Former refugee boats now sail in Amsterdam

Former refugee boats now sail on calmer waters in Amsterdam A cruise around Amsterdam's canals is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Graham Dockery took a different sort of tour of the city's waterways, on a boat which had carried asylum seekers to Sicily. ‘My name is Sami and I came here from Eritrea,’ our tour guide tells us. ‘Before I made it here, I spent a year in a Libyan jail for nothing, just for being a refugee.’ Sami himself is not here, but his story is one of many told to us by our guide Stacyian, as we sail through Amsterdam on a boat that used to carry desperate migrants across the Mediterranean to a new life in Europe. As we cruise along the city’s idyllic canals, Stacyian tells the story of Amsterdam through the eyes of its immigrants and outsiders. With over 180 nationalities living here, there are plenty of stories to tell. The boat we sail on is a small fishing craft which was picked up by the Italian coast guard south of Sicily with 76 migrants on board. The Dutch authorities declared...  More >

Aziz Bekkaoui pops up in Nieuw-West

Dutch designer Aziz Bekkaoui pops up in Nieuw-West You might think renowned Dutch-Moroccan designer Aziz Bekkaoui would be more at home in Amsterdam's luxury shopping district around the PC Hooftstraat than an old school in Amsterdam's much maligned 1970s overspill. Natasha Cloutier paid him a visit to find out why he's opted for Nieuw-West. This January, Aziz quietly opened a pop-up store and a gallery in Lola Luid, a former school transformed into a pop-up mall, which features a café, shops and galleries of local artists, as well as a 350-seat theatre from the 1950s. While the prize-winning designer's gallery is on the ground floor, he can be found a few days a week hanging out in the basement where the school used to have its canteen: Aziz sells designer clothes and fabric at bargain basement prices in an actual basement. Imported vintage His pop-up store features many collections made for opera, dance, television, film, videos and fashion shows. There is men’s and women’s clothing with nods to different decades,...  More >

TTIP bad for agriculture and environment

The TTIP is bad for agriculture and environment Representatives of the farming unions, livestock farmers’ associations and environmental groups don’t often agree, but all think the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should be stopped. The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are in negotiations about a free trade agreement (TTIP). This is happening behind closed doors, and the precise contents of the agreement have not been made public. But farmers and livestock farmers know enough for the alarm bells to go off: the TTIP will flood the European market with American agricultural products produced to a lower standard. This will adversely affect the incomes of farmers, the safety of our food, workers’ rights, the quality of the environment and animal welfare. The same goes for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) the Canadian variant of the TTIP. These agreements leave no room for production standard requirements, apart from a brief mention of food safety. The EU and the US have fundamentally...  More >

'Dutch nature is so planned out'

‘Dutch nature is so planned out but bike parking is totally random’ Romanian national Irina Damascan, 26, came to the Netherlands two years ago, failed to get the job she was after and decided to stay anyway. She's now co-founder of a company trying to revolutionise the Dutch relationship with their bikes, is planning to take a second master's degree in architecture and will never forget how her boss reacted when she was late for work. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came two years ago for an internship in the PR department at [architects bureau] OMA in Rotterdam. I was giving up running a PR agency for architects and designers in Romania for an internship position but in the end, after four interviews, I was rejected. I felt miserable, but stayed anyway and learned to deal with rejections as an expat and ended up getting a lot of personal growth from the experience. I then came to Amsterdam and did a mentorship at THNK, the creative leadership school, that changed my life and my view on Dutch society. How do you describe yourself – an...  More >

Ebru Umar is a fool

Ebru Umar’s wretched columns are a small price to pay for press freedom As a 'shock columnist' who likes hurling playground insults, Ebru Umar is no fearless martyr to the free word in the mould of Vaclav Havel, writes Gordon Darroch. Ebru Umar might be a fool but we still have to fight for her. The Dutch Metro columnist’s holiday in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi has been indefinitely extended while police decide whether to charge her with insulting the country’s president on Twitter. She appears to be bearing it bravely: she's tweeted a picture of the sunset from her balcony. This in itself makes her a rarity among freedom of speech campaigners in Turkey, such as Erol Zavar, since for most of them sunlight is a rare privilege. Zavar, the editor of the leftwing magazine Odak, was given a life sentence in 2000 for ‘changing the constitutional order by force’ and is currently fighting a losing battle with cancer in a high-security jail in Ankara. Umar, meanwhile, is sipping tea in the sunshine and posting selfies from the hair salon. Umar...  More >

