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


10 Dutch delicacies to buy in snack bars

10 Dutch delicacies to buy in snack bars

The Dutch call it ‘een vette bek halen’ – literally ‘to get yourself a greasy gob’ or pigging out on fried food. The snack bars stock an interesting selection. Here are the most popular. Please note, the Dutch often use the diminutive form for their snacks –  a kroketje, a sateetje, a patatje, in an attempt to minimise calorific value. 1 Saté Saté was brought to the Netherlands by people from the Dutch former colony of Indonesia. It is originally a delicate little dish of meat on a bamboo stick served with a sambal, ketjap or peanut sauce. Here it has degenerated into a few chewy skewered lumps of unidentifiable origin drowned in a sauce made with peanut butter. 2 Loempia, nasibal and bamibal The snack bar loempia (spring roll), nasibal (filled with rice) and bamibal (filled with noodles) are also distantly related to Indonesian food. They were made popular by the Chinese restaurants which began to proliferate in the Netherlands in the 1950s. These often employed Indonesian cooks who brought their own recipes. When nasiballs and bamiballs began to be manufactured in factories, their shape changed from a ball to something resembling an ice hockey puck and in their frozen state they could, indeed, be used as one. 3 A turkeystick A turkeystick is a kebab made with bits of turkey, chicken and onion rings, all deep fried of course. 4 Patatje oorlog/kernoorlog A patatje oorlog (French fries war) is usually chips with mayonnaise, peanut (butter) sauce and raw onion. If you go to Noord-Brabant or Leiden they add curry sauce to the mix and call it French fries ‘nuclear war’. 5 Kaassoufflé Just that: a cheese soufflé only deep fried. 6  Kroket Croquettes are probably one of the Netherlands’ favourite snacks. They can be eaten with mustard and are great on bread. You will get points for guessing which type of meat is mixed in with the goulash type sludge that is in them. The kroket is something most foreigners in the Netherlands develop a secret liking for. 7 Berehap In the delicate language of the snack bar, a berehap is an enormous (like a bear), deep fried concoction of sliced meatball on a stick, interspersed with onion rings. The healthy option comes with pineapple. 8 Frika(n)del A deep fried, absurdly elongated sausage made with different kinds of meat. This snack has been around since the seventeenth century. Rumour has it that frikandellen are filled with a yummy mixture of meat from udders, cows eyes and fat. This is, of course, strenuously denied by frikandellen manufacturers. The truth is that frikandellen are made with what Dutch meat processors call ‘separated meat’ – ie the meat left on the bones of chickens, pigs and horses (yes, some manufacturers use a bit of horse as well) after they have been filleted. 9 Kapsalon The kapsalon - literally hairdressers salon - was reportedly invented by a Cap Verdian hairdresser in Rotterdam who asked his local snack bar to combine all his favourite fast food into one dish. The classic kapsalon consists of French fries covered with doner kebab or shwarma meat and melted cheese, then topped with some lettuce and tomato for vitamins. Often served with garlic sauce and sambal. 10 Vlaamse frieten Not all snacks are the devil’s food, or Dutch. This one happens to be Belgian but the Dutch love it too. Some snack bars serve the real thing: chips made from real potatoes with a creamy, home-made (or close to) mayonnaise. Delicious.  More >


Following in Van Gogh’s footsteps: 10 places where he lived

Following in Van Gogh’s footsteps: 10 places where he lived

On July 29 it will be 125 years since Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh shot himself in France. A whole host of events are being organised to coincide with the commemorations, from exhibitions to bike tours. Here's a list of 10 places associated with the Dutch master, who was unappreciated in his lifetime but is now considered one of the greatest painters who ever lived. 1 Zundert (1853) Vincent was born in Zundert, in the province of Noord-Brabant. His father, Theodorus van Gogh, was a protestant minister who although well-liked was not considered a very inspirational preacher. Vincent was to follow briefly and disastrously in his father’s footsteps. The bleak Noord-Brabant scenery appeared in much of his work. 2 Tilburg (1866) The Rijks-HBS was situated in the former palace of King Willem II in Tilburg. This is where the 13-year-old Vincent had his first drawing lessons. One of his earliest drawings was of two farmers leaning on their spades and it’s a theme he would repeat many times. The school is now an arts centre. Vincent spent two years in Tilburg. Why he had to go back home is unclear but what is certain is that his time in Tilburg signalled the end of his formal education. 3 The Hague (1869) When he was 16, Vincent went to work for his art dealer uncle Vincent (‘Uncle Cent’) at Goupil and Company in The Hague. His job would have consisted of packing up the fine art reproductions Goupil specialised in. In later years Vincent would return to The Hague to do several drawings of the town commissioned by his artist cousin and tutor Anton Mauve, a famous painter at the time. The Hague was also the place where Vincent and his brother Theo started their correspondence. 4 London (1873) At 20, Vincent was sent to England to work for Goupil’s London branch. Like Charles Dickens, whose compassion for the poor he came to share, he went on prodigious walks. Van Gogh didn’t have any definite plans to take up painting as a profession at this time but he did make several drawings of London landmarks, such as Westminster Bridge. A painting by the 17th century landscape artist Meindert Hobbema, The Lane at Middelharnis, which had been in the possession of the National Gallery since 1871 and reproductions of which he certainly handled at Goupil’s, is thought to have been the inspiration behind Van Gogh’s Populierenlaan (1884). You can follow a Van Gogh walk around his London haunts. 5 Borinage (1878) Vincent was fired from his job at Goupil’s – why exactly is not known but one can imagine Vincent being pretty intense company. This was certainly the impression he left in the Borinage, a poor mining district in Belgium, where Vincent ended up as a lay preacher after an attempt to study theology in Amsterdam came to nought. He involved himself in the lives of the poor, gave away all his belongings and even went down the mine. But no matter how hard he tried, the people of the Borinage didn’t take to him. The church authorities grew uneasy at his zeal – people called him ‘the Christ of the coal mine’ - and didn’t renew his contract. Theo, the recipient of his brother’s drawings of the bleak, poverty-stricken Borinage, advised him to take up art as a profession. 6 Nuenen (1883) After a couple of detours – and a love affair with a prostitute  whose ‘rotten character’ preacher Vincent had hopes of reforming - he went to stay with his long-suffering parents who had moved to Nuenen, also in Noord-Brabant. Here he painted his famous Aardappeleters (1885), a portrait of a family of farmers eating a dish of boiled potatoes. Vincent made over 500 paintings and drawings in Nuenen, mostly of farming subjects. Nuenen has a museum dedicated to the painter. 7 Paris (1886) Theo, whose career at Goupil’s was much more successful than Vincent’s, had moved to Paris to work at the company’s main branch. He invited his brother over and it was in Paris that Vincent discovered colour and developed his typical, short brush stroke style. He met with other painters, notably Paul Gauguin. His subjects were the streets and taverns of the city and, with Vincent failing to sell any of his work and with the cost of models, frequently himself. 8 Arles (1888) The countryside beckoned and Vincent travelled south, to Arles in the Province. He wanted to set up an artists’ colony there and rented a couple of rooms for the purpose in the Yellow House. In the event only Gauguin joined him for what turned out to be two productive if tempestuous months. Vincent loved the light and the colours of the south and he painted some of his most beautiful canvases there. But all was not well and after a bust-up with Gauguin, in which either Vincent cut off a bit of his ear or Gauguin lopped it off with a sabre, it became clear that his mental health was deteriorating. In 1889 he entered the asylum at Saint-Rémy- de-Provence. 9 Asylum: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (1889) Vincent stayed in the asylum for a year. Periods of sanity and confusion alternated – at one point he was only allowed to draw because he was eating his oil paints – and Vincent produced some 150 works here. 10 Auvers-sur-Oise 1890 In the final year of his life Vincent moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to be closer to his brother. It was a period of frantic activity: he did a painting a day. One of the most famous paintings of this period is a portrait of physician and friend Dr Paul Gachet. The cornfield paintings he did were meant to convey ‘sadness and extreme desolation’ he wrote to his brother, but also showed ‘how healthy and good it is to be in the country’. But in July 1890 Vincent went into a cornfield and shot himself in the chest. He died two days later.  More >


