Atlas of Amstelland: the biography of a landscape

Atlas of Amstelland: the biography of a landscape

Atlas of Amstelland: The Biography of a Landscape presents the history of Amstelland through a series of maps based on the results of recent research, which illustrate the transformation of the landscape from desolate marsh to beloved green oasis on the edge of Amsterdam. From the 11th century onwards the peat marsh on the edge of the world was gradually reclaimed. A section of the Amstel even originated as a drainage canal. In the 13th century a new power arose: Amsterdam. In the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, this former modest village near a dam in the Amstel grew into one of the largest metropolises in Europe. Its proximity brought about major changes in Amstelland. Much of the landscape was radically altered by the turf industry and subsequent drainage. Its peat meadows could be quickly inundated to form an impenetrable barrier around Amsterdam. In the course of centuries, relations between city and countryside became thoroughly intertwined to the point where each can only be properly understood by studying them together. Buy this book  More >





I love Noord

I love Noord

North Amsterdam is described as the Brooklyn of the Dutch capital. If you want to know why, read this blog. More >


Amsterdamian

Amsterdamian

I try to create a relationship with this mysterious city. I love it and can’t get enough of it. More >


Kristen in Clogland

Kristen in Clogland

'Kristen in Clogland' is a blog about an Aussie discovering the Netherlands and adjusting to life in another country More >



Invading Holland

Invading Holland

The adventures of an accident-prone English man who arrived in the Netherlands in 2001 for a six month stay. More >


European Mama

European Mama

A blog by a Polish mother living in the Netherlands with her German husband and two daughters. More >


24 Oranges

24 Oranges

Dutch things pressed for your pleasure: oddball Dutch news and photographs. More >





A Short History of the Netherlands

The development of the Netherlands over the centuries has been a remarkable one. Situated at 'the end of Europe,' between land and water, its people have, for more than three thousand years, fought to make the best of a country unfavoured by nature. They have shaped it into one of the world's foremost economic powers but also, and even more importantly, into a society that prides itself on having reached a fair balance between material and social well-being. The history of this achievement is a fascinating one. Since time immemorial, it is the history of the struggle against the sea, of man seeking to dominate the forces of water. It is the history of the early medieval Dutch traders, who travelled all over Europe to sell their wares. It is the history of the activities ofthe world's first multinationals, the Dutch East and West India Companies, that spanned the entire globe. It is also the history of the loss of colonial empire and of the triumphant rebuilding of a mainly commercial economy into a mainly industrial one, whose activities, once again, span the globe. It is, of course, also the history of a culture to match, of commonsense and realism, of the wonderful works of art produced by the Dutch 'Golden Age' of the seventeenth century and of the many attainments of Dutch civilization in more recent years. For all those who are often amazed at the industry and achievementsof this small nation, the 'Short History of the Netherlands' offers a succinct historical tale that goes a long way to elucidate the country's past and, thus, explain its present. Buy this book    More >


Stuff Dutch People Like takes on food and mothers

The Stuff Dutch People Like empire has done some considerable expansion in 2016 with a look earlier this year at language and now a plunge into food and the world of motherhood. Author Colleen Geske, a Canadian by birth, has now turned her attention to celebrating Dutch parenting and asks herself 'why do Dutch mums have it all?'. It did not start out that way. 'Home births were not urban legends, as I had hoped, but a frightening reality,' she writes in the introduction. 'Could I actually give birth, let alone raise a family, in this country far away from the comforts and familiarities of home?' Colleen is now the proud mother of two children, both born in the Netherlands and both growing up into little Amsterdammers. The book Stuff Dutch Moms Like is based partly on her experiences, partly on heaps of facts and useful information, and partly on the experiences of others mothers, both Dutch and foreign. Dutch parenting, she states, has often been described as laid-back, relaxed and quite permissive. Not that she would argue with these observations, you understand, but that 'you could make the wrong assumption that this parenting style is without substance or reason'. Helicopter mums have yet to arrive in the Netherlands and freedom, independence and letting children be children are paramount. The style is light and informative - like chatting to a friend - and Colleen's enthusiasm so persuasive you might end up wishing you were having a baby yourself, just to test it all out. Buy this book   Stuff Dutch People Eat The fourth book in the Stuff Dutch People Like stable is a homage to the Dutch snackbar and dinner table. Complete with recipes for pea soup, grandmother's apple pie and even stroopwaffels, Stuff Dutch People Eat is a lavishly illustrated celebration of Dutch food. And yes, she does throw in recipes for roti and nasi goreng for good measure. Liberally sprinkled with humour and exclamation marks, Colleen is even positive about boerenkool and herring - which must mean she is a fully integrated Dutch cook. This is a great gift for a new arrival, a longer term resident or someone who has left the Netherlands and is still nostalgic for a bitterballen or olliebollen at New Year. Now they can make them themselves. Buy this book  More >


