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


Dutch Beatlemania 50 years on

Dutch Beatlemania 50 years on

On June 6, 1964, in an auction hall in the Dutch village of Blokker, four musicans played two concerts – each lasting only about 25 minutes – and caused a national sensation, writes Tracy Brown Hamilton. It was the second stop of the Beatles' first world tour, which was nearly cancelled when drummer Ringo Starr fell ill in London a few days earlier and was unable to travel. Beatlemania had hit the Netherlands. By that June, the Beatles had already had two number one records in Holland, and had six others ranking in the Hit Parade charts. Shops sold dresses, neckties and even pantyhose featuring the band members’ faces. Yet this would be the Beatles’ first and only time performing on Dutch soil. Photo journalist Eddy Posthuma de Boer, 83, was on assignment for the Volkskrant when Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and temporary replacement drummer Jimmy Nichol touched down at Schiphol on June 5, 1964 (Ringo rejoined the band ten days later in Australia). The 'missing' Beatle did not discourage Dutch fans. The band was greeted by women in traditional Volendam clothing, journalists, police and thousands of shrieking, ecstatic fans. 'It was the first time that you really saw Dutch people going crazy for popular musicians,' Posthuma de Boer says. 'Today you see it often, but this was quite new.' Posthuma de Boer, then 33, was granted full access to the Beatles’ Dutch leg of their world tour. This included joining the band on a cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, where a crowd of more than 50,000 people lined the banks and bridges. Boat 'The Beatles were flabbergasted by the attention,' Posthuma de Boer recalls. They were really just four young chaps from Liverpool – so fresh-faced and youthful – and they were delighted and surprised to have their own boat going around the city, and for all the people so thrilled to see them.' One photo shows a young man treading water in the canal, gazing up starry-eyed at an amused Paul McCartney before being dragged out of the water by police. Looking back at his photographs, which were recently exhibited in Haarlem and feature in a new book, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder, the photographer wonders about the fates of some of his subjects. 'Imagine, this was fifty years ago,' he says, flipping through his photos. 'These people, all these kids in these photos, they are now in their 70s,' he says. 'I was hoping the boy from the canal would turn up at the exhibition, but he didn’t. You never know where they are now.' He says he’d particularly like to meet people who came to see the Beatles fifty years ago who are now 64, a reference to the Beatles’ song, ‘When I’m 64’. 'It’s strange to me that it was so long ago,' he says. 'I wonder how it feels to have been a teenager then and be 64 now. Myself, I still feel 18.' Although he remembers the Beatles fondly, he was not a fan of their music when he was first assigned to photograph them. 'I had heard of the Beatles, of course,' he says. 'But there was a lot of new rock music at that time that I did not like. I was a jazz man.' But the experience converted him. Their playlist consisted of just eight songs, including Twist and Shout, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and Can’t Buy Me Love, and Posthuma de Boer took notice. 'I did not have any of their albums before these shows, but after I bought them all,' Posthuma de Boer says. 'The Beatles were really something different. The sounds, the rhythms, the words. It actually changed how we spoke English in Holland. We started saying things like "let it be" and "yeah".' And as in other parts of the world, the band’s style had an influence on young Dutch people. 'It was the hair,' Posthuma de Boer says. 'Today you do not consider their hair long, but back then it was really something unusual. Six months after they came, you saw young men with long hair in Holland as well.' Posthuma de Boer is not surprised by the attention the anniversary of two short concerts is getting. 'There are other bands that are still around – like the Rolling Stones,' he says. 'But the Beatles. That’s something different. Their music from then is still loved now. People keep liking the Beatles, at any age.' The jubilee has also allowed him to reminisce about his experience. 'I have a lot of files, a lot of work that is put away and doesn’t come out for a long time,' he says. 'And then something like this 50 years anniversary comes along, and this file comes out again. It’s wonderful when that happens.' Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder, available from bol.com  More >