Video: Dutch pranksters show Ikea art to art experts

Video: Dutch pranksters show Ikea art to art experts

The bright sparks at Dutch viral video company LifeHunters placed a painting from Swedish furniture chain Ikea in a museum in Arnhem and told art experts it was by the famous IKE Andrews. The reactions varied from ‘an artist who can put all his emotions in the painting’ til ‘I think it’s worth €2.5m.’ Most of those who had waxed lyrical about the art were good humoured when told about the painting's real origins. But not all.   More >


Video: House of Cards The Hague x 2

Video: House of Cards The Hague x 2

The start of the third season of popular US drama series House of Cards has inspired video makers in cities all over the world to make their own versions of the show’s introduction. The Hague has two House of Cards intros, so far. The first was made by the youth wing of the VVD Liberal party, with Mark Rutte as prime minister and co-staring a host of political names and commentators. The second is the real introduction for a new series of interviews with politicians about how The Hague works.   More >


Why you should vote for your local water board? A dijkgraaf explains all

Why you should vote for your local water board? A dijkgraaf explains all

Voting in for your local water board on March 18 is a key part of Dutch democracy and gives everyone a say in the decision-making process, says Gerhard van den Top, the dijkgraaf or the head of the board of the regional water authority in Amstel, Gooi en Vecht. Since our earliest efforts, some 700 years ago, to defend our people and properties against sea and river water and to reclaim ‘polders’ from lakes and sea area, the Netherlands has separated water taxes (and governance) from overall taxation in our general democracy. The Amstel, Gooi and Vecht Regional Water Authority, and 22 other regional water authorities in the Netherlands, raises a specific water tax from all those who benefit from the water security and quality we safeguard in our region – including expats who live and work here. Sea level Water is a fundamental and long-term concern in a country such as the Netherlands, one-third of which lies below sea level, and two-thirds of which is prone to flooding by one the major rivers discharging through our delta into the North Sea. By separating the water tax from general taxation, we prevent these long-term concerns from being out-competed by other, often more short-term political priorities (education, health and other social concerns). But, of course, under the ‘No taxation without representation’ principle, a form of democratically elected governance needs to oversee the Regional Water Authorities, as these turn tax income into actual plans and projects in the field of water security and quality. Decide On this coming March 18, voters can decide who will occupy 23 out of 30 seats for the General Council of the Water Authority. A total of 13 parties have filed a list of candidates for these elections, and have been campaigning to win voter confidence for the past two months. The other seven seats are reserved for representation by large landowners (farmers and nature conservancies) and for the business sector. After the elections, a combination of parties representing the majority of seats in the Council develops a coalition plan and forms an Executive Committee to oversee its implementation during the Council’s four-year term. Both the General Council and the Executive Committee are presided over by the Regional Water Authority Chairman (‘Dijkgraaf’ in Dutch). Not being elected but appointed by the king of the Netherlands, the Chairman has a similar role to that of a mayor in a municipality. Choice Our regional public Water Authorities are responsible for water security and quality. This means we maintain dykes as well as hundreds of ground and surface water levels in the 700 km2 area under our responsibility. Safety from floods, water treatment and quality and the facilitation of recreational water use are part of our responsibility. Our region comprises 20 municipalities, including the national capital Amsterdam. In addition to densely populated built up areas, our region harbours large areas of open water, agricultural land and nature parks. The region also has a great diversity of cultural, social and economic groups, from highly affluent to a large number of (primarily urban) people living at or below the minimum wage standard. While one might expect that the realm of water management would not lend itself as much to political debate as other public service areas in the general democracy, each of the 13 political groups competing for votes is taking distinctly different positions on such areas as the tariff, our social policy towards those with low income, expenditure on innovation and sustainability-enhancing measures, the need for investments in nature quality, recreational use and so on. To facilitate an informed vote by expats living and working in our region, we decided to offer an English translation of www.kieskompas.nl,  the evaluation tool that voters may use to determine their party of preference for the March 18 elections. Vote Our regional water authorities are mandated government agencies that raise water taxes from you, and work hard to offer you a secure and clean water environment for you to experience a pleasant and safe living and working environment every day. March 18 is your opportunity to provide us with direction on where we should be driving our efforts in the coming four years. By casting your vote, the expat community in our region is represented on our Council, and can take your concerns on board. For more information on these elections check out our website www.agv.nl, or send us an email to Gritta.Nottelman@waternet.nl. We will try our best to answer your questions within 24 hours.  More >