The Dyslexic Hearts Club

Initially published in 2014, The Dyslexic Hearts Club is the second novel by Hanneke Hendrix. Born in 1980, Hanneke Hendrix grew up in a small southern town in the Netherlands. She studied writing at the University for the Arts in Utrecht and philosophy at Nijmegen’s Radboud University. As a writer, Hendrix writes for literary production companies, radio, podcasts, theatre groups, festivals, and various journals. Her first book, De Verjaardagen (translation: The Birthdays) was shortlisted for the Dioraphte Prize, the Academia Debut Prize, and the Woman and Culture Prize. Essentially this is the tale of three women who escape from a secure burns unit while under police guard to embark on a crazed road trip. Their escapades gain wide public interest as the media disperse daily updates on their attempts to avoid capture. Three smoking women The narrative opens with three women sharing a small hospital room. All three have severe burns of a non-accidental nature and are being detained in the room pending legal investigation. The story is told from the viewpoint of Anna van Veen. She quickly becomes entwined in the lives of her two room-mates as they share personal stories to deal with the long empty days stuck in a small confined space. The pace quickens when the three escape from the hospital, steal a car and kick off a nationwide chase that grabs the attention of the Dutch public. Along the way the reader is exposed to further details of the situations leading to the women meeting one another in the hospital. Additional characters are introduced as the three purloin clothes, food, money and vehicles in their race to avoid the authorities. The joy of running riot Described as quirky and bizarre, the characters, dialogue and plot may not hold up under close scrutiny – yet somehow this is part of the fun. The personal stories that the three women tell one another unravel to include more fact and less fantasy as the story progresses. It is an effective tool Hendrix has used to keep the reader turning pages. The title of the novel refers to the name the women give themselves on discovering they share the trait of being unable to make sense of the feelings they have, even though others have explained the feelings to them many times. It also relates to the 1992 song by Paul Westerberg Dyslexic Hearts. The Dyslexic Hearts Club is an entertaining, fast-paced read. Translator, David Doherty, has competently incorporated the black humor into the English version of the novel, which was published in 2016 by World Editions. With obvious similarities to the film Thelma and Louise this novel begs to become the first Dutch road film. The Dyslexic Hearts Club was nominated for the BNG Literary Award in 2014. Ana McGinley  More >


The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old

Hendrik Groen is an 83-year-old resident of an aged care home in Amsterdam. He begins a diary recording the daily tribulations of life in an institution surrounded by his peers and confronted by the health challenges that come with being an octogenarian. He starts the diary with the telling line, 'Another year, and I still don’t like old people.' The residents of The House of the Setting Sun are a mixed bag of stereotyped elderly people, many of whom spend their days waiting for mealtimes, seeking opportunities to moan about their constipation, or discussing family members who appear to have forgotten them. Not wanting to be part of this group, Hendrik and a small coterie of similarly rebelling residents form the Old-But-Not-Dead Club with the goal '…to increase the enjoyment of advanced age by arranging outings’, and the clearly stated rule, 'No whining allowed.' Soon, the club comes to the attention of management staff and other residents who are clearly irked by the fact that the club members are enjoying life and not behaving as institutionalised old people are expected to. The club members include Evert (rude, sarcastic, smoking, drinking diabetic who refuses to change his ways even as his extremities turn black and require amputation), Eefje (the woman Hendrik wishes he’d met half a century earlier), Grietje (who believes she has Alzheimer’s disease), Edward (a stroke survivor with residue speech difficulties), and Hendrik (exhibiting a multitude of age-related wear and tear issues that have slowed him down and added a leak to his bladder). Getting old: fact over fiction? This funny and touching novel questions how we see the elderly, especially old people in care facilities. The author offers the notion that relocating to an aged care home does not have to mean surrendering all activities people have previously enjoyed, and replacing these pleasurable engagements with a contentment to stare at the walls and play bingo on a Monday evening while counting down your remaining days. Although Dutch readers may get more pleasure from this book due to insider knowledge of the local politics and age care policies, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old does have universal appeal and the novel has been taking the world by storm. Incorporating issues of euthanasia, advanced care directives, funding for aged care, family support availability and the broader question of what to do with older people who lose their independence – gives the book international relevance. In addition, these issues are covered with humour from the older person’s perspective, a voice not usually heard but one that should be central to the discussion. Who is the real Hendrik Groen? Originally published in Dutch in 2014, the author of this book remained a mystery until recently, leaving readers with the question of whether the diary was indeed the work of Hendrik Groen, and hence a biography rather than a novel, although the nod to Adrian Mole should have been the giveaway. In April 2016, NRC Handelsblad revealed Peter de Smet, a 61-year-old librarian with no previous published written work, as the book’s author.  The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old was translated by Hester Velmans. It is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books. A great read with characters who will remain in your thoughts long after you have finished reading. Not belly-aching funny, yet very enjoyable. Ana McGinley Buy this book  More >


