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


Forget windmills and museums, it’s time for National Bunker Day

Forget windmills and museums, it’s time for National Bunker Day

If you ever wander along the Dutch coast, you may have come across partly hidden concrete structures - the remains of the network of bunkers built during World War II. Usually closed to the public, this Saturday (June 6) you have the chance to poke around inside because it is National Bunker Day. Here are some key facts. The Atlantic Wall The Dutch bunkers form part of the Atlantic Wall, a series of coastal fortifications stretching from the Franco-Spanish border to the northern tip of Norway. Building started in 1942 – some 15,000 structures were planned (14,000 were built), to be manned by 300,000 troops - after Hitler failed to conquer Britain and feared an Allied invasion might be on the horizon. Forced labour Organising the construction of the Atlantic Wall was the responsibility of German building firm Todt – which also helped build concentration camps - but the actual work was carried out by subcontractors who, apart from regular workers, used POWs and conscript labour. In all some 7.8 million people were deployed and within two years as many as 10,000 bunkers were built. Get rich quick Relatively few Dutch building firms were held to account after the war. Contractor Jan Wildeboer from Schiermonnikoog, who had a turnover of almost a million guilders in 1943, had to hand over the curiously small profit of 90,000 guilders he had made, and was banned from working as a builder. Here’s what he said to the president of the tribunal: ‘It is difficult, Mr President, to take a principled stand once a wrong turn has been taken.’ Upon which an unsympathetic president said: ‘As soon as you take the road to hell, you are on a slippery slope greased with soft soap.’ Land clearance In order to build the bunkers, great swathes of land had to be cleared, affecting coastal towns and cities. In many cases whole neighbourhoods were obliterated forcing the inhabitants to move to other parts of the country. In seaside resort Zandvoort, for instance, homes, hotels, boarding houses and boulevards within 200 metres of the beach were flattened and thousands of people displaced. Some of Zandvoort’s dreary apartment buildings were built on the waste land left by the ravages of the Atlantic Wall by canny post-war project developers. The Hague The Hague, home to the Dutch government and the royal family, was chosen as the location for most of the main German administrative centres, and consequently the city and nearby Scheveningen were heavily fortified. The much-hated head of the occupied Netherlands, Seys Inquart – mockingly called zes-en-en-kwart, or six and a quarter, and ridiculed because of his limp - took up residence on the Clingendael estate (now home to the Netherlands Institute of International Relations) where he had a command bunker disguised as a charming farmhouse. Not much happens Nothing much happened until the invasion in 1944 and the Germans soldiers stationed on the Atlantic Wall spent their time doing not very much at all. A song that was popular among them at the time had it that any would–be invader should think twice before attempting an attack because if they came up against the boys from Bavaria they would be very sorry indeed: ‘Bei einen neuen Gastspiel am Atlantikwall/ nur keinem Bayern in die Hande fall (..)’. Dunes The dune landscape was damaged by the construction of the bunkers and although dune grass replanting work was started immediately after the war, the dunes remained vulnerable. Sand was swept away and bunkers started to subside and slide, weakening the dunes even further. The presence of the bunkers facilitated the already devastating ravages wreaked by the storm tide which swept over parts of Zeeland, South Holland and North Brabant in 1953. New uses After the war many bunkers were destroyed while others were used for a variety of purposes. Bunkers were turned into holiday homes, bars and restaurants and museums, or were simply used for storage. Some retained a military function. And some bunkers became a haven for bats. You can even own your own bunker: in Zandvoort two bunker holiday homes came up for sale in 2013 for the first time and in The Hague data storage firm Data Protectors bought a former hospital bunker which formed part of the Atlantic Wall. Visits Many of the remaining bunkers lie buried under sand, or are located on private property. Here are a couple of bunkers you can visit. Vleermuisgang in The Hague Westduinen is a system of corridors which connects various bunkers. Here’s your chance to take a peek at several rare bat species who have made the bunker home. There’s Command bunker 608, with its original communications equipment in The Hague and the Bunker Museum in IJmuiden which is located in a complex of six bunkers (and run by dedicated volunteers). National Bunker Day  More >


World’s biggest jazz orchestra has something to celebrate

World’s biggest jazz orchestra has something to celebrate

The Dutch Metropole Orchestra is the biggest jazz and pop orchestra in the world and has performed with greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. This June the orchestra marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Dolf van der Linden. In November, it celebrates its 70th anniversary. Here are ten things you might like to know. 1 The idea of forming an orchestra was first mooted in early 1945, when Queen Wilhelmina and her Dutch government were still in exile in London. They were aware that the people back home in the Netherlands would need something to bolster their spirits. Something more than the return of their Queen. Something to entertain them after the drab war years. It was decided to form an orchestra specialising in light music, one made up of top Dutch musicians. The Metropole Orchestra was born and gave its first performance on November 25 the same year. 2 The first man in charge of the orchestra was Dolf van der Linden (1915-1999), a conductor, composer and arranger who worked for Dutch radio before the war. He was captured by the Germans and sent to work in Germany during WWII but escaped and went into hiding in the Netherlands. In 1945 he was asked to put together what became the Metropole Orchestra. 3 Under Van der Linden, the 40-piece orchestra became hugely successful on radio and later on tv, not just in the Netherlands but throughout Europe. In the years in which the Eurovision Song Contest singers were always accompanied by an orchestra conducted by someone from their own country, Van der Linden was the choice for the Netherlands’ entries. 4 Although Van der Linden was complimented for giving the orchestra its own sound while playing a wide variety of musical styles and keeping up with technological innovations, he was unable to modernise the orchestra and left in 1980. 5 The young, ambitious and energetic Rogier van Otterloo (1941-1988) took over and introduced a second rhythm section which allowed the orchestra to add pop and rock music to its repertoire. Under Van Otterloo the orchestra made its debut at the North Sea Jazz Festival. It also found extra work in film and tv studios, playing the music its conductor composed for various productions. The most famous is the theme from Soldier of Orange with its immediately recognisable five note opening. 6 Van Otterloo died suddenly in 1988 at the age of 46 and it was not until 1991 that a suitable successor was found in the shape of Dick Bakker, composer of Ding-a-dong with which Teach-In won the Eurovision Song Festival for the Netherlands. By the time, Bakker arrived the Metropole was struggling to find work. He breathed new life into the orchestra by making it more commercial and winning acclaim for televised shows at home and abroad. In particular, there was a lengthy contract with Greek television, performances in the Amsterdam pop temple Paradiso and an increasing number of live performances. 7 Bakker was succeeded in 2005 by the American conductor Vince Mendoza, who has composed and arranged a huge range of music for outfits ranging from jazz ensembles and big bands to chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestras. Mendoza kept the modernisation going, inviting a wide range of artists to work with the orchestra including Elvis Costello, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Silje Nergaard and Ivan Lins. 8 2012 was an annus horribilis for the Metropole Orchestra. Financed from the broadcasting budget since its inception, the Dutch government withdrew its subsidy and refused to finance a shortfall of €15m. This left the Metropole facing extinction, until a fan began an online petition which was quickly signed by 35,000 people. The government had a rethink, found the money to cover the shortfall and came to a bridging agreement with the orchestra that it will be self-financing by 2017. 9 Since 2013, the Metropole has been led by Englishman Jules Buckey who was a regular guest conductor with the orchestra since 2008. He is pushing the orchestra into the future. A huge compliment came in 2014 when the Metropole was invited to take part in the BBC Proms, the prestigious classical music festival held each year in July at the Royal Albert Hall and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The Proms, just like the orchestra, has been modernising its programme and has invited the Metropole back for 2015’s festival where it will perform with the rappers Wretch 32, Krept & Konan and Stormzy. 10 The Metropole has performed and recorded with a huge number of famous artists over the years. They include jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie, pop stars such as Brian Eno, Elvis Costello and Bono, producers such as Junkie XL and the new generation of singers such as Laura Mvula. For more performances, check out the orchestra's YouTube channel.  More >


What’s on in the Netherlands: ten great things to do in June

Summer officially starts this week and the forecasters say the weather is set to heat up by next weekend. From beach volleyball to opera, from Pharrell to prize-winning photography, here's a list of 10 great things to do in the coming weeks. Hang out at the Holland Festival The annual cultural festival is broadening its scope this year, with more venues such as Podium Mozaiek in Amsterdam West and the Museumplein, and more disciplines such as street projections and a 12-hour Prom festival. Turkish artists feature strongly this year and elsewhere on the programme there is theatre from Spanish group La Fura dels Baus and from Robert Wilson who directs himself in Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (photo). Various locations, Amsterdam, to June 28. www.hollandfestival.nl Check out the Canadian circus acts at Carré Canada's Cirque Éloize performs the show ID, a fizzing spectacle which mixes circus and urban dance to electric effect. A Chinese pole act has shades of West Side Story, contortion gets an extra edge when it meets break-dancing and a trampowall sequence is exhilarating. There's even inline skating and trial bike tricks. Theater Carré, Amsterdam, June 24 to July 19. www.carre.nl Visit the World Press Photo exhibition This year’s winning World Press Photo is the Danish photographer Mads Nissen’s image of a gay Russian couple in a tender embrace. The photo takes pride of place in the exhibition of other winners in various categories such as images of a kitchen in war-ravaged Donetsk, African warriors stroking a rhino and the heartbreaking sight of the uniforms of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria. Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam until July 5. www.worldpressphoto.org Cheer on the teams at the World Cup Beach Volleyball At the end of this month, the Netherlands plays host to the World Cup Beach Volleyball, which takes place in four cities. In Amsterdam, the Dam Square will be transformed into a beach court. In The Hague, matches will take place on a pontoon in the Hofvijver outside the parliament building. The world’s best 48 men’s teams and 48 women’s team are competing, including nine Dutch teams. Various locations, June 26 to July 5. www.volleybal.nl Spend a night at the opera Hector Berlioz's opera is directed by film-maker Terry Gilliam and conducted by Sir Mark Elder. Berlioz's first opera was inspired by the memoirs of the 16th century Florentine sculptor Cellini as he casts his statue of Perseus, commissioned for Pope Clemens VII. The opera is rarely performed because of its technical difficulty. The Rotterdam Philharmonic is joined by the National Opera choir. Muziektheater, Amsterdam, various dates www.operaballet.nl Be happy with Pharrell at Pinkpop The annual outdoor pop festival presents a line-up of international artists on several stages. This year's acts include Elbow, Robbie Williams, Anouk, Foo Fighters, Pharrell Williams and Sam Smith. Landgraf, Heerlen, June 12, 13 and 14. www.pinkpop.nl Catch up on culture at Oerol This annual festival takes over the island of Terschelling and presents theatre in its widest meaning, outdoors in its woods and fields and on its sand dunes and golden beaches, and indoors in its barns and cafés. It also includes dance, visual art and music. All the performances are created specially or adapted to the location. Terschelling, June 12 to 21. www.oerol.nl Watch ocean-going yachts at the Volvo Ocean Race The Volvo Ocean Race, the round the world yacht race which began on October 4 2014, makes a 24-hour pit-stop in The Hague before departing for the final stage to Göteborg for the finish on June 27. For the first time in its history, this 12th edition of the race, which has nine stages, sees all seven competing teams sailing in the same class of boat: the Volvo Ocean 65. Derde Haven, The Hague, June 19 and 20. www.volvooceanrace.com See top tennis players practise on grass ahead of Wimbledon The Top Shelf Open attracts international male and female tennis players who use it as a chance to practice their playing on grass ahead of Wimbledon in July. Among those competing this year are the Dutch players Robin Haase and Kiki Bertens together with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lleyton Hewitt, Richard Gasquet, Jelena Jankovic and Andrea Petkovic. Autotron, Rosmalen, June 8 to 15. Tickets: www.eventim.nl   For more shows, exhibitions, concerts and sports events, check out our What's On section, and search by subject or city.  More >


Dental care in the Netherlands

Dental care in the Netherlands

The Dutch visit their dentist on a regular basis, and as a result, only a relatively small part of the population has badly cared-for teeth. In the Netherlands, dental care is provided by university-educated dentists, all of whom are government-registered. The quality of the care, also in comparison with other countries, is excellent. The Dutch visit their dentist on a regular basis - approximately 85% go once or twice a year. Types of practices Almost all dental practices in the Netherlands are private, there are no state practices. Most of them are modest undertakings, with one dentist and one assistant. In the larger cities there are larger practices, consisting of several dentists, a number of assistants and dental hygienists. Such a structure allows the practice to diversify its services. Many practices in the Netherlands are full and consequently cannot take on any new patients. Insurance Dentistry is privatised in the Netherlands, i.e. the patient is responsible for the payment of the costs of the treatment, not the insurance company. However, under Dutch basic health insurance, the insurance company will fully cover all costs of dentistry for children through to the age of 18 as well as dental surgery for all adults. All other dental care, which constitutes the majority of care given, can only be insured by taking out an additional insurance. This supplementary insurance can cover up to 75% of the costs. For the exact coverage, check the policy terms or contact the insurer. Specialisations In the Netherlands, all regular dental specialisations can be found. The best-known are oral surgeons, who are usually affiliated with a hospital, and orthodontists, who usually have a private practice. Moreover the number of periodontologists (who specialise in gums), endodontologists (root canal specialists), implantologists and children’s dentists is steadily growing. Patients are referred to these specialists by regular dentists. A growing number of Dutch dentists employ the services of a dental hygienist, but in the larger cities particularly, there are also separate dental hygienist practices. Patients can visit these practices without a referral from their dentists. Other issues of interest All dentists in the Netherlands must comply with the rules on hygiene set by the Dutch government. Most dentists will give a local anesthetic before a painful treatment. Laughing gas is seldom used and if it is, only by a limited number of specialised dentists. Rates Dental fees have been determined by the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa), under the authority of the Dutch government. Finding a dentist New practices, which still take on new patients, often have websites. It is advisable to do some comparative shopping before deciding on a practice. Issues to take into consideration are: philosophy of the dentist/practice, opening hours, is there a dental hygienist, are refresher courses taken on a regular basis, what does the practice specialise in, does the staff speak English, and so on. Summarising Dutch dentists follow a thorough training, make use of modern equipment and run a clean shop. In other words, if the Netherlands turns out to be your new location, dental care should be the least of your worries. Thomas Rietrae runs an international high-end dental clinic in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw neighborhood and on the Keizersgracht, Jordaan area. His practice is focused on expats and among his clients are many employees of multinational businesses. For more information, visit: www.lassustandartsen.nl/en  More >


40 years on Getty Kaspers is still Dutch Eurovision queen

40 years on Getty Kaspers is still Dutch Eurovision queen

The last time the Netherlands won the Eurovision Song Contest was 40 years ago,  when Teach-In took the honours with the infamous 'Ding-a-dong'. Singer Getty Kaspers talks to DutchNews.nl about Eurovision then and now. 'Ding-a-dong every hour, when you pick a flower, even when your lover is gone, gone, gone.' So goes the kitschy but catchy chorus of Ding-A-Dong, the song that, 40 years ago, made Teach-In Eurovision champions. The song - in stark contrast to the quieter ballads put forth by hopefuls representing the Netherlands in recent years, including this year’s Walk On penned by Anouk and performed by Trijntje Oosterhuis - is a 2.5-minute explosion of infectiously upbeat, xylophonic sound accompanied by quirky, nonsensical lyrics earnestly sung by Getty Kaspers. Easier Kaspers, who was 27 when the song won Eurovision in 1975, says the competition was rather different in those times. 'It was easier,' she says. 'We only had to perform once before being selected to go to the competition, and then only once while there. Today there is more pressure on the performers. We were able to just have fun.' But although she and her band mates thought they had a good enough song to win, they were not as aware of the competition as artists are today, and had less time before the programme’s broadcast to develop an audience. 'There was no Internet then, no cable television,' she says. 'It was a very different time. If you wanted to hear a song, you had to wait for it to come on the radio, or maybe we would be mentioned sometimes on the news.' Voting was also more straightforward in 1975, Kaspers says, and the contest was generally less political. 'Things are different now with the audiences telephoning in their votes and the obvious alliances - we always know which countries will give their votes to which neighboring countries,' she says. Sudden fame Teach-In formed in Enschede in 1969, with Kaspers joining in 1972. By the time they were chosen to go to Eurovision in 1975, they had already had 15 hits in the Netherlands, but were relatively unknown beyond Dutch borders. After taking the Eurovision title, Ding-A-Dong appeared on the charts in nearly every European country. The sudden fame caught Kaspers by surprise. 'We went on tour to England, and everyone knew us,' she says. 'I couldn’t even go out to the supermarket.' She recalls the celebrity treatment: 'It was really funny to be in England for the first time and have everyone know us. We were driven around in beautiful Bentleys - I was waving like the queen.' But, she admits, this was fleeting. 'The next time we visited London, we travelled by bus.' Kasper left the band in 1976, and the rest of the members called it a day two years later. Still, they remain among the ranks of Eurovision winners such as Abba, Bucks Fizz, Celine Dion, Tom Jones and Katrina and the Waves. What it takes to win This year is the third in a row that the Netherlands was represented by a relatively tame song, without the costumes and pyro technics for which the contest is celebrated. But Kaspers says the success of last year’s Calm After the Storm - the song took second place for the Netherlands - shows Eurovision is not all about gimmicks. 'Last year the Netherlands had a very good song - even though it was rather a simple,' she says. 'If the song is really good, people will vote for it, even countries that don’t usually give you votes.' But winning, according to Kaspers, also takes more than just good song writing. 'Having a good song is part of it, but it’s also important to have a good performer who can really connect with the people at home,' she says. She says she always made an effort to form an intimate connection with the viewers. 'I always pretended to be flirting with the camera, that the camera was one person sitting at home watching their television and that I was singing for them only. I think you can see that when you watch the performance.' 40 years on Walk Along failed to make the final this year, meaning Kaspers will continue as Holland’s reigning Eurovision champion, at least until 2016. As for her own singing career, she looks back on it nostalgically and fondly, but says she hasn’t sung professionally in a long time. 'My voice is lower than before,' she says. 'I am 40 years older, and I feel it. But people still get excited to see me and they don’t mind if I sound a little different from then. So I’m still asked to sing Ding-A-Dong.'  More >


10 inspirational Dutch women

10 inspirational Dutch women

From speaking 14 languages in the 17th century to exploring the Sahara; from taking the Olympics by storm to defying the German occupiers - here is a list of inspirational Dutch women who’ve made it into the history books for reasons other than their appearance. In no particular order. Anna Maria van Schurman Born in Cologne in 1607, this well educated 17th century woman spent most of her life in the Netherlands where she was permitted an education. She spoke 14 languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopian, Syriac and Aramaic – and excelled in literature, art and music. Later she was the personal assistant of Jean de Labadie remaining heavily involved in his cult religion, Labadism, until her death. Elisabeth Wandscherer This bold lady was one of the 16 wives of Jan van Leiden, dictator and leading figure of the Anabaptist commune in Munster during the early 1500s. Elisabeth criticised her husband for letting the poor of the city starve while Van Leiden and his entourage lived in luxury. She returned her jewellery to him in protest and requested to leave the household. In response, Van Leiden had his young wife publicly beheaded in 1535. Alexandrine Tinne Recognised as being the first European woman to attempt to cross the Sahara Desert, Alexandrine was born into a family of adventurers in The Hague in 1835. Her mother accompanied her on some of her earlier forays into the Middle East. Alexandrine died at the age of 33, murdered by her local guides during an expedition. Aletta Jacobs The first Dutch woman to complete a university degree (medicine). After graduating in 1878, Jacobs ran a free medical clinic to treat destitute women and children and was instrumental in the manufacture of the pessaries she gave to women to control their fertility. Throughout her life she fought for equal rights for women in the Netherlands and around the world. Mata Hari Born to a wealthy Leeuwarden family in 1876, Margaretha Zelle abandoned her studies when she responded to a newspaper advertisement posted by an Indonesian-based Dutch Army Captain seeking a wife. A few years later, she abandoned the practical and abusive marriage, returned to Europe, and established herself as an exotic dancer and courtesan to men of influence and great wealth. When her dancing career faded, she became a spy for the German army during WWI. She was captured and executed by a firing squad in France in 1917. Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer A wood merchant from Haarlem, Kenau become a legendary folk hero for her fearless defense of the city against the Spanish invaders during the siege of 1573. By the 19th century, it was even said she had led an army of 300 women against the Spanish. There are now a lot of doubts about her real role and she was not included on the official list of war criminals. After the war, she resumed wood trading again and is thought to have died at the hands of pirates in 1588. Marga Klompé Referred to by her critics as ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’, Marga Klompé was born in Arnhem in 1912. With her university studies (medicine) interrupted by WWII, Marga became active in the Dutch underground movement. In 1948 she joined the House of Representatives and in 1956 became the first female secretary of the Netherlands focusing on Social Affairs. Her main contribution to Dutch history is the passing of the Social Security Bill in 1963. Fanny Blankers-Koen Fanny was a 30-year-old mother of two when she took the world by storm at the 1948 Olympics in London, winning gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 80 metres hurdle and 4×100 metres relay. Fanny, who was also known as ‘the flying housewife’, inspired many women and sport stars over the decades and was voted female athlete of the century by the IAAF in 1999. Hannie Schaft Born Jannetje Johanna Schaft in Haarlem in 1920, Hannie was a member of the Dutch Communist resistance during WWII. As a law student at Amsterdam University she was expelled after refusing to sign a declaration of allegiance to the German Occupation. She is known to have carried out attacks on German soldiers, collaborators and traitors. Hannie Schaft, also known as ‘the girl with the red hair’, was shot dead three weeks before the end of the war in the dunes at Bloemendaal. Sonja Barend Sonja, a feminist and television personality, was born in Amsterdam in 1940. For about 30 years, Barend presented her own television programme, Sonja, voicing her own ideological and political ideas, and creating public discussion on taboo topics like feminism, homo- and other sexualities. After her retirement in 2006, she was awarded the Order of Orange-Nassau. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers. And if you are missing Neelie Kroes, she'll feature in a separate list on Dutch business women.  More >


Video: central Amsterdam under water in a poetic light display

Video: central Amsterdam under water in a poetic light display

After having us cycle along starry night bike paths, Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde has now turned his attention to the power of water. Just over one quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level and the sea is kept at bay by a network of dykes, dams and other water defences. But what would happen if they weren't there? 'Waterlicht is the dream landscape about the power and poetry of water,' Roosegaarde says on Studio Roosengaarde website. 'Innovation is within the DNA of the Dutch landscape via its waterworks and creative thinking, yet we almost seem to forgotten this.' The installation Waterlicht consists of wavy lines of light made with the latest LED technology, software and lenses. It was created for the Dutch Rijn & IJssel waterboard and was at the Museumplein in Amsterdam for three nights earlier this month.   More >


Sixty years of the Dutch at Eurovision: all you need to know

Sixty years of the Dutch at Eurovision: all you need to know

The Eurovision Song Contest is 60 years old this year and the Dutch have been there right from the beginning. Despite this, they have only won four times. Last year, they almost made it and this year, hopes are pinned on Walk Along, sung by Trijntje Oosterhuis. The very first song at the international finals of the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 was the Dutch entry - one of the Dutch entries in fact. Only seven countries took part that first year, each country with two singers and two songs. We don't know how well the Dutch did on that Thursday evening of May 24 in the Swiss city of Lugano because the viewers did not vote. There was no scoreboard, just an off-screen jury of professionals. Nobody seems to know how that jury reached its verdict. At the end of the live transmission the very first Eurovision winner was announced: a ballad called Refrain, sung by Swiss singer Lys Assia. Italy's idea The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Italy were the first countries to take part. The contest was Italy's idea. Eurovision, founded a couple of years before to exchange news reports and sports amongst Europe's public broadcasters, asked all its members to come up with suggestions for new events which Eurovision could exclusively televise. Italy, home of festivals like San Remo, suggested a Grand Prix song contest between Eurovision members. It said such a festival would strengthen the cultural ties between the European countries and create more interest in each other's artistic achievements: a terminology seldom linked with later editions of the event. But it was enthousiastically received by television officials and viewers alike and it never went away. This year the Eurovision Song Contest celebrates its 60th year, which makes it one of the most succesfull European projects of them all. Corry Brokken - the first Dutch winner In her heyday, Corry Brokken was the first lady of Dutch song. She represented the Netherlands in the first three editions of the Eurovision Song Contest. And she won the second one, in Frankfurt, with the lilting ballad Net als toen (Just like before) about the singer's longing for a more romantic past. Its sweeping violin solo, played live (of course) by Dutch violin favourite Sem Nijveen, must have helped considerably in getting a top score of 31 points, 14 points more than Paule Desjardins who came second with France's entry La belle amour. But the next year, in Holland's broadcasting centre in Hilversum, Corry Brokken hit rock bottom - becoming the only Eurovision singer who came first once and last once. Teddy Scholten makes it two wins Teddy Scholten never called herself a real singer. She played in sketches in the Netherland's most popular theatre revue and sang innocent little ditties with her husband, Henk Scholten. In fact, she had to get a few nights off from her revue employer to travel to Cannes in 1959, to appear in that year's Eurovision Song Contest singing Een beetje (A little bit). Her charming performance won over everybody, as did the lively rhythm and the lyrics in which lots of wordplay added to the song’s musicality - even for those who did not speak Dutch. She was a surprising winner, though, because the growing army of Eurovision pundits put their bets on the UK entry: Sing little birdie by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, who could be called the English equivalent of Teddy and Henk Scholten. Their song came second. Lenny Kuhr - a shared win Eurovision never had a more chaotic year than 1969, when the whole spectacle assembled in Madrid. No fewer than four countries ended with the same number of points - and all four were declared winners, for the simple reason that the rule-makers had never expected such a close finish. So they ended up as joint winners: Spain (Vivo cantando by Salomé), the UK (Boom-bang-a-bang by Lulu), France (Un jour, un enfant by Frida Boccara) and the Netherlands (De Troubadour by Lenny Kuhr). The Dutch winner boasted two firsts: Lenny Kuhr was not only the first winner who also co-wrote the song, but also the first contestant playing an instrument (her guitar) on stage. Obviously, her folksy sounding lai-lai-lai's must have added to the song’s international appeal. Her shared victory at Eurovision started a long career for Lenny Kuhr in her own country, with several hits, but not one of them surpassed the success of her troubadour debut. Teach-In - pop wins for the Dutch By the mid-70s, Eurovision had almost completely changed in musical terms. Gone were the days of ballads and chansons. It was all pop songs by the time Stockholm hosted the event in 1975, with quite a few countries trying to copy the success of Abba from Sweden, who had won the year before. Holland's entry, Ding-a-dong by Teach-In, was the first song in the show and also won rather easily, with Let me be the one by UK veterans The Shadows as the only serious competition. Teach-In, with bubbly vocals by female singer Getty Kaspers, was an existing Dutch pop group, but they did not enjoy a lengthy hit career after their victory. In later years, when Eurovision nostalgia became more and more fashionable, Getty was often asked to look back, and felt free to complain about the none too coherent English lyrics of their winning song. In fact, Ding-a-dong was one of those iconic Eurovision songs where nobody worried too much about what it all meant. Trijntje Oosterhuis - this year's Dutch hopeful And now it's 2015. The Netherlands has not won a contest since 1975 and hardly ever made the top half of the scoreboard. In fact, since semi-finals were invented to cope with the arrival of so many new countries, the Netherlands consistently failed to qualify for the final. That has now changed, probably because the Dutch broadcasters stopped sending contestants who were complete unknowns. Instead, experienced singers and songwriters actually want to take part these days, resulting in satisfying positions on the scoreboard. Last year, country duo The Common Linnets came second after Conchita Wurst - the best result since 1975. This year Trijntje Oosterhuis represents the Netherlands. And talking about experience: she's been a pop singer for 25 years. Her song (Walk along) was written by rock singer Anouk, who sang for the country herself in 2013, finishing ninth, ending a long run of flops. Trijntje Oosterhuis will appear fourth in the first semi-final on May 19.  More >


Cycling round Brabant in the footsteps of Van Gogh

Cycling round Brabant in the footsteps of Van Gogh

Like cycling in the Netherlands and Van Gogh? Why not combine the two by following the 335 km-long bike tour that takes you to the places where Van Gogh grew up and that inspired him as a painter. Hilary Staples checks it out. Van Gogh spent a lot of his time in Brabant exploring the countryside on foot. This  long-distance cycle route was first developed in 2013 and has been revamped for 2015 to commemorate the 125th anniversary since his death. The trip has been conceived around five shorter circular routes, each starting at one of the Van Gogh locations in Brabant: his place of birth in Zundert, Vincent's art room in Tilburg where he went to school, Etten-Leur where he started his career, Nuenen where he created his famous Potato Eaters and the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, incidently, the only location in Brabant where you can see original works by Van Gogh. The guide contains a fold-out map of the whole route and separate sheets for each of the five shorter circular routes with a story about the artist’s connection with the location and a list of places of interest - not all to do with Van Gogh - including practical information such as opening hours, admission fees and how to get there. There is also a list of special Van Gogh events that are to take place this year. You’ll never be closer to Vincent Van Gogh - that’s what the guide promises, and yes, we found this to be true. You visit many locations that played an important role in his life, from the village square in Zundert where he was born to the parsonage in Nuenen where he lived for a short time as an emerging artist. You also get to see the Brabant countryside that inspired him and places he depicted in his works. Naturally, many things have changed or disappeared over 150 years, but at times we were amazed to find a place still more or less as Vincent must have seen it, especially in and around Nuenen. From the Vincentre in Nuenen you can go on a walk that takes you along places Vincent sketched or painted. On site you’ll find panels with information, audio fragments in Dutch and English and a reproduction Van Gogh’s work. We automatically assumed we’d be seeing lots of works by the artist in the various Van Gogh locations along the route. But no, the only place in Brabant exhibiting original works is the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in Vincent Van Gogh, the Van Gogh Cycle Route is a great way to find out more about the artist. Seeing where he was born, where he lived and started off his career brought his work to life. The highlights included visiting places we only knew from his paintings, such as the Van Gogh Chapel and the Coll Watermill in Nuenen. From a cyclists' perspective, however, the makers of the route seem more concerned about showcasing Van Gogh, than about creating the best long-distance cycle tour. This is most noticeable in the southern section between Eindhoven and Zundert, which failed to impress us. The northern section of the route from Zundert to Eindhoven is, however, a real joy. The landscape is varied, the cities of Breda, Den Bosch and Eindhoven are well worth exploring and there are many Van Gogh highlights along the route. If you are more of a Van Gogh buff than a cycling fanatic, you could just do the five shorter circular routes - or if you don’t have that much time, just focus on the Zundert route (with a short detour into Etten-Leur) and Nuenen. This will leave you more time to enjoy the sights and you will literally be following in the painter’s footsteps from the place where Vincent was born to where he made his first masterwork. The Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Starry Night cycle path and the modern city of Eindhoven will bring you back to the present day. Further information: For more on the route, go to the Van Gogh Cycle Route page on Holland-Cycling.com. The route has been conceived around five individual round trips, which can each be cycled in a day and starting in Nuenen, Zundert, Etten-Leur, Tilburg and Den Bosch. Distance: Day trips from Nuenen (56 km), Zundert (65 km), Etten-Leur (32 km), Tilburg (50 km), Den Bosch (30 km). Maps: Download the PDF Fiets door de wereld van Vincent Van Gogh. The guide to the route available at tourist offices along the route (€ 8.95). However, some information you might expect to find in a long-distance cycle route guide is missing - there is no information about bike rental, accommodation or bike shops. The maps are detailed enough for cycling - the scale is not specified, but it appears to be around 1:140,000 - and they show plenty of the surrounding area to allow you to deviate from the route without needing extra maps. GPS tracks: Download GPX file from RoutesinBrabant.nl. Please note that at the time of publication only the 2013 version was available.  More >


10 things you should know about Dutch windmills

10 things you should know about Dutch windmills

This Saturday and Sunday (May 9 and 10) have been designated National Mill Day when windmills all over the country are open to the public. To get you in the mood, here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands’ most enduring industrial monuments. The oldest windmill The oldest remaining mill in the Netherlands is the Zeddam tower mill in the province of Gelderland. It is one of four remaining mills of its type. Built before 1451, the year it is first mentioned in a document, it belonged to the ducal Van den Bergh family. Local farmers had no choice but to bring their grain to the mill, hence the name ‘dwangmolen’, or forced mill. During World War II, the mill was used by friend and foe alike: the Wehrmacht used it as a look-out post but it also sheltered local people who needed a safe house. Canadian soldiers left a radio transmitter in the attic which can still be seen today. The highest mill Molen de Noord in Schiedam is the highest classic windmill in the world. It stretches 33.3 metres into the sky and is one of 19 very tall corn windmills which serviced the city’s gin-making industry. In 2006 the Nolet distillery built a new ‘old’ windmill which is nine metres taller. What were windmills used for? The energy generated by wind and watermills was used to turn any raw material that needed pounding, mauling, shredding, hacking or mixing into a tradeable product. The Zaanstreek paper mills, for instance, were renowned throughout the world for their good quality paper. In fact, the American Declaration of Independence was printed on sheets produced there. There were mustard mills, hemp mills, grain mills, snuff mills, cocoa mills, oil mills, chalk mills, paint mills and saw mills. Because of their ability to turn trees into planks (for shipbuilding) much more quickly, the latter were instrumental in making the Netherlands a powerful and very rich sea-faring nation. In fact, some say the first industrial estate in the world was a complex of 23 saw mills on the Kostenverlorenkade in Amsterdam. One, the Otter, still remains. In the 18th century polder windmills, or drainage mills, were used for land reclamation. Do all mills look the same? No. The architecture of the Dutch mills is extremely varied. We’ll mention just a few types. The standerdmolen or post mill has been in use in the Netherlands since the 1200s. Its wooden body pivots on a post and can be turned to take full advantage of the wind. A good example is the Windlust post mill in Nistelrode. The stellingmolen or smock mill is found in cities. It had to be tall enough to catch the wind and has a high gallery from which to arrange the sails. De Gooyer in Amsterdam is a smock mill. A ‘grondzeiler’ is a smock mill whose sails nearly reach the ground. It is dangerous because people or animals could easily get ‘a klap van de molen’ (see Expressions). A typical example of a ‘grondzeiler’ is the Achlumer Molen in Achlum. Say it with sails The position of the sails on a windmill can be used to convey messages such as a death in the family, a joyous occasion such as a wedding, a short or a long time of inactivity or even a call to come to the mill as quickly as possible.  Sail signals also warned locals against impending Nazi raids during World War II. Windmills in art Windmills abound in the paintings of the Golden Age. They could hardly be avoided: some nine thousand dotted the landscape in the 17th century. Rembrandt (a miller’s son) painted a powerful picture in which a windmill towers over the landscape, the sun lighting up its sails as black clouds recede. In 17th century paintings windmills usually weren’t simply windmills but symbols of strength. They kept the soil dry and the people safe. Rembrandt’s mill may also refer to the quiet of peace after the struggle for independence from Spain, according to the experts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Windmills in speech Windmills are emblematic of the Netherlands and it is no wonder they made their way into the Dutch language. ‘Met molentjes lopen’ (walking with windmills) means to be a little crazy as does ‘A klap van de molen hebben’ (to be hit by a sail). ‘Alle molenaars zijn geen dieven’ (not all millers are thieves) seems to imply that not all millers were found to be trustworthy either. The decline of the windmill There are 991 windmills, 397 drainage mills and 594 industrial and corn mills left in the Netherlands, according to Groningen University. The decline of the windmill set in with the discovery of steam power at the start of the industrial revolution. The Dutch polder boards were slow to adopt steam for their pumps - after all, old-fashioned wind power had kept Dutch feet dry for centuries. But eventually land reclamation on a large scale made the use of steam-powered pumps inevitable. A number of windmills were destroyed during World War II and many crumbled through neglect. Where to see windmills today Kinderdijk is one of the best-known places for windmill watching. Its 19 windmills, almost all ‘grondzeilers’, are on the UNESCO world heritage list. These mills, which pumped up the polder water, played an important part in shaping the Netherlands. The Zaanse Schans is another popular windmill destination. It has a collection of working saw mills, oil mills, a spice mill and many more historical monuments. Best avoided during the main tourist season. The new windmills The Netherlands’ new windmills are wind turbines. Their number hasn’t quite equalled 9,000 (yet): in 2013 the Netherlands had some 2,000 wind turbines of which 228 were situated off shore. Some 4% of Dutch electricity is now generated by wind power. On May 9 and 10 windmills all over the country will be open to the public. Check them out via this website  More >


10 things you need to know about the end of World War II in the Netherlands

10 things you need to know about the end of World War II in the Netherlands

The Netherlands celebrates 70 years since the end of World War II on May 5. But, of course, the war did not end in a day. Here's an overview of the main events leading up to May 5 and beyond. Dolle Dinsdag (Mad Tuesday) On September 4, 1944, Dutch prime minister-in-exile Pieter Gerbrandy broadcast the news that Breda had been liberated. ‘The hour of freedom has struck,’ he proclaimed from London. People lined the streets to welcome their liberators who surely wouldn’t be long and all over the country celebratory parties were held. The news also reached the members of the NSB, the Dutch political party that collaborated with the Germans: some 60,000 of the 100,000 NSB’ers are said to have fled to Germany. But at the time, the Allies had not even crossed the border. Operation Market Garden The Netherlands wasn’t liberated all at once. On September 12, American troops liberated the province of Zuid-Limburg. The Allies, wanting to strike at the German industrial heartland of the Rühr, subsequently mounted Operation Market Garden, the biggest airborne attack ever attempted (Sept 17 – Sept 25, 1944). After that the liberation of the rest of the Netherlands would soon follow. But the Germans put up a much tougher fight than expected, not only at Arnhem but in many other places in the Netherlands. Hongerwinter The allied defeat at Arnhem meant the end of the war would not come in 1944. A railway workers’ strike incensed the Germans, who could no longer transport troops by rail, so much they blocked the transport of food and fuel to the large cities in the western Netherlands. Transport by water was impossible, too, as the IJsselmeer and main waterways were frozen solid. What followed was the last, desperate winter of the war. People had to turn to food kitchens and undertook dangerous treks to the countryside for food. More than 20,000 people died of hunger and deprivation. Surrender On Saturday May 5, the Germans negotiated the terms of the German capitulation in the Netherlands with Canadian general Charles Foulkes in the presence of Prince Bernhard, consort of the future queen Juliana. The place chosen for the meeting was hotel De Wereld (the World), for its practical situation on the front line and, it is said, the symbolism of its name. No documents were signed that day, however, although the date would subsequently go down in history as ‘Liberation day’. The actual signing took place the next day on a farm just outside Wageningen. Chocolate and cigarettes The Canadian troops entering the country – and staying there for some time- were welcomed with great enthusiasm. The well-fed, good-looking Canadian soldiers proved particularly attractive to Dutch girls and songs like Trees heeft een Canadees (Trees landed a Canadian) were popular. Before long, however, conservative voices branded the girls ‘no better than prostitutes’ who ‘find it easier to live off black market Canadian chocolate and Canadian cigarettes than money earned honourably.’ (Source: Land van Lafaards? Peter Giesen) But the jitterbug proved irresistible and many a Trees left for Canada with her Canadian. Shooting at Dam square On May 7, thousands of Amsterdammers gathered on Dam square to welcome the allied troops. But in the surrounding streets Germans were still being routed from buildings such as the palace and the post office. A British tank, with Dutch revellers clinging on, even passed some retreating German vehicles. Some time later – the Brits had left – shots rang out. Dutch troops and Germans were firing at each other and people panicked and fled. More shots were fired from the Groote Club, a gentleman’s club on Dam square, where another group of Germans was hiding out. The official number of dead is put at 22. Retaliation Although the government-in-exile had prepared a law to deal with collaborators as early as 1943, when the time came justice was sometimes arbitrary and chaotic. Of the police force, 6% were fired after the war, but in other sectors the percentages were much lower. Some 400 NSB mayors were tried and convicted, and some 700 others fired. 150 death sentences were pronounced of which 40 were actually carried out. So-called ‘Moffenhoeren’ (Kraut whores), women who had been in a relationship with a German, were publicly humiliated by having their heads shaved in the street, behaviour in some cases condoned by the authorities to ‘relieve the tension surrounding collaboration’. (Source: NPS, De Oorlog). Just how many women were shamed in this way is unknown. Return Shameful, too, is the way the Jews who survived the camps came back to find their homes and possessions gone. They were often met with incomprehension and sometimes downright antagonism. Although many did receive support, the knowledge that so many had perished made this liberation a very bitter one indeed. This from Jewish Amsterdammer Sem Goudsmit’s diary: 'The neighbours are celebrating. Yesterday and today, day and night. Music is playing, everyone’s singing loudly the merry and sentimental songs. 95,000 innocent dead in Auschwitz, 95,000 of their countrymen who would have wanted to see this, will not return to their city, their homes – the families have been destroyed, burned, their heaped ashes in the foreign place they were dragged off to.’ Wederopbouw Some cities in the Netherlands – Rotterdam, Arnhem and Nijmegen among them – had been particularly hard hit. Of the 25,000 homes in Arnhem, 145 remained intact. Bridges and roads were damaged and building material was scarce. Agricultural land had to be cleared of mines – a job mostly done by German prisoners of war who were declared ‘military personnel who have surrendered’ so as not to contravene the Geneva Convention. It wasn’t until the American aid programme Marshall plan in 1948 that the Wederopbouw, or reconstruction, could kick off in earnest. It was another 10 years before it was felt the deprivation of the war had been truly left behind. May 4 and May 5 Remembrance Day (May 4) commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II. The main wreath-laying ceremony takes place at the National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam, which is usually attended by the king and other royal family members, ministers, and military leaders. At 20.00 hours there is a two minute silence. Liberation Day (May 5) celebrates the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany. Events kick off in Wageningen and the Liberation flame is lit shortly before midnight. Torches are then taken by runners, cyclists and inline skaters to other Liberation fires all over the country. There are also Liberation Day festivals, featuring top pop acts – one in each province and one in Amsterdam. Every five years, Bevrijdingsdag is an unofficial public holiday and this happens to be one of those years.  More >



How to deal with your aging parents when you live abroad

How to deal with your aging parents when you live abroad

Scarcely a day goes by in the Netherlands without a news story focusing on care of the elderly. New legislation introduced at the beginning of this year has limited access to residential care and put a much greater emphasis on the role of family and friends in helping people remain living in their own homes. Expat and social worker Ana McGinley, whose own parents live 15,000 kilometres from her home in Haarlem, has some advice about how to cope when your own close relatives are so far away. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it is difficult to deny the poignancy of saying goodbye to aging parents. Relationships with family members are crucial in the preservation of self-identity in expat adults and children – especially when the culture of the host country is unfamiliar or confronting. Being able to ‘be yourself’ with the people who know you is a wonderful comfort often available in the company of family members. Our relationships with family members face constant change. Most of us remember being dependent on our parents as children, yet independent of them as adults. What most of us don’t consider is that age and illness may result in aging parents becoming increasingly dependent on us, their adult children. Being an expat does not change this dynamic. So how can you maintain relationships with and provide support for aging parents while living on other continents? Every situation will be unique but this list is a starting point which emphasises the two most important factors in caring for parents as an expat: communication and planning. Use the Technology Distance does not need to be the demise of relationships. Scheduling a weekly Skype call with parents and grandparents is an ideal way to keep in regular contact. Grandchildren can share the highlights of their week. Practical issues, like health care and holiday arrangements, can be discussed at length. Family members can remain actively involved in one another’s lives without being physically in the same house. Take a step back in time For older people who have not embraced the Internet and mobile telephones, maintaining contact will take more time, effort and planning. Weekly telephone conversations, cards on birthdays and special events, letters with photos and drawings from grandchildren, holiday postcards – all signal to parents/grandparents that you are thinking of them and making the effort to keep in touch. Holidays Being able to spend physical time with aging parents is going to depend on distance, finances, desire and available free time. For many expats, budget cuts to employment contracts have resulted in the loss of previously funded annual family holidays to the employee’s country of origin.  As a result, many families are no longer able to afford annual trips home to visit aging relatives.  Alternative options worth considering include contributing to the cost of parents coming to visit; or choosing mid-way holiday destinations with both parties sharing the costs of travelling only half the distance. Appoint a family manager Family dynamics are complex and the basis for films, books, and mental health problems. Nevertheless, in every family there is generally one individual with a practical streak which identifies them as the person everyone turns to in times of family stress. Hopefully they live close to your parents and are willing to take on the role of family manager. Make sure they are aware you will be relying on them for factual information about your parents, should their independence and health deteriorate. Most importantly, ensure that the family manager knows that you appreciate them and the difficult role they have been allocated. It is all in the planning Encourage parents to be proactive in planning for their own aging. Discussion about moving from the large family home with multiple stairs, a high maintenance garden and impractical bathroom with spa should happen years before a move is necessary.  Similarly, legal arrangements - appointing a family member power of attorney, writing a living will, making clear plans for the care of a surviving spouse and having a current will - are all tasks that need to be completed while your parents can express their wishes fully. Remember that dementia can sneak up slowly and render the person incapable of making their future wishes known. The meaning of life A significant problem for elderly people is isolation and loneliness. This is the time that their peers, friends and family members die or become incapacitated through illness. Social contact and a life purpose are important to everyone at all stages of life. Ask about who is actually visiting? Encourage parents to get involved in social clubs, voluntary work, churches, exercise programmes – things that they have expressed an interest in but need a push to join. This will hopefully propagate new connections and regular social events within their own local community. Increase in demand When a parent does become incapacitated and requires help, make sure health professionals have your contact details and know you want to be part of the care plan, even though you live in a different country. Your family manager should attend all medical appointments to support your parents and to provide information, and to brief you about the outcome When you are a single child For expats who grew up in a one-child family, a sick parent will generally require you visit promptly to assess the situation. From then on, request that you be included, via Skype calls if possible, in all interviews and case conferences with health care professionals to ensure that you have up-to-date information about the prognosis, treatment plan and short-term recommendations for your parent. This information is crucial in making your own plans about future visits. Saying goodbye Every expat should consider how and when they will go home should a parent become seriously unwell or die. Do your research on the fastest route you can return home, where you will access the funds to make this trip, and who will take over the roles you currently fill in both your personal and professional life while you are away. The death and funeral of a parent is an unpleasant but inevitable fact and it requires planning. Go easy on yourself Being a local or distant family carer is stressful. Living in a different country means you can’t visit to check your parent is receiving adequate care and that services are performing as expected. Not being able to spend quiet time together with an aging parent can cause frustration and anxiety that will distract you from your daily life and become an unconscious source of stress. Take time to also look after yourself, enjoy your life and keep things in perspective. Ana McGinley was a social worker for 15 years, specialising in care of the elderly. She is currently writing a book about dealing with aging parents and keeps a blog about dementia.  More >



Festival fever 2015: something for every musical and cultural taste

Festival fever 2015: something for every musical and cultural taste

There are masses of options to satisfy your festival cravings in the Netherlands, whatever your musical and cultural tastes. Peter Leggett has put together a list of 12 of the best to help the less-seasoned festival-goers out there pinpoint where to start. London Calling - April 24-25 London Calling is held twice a year in Amsterdam’s Paradiso, and focuses largely on the up and coming bands. Since the festival began back in 1992 it has been a showcase for British bands seeking to break through. Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Supergrass, Blur, Suede and The Klaxons are among those who played the festival before their breakthrough. The festival often sells out and tickets are available for each day, or a weekend pass partout, for a reasonable price. Acts worth looking out for this year: The Districts, Staves, Drenge and Broncho. Rewire – May 1-2 This is definitely a festival worth checking out with a thoughtful and deceptively broad programme. Much of the focus is on contemporary electronic music, neo-classical, experimental pop, new jazz, sound art and multidisciplinary collaborations. Spread over several central locations in The Hague, including the Grote Kerk, De Paard and the old electricity factory, this year’s performers include Neneh Cherry, Thomas Ankersmit, The Bug, Shit & Shine, Cloudface and Alessandro Cortini. Here Comes The Summer - May 1-3 Some siblings become more alike as they grow and mature, some develop their own unique qualities, and others just stand out in any crowd. Here Comes The Summer is a festival for all the family which takes place on the Wadden Sea island of Vlieland. Highlight this year could well be ‘an intimate programme’ from Spinvis with Saartje van Kamp. The special programme for the kids this year includes an event named the Singing Potatoes. Sniester – May 29-31 2014 was Sniester’s inaugural entrance to the festival scene, and it has more than suitably filled the void vacated by the deeply missed Walk The Line. The event is not just about the live music; it is also about food, art, film and live performances. Situated in the centre of the city, the live venues are all within a brisk walk of each other, and you are never far away from a friendly smile and a beer. PinkPop - June 11-13 PinkPop is one of the oldest and longest running dedicated rock/pop festival on the planet, and first took place in 1970. Traditionally it is held on the Pentecost weekend (Pinksteren in Dutch, hence the name). This year’s line-up features acts such as Muse, Eagles of Death Metal, Foo Fighters, Elbow and the Counting Crows. It often sells out well in advance, so get your tickets quickly. Oerol – June 12-21 If you have not yet been to the Wadden Islands, or you need some motivation to go back, then there is no better excuse than Oerol Festival, which literally takes over the entire island of Terschelling. The focus is on theatre, musical performances and street acts. Barns, sheds and even hollows in the dunes become stages to cram in the many acts and performers over the 10-day period. It is not just a festival to go and see. You can be part of it, join in, learn to hone your creative side and discover new talents. Best Kept Secret - June 19-21 One of this year’s best festival line-ups can be seen if you visit the Best Kept Secret programme page on their website. Amongst the big names - Noel Gallagher’s The High Flying Birds, Royal Blood and First Aid Kit - you will find some newer discoveries from the worlds of indie, folk, rock, electronica and hip-hop, such as Cairo Liberation Front, Sue the Night and Wolf Alices. The site itself is located near to a holiday park and campsite, and features some pristine forests, a beach and an excellent selection of food and beverages. Down the Rabbit Hole - June 26-28 As a close family member to Family Lowlands, Down The Rabbit Hole is all about ‘adventure, confusion, surrealism and psychedelics’, and is fast developing a strong reputation as one of the Netherlands' greener and less crowded festivals. The programme this summer includes some great musical talent: Iggy Pop, War on Drugs, Alabama Shakes, Damian Rice, Blaudzun and Ghostpoet. Zwarte Cross - July 24-26 Zwarte Cross is a fun-fuelled music and motorcross festival, where you can listen to some unique acts, performances and ‘countless kick-ass stunts’ (so their website claims). This year it is being held in the last weekend of July, mid-summer festival season. The line-up includes 150 bands from home and abroad, performing on 24 stages. Music styles include pop, blues, dance, reggae, hard rock, disco and, wait for it, German schlager. Lowlands - August 21-23 With roughly 200 acts, spread over three days and around 10 stages, this festival offers much more than just music – be it dance, hip hop, rock, pop and alternative. The organisers are geared towards the experience, which is why you will come across street theatre, stand-up comedy, literature and cabaret as well. Acts to note this year: Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Caribou, Jose Gonzalez, SBTRKT, and Courtney Barnett. Crossing Border – various dates Crossing Border focuses on the combination of literature, performance and music and organises several events and festivals throughout the year. The main event takes place in The Hague from November 12-15. Check out the website for dates and performers – not yet updated for 2015. Le Guess Who? - November 19-22 Le Guess Who? is a four-day independent music festival which has been held in Utrecht since 2007. The festival takes place in a variety of locations throughout the city and combines an eclectic collection of today's burgeoning talent with one-of-a-kind acts. Generally the festival is host to more than 60 acts, some new faces, some often performing their first show in the Netherlands. On May 23, Le Guess Who? will present their new music event titled ‘One Night in Pandora’, featuring hyperactive psych/garage band Thee Oh Sees, doom metal powerhouses Pallbearer, psychedelic wunderkind Morgan Delt and Noura Mint Seymali. Other listings If you are looking for dance music, the Iamsterdam website has a list of big events in and around the Dutch capital. Big dance festivals include Mysteryland, Dance Valley, the Sensation franchise and the massive Amsterdam Dance Event.  More >


10 Dutch delicacies to buy in snack bars

10 Dutch delicacies to buy in snack bars

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


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

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

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


Video: Dutch pranksters show Ikea art to art experts

Video: Dutch pranksters show Ikea art to art experts

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


Video: House of Cards The Hague x 2

Video: House of Cards The Hague x 2

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


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

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

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