A very brief guide to the 12 Dutch provinces

A very brief guide to the 12 Dutch provinces

The Dutch go to the polls next week to elect the members of the 12 provincial councils. In case your local geography is not up to scratch, here's a list of all 12. Drenthe, capital Assen Drenthe is a mainly rural province, with some industry around Assen and Emmen. It is also home to 53 of the Netherlands 54 hunebedden, or dolmens – megalithic tombs. Flevoland, capital Lelystad The newest province, created largely on post WWII land reclaimed from the sea. It’s flat and full of farms. Flevoland has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Friesland, capital Leeuwarden Fryslân, to give the province its name in the local language, is the biggest Dutch province if you include water as well as land. Frisians who move away – and there is no university in Friesland – are ferociously proud of their roots. Gelderland, capital Arnhem Gelderland may be one province but its folk divide it into three areas: the Betuwe, known for growing fruit; the Veluwe with its national park; and the Achterhoek – literally back corner - which stretches to Germany. As far as Amsterdammers are concerned, people from the Achterhoek are stereotypical country bumpkins. Groningen, capital Groningen Groningen is largely rural – with huge empty expanses of black earth – but has large natural gas reserves in Slochteren. Extracting this gas is causing parts of the province to sink. Beerta is the only Dutch local authority area to have had a communist mayor. Limburg, capital Maastricht Limburg is pretty well surrounded by Germany and Belgium and is home to the Netherlands’ highest hill, the Vaalserburg, which is 322.7 metres high. The capital Maastricht is notorious for giving its name to the Maastricht treaty. Geert Wilders comes from Venlo in Limburg. Noord-Brabant, capital Den Bosch Nearly all of Noord-Brabant is above sea level, which will probably be handy in years to come. As a province, it is big on farming, especially mega pig farms. Nor should we forget Eindhoven, home to Philips, and Kaatsheuvel, home to the Efteling ,the biggest theme park in the Benelux. Noord-Holland, capital Haarlem Amsterdam is the national capital, so Haarlem gets the province, although it stretches right up to Den Helder and has sneaked hold of one Wadden island – Texel. Overijssel, capital Zwolle The one province everyone forgets, Overijssel means lands across the river Ijssel, and it stretches from the German border to the former island (and fundamentalist Christian hotbed) of Urk. Utrecht, capital Utrecht The smallest and most central of the provinces, Utrecht is also home to the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, or hill ridge, former healthland now largely covered with pine plantations. Zeeland, capital Middelburg The most western province, made up of a string of islands and largely below sea level, Zeeland has the lowest jobless rate in the country. It is a hugely popular destination for tourists, particularly from Germany. Zuid-Holland, capital The Hague Zuid-Holland is one of the most densely populated and industrialised areas in the world, thanks to the industrial sprawl of Rotterdam and its port. The southern part of the province is made up of a number of islands, including the strangely named Goeree-Overflakkee.  More >


One week to go – the Netherlands goes to the polls again

Post these days is usually made up of bills or the occasional postcard or birthday greeting. But in the past few days, you may well have received a card from your local council, inviting you to vote. Before you get too excited, unless you are Dutch, this will be an invitation to take part in elections for your local water board – the people who ensure the drinking water is clean and the dykes keep out the sea. The water board elections take place on March 18, the same day as Dutch nationals can vote for the 12 provincial governments. Here's the lowdown. Provincial councils The provincial councils (Provinciale Staten) run the 12 Dutch provinces and, in turn, their members elect the 75 members of the upper house of parliament, or senate, three months later. This means their role is crucial - the current coalition government does not have a majority in the upper house of parliament and relies on the help of opposition parties to get legislation through. However, opinion polls indicate the coalition - made up of the right-wing VVD Liberals and the Labour party - will lose a large number of seats in the senate, making it even more difficult to pass controversial policy. How do the provinces work? The provinces receive money from central government to manage nature areas, build and maintain cycle paths, oversee provincial public transport and promote the arts and culture. Each province has a provincial executive and council, both of which are chaired by a king’s commissioner. The king’s commissioner – a bit like a provincial mayor - is a crown appointee. You need to be a Dutch national to vote in the provincial elections. Water boards The water boards (waterschappen) regulate how public money is spent on ensuring a clean water supply and making sure the country does not flood. You can vote for the water boards if you are an EU national or hold a valid residency permit for the Netherlands. The water boards are keen to encourage internationals to vote and have put together a ‘compass’ to help you choose: Who should get your vote. How to vote Voting cards (stempas) are sent automatically to your official address. You need to take them with you plus valid ID to vote. The polling stations are open from 07.00 hours to 22.00 hours. You vote by filling in the circle with a red pencil next to the name of your choice.  More >


Video: Purmerend eagle owl stars in horror film.

Video: Purmerend eagle owl stars in horror film.

The eagle owl which has been attacking people in the Noord Holland town of Purmerend has not only made headlines round the world, but has now become a film star. The province has now given permission for the owl to be caught but until that happens, locals are being advised to use umbrellas as a defence against its talons. Meanwhile,  latest attack took place on Friday morning on a paper girl who was delivering the morning newspapers. She is said to have been covered with blood after the bird swooped on her.   More >


11 things Dutch shopkeepers will say to you

11 things Dutch shopkeepers will say to you

You thought going shopping was a great way to practise your Dutch on the natives? Indeed it is. But here are a few key phrases you really do need to watch out for. Wil hij (of zij) misschien een plakje worst? If the butcher likes you, possibly because you have just paid a fortune for a piece of meat, and you have a child with you, he will ask ‘would he (or she) like a piece of sausage?’ They invariably ask the parent, not the child who has no say in the matter. Some butchers have been known to offer sausage to dogs… who never say no. Hoekje of plat? You are now at the cheese shop. The cheese man wants to know if you want your piece of  cheese wedge-shaped or flat. Why is unclear. Possibly wedge people have big fridges with plenty of room while poorer people have to stack stuff. Or want to cut it into cubes. Anders nog iets? Anything else? Mag het ietsje meer zijn? Do you mind if it’s a bit more? This is usually a rhetorical question because the assistant has scooped too many olives into the plastic pot or cut too big a piece of cheese. You are free to object if you dare. Met vijf maakt tien Good shopkeepers don’t thrust your change into your hand.  They count it out. Their concluding phrase might be ‘and five makes ten’ (or any other amounts of course) Gaat het zo mee? This literally means 'is it going with (you) like that?' - a somewhat obscure way of saying 'do you want a bag'. Met staart? Uitjes en zuur erbij? We’re at the fish stall  buying herring. Would you like the tail with that? the fishmonger will ask. You need the tail to dangle the herring over your mouth if you want to eat it that way. Purists poo poo uitjes and zuur, this is why the fishmonger always ask you if you want them. Onions are onions but the pickle is only referred to by its taste: zuur or sour. Meenemen of opeten? Are you taking this home or eating it (here). The Dutch omit the ‘here’ which always suggests that when you take it home you will immediately throw it in the bin, and frankly if you buy a frikandel that is exactly what you should do. Met of zonder? Do you want your French fries with or without mayonnaise. With, please. Papier of plastic? You are at the health food shop for a change. You are buying a piece of spelt bread with chia seeds and the person at the bread section asks ‘would you like paper or plastic’ to put your loaf in. In that split second you have to consider which is better for the environment. Eh…. Fijne dagen!/Prettig weekend! Fijne dagen (enjoyable days) is what shopkeepers wish harassed Christmas shoppers. Your prettig or fijn weekend, starts on Friday morning. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


