and exhibitions. There are also tasters in the form of indoor and outdoor performances. Museumplein, Amsterdam, August 28 to 30. www.uitmarkt.nl Listen to the classics under the trees The Hortus festival of classical music takes place in the Netherlands' most beautiful gardens. This week the Hortus Ensemble play Schumann's Nachtstücke and piano trio number 1 and Chausson's concerto for violin, piano and string quartet. Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, August 26; Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam, August 27; Oude Hortus, Utrecht, August 29; Hortus Botanicus, Haren, August 30. www.hortusfestival.nl Stock up on fresh food The Neighbourhood Food Market is a farmer's market which attracts just about everyone involved in fresh food from eco farmers, traiteurs, bakers, butchers, cheese-makers and sausage-makers to juice pressers, soup boilers and tea sellers. Pek Market, Amsterdam Noord, August 29. www.neighbourhoodfoodmarket.nl Celebrate Miffy's 60th The little white rabbit drawn by Dick Bruna is celebrating her 60th birthday so 45 artists from different disciplines have made statues of her. They range from an all gold Miffy entitled Sunshine by Carli Hermès to a blue Miffy balancing on a chair called Equilibrio Iconico by Joseph Klibansky. They are to be found at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht and at various locations in Amsterdam and The Hague. On October 8 they will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to Unicef. Centraal Museum, Utrecht and other venues until September 20. www.nijntjeartparade.nl Immerse yourself in early music This year's Early Music Festival takes as its theme England, My England with a focus on the Renaissance and early Baroque. There will be series around Tudor polyphony (Sheppard, Taverner, Tye), Elizabethan virginalists (Bull, Gibbons, Farnaby, Byrd) and consort music (Lawes, Jenkins and Tomkins). Of course Henry Purcell plays an important role with performances of Funeral Sentences, King Arthur and Dido and Aeneas. There is also music by Handel’s lesser-known contemporaries such as Bononcini, Avison and Boyce. The French-Belgian ensemble Vox Luminis of Lionel Meunier will be artist-in-residence. Other guests this year include L’Arpeggiata, Gabrieli Consort, Gli Angeli Genève, Capriccio Stravagante, Dunedin Consort and La Risonanza. TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht and other venues, Utrecht, August 28 to September 6. www.oudemuziek.nl See traditional cheese selling The cheese market in Alkmaar, which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, hasn't changed much since its inception in 1365. The carriers, placers, throwers and scale masters still wear traditional costume. The cheeses, some 2,200 of them, are laid out early in the morning ready for inspection by the market masters and traders. After which the bidding begins. City centre, Alkmaar, August 28. www.kaasmarkt.nl Discover Guatemala An exhibition of photographs by two very different photographers. Raymond Rutting, photo-journalist for publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian, takes his photos of people instinctively and just snaps away. Sasha de Boer, formerly the reader of the main news on Dutch tv, prefers to take her time, to observe from a distance and then ask permission to take a photo. National Geographic Traveller sent the two of them to Guatemala last year for what the magazine calls 'an image battle'. The results are often spectacular and often moving. Museum Hilversum, Hilversum until September 27. www.museumhilversum.nl Admire vintage cars The Historic Grand Prix provides an opportunity to admire vintage and classic F1, Group C and sports cars in the paddocks, and to watch them racing around the track. Circuit, Zandvoort, August 28 to 30. www.circuit-zandvoort.nl For more suggestions of what to do in August and September visit the full What's On section.  More >


