Quiet Amsterdam

Quiet Amsterdam

Now here's an idea. Why not write a book about quiet, reflective little nooks in one of Europe's most vibrant and bustling little cities? What might sound like a dull excuse for a tourist guide, is actually an understated stroke of genius from an expat resident just looking for a spot of tranquility, in a tiny city with a reported four million visitors a year. Siobhan Wall, author of Quiet Amsterdam, has penned an elegant little Baedeker inviting readers to seek out over one hundred idyllic and rarely-seen places, in and around Amsterdam. Although the chapters list all the usual tourist necessities such as restaurants, museums, parks and so on, each place has been specially chosen for its peaceful qualities. This is unlikely to be of much interest to first timers visiting the capital, who will want to see all the usual stuff you associate with Amsterdam, but for long-time residents and natives, this offers something unique, and a novel way to explore some interesting and little-known corners of the city. As with anything Dutch there are a few quirky inclusions, such as the Schipol Airport Meditation Room (free entry with any valid airline ticket once you get through the security checkpoint), and my personal favourite, Spa Zuider, where nakedness is strictly enforced everyday throughout the year, except on Tuesdays. Everywhere mentioned in this charming and delightful little book is within a 45 minute bus, tram or cycle ride from Centraal Station. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl shelleyantscherl@me.com  More >



24 Oranges

24 Oranges

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


European Mama

European Mama

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


Amsterdam Foodie

Amsterdam Foodie

Amsterdam restaurant reviews, seasonal recipe suggestions and all the latest culinary news from a local foodie. More >



Amsterdamming

Amsterdamming

Three years in Amsterdam and counting! Daily journeys through the streets of this cosy and beautiful city. More >





A Wanderlust For Life

A Wanderlust For Life

An American expat blogging about life in Amsterdam while traveling around the country and throughout Europe. More >


A Flamingo In Utrecht

A Flamingo In Utrecht

A lighthearted look at bits of history, culture and daily life as seen through the eyes of a woman from the U.S. More >



Amsterdamian

Amsterdamian

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


The Dutch and their Delta: Living below sea level

Jacob Vossestein XPat Media: €24.95 Buy this book It'Ž“s a little known fact outside of the Netherlands that one third of this tiny country - if it weren'Ž“t for a couple of great big hulking dijks -Ž would be submerged under rather a lot of water. Left to Mother Nature, Schipol Airport would in fact be a lake (it'Ž“s 3 meters below sea level), and rural North Holland - where I used to live - should actually be reclaimed by the North Sea. Jacob Vossestein (author of Dealing with the Dutch) has written a whole book about the Dutch nation's preoccupation with keeping water out of their clogs, and The Dutch and their Delta: Living below sea level, is his recent offering. This bible-sized compendium is a delight for anyone living in the Netherlands past or present who has ever wondered even a little bit, about the intricacies of pumping the ocean out of the Lowlands. With signs of their predicament everywhere in the form of windmills, canals, polders and huge grass-covered clumps of earth all holding back the waves, one can only marvel at the Dutch world-leading ingenuity when it comes to water management. You don'Ž“t have to be an engineering nerd to wonder how it all works, you just have to stare at the sea from the top of a dijk during a storm, to understand the sense of fear and foreboding these people must have felt in olden days. With 300 pages of excellent photographs and descriptive explanations, Vossestein'Ž“s enthusiasm for the topic, and his obvious love for this amazing little country shine through. The Dutch and their Delta: Living below sea level is a surprisingly fascinating read, and a perfect addition to any self-respecting Dutch coffee table. For a taster of what to expect, see Jacob Vossestein's youtube video about The Dutch and their Delta. Shelley Antscherl shelleydutchnews@me.com  More >