Video: I have tinnitus and I want to die

Video: I have tinnitus and I want to die

Gaby Olthuis suffered from constant noise in her head, ‘like a train screeching or someone scratching their nails on a blackboard’. To end her suffering, she was given a lethal potion to drink by a doctor from a clinic set up to help people who want to die. This documentary with English subtitles was made by television programme De Monitor and was filmed a few weeks before her death. More on this story  More >


Washington DC has nothing on Amsterdam

Washington DC has nothing on Amsterdam

The Dutch embassy in Washington has published this handy infographic, outlining all the ways Amsterdam and Washington are different. It's a response to DC's mayor's assertion that decriminalising marijuana will not turn the city into, shock horror, something like the Dutch capital. The embassy even published a special website page highlighting the differences in drugs policy. The page concludes by pointing out that Americans are more likely to smoke weed than the Dutch. 'The lifetime rate of marijuana consumption for ages 15-64 in the Netherlands is 25.7% compared to 41.5% in the US,' the website states.  More >


Six Dutch words and one gesture which are impossible to translate

Learning Dutch but bogged down in the grammar? Or are you a complete failure at the difference between de and het? Never fear, help is at hand. Here are six essential but untranslatable words and one gesture to help you sound like a native. Gezellig A gezel was an apprentice in medieval times and we still use the word levensgezel for someone who accompanies you on the journey of life, in other words your better half. Conviviality, the Dickensian kind, comes close with its emphasis on having a jolly time in the company of friends. No one would say how convivial, however, the way the Dutch say Hè gezellig. It also denotes a degree of intimacy, so a gathering at home or around a restaurant table would be labelled gezellig in a way a gathering at a discotheque or a football match would not. Hè hè Depending on how you say it expresses relief at a job well done or the end to something strenuous, like an afternoon’s shopping. You sit down, take your shoes off and utter a heartfelt hè hè. If someone says (Ja) hè hè in an irritated tone it means you are stating the obvious. Ja, ja Means yes, yes but actually denotes disbelief. Pull the other one. Gedogen Turning a blind eye, tacitly allowing something. The Netherlands has a drugs gedoog policy. The possession of more than five grammes of hashish or marihuana is illegal but the authorities choose not to prosecute even though they know what you’ve got in your pocket. The concept of gedogen has a long history in the Netherlands. The Calvinists of the Dutch Republic did not allow the Catholics, or any other faiths, to worship publicly but turned a blind eye to the celebration of mass in schuilkerken or hidden churches.  Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) in Amsterdam is an example of a hidden church. It is now a museum. The most recent but much less profitable example of gedogen is the so-called gedoogkabinet from 2010 to 2012, a minority cabinet made up of the right-wing liberal party VVD and the Christian Democrats, supported by the anti-immigrant party PVV. The PVV did not form part of the government but could effectively block or condone any decision it made. The fact that everyone who is not Dutch failed to understand the set-up is proof of how difficult a concept gedogen is. That weird gesture The Dutch also have a gesture that is uniquely theirs. Place your hand next to your cheek as if you were going to slap it. Make a waving motion and pull a happy face. You are now saying that what you have in your bulging cheeks is very tasty indeed, or lekker. Lekker Tasty, but not just used for food. Someone can have een lekker kontje or a nice butt, and calling someone a lekker ding means you would enjoy some, let us say, good conversation with him or her. Ga lekker zitten means make yourself nice and comfortable. Lekker puh is said by a child who has put one over on a another child: so there. Trendy people use lekker in a slightly different and extremely irritating way: Extreme sporten? Dat vind ik wel lekker (extreme sports? Like it). Beleg Sandwich fillings doesn’t cover it because a boterham, or a single slice of bread, is not strictly speaking a sandwich and can’t be filled unless you fold it in half. ‘The stuff you put on a slice of bread’ is the nearest thing. Beleg is an essential part of Dutch lunch and can mean anything, from chicken curry mush to slices of ham and the dreaded smeerkaas. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


10 traditional Dutch recipes – not all of which involve potato

10 traditional Dutch recipes – not all of which involve potato

It would be very easy to be snotty about Dutch food and talk about snack bars, chicken with apple puree and the ubiquitous ‘ovenschotel’.  We could go on and on about boiled chicory with ham and cheese sauce and meatballs with green beans and potatoes – served at 6pm sharp. But we won’t be doing any of that. We have a sneaking appreciation for some traditional Dutch recipes – especially those guaranteed to get you through the cold winters. Here are 10 dishes you really should try. 1. Stamppot and its ilk Let us get this out of the way to start with. When it comes to food it seems the Dutch like nothing better than to mash things. They cannot put a number of perfectly nice ingredients together without taking a hand blender to them. But then, it’s difficult to make a hash of a mash – the basic ingredients being simply potato and some vegetable or other. There is an endless list of things you can mash. Here are some examples. Hutspot is said to have originated in Leiden in 1574. The Spanish, on the run from William of Orange, lifted the siege of the city in a hurry and left a simmering pot of onions, carrots and parsnips (later to be replaced by potatoes). The famished people of Leiden, presumably all armed with forks, mashed the lot and invented hutspot. It is traditionally eaten with ‘klapstuk’ or boiled beef but we like it with bacon chops. Hete bliksem means ‘hot lightning’ and is made of apple and potato, mashed up of course. Use sour apples  (Goudreinette) and put in lots of crispy fried bacon cubes. Boerenkool and andijviestamppot are, respectively, potato and curly kale mash and potato and curly endive mash. Serve with rookworst (smoked sausage) and fried bacon bits. The more green vegetable the better. The other big hitter is zuurkool stamppot – pickled cabbage and mash which is a distinctly acquired taste. 2 Beetroot and herring salad Another simple dish consisting of pickled herring, cooked beetroot, some gherkins, pickled onions, boiled potatoes and some white wine vinegar. Cut everything up in small pieces and mix (not mash). 3 Wentelteefje Good camping food, a wentelteefje is a slice of white bread sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar dipped in milk and egg and then fried in butter. ‘Ey, waer ick t’huys alleen, ick backte wentel-teven Van suyckert witte broot, en butter-smeerigh vet,’ wrote one A. van de Venne in 1623.  ‘Were I home alone I would bake some wentelteven of sugared white bread and greasy butter.’ It must have been the 17th century equivalent of that ultimate solitary culinary pleasure, the bacon sandwich. The origin of the word is a little obscure. ‘Wentelen’ means to turn over which is understandable enough but teefje means ‘bitch’ and is therefore slightly puzzling. ‘Teef’ may have been a sort of confectionary in the olden days. 4 Spek en bonen Another simple winter favourite: bruine bonen (brown beans), smoked bacon, throw together, et voilà. ‘Voor spek en bonen meedoen’ originally meant to do something for very little remuneration and is one of several Dutch sayings involving beans. It now means your presence does not really bring anything to the proceedings. 5  Kapucijners with spek and piccalilly We have no idea what the proper name for this dish is because everyone we ask has a different answer. This feast is based on big Dutch peas known as kapucijners which are cooked and then served with slices of bacon, smoked sausage, boiled potatoes, apple puree, silverskin onions and piccalilly… at least. May also be known as the Captain’s Dinner, raasdonders or Zeeuwse rijstafel (with the addition of rice). 6 Draadjesvlees The perfect winter warmer. Draadjesvlees is beef that has been simmering in stock for about a month with a few spices thrown in. No, it’s not a month, but it is a good few hours –  long enough for the meat to become very tender and fall apart in little threads, or draadjes. Not surprisingly, old-fashioned draadjesvlees has been reclaimed by the slow food movement. Serve with red cabbage and apple (from a jar) and boiled potatoes. 7 Griesmeelpudding Beloved by some, gruesome childhood memory for others, griesmeelpudding is semolina pudding. It is often covered in bessensap, or berry coulis. 8 Hangop This is another dessert. You can buy it in the supermarket but don’t because it is laughably easy to make. All you need is a wet tea towel, a sieve and a container to sit under the sieve. Pour a litre of yoghurt onto the  wet tea towel, cover and leave for 8 hours in the fridge. What you are left with is hangop and very delicious it is too, especially with fruit or honey. The name has nothing to do with any hang ups the Dutch may have about the quality of their cuisine. The tea towel with yoghurt used to be ‘hung up’ for easy dripping hence the name. 9 Erwtensoep No list of Dutch dishes would be complete without the perfect lunch on a winter’s day – thick, creamy, sausage-filled pea soup. Pumpernickel bread with katenspek (yes, smoked bacon again) on the side is a must, as is a strapping Belgian beer. Make it yourself and feel you really have gone Dutch. 10 Haagse bluf The name of this dessert roughly translates as ‘all talk and no substance from the Hague’ which may or may not have something to do with The Hague being the political capital of the Netherlands. Haagse Bluf is a dessert made up entirely of fluff. Beat two egg whites with 100 grams of powdered sugar, then adorn with a bit of berry juice. Serve in a glass with ladies fingers biscuits. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