The Maasduinen national park is one of Limburg’s best kept secrets

The Maasduinen national park is one of Limburg’s best kept secrets

Ask anyone if they know of a big nature reserve in the Netherlands, and they are sure to come up with De Hoge Veluwe National Park. However, National Park Maasduinen in the northern part of Limburg is definitely worth a visit as well. Maasduinen National Park only officially opened in 1998 and is still an oasis of calm. Even in the sunniest of weather, you cab pass an entire day enjoying the peace and quiet of this area relatively undisturbed. The park covers 4,500 hectares and is flanked by several picturesque villages. If you go to the main reception area in Well, you will find a touchscreen, offering you approximately 200 different hiking routes, as well cycling, mountain-biking, horse riding and other routes – organised according to theme: through the forest, historical, art and culture, child-friendly, villages and cities, wheelchair-friendly, scenic, etc. In short, there is enough to keep you occupied for days. As befits a nature reserve, Maasduinen has a lot of wildlife - as well as Highland cows you may spot the long-horned Dutch land goat, a herd of sheep with their shepherdess, or a flock of geese. There are beavers, foxes, roe deer, bats, badgers, weasels. magnificent birds of prey and whole lot more. Some of the routes lead you to and around Reindersmeer lake, created by sand and gravel excavations in the last quarter of the former century. Due to the uncharacteristic acidity of the water, which in turn is caused by the presence of pyrite (or fool’s gold) in the aquifers, the water is relatively free of organic material and nutrients. Consequently, the lake has a beautiful azure color and is crystal clear, allowing you to look straight down to surprising depths of some 10 meters. Heather The heaths that can be found spread across the park came about in the Middle Ages. The grazing of the sheep – whose dung was used as fertiliser – the mowing of the plants and the use of the turf hindered the growth of natural vegetation, so that the only plant that could survive was heather – fortunately the staple food of the local sheep. In fact, there is something surprisingly moorland-like about the area; if you wander through the hills behind the village of Afferden, you could almost believe you were in the Scottish Highlands, with the arid, sandy ground, the crunch of the dry heath and lichen as you walk across them and the wide views (on a good day, you can see as far as at least 10 kilometers, meaning your eyes can make a trip across the border to Germany). This is the one place in the Netherlands where you do not see at least five church towers, wherever you look. In fact, going around 360 degrees, you see only one. If you climb up the Lookout Tower, on top of one of these hills – it does a bit of a hula dance in the wind – this will extend your view even further. Castles People have been living in this area since prehistory; these were small groups of hunter-gatherers who did not leave much behind other than axes and spearheads. Then, over the course of time, fixed settlements arose, focused on agriculture, which meant that many parts of the forest were cleared to make room for farmland. By the time the Romans settled in the region, the agricultural importance of the area grew, so that the farms became wealthy estates that housed beautiful villas, while a network of roads connected the various villages. The region retains a feeling of wealth to this day. For those of you who would like to go in search of a bit of history, be sure to visit Bleijenbeek Castle in Afferden; built in the 14th century, it has since been home to knights, dukes and field marshals. This imposing castle survived the many centuries that followed its construction, including attempts by the Spaniards during the 80 Year War (1568-1648) to destroy it. However, when 16 determined and invincible German parachutists took it over during World War II, putting a halt to the liberation of northern Limburg, the British RAF was forced to bomb it on February 22, 1945, turning it into the ruin it is now. If it is gardens you are looking for, then visit Arcen Castle. This castle was built in the 17th century and the gardens occupy 32 hectares of the castle’s entire territory of 450 hectares. A visit to these gardens will take you through a rose garden, a water and sculptures garden, a vegetable garden and their mountain garden (Bergtuin), with steep rock-faces, narrow brooks, grottos and waterfalls – including the Netherlands’s largest waterfall. A longer version of this article was published in the summer edition of the Xpat Journal.  More >


‘She was built to sail any ocean and that’s what we’re achieving’

Commander Gavin Dawe is in charge of the Young Endeavour, a tall ship from Australia that’s currently sailing towards the Netherlands for SAIL Amsterdam. It’s also in the middle of an historic year-long journey around the world. In this interview, Dawe tells Brandon Hartley about everyday life on the high seas, the dangers his crews have encountered so far, and whether or not there’s good coffee on board the ship. What’s life like on board the ship while you’re out at sea? Well, things haven’t changed that much since the old days. We keep watches. Normally, our crew does three per day and eight hours per watch. That can involve helming, a little bit of navigation, keeping lookout, or setting and tending to the sails. We also have other activities on our programme which focus on teaching people about communication, leadership, teamwork and those sorts of things. We’re very conscious of giving [the crew] plenty of downtime, otherwise they’d get very tired. Do you have a traditional ‘crow’s nest’ up on one of the masts for crew members on lookout? Like the ones featured in films including the Pirates of the Caribbean series? No, we don’t. Instead, we post people on the bridge and they have to do lookout through all kinds of weather. We have two people keeping an eye on things below with binoculars. We also have modern navigational tools like GPS, a radar system and electronic charting. So we definitely have a good idea of what’s going on all around us. As part of the Young Endeavour’s year-long journey around the globe, you’re working with various different young crews. What’s it like to deal with an inexperienced crew versus a more experienced one with years of experience under their belts? It’s really rewarding. When we get our crews they may not know much or have only done a little bit of sailing. As our voyages progress they gain knowledge on how to sail the ship, how to set the sails themselves, how to navigate and lots of other things. From our perspective, it’s very rewarding to see how people develop while we have them on board. Life on board the Young Endeavour must be very different to life on board a similar ship back in the 16th or 17th centuries. You mentioned the ship has modern technical equipment that helps your crew navigate, but what about other stuff like wifi? Can you watch satellite tv while you’re out to sea? Surf the internet? We have broadband which allows us to communicate with our team back in Australia 24/7. With our crew though we emphasise that they really don’t need modern technology like mobile phones and computers. It’s all about spending time together and learning about the ship. We try to get them away from all modern technology as much as possible but we still rely on modern communication aids. So no hot showers, espresso machines, or anything like that? We do have hot showers. We’re lucky to have fresh water on board. The crew doesn’t have an espresso machine but we members of the staff do because we couldn’t live without fresh coffee. [laughs] They do get looked after very well while they’re on board. We have a chef and the food is amazing. We don’t deprive them of very much. I think many people would assume you have to make do with MREs, those ready-made meals that soldiers use while they’re out in the field. No, nothing like that. We have a full galley and a chef who’s just brilliant, and bakes fresh bread every day. For each meal we have a choice of three to four dishes and there’s always fresh salads and fruit. The food on board is just amazing. What sort of dangers do you run into while you’re out at sea? Do you have to worry about modern day pirates? Sharks? Angry whales like Moby Dick knocking the ship over? When we were planning the overall voyage we made sure to avoid any known pirate areas. We actually like to see whales and we haven’t had any problems running into one. When we were down in the South Pacific we saw a blue whale. Sometimes, when the weather is really good and there’s no wind, we may stop the ship and have a swim. We haven’t really experienced any problems with sharks either. The biggest challenge is bad weather. We can encounter some really severe weather. Getting through those conditions can present some big challenges but the ship is extremely strong. She was built to sail any ocean in the world and that’s what we’re achieving during the twelve months we’re away from Australia. So what do you do when the ship encounters a storm? Do you have to batten down the hatches and hang on much the same way a crew in the 17th century might in the same scenario? That’s exactly right. We reduce sail or we put up storm sails and secure everything. Then we ride out the storm. Any further adventures or exciting moments you would like to mention? Rounding Cape Horn was very special for us. Not a lot of Australian ships sail around Cape Horn these days. When we came through the Strait of Gibraltar we got hit by severe weather and we had to turn back and return to Cádiz to fix some problems. There was a lot of people smuggling going on in the Mediterranean so we tried to avoid those areas. We had to go through the Strait of Messina to make it to our next port on time. We had lots of adventures along the way. What can visitors to the Young Endeavour experience while it’s in port at SAIL Amsterdam later this week? We’ll have the ship open to the public so they can come on board and have a look around. We’re always happy to tell people about our experiences, what we’ve seen since we left Australia, and how long it’s going to take us to get back as well. Everywhere we’ve been everyone has been very friendly and kind. We’ve met lots of lovely people since we’ve been away from Australia. You can learn more about the Young Endeavour by following its ongoing journey via its website [http://www.youngendeavour.gov.au]. Updates are posted regularly.  More >