How to be Orange

How to be Orange, offers an insightful look at Dutch culture by social commentator and comedian, Greg Shapiro. Shapiro's extensive knowledge of Dutch culture and politics has been accrued over twenty years of living and working in the Netherlands. His cultural immersion has involved marriage to a Dutch woman and parenting first generation Dutch children, while living in Amsterdam and forging a durable career within the local art scene. In the Netherlands, Shapiro is the immigrant people laugh at. He happily accepts this fate, not just because it is how he makes his living, but because it indicates that his efforts at inburgering have been a success. Shapiro is an American, obvious in many ways including numerous comparisons of the Netherlands to the US throughout the book. His birth culture is the basis for what formulates his views about his adopted land. An example is chapter 22 on Dutch service, renowned for being non-existent if you are lucky, and terrible if your luck is running short. Shapiro rates service in North America as sitting on the other end of the hospitality scale - something akin to being downright annoying due to desire of earnest staff to increase their tips by attentive servitude. Stage show The book is the offspring of the author's stage show, and hence the material has been tried and tested in terms of relevance to the audience/reader experience. Newcomers to the Netherlands will identify with topics like dealing with government bureaucracies that don't make sense acquiring a cheap, used bike from unscrupulous sources feeling insulted by Dutch honesty and the irrational love of Zwarte Piet in a land that is otherwise unable to gracefully accept racial differences into its mix. Difficult topics are tackled with facts, sharp insights and often hilarious, personal anecdotes. Presented in two parts, part one contains 24 short chapters interspersed with caricature illustrations of Shapiro by Floor de Goede, and photos of Dutch things that become laughable in translation. Exam Part Two is the Assimilation Exam, a list of questions and answers used in the National Inburgering Test, a test of Dutch cultural understanding for foreigners. This second part emphasizes the idiosyncrasies of Dutch culture that are difficult to understood even for the Dutch, yet can be found in the examination questions for newcomers. Again, Shapiro addresses the odd image the Dutch have of themselves, compared to how the world sees the Dutch. A good example is the multiple choice question about where Dutch people go on holidays (p235). The answer that is officially correct is: A) The Netherlands, yet Shapiro states that the true answer is actually: B) In France and Spain. Most Dutch people, and camping ground staff in France and Spain, would agree with Shapiro. How to be Orange is not an official guide book to Dutch culture, yet the inclusion of this book on the essential reading lists of cultural assimilation courses would save newcomers unnecessary frustration in understanding their host country. For the rest of us, the book is a compendium of humorous subjects presented with respect, wit and sarcasm by an American with a strong attachment to the people and culture of his adopted homeland. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


The Art of Living in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's historic network of concentric canals earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010. The impressive architecture and facades of this elegant town centre are mirrored by the luxury and chic of the building's interiors. Italian photographer Listri and author Van Ogtrop take the reader on an indulgent photographic tour of this refined environment, where the Dutch Golden Age past meets with contemporary interior design and technologies in the homes of artists, collectors and antique dealers. Buy this book    More >