10 Dutch ideas we wish we had thought of first

10 Dutch ideas we wish we had thought of first

The Dutch are an inventive lot. Among their clever ideas in the past: the stock exchange, the submarine, the fire pump and the speed camera. Here’s a list of other nifty ideas we wish we had come up with. 2theloo A chain of public conveniences. Corny name but business is booming. 2theloo started out in an empty shop in Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat and now operates WCs in 13 different countries worldwide and has 14 million customers a year. The key to their success? Decent, clean loos and you get your 50 cents back if you buy something in the personal products shop. The One Nights Tent Go to any festival ground after the big event itself is over, and you will find enough tents left behind by their owners to fill a large refugee camp. Step up Devin Malone, Amsterdammer from Alaska, who came up with the One Nights Tent – made of easily recyclable and biodegradable plastic so you don’t need to feel guilty about abandoning it. The company now makes lilos and sleeping bags as well. Dutch Cell Dogs We thought this was a bizarre joke when we first heard about it but no, the Dutch Cell Dogs foundation brings together people in prison with dogs that have been abandoned. The foundation helps prisoners to train dogs – all of which have behavioural issues or have been mistreated. The dogs benefit and the prisoners learn about communication and responsibility. Judging by the pictures, not the place to pick up a sweet little lapdog. Storm umbrella Not perhaps the most beautiful object but a perfect example of pragmatic Dutch design… sturdy, weather-proof and folds up small – the storm umbrella. Makers Senz swear their invention can withstand winds of up to 100 kph. Eau d’Amsterdam What does Amsterdam smell off? No, not weed and not deep fried snacks but elm trees. Well that’s the story according to crafty creatives Saskia Hoogendoorn and Lieuwe Martijn Wijnands. Amsterdam has 75,000 elm trees and every spring the streets are piled high with their ‘snow’. So why not capture the essence of the elm and sell it in a bottle for €58 for 50 ml? De Eenzame Uitvaart – the lonely funeral Every year about 15 people die in Amsterdam with no one to mourn them. Step up a group of poets who attend the funeral, choose the music and write a poem for the deceased, even though they have never met. Originally known as the Poule des Doods, the poets are now united in the foundation De Eenzame Uitvaart – the lonely funeral - with chapters in The Hague and Rotterdam as well. The poems read at all 189 funerals so far (February 6, 2015) are online. Read them and weep. The Van Gogh Path Witty, inventive, fun, romantic: the Van Gogh Path near Eindhoven is both a functional cycle path and a work of art by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. If only every bike ride was like this. Peerby Need a tool, a step ladder or even a barbecue? Why not borrow if from your neighbours rather than buy it from a high street store? Peerby helps you do just that and there are no fees attached. Snappcar Similar in spirit, Snappcar helps you avoid Avis, Hertz, Europcar and all the rest. Instead. rent a car from a private citizen who lives around the corner from a few euros a day, all properly insured and with guaranteed payments. You get a much more interesting choice of cars as well. Findfence We just love the Vindhek. Designer Annemarieke Weber talks about the Findfence as a ‘concept about respect, honesty and trust’ and a ‘living work of art’. We just think it’s a damn good idea. A fence where you can hang up lost property and where people who have lost something can look and see if it has been found. Keys, gloves, favourite cuddly toys: we’ve seen them all hanging on the fence in the Vondelpark. Brilliant.  More >


Let’s make things beta at TEDxDelft

Let’s make things beta at TEDxDelft

On February 27 2015, TEDxDelft returns with a new and bigger event, featuring an impressive line-up of speakers and inspiring stories.  The event will take place from 14.00 until 22.00 at the Aula Conference Centre in Delft. This year’s theme, 'Let’s make things beta!', is all about remembering that every great idea was once raw and imperfect, and had to be refined in order to make it what it is today. Technology, entertainment and design are what TED is all about. In 1984, a conference was organised in California, centering around these three fields and with one mission in mind: 'ideas worth spreading'. Since then, TED has evolved to now cover just about every topic imaginable. For up to 18 minutes per speaker, the stage would be open to a person with an idea worth spreading. In June of 2006, these great ideas became more accessible to the world when TED started posting the talks online. These talks were now able to spark conversations with a wider audience. Two years later, TED decided to empower others and help to create 'independently organised TED events' called TEDx. With these events, communities around the globe have been able to spread and share their ideas. Indeed, this is where TEDxDelft comes into focus: an independently organised TED event situated in Delft that also shares in the mission of making ideas accessible to everyone. This year, the stage is set for the fourth TEDxDelft event. Speakers include Dr. Patrick Rensen from the Leiden University Medical Center who will talk about how the simple act of lowering your thermostat can help you lose weight. Moreover, TU Delft Master's student, Mileha Soneji, will present her solution to helping those living with Parkinson’s disease, while chef Yuri Verbeek will discuss how inspirational ideas can appear in the most unlikely of places. Tickets may be purchased online on the TEDxDelft website, at the Delft Tourist Information Point (Kerkstraat 3) or at the event itself (subject to availability). Student/PhD tickets are €24 and regular tickets are €49 per person. For more information, visit http://www.tedxdelft.nl/.  We hope to see you there!  More >