10 great things to do this week – August 17-23

From welcoming tall ships and saving the bassoon to celebrating Amy and enjoying opera in a beautiful garden, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Welcome the tall ships Sail Amsterdam is the huge maritime manifestation when tall ships from all over the world visit the city to moor in its eastern harbour, and people can then visit the ships. There are also hundreds of other historical ships moored in the harbour. There is a programme of events during the festival involving small sail boats, sailor choirs or re-enactments of naval battles. The Sail In or Parade of Sail on the first day sees over 43 tall ships along with five Dutch Marine boats and hundreds more vessels sail down the North Sea Canal into central Amsterdam. There is a naval pageant on the penultimate day and the Sail Out on the final day. Among the music events which take place on a large stage in the IJ river are concerts by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the pop acts Kensington and Miss Montreal. Oosterdok, Amsterdam, August 19 to 23. www.sail.nl Murmer along to Mozart The South African-born pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout is the soloist for Mozart's piano concerto nr 18 with its change of tempo in the finale, which was unusual for the time. He plays with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra which also performs two works by Dvořák: symphony nr 8 and the overture to Othello. The conductor is Daniel Harding. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 21. www.concertgebouw.nl Get close to Amy The rise and fall of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was so closely covered in the media that a documentary about her life would seem unnecessary. However, this unsensational and infinitely sad film by Asif Kapadia (Senna), consisting of interview voices against a background of edited archive footage, home movies and song lyrics used as captions, creates an almost overwhelming sense of intimacy with the girl who could have become one of the all-time greats. The film opens with a home video from 1998 with a young Amy impersonating Marilyn Monroe on her friend's 14th birthday. It ends 13 years later with her funeral in 2011. In between there is video camera and mobile phone footage, newsreels and tv shows and the voices of close friends, her managers and collaborators, including Tony Bennett with whom she recorded Body and Soul towards the end of her life. The villain of the piece, as was clear at the time, is Blake Fielder-Civil, who was her husband for several years and got her hooked on heroin and crack cocaine. But her father, Mitch, who has disassociated himself from the film, is also shown basking in her fame while giving scant concern to her well-being. Fortunately, the film ends with the recording session with Bennett who places Winehouse in the ranks of Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin. It's a shame she did not meet people of the calibre and gentlemanliness of Bennett earlier in her career. Watch an apple tree A short opera followed by drinks in the lovely gardens of Museum van Loon in Amsterdam is an annual event. This year's opera is The Apple Tree, written by Mark Twain and set to music by Jerry Bock of Fiddler on the Roof fame. It's the story of Adam and Eve from Eve's viewpoint, full of sarcastic humour and subtle remarks about the weaknesses of men. It is sung by Jan Willem Baljet (baritone, Adam), Esther Kuiper (mezzo-soprano, Eve) and Willem de Vries (baritone, God, devil, snake). They are accompanied by Jeroen Sarphati at the piano. Museum van Loon, Amsterdam, August 19 to 23. www.grachtenfestival.nl Help save the bassoon The campaign Save the Bassoon is spreading around the world, but it began as part of the Holland Festival earlier this year when seven short works were commissioned to celebrate the instrument. Leading the campaign is Dutch virtuoso bassoonist Bram van Sambeek who fears the bassoon is an 'endangered species'. Van Sambeek has already appeared at Berlin's Konzerthaus and takes his rock version of Vivaldi's bassoon music to London next year. This week he and his students are playing music by Bach together with the newly composed works in the stately setting of the Gemeenlandshuis. Gemeenlandshuis, Amsterdam, August 17 at 2pm. www.grachtenfestival.nl Celebrate a film star dog The Ketelhuis film theatre in Amsterdam is showing Michel Hazanavicius' Oscar-winning silent film The Artist outdoors on a giant screen (weather permitting). Two human actors think they are the stars of this wonderful film, but they are completely upstaged by Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who died last week. The film begins around 9.30pm and is free. Be on time to get a seat. Ketelhuis, Amsterdam, August 22. www.ketelhuis.nl Try staying seated It's impossible not to leap about once the Maison du Malheur start playing. Singer and guitarist JP Mesker and his nine-piece band play a mix of rhythm & blues, honky tonk, jazz, mariachi and Balkan. De Parade, Martin Luther King Park, Amsterdam, August 19. www.deparade.nl Relive the swinging sixties Photo: Traffic, 1960, Norman Parkinson An exhibition of photographs by Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy, Norman Parkinson, John Hopkins, James Barnor, John Cowan, Eric Swayne and Philip Townsend capturing the atmosphere of the 1960s in London. This was the decade in which London became the international epicentre for style, culture and fashion. Time Magazine devoted an entire issue to the city in April 1966, in which journalist Piri Halasz wrote: Ancient elegance and new opulence are all tangled up in a dazzling blur of op and pop. Foam, Amsterdam until September 2. www.foam.org Thrill to the sound of a violin The glamorous American violinist Sarah Chang, who first played with an orchestra at the age of nine, is the soloist with the Duisburger Philharmoniker for Sibelius' violin concerto in D. The orchestra, conducted by Giordano Bellincampi, also plays Nielsen's overture Helios and Beethoven's symphony nr 7. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 20. www.concertgebouw.nl Swing to all kinds of jazz Four market squares in the old centre of Haarlem host the Jazz & More four-day festival this week. The More covers a number of DJs and soul artists. Most of the artists taking part are Dutch, but they include great performers such as Benjamin Hermans, Bo Saris and Giovanca. Grote Markt and other venues, Haarlem, August 19 to 22. www.haarlemjazzandmore.nl For more suggestions of what to do in August and September visit the full What's On section.  More >