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 >


Sunshine Soup

The life of an expat wife in a far-flung destination has all the classic ingredients for a jolly good chick-lit novel and who better to pen the story than someone who'Ž“s lived the life and turned it into an art form? Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul, is the first foray into fiction for renowned author, publisher and Expat Entrepreneur Jo Parfitt, and tells the story of a group of friends (and trailing spouses) living in Dubai in 2008. Maya leaves behind a successful catering business to follow her husband'Ž“s career to the Middle East and quickly discovers that no amount of shopping and manicures can replace her life-long passion for cooking, and losing the professional identity she has worked so hard to achieve. Even domestic salvation in the form of Annie the housemaid eats away at Maya'Ž“s self-esteem as she begins to feel usurped in the very place she has always found sanctuary and fulfilment her kitchen. But before long Maya finds kindred spirits in other expat wives and soon discovers new and exciting opportunities in unexpected quarters in a storyline that trots along at a satisfying pace. If you'Ž“re a fan of this genre then Sunshine Soup will certainly gratify, and typically with any of Jo Parfitt'Ž“s offerings, you get more than just a book and here she'Ž“s included twenty recipes at the end in a nice nod to the main character, Maya (the anchovy and lemon dip incidentally, is quite delicious!). Sunshine Soup is a fictional account of the realities of life for many women living overseas, but ultimately it'Ž“s a tale of friendship, culture shock, grief and temptation against an exotic backdrop with a cast of characters who will resonate with expat women everywhere. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl  More >


Food Shopper’s Guide to Holland

Dutch cuisine is a tad underwhelming, and for foody expats grocery shopping in Holland can be a disappointing and stressful experience, especially if you can't understand the lingo on the packaging. But thanks to two American writers (of European extraction) and their somewhat biblical Food Shopper's Guide to Holland, a maiden voyage to a Dutch supermarket need no longer result in you wanting to open a vein. Food groups and ingredients are split into chapters so that everything you could possibly want to look for is easy to find, and described in both Dutch and English. There is also plenty of good information about speciality shops and what they are called by the natives. A thoroughly comprehensive appendix contains further details on where to buy household items and kitchen supplies as well as an extensive grocery vocabulary and an index of international food shops throughout the Netherlands. Apart from its general usefulness, what I really liked about this book is its cheerful tone. Authors Ada Koene and Connie Moser clearly loved researching and writing their book and you get the feeling they really felt there was a big need to help out the expat sisterhood with the tricky task of food shopping in a foreign land. My only quibble is that the Netherlands isn't quite the culinary treasure trove that Koene and Moser enthusiastically suggest and in reality newcomers to Holland are likely to be disappointed if they expect the range and quality of food products on offer in their home country. Sure, any ingredient can be found if you look hard enough, but realistically this will require scouring ethnic stores and international shops throughout a city rather than locating everything in one supermarket. Having said that, the Food Shopper's Guide to Holland is enjoyable and interesting to read and a truly helpful guide for any newcomer to Holland and if you're sensible enough to peruse it before your first excursion to Albert Heijn, you should find the experience a little less perplexing. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >


Dear Mr M

Herman Koch is widely acclaimed for his 2009 novel Het Diner (The Dinner) – a book that sold over 1 million copies in Europe, was translated into 21 languages, and has been produced as a play and film. In addition, Koch’s biography of work includes eight novels, seven short story collections, newspaper columns, and acting roles or collaborations with various Dutch film, television and radio programmes. Two years ago Koch published his latest novel Geachte heer M in Dutch. The book has been translated to English and released by Picador, a UK publishing house, under the title Dear Mr M In short, Dear Mr M is about a once famous writer (Mr M) adjusting to his decreasing popularity with the reading public. After an illustrious career, he is now reduced to book signings at village libraries and literary dinner events diminished by budget cuts matching the reduced earnings of the invited authors. Mr M is being stalked by someone who believes that he is a character in the author’s most famous murder mystery, and is seeking a different outcome to the tale. Thriller The book cover blurb describes the novel as a 'literary thriller', and indeed it is both literary (main character is an aging author; main plot is based on a real event shaped by the confabulations of the author without regard to facts; an abundance of criticism of the literary world) and a thriller (a missing person, many possible suspects and motives). Yet, 'literary thriller' is somewhat misleading and may disappoint readers seeking the excitement of a novel that demands to be read in a single sitting, like The Dinner. Nevertheless, Dear Mr M is a clever story. The narrative comes from the perspective of five characters covering several decades. Koch insists that the reader stay focused, offering the occasional red herring to the plot that disappears as the next clue box is opened. This technique continues to the last few pages. Not likeable The Dutch Foundation for Literature describes Herman Koch as 'an ironic-realistic writer relating dramas worth telling', who writes about characters '… burdened by their empty existence…'. Given his cast in both The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011), the description rings true. Koch does not create likeable people. At almost 450 pages it is a long, slow read with a cast of characters who don’t elicit reader empathy. Herman Koch exposes the underbelly of the Dutch upper class, a perspective not usually given, but perhaps one to be expected from the boy once expelled from Amsterdam’s Montessori Lyceum. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Amsterdam… The Essence