Ten Dutch cheeses

Ten Dutch cheeses

There is more to Dutch cheese than the plastic versions of Gouda and Edam you tend to find in foreign or even some Dutch supermarkets. Here are some of our favourites, and hard cheese if we’ve missed yours out. Dutch hard cheese, by the way, is either jong (young, 4 weeks), jong-belegen (young-mature 8-10 weeks), belegen (mature, 16-18 weeks), extra belegen (extra mature, 7 -8 months), oud (old, 10-12 months) or overjarig (very old, more than 18 months). 1. Leidse kaas Cheese with cumin seeds to give it flavour. 2. Friese nagelkaas Cheese with cloves and cumin seeds, an acquired taste for some and a tried-it-once-never-again experience for others 3. Bleu de Wolvega Organic French-style blue cheese from Friesland. Very tasty. 4. Goudse kaas, old. Crumbly, salty, pungent with overtones of sick (don’t let this put you off, just hold your nose and eat this delicious cheese on a piece of roggebrood or rye bread.) 5. Zeekraalkaas, Organic sheep’s milk cheese with samphire, made in Terschelling. Yum 6. Geska Glarus Not a Dutch cheese but such a pervasive presence on Dutch tables since times immemorial that it deserves a place. It’s stinky, powdered Swiss cheese which tastes like shredded cardboard. Expats who miss it can buy it in the home sickness shops on line. 7. Rommedoe (roum is the Limburg dialect word for cream and doe is derived from the French doux, or soft) A hold-your-nose Limburg cheese which is no longer made in Limburg because of Dutch regulations but pop over the border with Belgium and you’ll find it under the name Hervekaas. It’s production goes back to the fifteenth century. Sharp, pungent and stinky. Don’t take on any form of public transport. 8. Edammer kaas. Small round cheese whose production goes back to the 17th century and one of the best-known Dutch cheeses in the world. It was known as a klootkaasjes or ball (as in gonads) cheese. 9. Texelse schapenkaas. This cheese was made in the 16th and 17th centuries on the island of Texel. One of the more surprising ingredients was the juice of boiled sheep’s poo which gave it is characteristic colour (green) and taste (sharp). It also helped keep the cheese. This practice was discontinued in the 1930s but you can still buy the poo-less variety. 10. Limburger. Beloved of comedians for its pungent smell – often compared to body odour – Limburger cheese was made in the 19th century in the Duchy of Limburg, which is now divided between the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Nowadays its mainly made in Germany. They are welcome to it. Note: Some Dutch cheeses have brand names, like Leerdammer (also: Maasdammer) or Old Amsterdam. They have nothing to do with either Leerdam, Maasdam or Amsterdam and have been given a brand new tradition by cheesy marketing men. The Edam and Gouda in foreign supermarkets on the other hand have nothing to do with cheese. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers   More >