Celebrate Amsterdam’s maritime past at SAIL 2015

Celebrate Amsterdam’s maritime past at SAIL 2015

SAIL is one of the city’s biggest and most unique festivals but it only happens once every five years. Brandon Hartley checks out what is on offer for the 2015 edition. Amsterdam and boats have gone hand in hand since it consisted of little more than a few cottages and a bridge over the Amstel. Needless to say, the city has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the Middle Ages. During the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam’s ports helped it become one of the wealthiest places on the planet. Flash forward to the early ‘70s when Amsterdam officials were looking for a way to celebrate the city’s 700th anniversary. What they came up with was SAIL Amsterdam, a nautical event in the summer of 1975 devoted to the history of the city’s maritime industry and its culture. The five-day extravaganza featured ‘tall ships’ from all across Europe, around 500 modern vessels and over 700,000 visitors. By all accounts, it was a huge success; so much so that the organisers decided to host the event again in 1980 Sailing Into the Present Day Now in its ninth edition, SAIL Amsterdam is held every five years and it’s grown into the largest free maritime event in the world. It’s now a tradition for thousands of spectators line the banks of the river IJ to watch the ships arrive on the first day of the festival. The 2015 celebration will take place from Wednesday 19 until Sunday 23 August. The fun will begin with the Sail-In Parade, which organisers promise will be the biggest opening event in SAIL Amsterdam’s history. Over 43 tall ships along with five Dutch Marine boats and hundreds more vessels are scheduled to sail in file down the North Sea Canal into central Amsterdam. If you can’t make it to the shores of the IJ to watch the fleet arrive, you can always tune in from home. The Sail-In Parade will be broadcast live on national television on the 19th. The ships will set sail for Amsterdam at 10:00 and are due to arrive in the city around 15:00. While the parade itself is a spectacle, what traditionally happens afterwards can be, well, a little less so. Getting all of those boats into the correct spots along the IJ’s quays tends to make the average rush hour traffic jam in Los Angeles look downright orderly by comparison. Tall ships SAIL Amsterdam will feature countless boats and numerous events but, as with prior editions, the main draw will likely be the tall ships travelling to the city from ports all across the world. These gorgeous vessels and their photogenic masts harken back to the classic era of seafaring. The STS Young Endeavour is just one of the dozens that will appear at the 2015 festival. This tall ship hails from Australia and is currently in the middle of a year-long voyage around the world. A replica of the legendary Nao Victoria will also appear. The original ship was one of the first vessels to circumnavigate the globe back in the 16th century. The Biggest SAIL of All Time ‘1.7 million people visited SAIL Amsterdam 2010,’ SAIL spokesperson Jan Driessen told DutchNews. ‘This year we expect even more visitors because we have an extra (fifth) day.’ In addition to giving the schedule a boost, Driessen and his colleagues have done their best to make this year’s event the biggest and best SAIL Amsterdam thus far. The festival’s grounds have been expanded to cover a wider portion of the city. It’s been divided into five areas dubbed ‘Oceans,’ each with its own unique theme and colour. Those eager to have a look at the tall ships can head to ‘Orange Ocean’, the spot where they’ll be moored along the IJ. The ships will be joined by a full programme of live music at the nearby SAIL Music Marina and a nightly fireworks display. In search of calmer seas? Then aim for the ‘Red Ocean’, which will feature educational exhibitions and lectures at various locations across the city centre. Over at the NDSM Wharf visitors can enjoy exhibits that focus on technology, sustainable shipbuilding and innovation in the ‘Green Ocean’. The centrepiece of this area is sure to be the Volvo Ocean Race Team’s Brunel yacht. Crew members will be on hand to tell attendees about their experiences during their races on the high seas and what everyday life is like on board the ship. ‘White Ocean’, located near the EYE Film Museum, will serve as the home of the Northwave Festival. It offers a relaxing departure from the hustle and bustle of central Amsterdam with food and live music. Finally, ‘Blue Ocean’, over by the National Maritime Museum, will host a series of corporate events and a private ‘Captain’s Dinner’ with the commanders of the event’s tall ships. The full programme for SAIL Amsterdam 2015 can be found online.  More >