Vermeer’s Girl with a Lego Earring in Amsterdam

Vermeer’s Girl with a Lego Earring in Amsterdam

Childhood memories, art and engineering come together in the new Lego exhibition in Amsterdam, writes Ana McGinley. Ever wondered what Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring would look like if it was created out of Lego? How about Van Gogh's The Starry Night, Michelangelo’s David or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? Opening in Amsterdam this week is The Art of Brick - an exhibition showcasing the work of American artist Nathan Sawaya, an ex-corporate lawyer, who has successfully tackled these artistic challenges in his chosen medium - Lego bricks. Childhood The exhibition is an amazing mix of childhood memories, artistic talent and engineering prowess. Sawaya owns over four million Lego pieces, arranged by colour and housed in one of two studios based in New York and Los Angeles. Like many people, Sawaya was five years old when he was given his first Lego set, which he opened and immediately assembled a house.  Later, he claims to have made himself a Lego lifesize dog when his parents refused to buy him a pet. The Art of Brick showcases 75 works constructed from over one million Lego bricks.  The exhibition includes a self portrait of the artist, a T-Rex dinosaur measuring 6 metres and made from 80,020 Lego bricks, and numerous replications of famous paintings, sculptures  and photographs. All pieces have been made by Sawaya, including the gluing together of the bricks to give the artworks permanency and to make transportation of this internationally touring exhibition possible. Rectangular bricks For the most part, Sawaya uses the basic rectangular brick and restricts his 3D pieces to a single colour scheme.  He explains this fascination with creating art from a single shape thus: 'I love seeing how curves can be made out of rectangles.' Lego creator, Ole Kirk Christiansen, started producing the bricks as an addition to his wooden toy business in 1932.  The Danish carpenter and his son Godret Kirk became inspired by the works of Hilary Fisher Price, a British child psychologist, who made interlocking plastic bricks for children. The father and son team produced their own version of the interlocking bricks and launched their own company Lego, the name derived from the Danish 'leg godt', which translates as 'play well'.  As of 2013, approximately 560 billion Lego pieces have been made. The exhibition Rated as one of the world’s 10 must-see exhibitions by CNN, visitors can marvel at The Art of Brick exhibition from 29 May until 14 September 2014 at Amsterdam EXPO. In addition to the exhibition, younger visitors are invited into the Play Zone to explore their own Lego construction skills and creativity.  Tickets are available at the exhibition centre or via www.amsterdamexpo.nl In the meantime if you are in Amsterdam look out for Hugman, Sawaya’s contribution to street art.  Hugman is a yellow Lego sculpture created from 273 pieces, who has been seeing hugging streetposts, bicycle stands, fences – around the world.  More >


10 reasons why the Dutch women are hot favourites for the hockey World Cup

10 reasons why the Dutch women are hot favourites for the hockey World Cup

Blog Netherlands by Numbers has been looking at why the Dutch are so good at field hockey - ahead of the World Cup which takes place in The Hague over the next two weeks. Forget Brazil and the football. The hockey World Cup kicks off in The Hague on Saturday – both the men and the women’s competitions. There are 15 different countries taking part – 12 teams in each competition – and the Dutch women are hot favourites to take the title. Just so you won’t sound stupid if you should end up discussing the finer points of Maartje Paumen’s techniques with someone who knows all about it, here are some key facts about hockey in the Netherlands. 1. Hockey was introduced to the Netherlands way back in 1891 and soon afterwards the first clubs opened in Amsterdam, The Hague and Haarlem. 2. Today there are 320 hockey clubs in the Netherlands and the sport is played by nearly 240,000 people. The big clubs, like Rotterdam, have over 3,000 members and there are over 100 youth teams. 3. Hockey clubs are mostly named after the place where they are based, but some have more imaginative names. Take the Strawberries from Driehuis, the Kikkers (frogs) from Nieuw-Vennep or even the Kraaien (crows) of Wijdewormer. 4. Hockey is the second most popular team sport in the Netherlands after football but the hockey teams are much more successful. 5. There are three standard competitions in the Netherlands: juniors, seniors (18 to 34) and veterans (35+). But you can also play company hockey, wheelchair hockey, beach hockey, disabled hockey, street hockey, indoor hockey, school hockey, keep fit hockey and something they call Funkey…. The Dutch are so hockey-mad that during the World Cup there is even a special competition for 70+ players. 6. The Dutch women have won the World Cup six out of 12 times and silver four times. Their big rivals are the women of Argentina and Australia. Oranje women are currently top of the world rankings. 7. The Dutch men have won the world title three out of 12 times and silver twice. Their biggest rivals are Australia and Germany. The Oranje men are currently ranked three in the world. 8. This year, the national Dutch men’ champions are Oranje Zwart (orange black), the women’s national champions are Den Bosch – as usual. Den Bosch have won the women’s title in 14 of the past 20 years. Bloemendaal and Amsterdam tend to dominate the men’s game. 9. Midfielder Maartje Paumen (who of course plays for Den Bosch) won the title of world’s best player in 2011 and 2012. But then, Argentina’s Luciana Aymar has won the title eight times since 2001. 10. The Dutch men are in group A with Germany, New Zealand, Korea, South Africa and Argentina. The Dutch women face Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea and Belgium in their group. The top two teams in the groups progress to the knock-out rounds. You can watch the Dutch matches live on Nos television. And for those who think (field) hockey is slow and boring: the very top players can flick the ball at speeds of over 110 kph and hit it to travel at over 130kph. Ow! The Netherlands by Numbers blog publishes lists of all things Dutch.  More >