Mysterious suitcase contains WWII secrets

A suitcase full of secrets found in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter after 70 years The discovery of a suitcase filled with photographs and paintings and hidden in a cupboard in an Amsterdam flat was the beginning of a story stretching back to 1920s Berlin. Gordon Darroch unravels a mystery which plays out across the globe. Cities are shaped by their past: it courses through them like blood, unseen but vital. Charlaine Scholten's boyfriend told her about the suitcase in his attic shortly after they started dating last February. It was a hard brown leather case, weighing about 30 kilos, familiar from those black-and-white photographs where cases are piled high on the quayside behind families waiting to board passenger steamers for a new life across the ocean. When Charlaine sprung open the brass clasps, it began a year-long quest spanning three continents and 70 years of history. Her brother-in-law had found it while renovating an apartment building in Amsterdam's Beethovenstraat in 2009. 'It was in a meter cupboard, shoved behind an old chair and beneath a bundle...  More >

10 great things to do in May

10 great things to do in May From swinging over a 100-metre drop and celebrating spring with a festival to learning about Meissen porcelain and getting fit at the fair, here's our pick of the best things to do in May. Admire the winning press photos This year’s winning World Press Photo is the Australian photographer Warren Richardson’s image of a baby being handed through the barbed wire along the border between Hungary and Serbia. It takes pride of place in the exhibition of other winners in various categories, such as images of migrants wrapped in foil against the cold as they approach the Italian coast in a tiny boat, a hugging married couple who get their chemotherapy treatment together, a wrestling tournament in Sierra Leone and a young IS fighter being treated for burns in a Syrian hospital. Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam until July 10. Learn about Meissen Ceramics expert Anne Haworth talks about the history of Meissen porcelain, also known as the ‘white gold’ of Saxony....  More >

'In the Netherlands, 3pm means 3pm'

‘In the Netherlands time is absolute – 3pm really does mean 3pm’ Originally from Calcutta in India, Shazia Khan, 32, lives in Eindhoven with her husband and two children. Shazia runs her own fashion business, has learned to tone down the chili in her cooking and says her son is her Dutch teacher because he points out her mistakes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We left India, and after living in Turkey for a year, my husband was offered a position at Delft University of Technology. We moved to Delft and two years later, when he changed jobs, we moved to Eindhoven. I've now been in the Netherlands for eight years. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I see myself as an international because I have a strong interest in learning about other cultures, especially the culture of the country where I am living. How long do you plan to stay? I think that we will be staying in the Netherlands for a long time. My kids go to local schools and are growing up as Dutch (although they speak Hindi at home),...  More >

10 ways to survive King's Day

10 ways to survive King’s Day – this year, take an umbrella If you are in the Netherlands at the moment, you cannot fail to have noticed it. Yes, King’s Day is upon us. This year the weather forecast is not doing us any favours... rain (possibly sleet), hail and a chilly 8 degrees. Event organisers have been reviewing their plans to take account of the expected chill, and the best way to make money this year will probably be to sell waterproof orange ponchos. King's Day is when the Dutch really let their hair down, so expect lots of bedraggled bunting and rain-wear clad revellers determined to party whatever the weather. Here at opinion about King’s Day is divided. Some of us have been collecting our clutter to sell for months, some of us have a 24-hour feest ahead of us and some of us are even leaving the country to get away from it all. All you need is a plan. Here’s an updated version of ours. 1. If you are a party animal, you need to know that the best parties all take place the night before King’s Day and run...  More >

Should universities provide prayer rooms?

Is a university campus prayer room any different to providing a bar? Universities provide bars, yoga classes and gyms on their campuses, so why not places where students of every religion can go to pray? asks Molly Quell. Last week, Delta, the Delft University of Technology magazine, reported that the university was investigating how to provide silent rooms on campus. The same week, the AD reported that students in The Hague had requested a prayer room. Judging from the reaction in the media, you could have mistakenly thought Muslim students at these schools had demanded the forced conversions of the princesses. The AD had something to say. Omroep West reported on it. PowNed had a story. Geen Stijl voiced their thoughts. Even the JOVD (the youth wing of the VVD) had something to say. The JOVD column reads, in part: 'A university should be a secular place where the gathering of scientific knowledge is the main aim and, therefore, there is no place for religious expression.' Pubs So I fully expect to see the JOVD calling for the closure...  More >

The Hague gets Europe's biggest urban farm

How local can you get? Farming fish and vegetables on a The Hague office rooftop An empty Philips office block in the heart of The Hague is producing vegetables and fish on a commercial basis. Senay Boztas explores Europe's largest commercial urban farm. Ramon Melon Martinez proudly displays a perfect, bright green, six-inch vegetable. ‘Our first cucumber!’ he exclaims, laying it reverently on the desk of a messy, temporary office. This dilapidated, 1950s office block in the middle of The Hague, is growing something astonishing: on its sixth floor is a 370 sqm fish farm, while the roof has been converted to a 1,200 sqm greenhouse for vegetables, making this Europe’s largest commercial urban farm. The project will be formally launched on May 20 and a team of young enthusiasts from the private business UrbanFarmers BV is busy with the fitting-out of a large events area and roastingly-hot visitor greenhouse. Martinez is director of operations at the unromantically-named ‘UF002 De Schilde’. This is the Swiss-owned business’s second farm; its...  More >

Why we should give free money to everyone

Long read: Why we should give free money to everyone We tend to think that simply giving people money makes them lazy. Yet a wealth of scientific research shows the contrary: free money helps lift people out of poverty. The time has come for a radical reform of the welfare state, writes Dutch author Rutger Bregman. London, May 2009—An experiment is underway. Its subjects: 13 homeless men. They are veterans of the street. Some have been sleeping on the cold pavement of the Square Mile, Europe’s financial centre, for going on 40 years. Between the police expenses, court costs and social services, these 13 troublemakers have racked up a bill estimated at £400,000 or more. Per year. The strain on city services and local charities is too great for things to go on this way. So Broadway, a London-based aid organisation, makes a radical decision. From now on, the City’s 13 consummate drifters will be getting VIP treatment. It’s adiós to the daily helpings of food stamps, soup kitchens and shelters. They’re getting a drastic...  More >

'The Dutch are calmer than Greeks at work'

‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’ Adonis Stoantzikis, 32, is a Greek artist and writer who has been living in the Netherlands since 2013. Now based in Amsterdam, Adonis enjoys the Dutch pace of life to the fullest, would like to have met Johnny Jordaan and has started eating sandwiches for lunch. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I initially came here to study in Groningen, but continued with the residency in Amsterdam. I wanted a university where they spoke English, so it was a choice of between here and England. The Netherlands was an easy winner. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? An international, because of the international student community in university and my collaboration with locals afterwards. I don’t think there are any Greeks in my environment here. How long do you plan to stay and why? It depends. Because of what I do I can’t be located in one place for too long. I have to move on and travel a lot. It’s important for art to be a nomad. Do...  More >

Ukraine vote was a thrashing well earned

The Ukraine referendum was a thrashing the government deserved The government and Brussels may have deserved the thrashing they got on referendum day but the results are a wake-up call for ministers and voters, say economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend. There are only a few countries in the world where an advisory or binding referendum is part of the democratic tool box. It is generally thought to have too many disadvantages, reason why most have chosen a democratic system in which chosen representatives and administrators take policy decisions after having weighed all the options. Every four or so years voters judge their performance. This is the system that we have in the Netherlands. The main disadvantage of a referendum is that voters are limited to either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. There is no room for nuance or arguments. Fact is that only enthusiastic yes and no voters take to the ballot; those who have no particular sentiment about the subject or don’t feel they want to vote, don’t. That leaves us with an extremely...  More >

Museum Week: why not visit prize-winners?

Dutch museums celebrate European prizes as Museum Week kicks off This week is National Museum Week and that means the Netherlands' hundreds of collections focusing on art, natural history, social history, technology, crafts and even beachcombers' finds are again in the spotlight. So far 2016 is turning out to be a good year for Dutch museums. Charles de Mooij, director of the Noordbrabants Museum, must still be pinching himself as his blockbuster exhibition Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius has sold out multiple times, leading to several extended opening hours including 39 hours non-stop on the last weekend (May 7-8). Earlier this month, Micropia, the museum of microbes and molds attached to Amsterdam's zoo, was named most innovative museum in Europe. Not, perhaps, for those who would rather not know about the bugs in their eyebrows, the exhibits include a Kiss-O-Meter which measures how many microbes are shared between two people as they kiss. You can watch massive projections of microbes as  they move around and be slightly horrified...  More >

Hazy legality: how legal is Dutch weed?

Hazy legality: how legal is Dutch weed really? In the Netherlands, officials turn a blind eye to the sale of small amounts of cannabis in licenced cafes, known as coffee shops. Marijuana is, after all, a multi-billion euro business. Graham Dockery looks at the grey area between this pragmatic approach to demand and the supply side, which is still very much against the law. The working day of a coffee shop manager in Amsterdam is a hectic one. As well as the steady stream of customers to serve, Daan* has to meet with suppliers and drive to and fro across the city, transporting his wares from his stash house to his coffee shop. Daan’s shop, Happy Days, is a small one in the south of Amsterdam. Coffee shops are free to operate, as long as they refrain from causing a ‘nuisance’, selling hard drugs, advertising, selling large amounts, and selling cannabis to minors. All coffee shops in the capital are licensed by the city council. However, all of the weed he sells is sourced illegally. ‘I meet [the dealer] somewhere...  More >

'In Amsterdam rich and poor lived nearby '

‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’ Mike Manicardi, 63, manages Mike’s Badhuis Theatre in Amsterdam’s district of Oost. He arrived in the Netherlands in 1978, has five children here, and remembers how different it was to be a new arrival in those days. 'Expat is very modern Europe,' he says. 'I'm a first generation migrant.' How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was on tour with a theatre company and in that period Holland was the most exciting country in the world, culturally, to work in as a young theatre artist. Back then, the Dutch imported their artists. They picked up people from all over the world. We had different tours, and after one of the last tours, in 1978, I decided to work permanently in Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m not really happy with these kinds of categories. But my father was Italian and my mother was Irish and as children we constantly travelled in Europe. I studied in England, but we always thought of ourselves as Europeans....  More >

How will political parties spend €27bn?

According to the CPB, it looks like the political parties can actually afford to go on a spending spree, writes Mathijs Bouman. The macro-economic think tank traditionally analyses party manifestos in the run up to the general election. Every time the CPB analyses election programmes, politicians grumble. But this year their grumble has turned into a wail. Ahead of the national elections in 2017, CDA, Labour and D66 have publicly vented their unwillingness to participate in this uniquely Dutch tradition. SP, GroenLinks and SGP are still thinking about it. I have to admit I have always been in two minds about the method used by the CPB. In order to prevent parties from being rewarded for squandering money, the CPB looks at the long-term effects of the election programmes. It makes sense as an idea but what actually happens is that, come campaigning time, politicians start pounding each other with figures about job growth in 2040. That, inevitably, leads to nonsensical discussions. Be...  More >

14 things about Johan Cruijff

14 things you may or may not know about Johan Cruijff Dutch football legend Johan Cruijff died at the end of last month at the age of 68. A number of initiatives are underway to commemorate the life of the man credited with pioneering the Dutch system of ‘total football’. In the meantime, here are 14 facts about the world's most famous number 14. 1 Johan Cruijff joined the Ajax academy when he was 10 but initially preferred to play… baseball. Fortunately wiser heads convinced him to opt for a footballing career at Ajax some five years later. 2 Cruijff scored on his debut appearance for the Amsterdam club at 17, but Ajax lost 3-1 to GVAV. ‘I remember two moments,’ he said 51 years later. ‘One was scoring my first goal for Ajax and two, not having the strength to take the corner shot. I pointed at my foot to suggest I had injured myself. We needed a substitute quickly because I simply didn’t have the strength.’ 3 Servaas (Faas) Wilkes, nicknamed Il Tulipano Volante (the Flying Tulip), was Cruijff’s idol. Born in 1923,...  More >

Ukrainians react to the Netherlands’ no

Ukrainians in the Netherlands react to the Dutch no vote Last week the Dutch took part in a referendum on the treaty of association between the EU and Ukraine. Just under one third of the electorate bothered to vote, but those who did voted 62% to 38% against the treaty. Graham Dockery spoke to two Ukrainians in the Netherlands about the result. ‘If I could have voted, I would have voted no,’ Anna stated bluntly. ‘Ukraine has to deal with its own problems first before getting into any kind of union. Ukrainians f****d up their own country like barbarians and now they wonder why people won’t accept them into the union? There’s a lot of double standards here.’ Anna (24) is a Ukrainian student living in Amsterdam. She came to the Netherlands three years ago from Donetsk, one of the regions hit hardest by the country’s ongoing civil war. Disappointment Iryna Rud was disappointed when she heard the result. ‘I think the problem was that many Dutch people have a negative opinion of Ukraine…which is of course influenced by...  More >