10 great things to do this week – August 10-16

10 great things to do this week – August 10-16

From bursts of colour at the seaside and the music of George Gershwin to tall men and self-mockery, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Ooh and aah with delight The coastline at Scheveningen is lit up by thousands of fireworks during the annual International Firework Festival which takes place over two weekends, starting this Friday. This weekend there are displays by firework experts from Poland, Germany, Japan and Korea. Next weekend it's the turn of Italy, the Netherlands, China and Spain. Scheveningen, August 14, 15, 21 and 22. www.vuurwerkfestivalscheveningen.nl Sway to smooth sounds Former leader Henk Meutgeert returns to conduct the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in a programme of Riffs and Rhythms from composers ranging from George Gershwin to Duke Ellington. He is joined by guests such as American vocalist Deborah Brown, singer and pianist Georgie Fame and saxophonist Benjamin Herman. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 16. www.concertgebouw.nl Admire the athleticism on the beach Top teams from around the world compete in the World Tour Grand Slam beach volleyball. There are also competitions for young and less experienced players. Scheveningen, August 15 and 16. www.circuit.beachvolley.nl Listen to music among the trees The Hortus Festival of classical music, which takes place in the Netherlands' most beautiful gardens, features the music of Schumann, Chausson, Schoenberg, Listz and Mendelssohn. Among those taking part are the Hortus Ensemble and the Thalia Ensemble. Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam; De Oude Hortus, Utrecht; Hortus Botanicus, Leiden; Hortus Haren until August 30. www.hortusfestival.nl Have visions of the world For the exhibition Global Imaginations, Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden invited international artists to contribute a piece of work - existing or new - which shows their vision of our globalised world. The results range from large-scale installations and sculpture to video projections. Among the artist exhibiting are the Ghana Thinktank, which was founded in 2006 by Christopher Robbins, John Ewing and Matey Odonkor, with Monument to the Dutch (photo, 2015). Others taking part are Simryn Gill from Singapore, Mona Hatoum from Libanon and Dutch artist Marjolijn Dijkman. De Meelfabriek, Leiden until October 4. www.lakenhal.nl Shiver to a dark tale Dark Places is the second film adaptation of a novel by Gillian Flynn, following the success of Gone Girl. It mixes serial killings, satanic cults, true-crime obsessives and family secrets but comes up short of the tension of the first film. It does, however, offer twists and revelations, and it benefits from the strong performances of Charlize Theron and Chloe Grace Moretz. Theron plays Libby Day, whose surly attitude to life stems from the murder of her mother (Christina Hendricks) and her two sisters on their family farm when she was eight-years-old (played in the flashbacks by Sterling Jerins). Her brother, Ben, is in jail for the murder. It's coming up to 30 years after the crime and Libby accepts an invitation, in return for some much-needed cash, to talk about the case to the Kill Club, a group of true-crime enthusiasts led by local laundromat owner Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult). Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner tells this complex tale clearly while flashing back and forth between the past and the present. Disappointing, then, that the solution to what actually happened on that long ago night should be so implausible. Laugh at yourself Boom Chicago is celebrating 21 years of improvisation with 21 Years of Mockery. The programme is a mix of the comedians' favourite improvs and new scenes making fun of Dutch people, Americans and just about everything else. You shout out a subject and they will mock it. Check out the website for the evenings it is playing. Boom Chicago, Amsterdam until September 19. www.boomchicago.nl Visit some unusual music venues The Canal Festival of classical music takes place along the canals of Amsterdam in unusual places, such as hotels, churches and museums and on boats and in parks. It attracts an international line-up of musicians. This year, for instance, the Vespucci Quartet plays Debussy and Stravinsky on the Fort Island Pampus, and the Keuris Quartet are on the Vuurtoren (Lighthouse) Island playing Vaughan Williams and Tidrow. One of the highlights is the Prinsengracht Concert on August 22, which takes place on a pontoon across the Prinsengracht outside the Pulitzer Hotel. The soloist this year is the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud who headlines a programme of classical music, flamenco and French chansons. Compagnietheater and other locations, Amsterdam, August 14 to 23. www.grachtenfestival.nl Gasp at the tallness of men The Netherlands basketball team plays the Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois, one of America's top teams. The Dutch team have been making a come-back after a mediocre period between 1991 and 2012. Under coach Toon van Helfteren, they have been scoring some surprising victories. Topsportcentrum, Rotterdam, August 12. www.rotterdamtopsport.nl Chill out to Tchaikovsky Xian Zhang conducts the European Youth Orchestra in a programme of works by Tchaikovsky. It includes Rococo variations in A with Alisa Weilerstein on cello. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 13. www.concertgebouw.nl   For more suggestions of what to do in August and September visit the full What's On section.    More >