What to do with the kids over Easter?

What to do with the kids over Easter?

With the Easter holidays and other school breaks coming up, Esther O'Toole has some suggestions to keep your offspring amused.     With the Easter and May holidays ahead, how can you make sure the kids are exhausted enough to fall into bed and leave you alone with a bottle of red wine and left-over chocolate? If you are in Amsterdam, why not start off over the long Easter weekend with Nemo’s High Tea on April 20 and 21? Food science Especially for Easter there’s a set-price menu with a wide array of cakes and treats to nibble while you learn the science behind turning your tea into…ice cream! If the wonderful weather holds, you may decide to eat your high tea on their fantastic roof top terrace; eat some more while the children pretend to be kings and queens on the giant chess board. Then, of course, you have the rest of the day to explore the permanent exhibition (for those taking tea, there is a 50% reduction on the entry price of €15). Top tip: take extra clothes in case the littlest throw all their cake up again on the centrifugal force machine. Find out more: www.e-nemo.nl Get arty If you’re not feeling scienc-y how about getting arty? There’s new awesomeness to explore down at the Rijksmuseum for ages 6+. Since it’s reopened the museum has expanded its family activities, including learning how to etch like Rembrandt, discovering life in the Golden Age and a family tour. Find out more: www.rijksmuseum.nl Over at the Van Gogh take a trip back in time with Vincent’s suitcase. Available in Dutch or English; it’s full of interesting activities for kids to dive into that turns the visit into a treasure hunt (again from age 6). They also offer very affordable art courses for youngsters throughout the year. Find out more: www.vangoghmuseum.nl Regular arts and crafts workshops can also be found in the studio of the children’s department at the Central library near Central station. For bi-lingual kids these are often coupled with book readings in the library’s Annie MG Schmidt theatre. Find out more: www.oba.nl Get messy If you fancy getting out of town and getting messy then check out Oerrr from Dutch natural heritage (Natuurmonumenten). It’s full of great family ideas on where to get muddy country-wide. Plus sign up for the newsletter and get free wildlife activity cards throughout the year. Learn how to survive in the wild from April 13 with the ‘Wild Outdoors Day’ at Overijssel, Utrecht, Gelderland and other locations up and down the country. The thing that most caught my eye amongst the night time walks, castle exploration and deer watching activities had to be seal spotting off Zeeland – an exciting and mucky day is guaranteed for all! Find out more: www.natuurmonumenten.nl/kinderen/oerrr (Dutch only) Southern fun For those further south here’s a tried and tested favourite in our household. Eleven minutes out of central Eindhoven brings you to Nuenen and its massive children’s wildlife park - Dierenrijk. Large enclosures and a wide selection of well-cared for animals - both obvious biggies (tigers, bears, lions and seals) and surprise winners. My kids both adored the…Garra Rufa Fish. That’s right - the ones you get at foot spas. You can wash your hands and put your fingers in so they can be nibbled at. Endlessly exciting for the under tens. Two major benefits here: if it’s raining there is a gigantic indoor jungle-themed play-zone with seating for parents with tired feet, and great Puro coffee for any parents with tired heads. Find out more: www.dierenrijk.nl The Hague And last but not least: if you have children of three and up then maybe they need to know that in The Hague there is a rabbit on the run from the police. On Sunday May 4 the hunt is on for the meddlesome bunny in Maas Theater en Dans’ WANTED: RABBIT. This highly successful show is on its fourth run promising lots of slapstick and suspense for young and old. Find out more: www.mastd.nl Amusement parks Now is the time when Dutch amusement parks come to life again after the winter months. Website Netherlands by Numbers has a list of 10 of the country's best theme parks, from the much-praised Efteling to Walibi and the more gentle fun of Plopsaland.  More >


Greek start-ups go orange

Greek start-ups go orange

The Orange Grove initiative is a Dutch-Greek start-up which aims to stem the brain drain and reduce youth unemployment, writes Maria Vasileiou. It might sound like an initiave to stimulate citrus farmers in Greece, but Orange Grove is actually a start-up incubator in Athens launched with the help of Dutch money. At the flexible workspace of Orange Grove, a typical example of crowd funding initiated by the Dutch embassy in Athens, around 80 young Greek and Dutch entrepreneurs get together, work, network, learn, meet like-minded people and follow master classes and lectures by experts from Dutch multinational and Greek companies and university professors. Among the companies involved is Heineken’s subsidiary in Greece (Athenian Brewery), which is the main sponsor of Orange Grove, Interamerican, Philips, KLM and Coco-Mat. Academic experts offering master classes to the young entrepreneurs come from Dutch and Greek top-ranked universities. Group effort 'Orange Grove is very much a group effort. Many people and institutions with a link to both countries contribute,' explains Jan Versteeg, the Dutch ambassador in Greece. 'The bill is almost entirely paid by Dutch and Greek companies. Many of them are very important players in the Greek economy.' The idea was first conceived on board a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Athens in February 2013, after Versteeg had visited a similar incubator in Groningen. The next steps involved discussions with alumni of Dutch universities living in Athens and Greek students in the Netherlands, but also with Dutch ministers. When foreign affairs minister Frans Timmermans visited Greece in April last year the ambassador raised the idea with him. As he says: 'the minister exploded with enthusiasm'. Companies Two months later Eurogroup president and Dutch minister of finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem also encouraged the embassy team to push on with the project. Academics and business leaders then came on board. The Orange Grove initiative aims to stem the brain drain and youth unemployment issues in Greece. Six out of 10 Greek young people are currently jobless. But those who are selected to join Orange Grove are given the opportunity to create their own start-up company. 'Our aim is to help turn brain drain into two-way brain mobility. We offer help to young entrepreneurs, so they can stay here and work on their innovative idea, or return to Greece after finishing their studies in the Netherlands or elsewhere, says Versteeg. Greek industry When Boukje Vastbinder, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Delft University of Technology first visited Orange Grove in November, she was impressed by the variation in business ideas and the enthusiasm. 'The entrepreneurs seem to be highly educated, in Greece and abroad, and very motivated to work at an exciting start-up. The products seem to connect with recent start-up trends or strengths of the Greek society and economy like agriculture, tourism, transport and shipping,' she says. Michalis Sinodinos joined Orange Grove when the initiative started in autumn last year. After having studied economics in Europe and the USA and working on a project in Asia and in a governmental department in Athens he found himself jobless. Innovation 'At that point I said to myself: I will either join Orange Grove or leave Greece,' he says. After six months with the project, he has developed Poseadon, an app which gives information to people at sea about their whereabouts. 'The difference between a navigator system and our project is that the user becomes part of the map,' says the 35-year-old, who has been sailing since the age of six. Sinodinos is currently looking for funds to take his product to market and calls his experience at Orange Grove 'a real opportunity'. 'When [European commissioner] Neelie Kroes was here, we had the chance to speak to her directly and show her our projects. We asked her how we could access European funds for financing,' Sinodinos explains. 'At Orange Grove we also learned how to cooperate. Most of us stay here until late in the evening talking about our projects and brainstorming about new possibilities.' Christina Stribacu, a 33-year-old art history graduate, says Orange Grove made it possible for her to start exporting her family’s olive oil production under her own brand, LIA. 'Until recently we were selling to a wholesaler. But now we have started exporting to France and Belgium and we will soon expand to the Netherlands and to New York under our own label,' she explains. Both Sinodinos and Stribacu were among the first group of entrepreneurs to join Orange Grove. 'The initial group consisted of young people working on ten start-ups,' says Natasha Apostolidi, political advisor at the Dutch embassy, who is also in charge of running Orange Grove. Selection process 'The second group was made up of 20 projects and the third, which has been finalised, has another 10. Projects have to be innovative in order to be selected.' Every project is 'allowed' to use the premises for a full year. 'During the next few months we will see how many of these projects manage to get financing and become independent enterprises,' says Apostolidi. The success rate will also be taken into account when the initiative is evaluated afte three years. In the meantime, official visitors are on the increase. Dutch trade minister Lilianne Ploumen and senior economic affairs ministry official Simon Smits were two of the latest visitors, and representatives from Dutch embassies around the world have been looking at how the project was set up. 'The initiative is still very young but seems to be a big success already in terms of getting exposure for the Greek start-up scene and in the amount of start-ups that entered the programme,' says Delft's Vastbinder. Of course, Greece cannot compare to Silicon Valley or Amsterdam, one of Europe’s hottest start-up capitals. Yet the project's supporters see such developments as an unquestionable sign of latent potential, reflecting a spin in the country’s sad economic story. The seeds are growing roots, nourished by the ideas and entrepreneurial spirit of a new generation, marking Greece’s efforts for deeply grounded turnaround, but also Europe’s potential for effective cooperation.  More >


Do Dutch lotteries appeal to expats?

Lotteries are and have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and especially in times of crisis are welcomed by many as a potential way to 'escape the misery'. Really? An article about lotteries on a respectable platform for English speaking expats in the Netherlands? Yes - and why not? Lotteries are and have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and especially in times of crisis and/or economic uncertainty lotteries are welcomed by many as a potential way to 'escape the misery'. And while the Netherlands have a lot to offer to expats, the weather conditions are not among the perks. The many rainy days offer a perfect opportunity to play, occasionally or on a regular basis, the lottery online and play for gigantic international lottery jackpots! Lotteries are popular the world over. Giant amounts of money are at stake, basically all the time. That is to say, giant to some might be less giant to others, depending on your frame of reference. While the jackpots in the Netherlands' biggest lotteries may be impressive, they are a lot less impressive when compared to the gigantic amounts that await the more than lucky winners of pan-European lotteries like the EuroMillions lottery and especially the big American lotteries, Mega Millions and US Powerball. Jackpots in the EuroMillions lottery can reach up to €190 million, but the jackpots in aforementioned US lotteries don't have a limit and have grown to amounts that pass the half million dollar bar! Mega Millions holds the record of the biggest jackpot ever with the amount of $656 million, while the largest jackpot won by a single winner is the $590.5 million US Powerball jackpot, which was won in May 2013. Definitely the kind of prizes that start temporary instances of 'jackpot madness'! Holland's King's Day Lottery One of the biggest Dutch lottery events of the year is the upcoming King's Day draw of the Dutch state lottery. The player that wins the jackpot will receive €10,000 every month for as long as thirty years! Still, a simple calculation (without taking interest into account, which in all fairness is currently almost negligible in the Netherlands anyway) tells us that the total amount won is €3.6 million. By all means a very nice and large amounts, but not in the least bit an amount that rabid lottery players will start drooling over. The Dutch New Year’s lottery often offers a larger, one-time amount (close to €40 million on December 30th 2013), but equally often is shared by many winners who all take a fairly small piece of the jackpot 'cake'. In short: lottery loving expats are not in for a treat when stationed in the Netherlands. From Amsterdam to Chicago, from Manchester to Tokyo This is not the end of the world and it definitely does not mean that expats should put their lottery playing needs in the freezer while living in the Netherlands. Nowadays, it is so much easier to play lottery online anyway that it really doesn't matter where in the world you live, as long as you have a working internet connection. You could be in an internet cafe in Nepal, or lean back in New York's Central Park with your iPad or smartphone, really, and find an online lottery provider that offers tickets to your favorite lotteries - which will most likely be the lotteries that offer the biggest jackpots. One of those online lottery agencies is theLotter, based in the UK, with more than ten years of experience one of the more established players in the field. theLotter offers the opportunity to play online in the world's biggest and most exciting lotteries, including the biggest American, European and Australian lotteries. Local representatives buy official lottery tickets in your name, which are safely stored and scanned directly to your account for proof and safety reasons. theLotter shows you exactly how the ticket purchasing process works and offer you a very easy way of participating, with regular special deals and discounts you can benefit from. Lottery prizes may be prone to local taxes, but are 100% free of commission! If you're a lottery fan, make sure to take your shot at winning more than amazing prices. If you're not, then go about your business as usual. Martijn Opperdoes  More >


Cycling in the King’s footsteps

Cycling in the King’s footsteps

Cycle along past the most important places in King Willem-Alexander’s life and enjoy some unique Dutch scenery at the same time! After over a hundred years of rule by queens, Holland has a king once more. To commemorate this milestone, Cycle Trips Holland has launched a truly royal cycling route. You can peddle in the footsteps of the new Dutch king, past all the important places in his life and see some beautiful, typically Dutch landscapes too. The King’s Route begins and ends in Utrecht, the city in which King Willem-Alexander was born in 1965. En route cyclists will encounter many stately homes, royal palaces and country homes. You can trace the King’s footsteps from his youth in the wooded surroundings of Lage Vuursche via Leiden, where he went to university, on to the impressive church in Amsterdam where His Majesty was sworn in. 'The route was inspired by last year’s inauguration,' Desiree Moonen, founder of Cycle Trips Holland explains. 'When I began setting out the route soon after, I was overwhelmed by the choice of wonderful locations. It was almost too much to fit into a single route!' Steeped in tradition The King’s Route is an excellent choice for cyclists with a keen interest in traditions and history. Some of Holland’s best-kept country houses and mansions are along the way. Buitenplaats Vreedenhoff, for instance, with its impressive wrought iron gates which date back to 1749 and took three men to make. Or De Hooge Vuursche, built in 1912 by a rich merchant navy officer and his baroness wife and richly decorated by many influential Dutch artists. The most impressive buildings, however, are of course the many palaces of the Dutch Royal Family. The route leads past Drakesteyn Castle, where the King and his two brothers grew up, and Soestdijk Palace, where his grandmother Princess Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard lived. When his mother became Queen, her family moved with her to The Hague, to Huis ten Bosch Palace. It was Willem-Alexander’s home for many years and is soon to be his home again once more. Hobnobbing in The Hague The overnight stay in The Hague offers you the opportunity to take a look at the beautiful Binnenhof, Holland’s seat of parliament. The first buildings on this site originate from the 13th century and were all clustered around the fishing pond on the country estate of Count Floris IV. The pond is still there: it’s now called the Hofvijver. Sit in the courtyard and enjoy an Italian ice cream as you watch cabinet ministers and MPs hurry between buildings. Be careful, though – you’re allowed to cycle through the courtyard so look out for fellow tourists and locals rushing to work! Lively: Leiden and Amsterdam It’s not all palaces and ancient history on the King’s Route. There’s a stop in the lively city of Leiden, where the King lived while he was studying for a degree in History. You can cycle or stroll past his digs on the Rapenburg and have a beer at Cafe L’Espérance, where the Prince was a regular. Of course the route would not be complete without a visit to Holland’s capital Amsterdam and the Nieuwe Kerk where King Willem-Alexander was sworn in. The church borders on Dam Square, a stone’s throw away from the picturesque canals and beautiful town houses that wealthy Dutch merchants built in the 17th and 18th century. Be sure to take time out for the Rijkmuseum too, which recently reopened after extensive renovations. Cycling through the countryside As you cycle from city to city, you’ll enjoy the typically Dutch landscapes that inspired the country’s master painters: green meadows interspersed with narrow brooks and fluffy white clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. The King’s Route will also take you through picturesque country villages and lively cities, along the North Sea coast and through the wide, sandy dunes. If you book for arrival in spring, you can expect to see field after field of colourful flower bulbs in bloom. Tulips, daffodils, bluebells and of course wonderfully fragrant hyacinths. Just add clogs and a windmill for the ultimate Dutch picture postcard! Full-service Cycle Trips Holland is known for its high level of service and flexibility, as schedules and routes can be adapted to suit individual wishes. Accommodation on the King’s Route is in keeping with the route’s royal flair and includes boutique hotels in which the customer truly is king. There’s no need to worry about your luggage – it will be transported to your next hotel. And should you need technical assistance en route, skilled technicians will ensure you’re back in the (cycle) saddle as soon as possible. 'Our motto is ‘Scenic Routes, Exclusive Accommodation’,' Desiree Moonen explains. 'That’s why we take great care in selecting hotels and guest houses with that little bit extra. Some are uniquely situated in historic buildings, like many of the hotels on our Zuiderzee Route. Others are country escapes offering luxurious surroundings and personal service.' Spoilt for choice Cycle Trips Holland has a total of ten routes to choose from, each highlighting some of Holland’s most beautiful scenery and must-see sites. On the Zeeland Route, for instance, you can learn more about Holland’s eternal struggle with the mighty sea and marvel at the activity in Rotterdam’s busy seaport. The Friesland Route, on the other hand, introduces you to a green and lovely Holland, dotted with picturesque towns and peaceful hamlets. It’s the ideal cycling trip for those who wish to relax and unwind. 'Whichever route you choose, Cycle Trips Holland has one ambition: to make your cycling holiday a truly unforgettable experience,' Desiree Moonen concludes with a smile. For more information, please visit www.cycletripsholland.com or contact Desiree Moonen by mail at info@cycletripsholland.com.  More >


Master Dutch painter revolutionised fire-fighting

Master Dutch painter revolutionised fire-fighting

As the Wassenaar Brandweermuseum prepares to celebrate the man behind the modern fire hose, Tracy Brown Hamilton discovers the impact of his invention. On July 6, 1652, Amsterdam’s fire brigade fought in vain to save the Old Town Hall on Dam Square. All contemporary fire-fighting methods were employed: buckets of water, long poles to pull down burning walls and wet tarpaulins to throw over nearby buildings. The fire spread so quickly that nothing but a smoking tower remained. The scene has been immortalised in paintings and drawings by the likes of Rembrandt, Aert van der Neer and Jan Beerstraten. Inspiration Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712) was 15 years old when he witnessed the Town Hall blaze, and like other artists he also depicted the scene in sketches and paintings. But the event also inspired him to invent an engine that revolutionised fire-fighting. One of these engines can be seen at the Wassenaar Brandweermuseum, or fire-fighting museum, a unique collection of engines, uniforms and other fire-fighting memorabilia. On Saturday, March 1, the museum celebrates his birthday with a tour guided by an English-speaking historian. 'Van der Heyden is really a great hero of the seventeenth century,' says Kees Plaisier, coordinator of the Brandweermuseum. 'Fire was a major problem in those days.' Destruction Carelessness with a candle or a bed warmer could be almost instantly destructive. 'There were many wooden houses and very narrow streets,' Plaiser says. 'A fire could devastate the entire city.' Fire 'engines' in Van der Heyden’s day were cumbersome tubs into which water had to be manually placed and then pumped and sprayed out of a rotating, gooseneck nozzle. The engines had to be placed dangerously close to the fire. 'It was very ineffective,' Plaisier says, 'because you could not move around. You could not fight the fire from above or the side. You could only stay in one place.' Revolutionary invention Van der Heyden, who was also a successful cityscapes painter on a par with Rembrandt, designed a fire engine that was lightweight and mobile, and had hoses for both water supply and output. 'With the hose, the firemen could really direct the water at the fire, from above or below, rather than stand in one spot,' Plaisier explains. The engines made Van der Heyden a very rich man. He sold them to the likes of Peter the Great, and William of Orange took some of the engines with him to England in 1672. He also completely reorganised the fire brigade in Amsterdam. 'He divided the city into districts,' explains Plaiser, 'and the men who lived in each district would fight fires there, rather than fire fighters going all over the city and arriving too late.' According to Peter Sutton’s book, Jan van der Heyden, firemen were volunteers who received training and drills overseen by Van der Heyden every year. They did not receive wages and, in fact, were subject to fines if they arrived late to a scene. According to Sutton: 'Even bystanders who refused to lend a hand when conscripted by firemen could have their hat or coat confiscated!' In addition, the victims, who were assumed to have caused the fire through carelessness, paid the cost of putting out the fire. Van der Heyden’s engine was the basis for fire-fighting technology until the invention of the steam engine nearly 200 years later. The Wassenaar Brandweermuseum is open every Saturday and Sunday, 12:00-16:00. Entrance is free. www.brandweermuseumwassenaar.nl  More >



An MBA is not a degree

An MBA is an integral part of ongoing personal development, not just a piece of paper, says Christo Nel of Nyenrode Business Universiteit. (Sponsored feature) (more…)  More >