10 myths about the Netherlands – debunked

10 myths about the Netherlands – debunked

If you believe the tourist industry and tabloid newspaper approach to the Netherlands, we all race around on our bikes in clogs, eating cheese, smoking weed and killing off our old folk. Yes, there are lot of myths about the Netherlands and the Dutch. Here's 10 - debunked. Tulips come from Amsterdam It’s spring again, I’ll bring again, tulips from Amsterdam. But did tulips originate in Amsterdam, or even the Netherlands? No, they didn’t. The tulip (Tulipa) was originally a native of Turkey. The dainty, pointy-petalled little tulip was introduced to the West in the 16th century. The Dutch immediately started to mix-and-match like nobody’s business which made them very rich and turned the Netherlands into the home of the tulip. Tulip mania broke out in the 17th century with bulb prices going through the roof, in one instance fetching some 3,000 guilders, or the yearly income of a wealthy merchant. The bubble, or bulb, soon burst, of course. The main tulip growing area is a good few kilometres south of Amsterdam as well. And as for the city’s famous flower market. There were, at last count, two stalls selling flowers and the rest selling tourist tat and bulbs. The Dutch all vote for Geert Wilders Well, that’s easy: they don’t. However, the anti-Europe, anti-immigration party leader did manage to get 10.1 % of the national vote in the 2012 general election which means 933,000 people think the blond one is the bee’s knees.  And he’s currently riding even higher in the polls. The PVV would be the biggest party if there were a general election tomorrow – all of the polls seem to agree on that. But even so, eight out of 10 people would not give their vote to Wilders. A fact worth remembering. Hans Brinker put his finger in the dyke to save the country from flooding No. The story of the boy who put his finger in the dyke and saves the country is part of the book Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates by American author Mary Mapes Dodge. The name Hans Brinker got transferred to the anonymous hero, who did not stick his finger in the dyke, and nor did anyone else. However, there is a statue to the mythical boy in Spaarndam, and Amsterdam has a Hans Brinker hotel. The Dutch all ride bikes No they don’t. There might be 18 million bikes in the Netherlands, but according to the Dutch cycling union just five million of us make a trip by two-wheeler on a daily basis. And the sale of electric bikes, which are not really bikes at all, is going up. They accounted for 10% of bike purchases last year. And that’s cheating. The Dutch are mean We don’t know where this idea comes from. Rumour has it the Belgians had something to do with it. The Dutch are not mean – they just like value for money. Here are the facts: The Netherlands is one of the five countries which spends at least the UN’s target of gdp on development aid – although this is to be cut by 25% this year. The Dutch (private individuals and companies) donate over €4.25bn to charity every year.  Seven out of 10 Dutch primary school pupils get pocket money. The Dutch spend nearly €800m on Sinterklaas and Christmas presents every year and €75m on fireworks at New Year. The list is endless. The Dutch kill off the old and sick at the drop of a hat If you think you can get away with offing your wealthy gran in the Netherlands you will find yourself under arrest quicker than you can say ‘mercy killing’. Nor are elderly persons sporting wrist bands saying ‘Do not euthanise me, please’, as one-time US presidential candidate Rick Santorum had it. The law on euthanasia, which dates from 2002, doesn’t allow euthanasia tourism and doctors who practice euthanasia have to abide by a number of strict rules. In particular, the patient must be suffering unbearably and the doctor must be sure they are making an informed choice. According to the national statistics office, assisted suicide now accounts for 2.8% of all deaths in the Netherlands, or just a few thousand a year. The Netherlands is a ‘frog country’ When the Dutch are pleased with a national achievement of some sort – winning a gold medal or coming top in some poll – they always say it is ‘not bad’ for a kleine or a koude kikker land. Is the Netherlands a little or a cold frog country? Cold? Well compared to much of the world it is, although we would not say no to a decent winter and some skating. Is the Netherlands small? According to UN statistics, the Netherlands is the 134th biggest country in the world – out of a total of 249 countries – so it is not that small at all. In terms of population density, it is in 24th place – so even if the Netherlands ain’t that big, it packs in a lot of people. Is it all a swamp? Much of it might have been once, but drainage and land reclamation have put paid to that. As for the frogs: the Netherlands is home to six different types - the European tree frog, the common brown frog, the marsh frog, the pool frog, the common water (or edible) frog and the moor frog. There are over 4,500 different types of frog in the world, and we have just six. The Dutch are tolerant A sticky issue this one. The National History Museum says the Dutch reputation for tolerance harks back to the 16th century Dutch Republic when different religions were allowed to exist peacefully side by side. Works by Descartes (portrait) and Spinoza were printed without a murmur largely, the museum intimates, because money could be made from them. However, a year after Descartes died his books were banned, no matter how well they sold. According to a poll conducted by independent public advertising body SIRE in 2012, 66% of Dutch people think tolerance is ‘a key value’ but that the country has become less tolerant in the last twenty years. Take tolerance of homosexuality, for example. A report by the government’s social policy unit SCP found although just 4% of people don’t accept homosexuality, 20% don’t think gay and straight people should have equal rights to adopt children. And research by middle class publication parenting magazine J/M voor Ouders shows one-third of parents would consider it unacceptable if their offspring were gay. It is perhaps worth pointing out that tolerance does not mean the same as acceptance. The Dutch all smoke weed all the time You may be forgiven for thinking that a nation which tolerates or turns a blind eye to the purchase of cannabis (actually it’s only five grammes or less) must be walking around in a state of perpetual high spirits. But here is the thing. According to United Nations figures, just 5.4% of the Dutch used cannabis at least once in 2010. In the US, the figure is a sky high 24%. Yep, all those coffee shops in Amsterdam are largely for tourists. All Gouda and Edam cheese is made in the Netherlands Well, yes and no. The names Gouda and Edam are not EU protected, so any old country can make them and does. Most Gouda and Edam cheese is produced in Poland and Germany. New Zealand and the United States also make lots. A cheese sporting the name ‘Gouda Holland’ or ‘Edam Holland’ is, however, made in the Netherlands and was given protected status in 2010. It is not, however, made in Gouda or Edam. The name derives from the fact the cheese used to be sold there in the olden days. This feature was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


The Netherlands and fair trade – from coffee to bank notes and local councils

The Netherlands and fair trade – from coffee to bank notes and local councils

Most of us know how the Netherlands made its riches in the Dutch golden age – thanks to its strength as a trading nation – but hundreds of years later a new trading narrative seems to have grown out of the embers of that legacy - fair trade - writes Cathy Leung. Simply put, fair trade is a system of producing and selling goods that ensures the people selling them receive a fair price. During the 1940s to 1960s, mostly craft items from supply chains in developing countries began to be sold in churches and charity shops like Oxfam in the UK, and what is now Ten Thousand Villages in the US. These could arguably be seen as more of a charitable donation than a commercial transaction but certainly raised awareness of disadvantaged producers in the developing world. The Dutch organisation Komitee Steun Onderontwikkelde Streken (‘Support for Underdeveloped Regions Committee’, S.O.S.) imported the first fair trade product, wood statues from Haiti, in the Netherlands in 1967, and went on to use 'Not aid but trade' as its motto. Coffee The first coffee imports began in 1973, making 2013 a 40 year anniversary for fair trade. It is now known as the fair trade brand, Fair Trade Original. In 1969, the first European ‘worldshop’ selling exclusively fair trade goods opened in Breukelen, the Netherlands, staffed by volunteers. Worldshops are still going strong in the Netherlands with around 400 outlets across the country. The Dutch were to take the lead once more in the late 1980s with the introduction of a fair trade certification system, Max Havelaar, which opened the door to selling fair trade goods in supermarkets – in the belief that to have a meaningful impact on the livelihoods of producers in the developing world, their goods needed to be traded in the mass market. Since the concept of fair trade was developed, it has grown into a worldwide multi-billion euro industry with a variety of labelling organisations extending the fair trade principle to an increasing range of markets outside of agriculture (and its fair share of critics). Why Max Havelaar? Despite the fact that he was not a real person, Max Havelaar has been remarkably influential in Dutch foreign policy. The main character in the 1860 satirical novel of the same name, Max Havelaar fights against the corrupt government system and coffee trade in the Dutch East Indies, with the wider story being how the wealth that was enjoyed in Europe at the time was the result of suffering in other parts of the world. Widely read in its day, and leading to educational reforms and a new ethical policy in the Dutch East Indies, this damning exposé was also recognised by one writer as 'the book that killed colonialism'. The name of Max Havelaar has endured to become a symbol of ethical trading with poorer nations; the brand name given to the world’s first fair trade labelling system www.maxhavelaar.nl, established by the Dutch in 1989 and now part of the worldwide labelling organisation, Fairtrade International (FLO). On the Dutch high street Over 1,700 fair trade products are for sale in the Netherlands and recent research shows that over half of Dutch households buy fair trade products. So how might you notice this down at your local Dutch supermarket? Fairtrade coffee is well represented and together with chocolate and bananas, probably makes up the bulk of a fair trade shopping basket. To a lesser extent, all sorts of other fair trade products are available in the supermarket, including tea, sugar, wine, and more. Fair money The long-established Dutch banking industry has also seen a fair trade influence success with Triodos Bank. Trading since 1980, their ethical approach is that only organisations that generate a proven added value to people and the environment are eligible for loans. Furthermore, its ownership structure has been designed specifically to guard its independence, with share certificates unable to be sold on the stock market but only sold via buy-back to the bank. Triodos has also expanded to provide banking services in Germany, Spain and the UK triodos.nl. In fact, slap-bang inside our wallets, we are surrounded by another Dutch fair trade item in the very instrument of trade – money. Since 2007, the Dutch central bank (DNB) has used a percentage of fair trade cotton to make our euro notes. By 2011, the amount of fair trade cotton used for Dutch money had tripled to about 96 tonnes, and now about 30% of materials used for bank notes are sourced from fair trade suppliers with this trade supporting cotton farmers in Africa and India. Fairtrade Towns Textiles and gold are other areas with various Dutch fair trade initiatives and there are other initiatives that could bring about greater access to fair trade products as well. Dutch communities can campaign for their local municipality to become a Fairtrade Gemeente (Fairtrade Town) – it’s a global initiative (not started by the Netherlands this time), also doing well in Brazil, South Africa and the UK. In the Netherlands there are now 50 Fairtrade Towns, including Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Rotterdam, for example, boasts some 41 public organisations and 28 private companies that use fair trade products, as well as the inclusion of fair trade in the procurement policy of the municipality. Cathy Leung is a freelance writer and radio presenter on www.englishbreakfast.nl. Follow her on Twitter @cathycentral. A longer version of this article first appeared in ACCESS magazine.  More >


10 English expressions involving Dutch

10 English expressions involving Dutch

In the 17th century, when the English and the Dutch were trying to lord it over the rest of the world, the English tried to smear the competition by prefixing anything cowardly, fake or otherwise worthy of disdain with ‘Dutch’. Some of these expressions are still around and have taken on additional meanings. Here are 10 of them. Double Dutch is not only gobbledegook, or gibberish, it is also a rope skipping game played by two people turning two long ropes in the opposite direction while a third person jumps up and down in the middle trying not to get hopelessly entangled. This versatile little idiom also means using both a condom and the pill at the same time. Context is all, obviously. A Dutch uncle is someone most people would want to avoid. Someone who talks to you like a Dutch uncle is usually berating or admonishing you. Unless of course you have an uncle who is actually from the Netherlands in which case he might be very nice and never tell you off. A Dutch wife is a rattan bolster used in the tropics, a hot water bottle and, oddly, associated with the Japanese name for a plastic sex doll, apparently of the cheaper kind thus confirming the Dutch reputation for stinginess. Going Dutch is the perfectly sensible practice of going out for a meal on the understanding that each of the participants pays for his or her own share instead of divvying up the bill between you which invariably favours the heavy drinkers and leaves the frugal I-only-want-a-starter types out of pocket. A Dutch treat on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish. If you are invited to go out for a meal thinking you will be treated only to find out that you are expected to cough up half the money then you have been taken for a ride, or Dutch treat. If this happens to you don’t hesitate to be a Dutch uncle and berate the person severely before stalking off. Dutch courage is usually displayed after imbibing a lot of alcohol. Thus: a semblance of courage. A Dutch roll is not a cheese sandwich but the left to right tipping movement made by an aircraft. It is said to derive from the rolling motion of a particular design of Dutch ship. It could also come from the movement made while speed skating, a sport the Dutch are particularly proficient in. Taking Dutch leave means defecting. The Dutch are not alone in absconding: there is also such a thing as taking French leave which means doing a moonlight flit. A Dutch oven is a cooking pot in America but it is also used to describe the horrible practice of trapping a bed-fellow under the blankets after releasing a particularly nasty fart. Perhaps you didn’t want to know that but there we are. A Dutch agreement is an agreement made between two people who are drunk (‘I will go halves with you if I win the lottery’) and which neither of them remembers afterwards, which is fortunate if the lottery is indeed won by either party. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


Eight Dutch castles not to be missed

Eight Dutch castles not to be missed

The Netherlands has some 300 castles and fortified palaces, dating from medieval times to the 20th century.  From five-foot-thick defence walls for protection against the enemy to lavish palaces to house the elite, Erin Wille picks out a few of the best. De Haar The Rothschild family funded a 20-year neo-gothic restoration project for De Haar, one of the most luxurious castles in Europe, and the largest in the Netherlands. Surrounding the castle, 7,000 40-year old trees transported from the province of Utrecht created a modern-day park. In 2000 the family passed ownership on to the Dutch Natuurmonumenten (national heritage society) but retained the right to spend the month of September in the castle until the end of time. Necessary maintenance funds come through tourism, private receptions and events. Nyenrode This stunning Dutch Renaissance castle is surrounded by water and only accessible by a drawbridge, Nyenrode was rebuilt and passed through the hands of multiple families over the decades. Since 1947 the lucky students at Nyenrode Business University can call it their campus. The main fortress is now closed to the public. However, music concerts are still held in the coach house. Duin & Kruidberg During the 17th century many wealthy Amsterdammers fled the city, mainly due to the unbearable smell of the canals/sewers that occurred in the summer. Balthasar Coymans, councillor and the sheriff of Haarlem, built the Kruidberg in Dutch Renaissance style. Today, visitors can rest their heads here, as this country estate has been converted into a luxury hotel. They can also enjoy top restaurant De Vrienden van Jacob, which has gained one Michelin star. Valkenburg Valkenburg has not been restored since its final destruction in 1672 but is still well worth the visit. The only hilltop castle in the Netherlands has a dramatic history of many sieges, destruction and power through conquering knights. Most extraordinary about this castle is the extensive underground tunnel system running beneath the ruins, which was used in both WW1 and WWII, serving as a shelter for soldiers. 50-minute tunnel tours are offered daily. Het Loo Palace William III of Orange, who later became King of England (by marriage with his British wife Mary), built Het Loo - the 'Versailles of Holland' - as one of his hunting lodges and leisure house. The symmetrical Baroque palace and its lavish gardens are open to the public.   Chateau St. Gerlach The St. Gerlach was founded in 1201 as a monastery to accommodate pilgrims who came to pay homage to hermit Gerlach of Houthem. The main chateau and Baroque gardens date to the 18th century. Now one of the finest five star hotels in the Netherlands, Château St. Gerlach, has welcomed many well-known guests. Loevestein Castle This Loevestein medieval fortress became a prison for political prisoners in 1619. One famous inmate was the eminent lawyer, poet and politician Hugo de Groot, who was serving a controversially imposed life sentence. De Groot managed to pull off a daring escape in a book chest. The idea for this escape came from his wife Maria van Reigersberg. He subsequently became the Swedish Ambassador to France for 10 years. Radboud Castle Radboud castle is beautifully situated on the coast of the former Zuiderzee. On September 4, 1939 Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch was hidden here temporarily before it was moved to a bunker for safety. Currently the site hosts concerts, medieval weekends, children’s parties, cooking workshops, weddings and many more activities. Its future, however, is uncertain, as it has just been put up for sale. Erin Wille is an American expat living in the Netherlands. She currently serves as the photo editor and ‘What’s on’ coordinator for ACCESS e-zine in addition to freelance writing. A longer version of this article was first published in the ACCESS e-zine  More >