Science and technology still fail to attract Dutch female students

Science and technology still fail to attract Dutch female students

For all its innovative work in tech, engineering and the sciences, the Netherlands lags behind in encouraging women into these fields. Esther O’Toole talks to some of the women working to right the balance. Last month there was uproar in the international science community when Nobel Prize winning biochemist Tim Hunt stood up in front of a conference of science journalists in Seoul, South Korea and said: ‘Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.’ In the ensuing media storm, Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant said: ‘One thing is certain: Hunt’s remarks...touch on something bigger than himself. He unleashed a worldwide discussion over sexism and gender…in the sciences.’ Scientists In 2010, figures from Unesco showed the Netherlands had fewer female science graduates than any other country in the world. Though the representation varies across the different specialities and in some fields there are undoubtedly more women than in others, for a country that considers itself generally open-minded, egalitarian and educationally advanced, last place seems pretty damning. Dutch government figures show that since 2007, the number of girls opting for technical courses at havo secondary schools has risen from 15% to 26% and at pre-university vwo secondary schools from 20% to 38%. Around one in five girls now study technical subjects at vocational or hbo colleges. However, the number of female students taking technical courses at university has remained the same, at 26%. So progress is being made in the Netherlands but very slowly. There is a desperate need for more science and engineering graduates to fill the growing number of jobs in the science and technological fields, so why are girls and young women so reluctant to take up these subjects? Role models A study published by Northwestern University in the US at the beginning of May found that the Dutch were the most likely to associate the sciences with men and masculinity. The report concluded that this kind of ‘explicit’ stereotyping is an indicator of biased hiring and a lack of encouragement for girls towards engineering and the sciences. VHTO, a Dutch expert advocacy group for women in science, says self-confidence, fertility/lifestyle issues and the necessity to opt for specific study paths early in Dutch education are contributing factors to the problem. In addition, ‘it is hard to find female role models to guest lecture,' VHTO spokeswoman Masja Gielstra, said. The VHTO has now developed a database of nearly 2,000 female role models they can call upon. Together they conduct research, consult and organise programmes and events and work closely with the education ministry. The flagship programme is Girlsday which takes place nationwide every April. Female experts, coached by VHTO to effectively deal with different age groups, visit schools; specifically to introduce strong role models to girls. ‘We find it really important that they start at an early age,’ Gielstra added. Not only schools participate in Girlsday. This year over 10,000 girls aged 10-15 years visited a company or science centre and 310 companies threw open their doors for experiental workshops, giving girls an opportunity to see for themselves what working in these industries is like. 'Companies know that more diversity in their teams is good for productivity,’ Gielstra said. Real Chances One Dutch company which took part in Girlsday this year is engineering group Royal HaskoningDHV.  While women account for 47% of HR, communications and IT jobs, just 11% of technical staff are female. Environmental consultant Coco Smits studied environmental science at university and is keen to get more girls onto science and industrial engineering pathways. Assertiveness is essential in a company with multiple projects going on, she says,  but after a time your work will speak for itself. '‘Take the chances that come by, be visible and have a clear story of who you are and what you want to do,’ Smit says. That position is echoed by Annemarie Kin, an experienced Royal HaskoningDHV asset management advisor, who has worked there for 12 years and has four children. ‘It’s important to assess yourself again and again against development points,' she said. 'Where can I improve? What can I do for the company…there are real chances here.’ The VHTO does see the fruits of these kinds of partnerships between businesses, themselves, government bodies and educational establishments. Nevertheless, ‘we’re not there yet,' Gielstra says. 'It is vitally important that education and businesses keep working together in public-private partnership in the future, so that…the chances for girls in technology and IT remain clearly visible.’  More >


10 great things to do this week – August 3 – 9

10 great things to do this week – August 3 – 9

From watching films outdoors and checking out a huge market of hand-crafted items to admiring Matisse cutouts and steaming through the countryside, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Catch Matisse while you still can Photo: Stedelijk Collection Don't miss the biggest collection ever exhibited in the Netherlands of the work of the French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954), which has two weeks to run. In his paintings and cut-outs Matisse sought the most perfect possible union between shape and colour. He depicted Eastern nudes, colourful fabrics, carpets, potted plants and idyllic landscapes. Using its permanent collection, the Stedelijk also provides surprising combinations with the work of his contemporaries, teachers and followers, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Kirchner, Mondrian and Cézanne. At the heart of the exhibition is Matisse’s most popular work: The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952-1953, photo). Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam until August 16. www.stedelijk.nl Take the bus to interesting theatre locations Festival Boulevard offers theatre and music performances at interesting locations indoors and outside throughout the picturesque city of Den Bosch. There are buses to take visitors to the locations. This year’s participants include the Belgian theatre company FC Bergman with the dialogue-free The Land Nod. Using slapstick, film and their physical style of theatre, they use the history of the art museum in Antwerp and its large collection of paintings by Rubens to tell their story. Elsewhere, theater-maker Boukje Schweigman creates a theatre experience called Curve using lighting, sound and architectural forms. Various locations, Den Bosch, August 6 to 16. www.festivalboulevard.nl Try out some good food The great marketplace - Grote Markt - in Haarlem plays host to 13 top class restaurants from the city and its surrounding areas for the annual Haarlem Culinair. From their stalls around the marketplace they serve small portions of their signature dishes for a reasonable price accompanied by an appropriate wine. There is also a craft beer market on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival. Haarlem is the capital city of Noord-Holland province and the buildings on the Grote Markt were built between the 15th and 17th century. Grote Markt, Haarlem, August 6 to 9. www.haarlemculinair.nl Change seats when the music stops The programme Musical Chairs is an opportunity to have a look around the Delft University of Technology while listening to classical music performances. For instance, there is Fauré's piano quartet nr 1 played by the Fauré Quartet in the botanic garden and Bach's solo for cello played by Jakob Koranyi at the Architecture Faculty. TU Delft, August 7. www.delftmusicfestival.nl Feel jealous of the younger generation Noah Baumbach's latest film is a sparkling comedy of inter-generational jealousy and midlife anxiety packed with wit and vigour. Ben Stiller, who was at the centre of Baumbach's Greenberg, plays Josh. He and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple in New York whose friends are all producing babies. When they befriend Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a young, loft-dwelling couple, they abandon their old friends in favour of doing fun stuff with their new best friends: attending 'street beach' parties and hip-hop exercise classes, bike riding and buying a hat. There is one sequence where Baumbach takes things too far when the foursome take hallucinogens under the guidance of a shaman and are encouraged to vomit out their demons. For the rest of the film Baumbach does what he does better than most: observe the manners and morals of the various demographic groups of the white, urban classes. Get cool with the DJs The Crazy Sexy Cool outdoor festival offers five stages: the main stage plus one each for eclectic, deep/tech house, Caribbean and UK garage/trap. Among those appearing are Billy the Kit, Vinny Jones, Contrasted, Isaac de Cuba and The Artful Dodger. Zuiderpark, Rotterdam, August 8. www.crazysexycoolfestival.com Steam through the countryside Take the steam tram from Hoorn station through the countryside and villages of Noord-Holland province to Enkhuizen. This local railway line was constructed in 1887 and is 20 km long. The tram has a fireman to shovel the coal into the firebox and wooden seats in its carriages. The engine whistles, the wheels sing and the steam hisses. In Enkhuizen, the journey continues to Medemblik on an old-fashioned steamer with a saloon deck which sails along the coast of the IJsselmeer lake. Museum Steam Tram, Hoorn until August 31. www.museumstoomtram.nl/en Watch films outdoors Out on an old pier in what was once the western port area of Amsterdam is a big screen and rows of deckchairs ready for the evening showing of a film not previously seen in the Netherlands. It's the festival Pluk de Nacht (seize the night) which offers a different film each evening. Many of them are in foreign languages with Dutch subtitles, but for those with limited Dutch there are two English language films. The Wolfpack about a family of brothers locked away in their apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan who learn about the world from watching and re-enacting films (August 12). Sam Klemke's Time Machine is Klemke's 30 years worth of videoed New Year messages cut by director Matthew Bate with an old documentary about the space shuttle Voyager (August 14). The festival terrain is about five minutes walk from Amsterdam central station and offers an arts programme and food and drink. Stenen Hoofd, Amsterdam, August 5 to 15. www.plukdenacht.nl Thrill to the young Mendelssohn The closing night of the Delft Chamber Music Festival features the piano quartet nr 3 by the young Mendelssohn and the string quintet by the Russian composer Georgy Catoire. The performers are the violinist Liza Ferschtman (photo), viola player Marc Desmons, the cellists Jakob Koranyi and Danjulo Ishizaka and the Fauré Quartet. Museum Prinsenhof, Delft, August 9. www.delftmusicfestival.nl Buy some hand-made items The Swan Market bills itself as a lifestyle event. It is a large market with mainly hand-made items such as jewellery, accessories, art, design, fashion and vintage. There is also a food market with street food trucks offering a wide variety of things to eat and drink, and a stage with live music ranging from folk to funk and soul. Vredenburg, Utrecht, August 9. www.swanmarket.nl  More >


Buy-to-let mortgages in the Netherlands (third party content)

Buy-to-let mortgages in the Netherlands (third party content)