Passage of the Stork

Born in the United States, Madeleine Lenagh’s early childhood years were that of an expat child living in Europe. At the age of five, Madeleine and her family returned home and settled in Connecticut, where Madeleine faced tumultuous time as she matured towards adulthood. Rebelling against her mother’s interference in her love life, Madeleine set out to travel Europe alone. By the time she arrived in the Netherlands in 1970 her savings had dried up and she needed to make a decision that would have long-term implications for her future. Madeleine accepted a job as an au pair for a Dutch family and cashed in her return airline ticket to buy winter clothes. So began her life in the land of cheese and tulips that has endured over four decades. Passage of the Stork is Madeleine’s story. Her memoir is an honest account of a woman who has faced personal struggles with strength and determination in an adopted homeland. Always seeking the truth, especially about her self, she faces struggles familiar to many expat women as they tackle relationships, parenthood and careers in the Netherlands. Many women who have been lured by love to the Netherlands will relate to the experiences detailed in the book. For others it will be inspiring to read about Madeleine’s career development, the opportunities and her resultant independence made possible because she fully immersed herself in causes and projects that she believed in. As a book, Passage of the Stork is a narrative sewn together with a thread of Nordic mythology providing a commentary of events, much like that of a Greek chorus in a classical drama. My initial doubts about including mermaids in a personal memoir subsided quickly as it became apparent that they provided parallel explanations of significant developments, especially on a psychological level. The book is about the process of unraveling your past to discovering your true self. For Madeleine this meant a long battle to uncover the secrets hidden in her family. These secrets held the key to explaining who she was as an adult and the reasons for the choices she made throughout her life. From this point, she gained self-acceptance, wrote her memoir, and is now moving on to a new chapter of her life. Ana McGinley  More >


Roxy

Esther Gerritsen seems to specialise in writing about calamitous female characters. Her 2012 prize-winning novel, Dorst (published in English translation as Craving) featured Coco, a young woman embarking on a journey of self-destruction after learning that her mother is dying. In Roxy, the main character of the same name, quickly unravels upon learning that her husband and his young intern have been found naked and dead in his car. Her disintegration is disturbingly ugly - drawing an analogy between the reader and Roxy, who describes herself as the type of person who 'always want to look when there’s an accident on the motorway.'   Who is Roxy? Roxy, the only child of a working class parents, spends her childhood in a small town in North Brabant. Her father is a long-distance truck driver who revels in telling his jokes to strangers. Her mother routinely enjoys her wine to excess. After writing a book, loosely autobiographical, Roxy attracts some fame and quickly meets Arthur, a television producer 30 years her senior. Arthur whisks Roxy away from her parents, to a new life of comfort, celebrity and money. The novel opens with 27-year-old Roxy being told by police that her husband has died in a car accident. She takes the information and goes back to bed, deciding that by not telling Louise, her three-year-old daughter, or notifying family and friends, she can delay making the news a reality at least until the morning. This proves to be her modus operandi – delaying or refusing to confront her own pain by indulging in behaviour that distracts her from facing her true emotions. Her conduct picks up speed and intensity as the novel progresses, starting with Roxy having sex with the undertaker and ending with her flipping sheep on their backs (a dubious belief by some that this can kill a sheep). But the Dutch seem so mild-mannered…. Attempting to support Roxy as she faces the first days and week following her husband’s death are Jane (Arthur’s personal assistant), Liza (Louise’s babysitter), Marco (Roxy’s only friend) and Roxy’s parents who take up this opportunistic chance to enjoy the comfort and involuntary hospitality available in Roxy’s marital home. While all characters try to help Roxy, their help is compromised by their own psychological limitations and the irrational demands that Roxy makes on them. Escaping on an impromptu road-trip with Jane, Liza and Louise is far from a therapeutic experience for Roxy and her passengers. With each day, Roxy isolates herself further from her companions by her recklessness and inability to relate to the women as anything but paid help. In the final pages she calls her father to come and collect her in France, yet when he arrives she quickly refuses his help to continue on her own path of ruination. An uncomfortable yet captivating tale. Gerritsen has written a compelling novel. While difficult to maintain empathy for Roxy, or, indeed, any of the characters, there is a strong impetus to discover what happens next and a hope for a positive conclusion that urges the reader to keep going. The dialogue is sharp and the character interactions credible. Roxy was originally published in 2014. This novel, written in Dutch, has been translated into English by Michele Hutchison and was published by World Editions in 2016. Roxy is the third book by Gerritsen to be nominated for the prestigious Libris Literature prize. Selected as author of the 2016 Boekenweekgeschenk (Dutch Book Week gift book), Gerritsen’s latest novel Broer is now available.  More >


Hidden like Anne Frank

The story of Anne Frank and her diary is one of he most enduring of World War II. There can be few people who do not know about the Jewish girl who hid with her family in an Amsterdam building, before being betrayed and captured by German soldiers and transported to a concentration camp. Yet Anne is not the only child who was forced to go into hiding. Recently released by Arthur A. Levine Books, Hidden like Anne Frank is a collection of fourteen personal accounts from Jewish children who survived Hitler's ethnic cleansing during WWII. Like Anne Frank, the individual narrators were forced to abandon their freedom and become reliant on the kindness of non-Jewish people who helped to hide them in their homes. Unlike Anne Frank, all fourteen individuals survived the Holocaust and lived to tell their stories. The stories contain similar underlying themes: the separation of children from their parents and siblings loss of identity fear hunger dependance on strangers for survival and, anxiety about the future. Yet the individual voices also provide unique perceptions of life as a Jewish person in the Netherlands during the war years. Further, the narrators speak of the ramifications of this experience on their lives in the ensuing years after the war ended. Not surprisingly, problems with re-attaching to surviving biological family members for children who felt deserted by their parents are apparent in many of the stories. As stated by Jack Eljon: 'I couldn't forgive my parents for handling me over to strangers. I couldn't shake off the feeling that they'd abandoned me. There's no way a boy of four can understand the idea that he is being sent away for his own good.' (pg67-8) The stories also provide information about Dutch society during the German campaign to rid the country of Jewish people. Almost all narrators discuss the efforts of the Dutch Resistance Movement to protect Jewish people by concealing them in the homes of supporters. The stories also expose the collaboration between local NSB (Dutch Socialist Movement) and the Nazis, resulting in the betrayal of Dutch Jewish citizens to the German forces by Dutch people. Hidden Like Anne Frank is the collaborated work of two Dutch men - Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis, respectively a filmmaker/cameraman and journalist. This book and its preceding website (www.hiddenlikeannefrank.com) are well-presented chronicles of survivors of the Holocaust that need to be incorporated in to existing Dutch historical records. Highly recommended. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Must Eat Amsterdam

Calling itself 'an eclectic selection of culinary locations', Must Eat Amsterdam is not intended to be a comprehensive restaurant guide to Amsterdam, but rather a highlights tour, showcasing the best the city has to offer. Author Luc Hoornaert has an interesting background. He’s the owner of SWAFFOU (Sexy Winemakers Association Fighting For Overall Understanding), a website devoted to wine education as well as Swaffood, which sells high end Japanese ingredients. He’s also the author of the Must Eat series of books, which cover New York City, London and the Netherlands and now have a specific title for Amsterdam. The photos are by Kris Vlegels and they are mouth watering. He captures from brilliant shots of the chefs and owners of the various restaurants as well, along with some interior photos of some of the locations. It’s a stylish little book with a brief introduction and photo (along with contact details) of each restaurant included. It then highlights one dish from the menu along with a photo and offers a description of the restaurant, the chef, the menu and the ambiance as well as some quirky facts about the place. The book itself is organised by location, breaking down Amsterdam into its geographic components (Centre, West, East, South and North.) The bulk of the selection are unsurprisingly located in the Centre with South also having a good showing. Usefully, each location also includes their average price, ranging from under €12.50 to over €40 for a main course and a drink. The locations range from food stalls to high end restaurants and nearly everything in between. Cheese shop Abraham Kef makes the list as does &Samhoud Places. Cuisine varies from croquettes to seafood and from Surinamese to Spanish. There is no ranking system for any of the restaurants included in the book and each review is written with such gusto, that it is hard to imagine any as falling short. Unfortunately, the author gives us no criteria for any any restaurant was included in (or, for that matter, left off) the list. Overall, it’s a pleasant little book that leaves the reader hunger and with a list of must try places in Amsterdam. It would be a good edition for the bookshelf of any foodie living in the country, as well as a reasonably good list for any tourist.  More >