Glorious architecture, picturesque canals, a paradise for art and culture buffs, and possibly the most eclectic bunch of Europeans you're likely to meet. That sums up Amsterdam for me. I once saw Mini-Me's twin wearing a bright yellow Panama hat smoking a big fat Cuban cigar while riding nonchalantly around Dam Square on a monkey bike and thought I was hallucinating - except I was stone cold sober. No one else seemed to bat an eyelid... So I was intrigued to read British writer David Beckett's Amsterdam... The Essence because it proffers: 'A unique view of a great European city, in the words of the people who shape it.' And that surely had to include a host of colourful characters? People like tattooist to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (a.k.a. Hanky Panky), a former sex worker turned campaigner, ex-Mayor Job Cohen and a plethora of wacky types (and some downright pretentious ones) are interviewed at length to offer a fascinating insight into what makes Amsterdam such a funky place to live and visit. Beckett has lived in Amsterdam since 1998 and was inspired to write something exciting about the place he describes as: 'the most enigmatic city in the world,' which is a bold statement indeed. But after reading his book it's hard to refute, especially if you're familiar with this wonderful little city that has a population of well under a million people, and yet consistently makes it into the top ten list of places to live in Europe. There are also some gorgeous black and white photographs of the city that if like me, you no longer live anywhere near Amsterdam, will make you wistful to return. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl shelleydutchnews@me.com  More >


Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide

The Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide is a walking guide to Amsterdam that focuses on the history of slavery in the city. The guide, published in 2014, is part of the VU University 'Mapping Slavery Project' which also covers Utrecht and Haarlem. As it notes in the forward, little is taught in Dutch schools and known generally about the history of slavery and the slave trade in the Netherlands. The book opens with an overview of the history of slavery in the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch overseas holdings. It focuses on four overall themes: Trade and profit, black in the city, resistance and abolitionism, and museums and archives. The book starts with a fold out map, showing 115 different locations that it discusses in further detail in the rest of the book. Though it doesn’t highlight a specific walking route, most of the locations are in the city centre and it's fairly easy to create your own route. It’s a small book and easy to carry during your walking tour. Each number on the map gets a page or two, with images, to describe the location and its history. Popular Amsterdam locations are featured, from the palace on the Dam to the Nieuwe Kerk. But obscure locations are also included, like the two busts of Moors on a building on the Herengracht. Even without walking a route, the book is filled with lots of interesting tidbits about history. For example, the official residence of the city's mayor was once home to slave trader Paulus Godin. The entire book is published in both Dutch and English. This is useful, but occasionally it creates a confusing layout which makes it hard to find the texts in the language of your choice. The book also uses a number of photos which are without captions and thus leave the reader wondering who the people are and what they were doing to warrant inclusion. Overall, however, the book is immensely informative and easy to use. Buy this book  More >


Colonel Baxter’s Dutch Safari

Cartoonist and artist Glen Baxter was first published in the Netherlands 40 years ago. Now he's back with a collection of absurdist drawings covering all things Dutch - from herring and tulips to Mondriaan and Rietveld chairs. Dutch funnyman Wim de Bie, who curates the Glen Baxter Museum, provides the introduction to this slim volume of full-colour drawings and wry comments. In particular, Baxter seems to have it in for Rietveld's famous chair - which is eaten by beavers, turned into a method of execution and a bidet. The humour is gentle and barbed at the same while the little Delft tiles sketched on opposing pages contain some hidden gems. Buy this book  More >