In some countries buying property to rent out is a popular investment. So what is the situation in the Netherlands? Henk van Seijen of financial advisory group Finsens has the low-down. Expats often come to us asking whether it would be possible for them to purchase a apartment to rent out. This is because apartments and residences in the large Dutch cities are considered an interesting investment. In addition to rental income, the properties also go up in value. Obviously these properties may be purchased with private cash. But recently, taking out a mortgage has become an option. On behalf of the expat community, we have investigated the requirements. Expats must have spent at least three years living and working in the Netherlands. Their minimum gross income should be €45,000 per year and they must have EU nationality. Another significant detail is that private cash is required at all times. The bank will expect buyers to invest roughly 40% of the purchase price from their own resources. Provided the above conditions are met, it is possible to request a mortgage. The bank will set yet a few more conditions regarding (the rental of) the apartment. For instance, you will need to have a permanent tenant. Short term rentals via AirBnB and the like are not allowed. Cities The bank will only finance apartments and residences located in large cities because the risk that they will become vacant is low. Up to 50% of the value of the property can be paid off (with a maximum period of 30 years). If the mortgage is higher, then this part of the mortgage needs to be repaid over 10 years. In addition, the rental income on the property needs to exceed the interest and repayment in the first year. The tax consequences are as follows: you will have to pay 1.2% levy on the value of the apartment less the mortgage. This is the box 3 levy in terms of income tax. If you would like to find out more about buy-to-let mortgages, please feel free to contact our team at info@finsens.nl or 020-6234447. Henk van Seijen is a partner at Finsens, specialists in rendering services to expats in the areas of tax, mortgages and investment advice.  More >


How to plan a cycling city: university summer school course is a big draw

How to plan a cycling city: university summer school course is a big draw

Amsterdam is known the world over for its bikes and its cycling population. Esther O’Toole visits a unique summer course at the University of Amsterdam that seeks to give students insight into the world of Dutch cycling. The University of Amsterdam has been running summer courses for nearly 20 years. However, this is the first time that they have run a Planning the Cycling City course, which looks at the history, policy, infrastructure, planning, and culture of urban cycling in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is the world’s cycling capital, so you would think that it would be obvious that folks from abroad should want to look into the reasons behind the thriving ‘on yer bike’ lifestyle of the Dutch. For the Dutch though, for whom cycling is as natural as breathing, that interest is not so immediately apparent. As Mirjam Schieveld, the programme director at the Graduate School of Social Sciences summer programmes office, explains: ‘For us it’s a lot like being fish in a bowl. We’re used to it. Lots of visiting students come to do research here though and many chose to look at cycling in Holland. So that’s where the idea for this course came from.’ Popularity According to 2014 figures from the World Health Organisation, one-third of trips made in Amsterdam are by bike, by far the highest percentage in Europe. The WHO report estimates 1,600 jobs are connected with cycling in Amsterdam - from bicycle retail and maintenance, the provision of clothing and accessories for cyclists, urban development and developing new mobility schemes. Last year, the city council agreed to spend €120m in improving facilities for cyclists, of which €90m will be spent on 40,000 new bike parking places. The city's current bike path network is under pressure and efforts are being made to find new ways to cope with the sheer number of cyclists and bikes. No wonder, then, that the cycling city course has proven enormously popular and all 30 places were quickly taken. The university has already confirmed the course will be back in 2016. Status Brett Petzer, 29, an urban planning masters student from Cape Town, South Africa, was particularly interested in the cycling culture here. Back home, he says, cycling is intrinsically linked to status. In South Africa ‘captive cyclists’ are the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, having to use bikes by necessity. The middle class, by contrast, can afford to live within cycling distance of city centres and go biking for leisure. As such bikes become a status symbol. ‘When I come here it’s a different universe. I’m really interested to find out how cycling is linked to Dutch identity.’ Petzer said. Context By contrast, Cosmin Popan, 34, originally from Romania but studying for his PhD at Lancaster University in the UK, wants to use his social science background to shake up urban planning. He’s determined that cycling should be looked at in a broader context. ‘Often cycling is looked at very narrowly,' he says. 'I want to know what other things make people choose it other than economics and time efficiency. Too often planners and engineers have the last word and I think that needs to be challenged.’ Other students, such as Marin Hara, a 22 year old undergraduate from Tokyo, Japan,  is simply ‘looking for inspiration’ for the next phase of her studies. ‘Everyone is super passionate. I’m really impressed,’ she says. Dynamics In the first days of the course students have started to get a tangible feel for the subject with a hectic ride from their residence to class and ‘rush hour’ observations outside Amstel station. In the days to they will look at system’s dynamics, land use, network analysis and public space in relation to cycling. The UvA's summer courses are a chance for the university to both promote itself on the global academic stage and to give those visiting a good idea of what it’s like to live and study here. Many return to take up full time places on other courses as a result. There has traditionally been an emphasis on including subjects that the Dutch have a particularly strong record in with topics such as Sexuality & Politics (sodomy laws were first repealed here in 1811 and Drugs Policy & Addiction Management (soft drug legislation first came into effect in the 70’s). Cycling course leader Marco te Brӧmmelstroet issued a disclaimer at the outset telling participants not to ‘expect a silver bullet’. There is no one solution for them to take home and apply to their own cities, he said. Cycling in the Netherlands has been an evolution ‘There was no plan, no cycling advocacy groups; it came piecemeal in the beginning,' he told his students. There was also a warning – once the course has been completed, Te Brӧmmelstroet said, you will never look at cycling the same way again. UvA summer school courses  More >