Safe Passage

In the process of moving families around the world, the task of finding international schools with available places for children is sometimes the deal-breaker. While most international schools offer consistency in language, education and teaching philosophy, these schools have also been given the task of helping children to establish themselves within the school community. A new book by Douglas Ota argues that many students in international schools are suffering, psychologically and academically, due to an absence of available support during the transitional phases of joining and leaving the school environment. Hence, children are grieving the loss of the safe lives they had known, as they navigate through an unknown new school system, resulting in negative implications on confidence, self-identity and learning. As a Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), psychologist and previous school counsellor at The American School in The Hague (ASH), Ota presents relevant psychological theories and research, adding personal anecdotes to advocate the need for transitional programmes in international schools. His book Safe Passage – How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It begins by considering the psychological stress children face when parents are relocated to a new country.  He utilises attachment theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to identify the responses of children and staff members confronted by the ever-changing population of students and staff in international schools. In later chapters, Ota presents a transitional model based on ‘Safe Harbour’, the programme he designed and introduced at The American School. Over seven chapters, this model is detailed in its design construction, implementation and evaluation phases. The book concludes with eight ‘Messages in Bottles’ – or letters to the relevant stake-holders: students, parents, teachers, administrators, board members, counsellors, human resource managers, and admissions staff – that identify the need for a transition programme from their specific individual perspective. These messages offer a quick learning, or Cliff Notes option, for readers not wanting to read the entire book. Safe Passage is based on thorough research conducted by an obviously highly experienced psychologist. The bibliography, notes and CIS accreditation standards total 32 pages, indicating that this book is more educational psychology textbook than a general expat resource guide. Even as a parent of children who have been in the international school system in different countries, Safe Passage is an intense book, yet it should be a mandatory read for all staff of international schools. Helping to ease children through the transitional phase, central in expat lifestyles, is crucial in ensuring these children are happy, confident and able to fully benefit from the academic programmes on offer at international schools. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Angel of Amsterdam

Finally, we have an English-language edition of prize-winning Dutch author Geert Mak's Angel of Amsterdam.  Mak is one of the finest of Dutch authors and the book provides unique glimpse into and better understanding of this fascinating city. First published in 1993,  The Angel of Amsterdam:  Seven City Stories introduces a large, varied cast of loyal Amsterdammers, dating from 1275 to approximately 1990, all boasting a unique attachment to the city. All seven stories are independent essays, connected only by being set in Amsterdam.  Readers familiar with the city will be able to identify neighbourhoods, buildings, and the names of historical figures. The first story, ‘A City in Blue’, is a modern-day description of Amsterdam from an aerial perspective. This is followed by, ‘Stone and Earth on the Burgwal’ which delves into the history of the city via the artifacts found in a house being renovated by the narrator.  The third story considers the mitigation of staunch religious standards as people from isolated rural areas move to the city seeking better opportunities. Rembrandt is the central figure in ‘The Forgotten Girl, the City and the Painter’ – with his changing fortunes reflecting the changing values of Amsterdam society in 1600s. The last three essays focus on population groups not generally photographed for Amsterdam tourist guides.  “Making Tracks around Central Station’ follows prostitutes, pimps, and homeless people with chronic substance abuse issues or mental health problems.  The narrator spends time with these individuals, learning how and where these people survive in the city. Similarly, ‘Three Afternoons with Henk Plenter’ sees the narrator accompanying a public health inspector responsible for investigating complaints regarding bad smells.  The cause of the stench often related to an individual, sometimes dead, but often suffering from an untreated psychiatric illness and abandoned by family, friends, neighbors or social services. Overall, this book of short essays provides an interesting insight into Amsterdam’s history, and the social fabric that make it the colorful city it is today. After 20 years, it is a little dated and may benefit from the addition of a present day story to add relevance for newer residents of the city.  Yet The Angel of Amsterdam remains a fascinating commentary on the city and its inhabitants. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >