How to Avoid the Other Tourists in Amsterdam

How to Avoid the Other Tourists in Amsterdam

As anyone who has ever arrived in Amsterdam early on a Friday evening in the summer knows, the city is full of tourists. Some nights, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who lives in the city on the walk from your train to Dam Square. Nina van der Weiden, author of How to Avoid the Other Tourists in Amsterdam, wanted to highlight all of the places away from that crush of tourists and offer something with more local flavour. Her book takes you through five sections of Amsterdam: West, South, East, North and Centre. Each section gets its own chapter, subdivided into neighbourhoods. All of the chapters include a suggested walking route (or, in the case of North, cycling). The book highlights restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, museums and more which the author finds to be less touristy and more Dutch and are described on the book's website as 'the funniest, most beautiful, striking, exclusive or most ordinary' of the city’s restaurants, etc. They range from locations in every guide book (The EYE, Westerkerk) to the obscure (The Plague House in West and a soup restaurant in North.) There are also lots of bits about history and culture in the introductions to each chapter. As an off-the-beaten-path guidebook, it’s useful.If you have a lot of out-of-town guests, you might want to have a copy on hand. Even for locals, a number of the walks and relatively unknown restaurants are interesting. The material makes for some really great first date ideas. Unlike Lonely Planet or other travel books, its shape makes it difficult to carry as a guide book. It’s too wide to fit easily into your hands. Also, it spends a lot of text on walking directions, which, in the era of Google Maps, aren’t especially useful. It’s also clearly been written by a Dutch person and could have used a native English editor. Aside from its flaws, it is a curious and useful book. Grab a copy and when the weather is nice, follow the book’s Poets’ Walk which starts at the Cookie Bridge or have it on hand, along with a public transport smart card, for when your in-laws are visiting. Buy this book Molly Quell  More >






Amsterdam Foodie

Amsterdam Foodie

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




Amsterdamming

Amsterdamming

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



European Mama

European Mama

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


Holland Cycling

Holland Cycling

Explore the Netherlands the Dutch way - by bicycle. Includes where to go, planning your trip, tips and info. More >


I love Noord

I love Noord

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Amsterdive

Amsterdive

Amsterdam based actress invites you to dive with her into the cultural life of the city. More >


ABC Nederlands English

ABC Nederlands English is a bilingual alphabet book for children. Author Alison O'Dornan introduces children to the alphabet using words and objects that begin with the same letter in Dutch and English. Words like Banana and Banaan, Moon and Maan are illustrated with pictures and accompanied by a simple sentence in both languages making them easy to understand. With one letter per page this colourful little book is short enough to hold their attention and presented in a style that will appeal to kids. Diglot Books specializes in bilingual language guides for youngsters and they have recently launched a range of Flash Cards based around a shopping theme with pictures of items written in English and Dutch. Any of their titles or products would make a perfect first introduction for children starting to learn a second language. ABC Nederlands English is just one in a series that includes: Spanish, German, French and Italian. Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >


Roxy

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


Old Heart

Old Heart is a novel about Tom Johnson, an 85-year old American widower who embarks on a mission to find Sarah van Praag, the Dutch woman he fell in love with during WWII. Tom’s journey takes him back to Veldhoven, a small town close to Eindhoven in the southern province of North Brabant, where he had been stationed during the war. In doing so, he eludes his adult children, Brooks and Christine, who have their own motives for wanting to see their father relocated in a local retirement village. His relationships with all family members are beautifully detailed throughout the novel. Old Heart is about love, loss, aging, relationships and self-discovery. It is a story of Dutch people and culture, from an American perspective.  Ferry’s portrayal of Veldhoven and its inhabitants rings true, a consequence of him having lived in the town as a Fulbright exchange teacher in 1991-2. As a novelist the author displays remarkable talent in transposing the story through timeframes, continents and narrators. Ferry refuses to take the easy path by jumping to fairy tale conclusions. Every character is complex and their negative attributes are clearly displayed. This full exposure gives the characters substance and the plot credibility. At no time is the reader presented with a stereotypical ‘sweet old person’ character – often found in books and films, but never found in real life. Old Heart requires the reader to question the idea that making decisions and taking chances is something older people are incapable of doing. Setting the tale in the Netherlands, both in the present day and during WWII, offers a Dutch cultural and historical perspective, which is softly differentiated from that apparent in North America. Old Heart is a thought-provoking and entertaining novel. Highly recommended. Ana McGinley  More >


The Darkness that Divides Us

Born in Amsterdam in 1954, Renate Dorrestein began her working life as a journalist for the Dutch magazine Panorama. Her first novel Buitenstaanders (1983) became a bestseller and marked the beginning of an industrious career in literature. Dorrestein has published more than 30 fictional and autobiographical books, some of which have been translated or made into films - gaining her international recognition as a writer of merit. Dorrestein’s collection of work was awarded the Annie Romein Prize in 1993. She won the Vondel Prize for Translation for her novel Heart of Stone and was nominated for numerous literary prizes including the Libris Literature Prize for Een Sterke Man (A Strong Man) and the AKO prize for Zonder Genade (Without Mercy).  Dorrestein has twice written the national Dutch Book Week complimentary book, in 1997 and 2008. The Darkness that Divides Us Initially published in 2003 as Het Duister dat Ons Scheidt, this recently released version was translated by Hester Velmans and is available to English readers as The Darkness that Divides Us. The novel is a family drama infused with mystery. The book is divided into three parts, with each part covering a six-year period. The 26 chapters are titled with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with ‘A is for Abacus’ and ending with ‘Z is for Zeal’. The storyline revolves around a Lucy, a Dutch girl who spends her early childhood living in a rectory with her artist mother and their two male boarders, Ludo and Duco. A tragic crime is committed, resulting in Lucy’s mother being sent to prison and six-year-old Lucy experiencing a drastic drop in popularity with her peers. Her childhood in this idyllic Dutch village becomes an ordeal when the children commence a constant regime of bullying. In Part Two Lucy’s mother is released from jail and returns home. The local community is unwilling to allow her re-entry into the life she had prior to her incarceration. Lucy too is unable to reconnect her relationship with her mother, preferring the company and guidance of Duco and Ludo. Seeking a panacea to their domestic unrest, the four escape to a life of anonymity on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Here Lucy is given the chance to reshape her childhood with the island children. The final part of the book focuses on Lucy departing Lewis and the care of her guardians for Amsterdam where she plans to live independently and attend college. Her resolution disappears upon seeing someone from her past. She quickly slips into a funk, unable to leave her room. A meeting with her mother in the final pages resolves the mystery that has been weaved throughout the narrative, shaping the lives of the main characters. Beautiful, happy people? No. Dorrestein doesn’t write about beautiful people. She refrains from sentimentality in her character descriptions, choosing instead to expose their flaws. These negative attributes are easily identifiable in the general populace. The children in the book may be adventurous in their antics, yet in general, are written as nasty, dirty, destructive bullies. Adult characters are devoid of empathy and driven by their own insecurities. The plot holds tightly together, tempting the reader further to uncover the secrets hidden in later pages. The translation of this narrative of complicated interpersonal relationships is the work of an extremely skilled translator in Hester Velmans. The Darkness that Divides Us succeeds as an English language novel and is highly recommended. Ana McGinley Buy this book  More >


The Netherlands in 26 iconic objects

What do ice skates, orthodox Christians and ecstasy pills have in common? They are all quintessentially Dutch objects featured in a new anthology which explores what it means to come from the Netherlands. Dutch writers were given the task of jotting down their favourite facts and memories about the objects that surround them in the Netherlands. The result is a pretty unique insight into what makes this country tick, from the herring cart to the notorious face mitt. Contributions come from writer Mano Bouzamour who tackles the beer bike, columnist Gerry van der List who looks at the Dutch love of garden gnomes and Wim Brandts who deals with the ubiquitous stroopwafel - among many others. Of course, many of these objects were not even invented in the Netherlands, as the book reluctantly admits, but the adoration for them is still clear. According to Henk van Os, the cheese parer, a Norwegian invention, belongs in the Netherlands and should be left to the Dutch to operate properly. Overall the tales create a picture of what is important to the Dutch and how this makes them unique. And the stories show the eccentric ways in which the Dutch fiercely guard national traditions, such as their passion for using orange at all national celebrations. There are also times when the book reveals something new about the country known for its windmill owning, bike riding tendencies. The books list of items might seem stereotypical but all is not as it seems. The tulip bulb has less to do with Dutch culture than with continuing a booming tourist industry and is certainly not seen by the Dutch as their national flower. From geraniums to black stockings, the stories provide many anecdotes from the typically Dutch childhoods of the 26 writers who contributed. However be warned, the romanticised memories experienced through the eyes of the infant Netherlander becomes heavy reading experience when read together. With the words 'Dutch' and 'the Netherlands' used over 175 times, this collection is stuffed full of factoids that you can impress both visitors and Dutch nationals with. Julia Corbett  More >


The Harbour Master

The latest novella from British author, Daniel Pembrey, is a thriller set in modern day Amsterdam. The Harbour Master escorts readers into the seedier parts of the Dutch capital in this fast-paced tale of prostitution, murder, human trafficking and police corruption. Amsterdam police detective, Henk van der Pol, is on the downhill run towards his retirement. During an early morning patrol, he discovers a woman's body floating in the Amsterdam harbour. Henk becomes overtly suspicious of the police investigation into the case, and is soon denied all access to information about the dead woman and the cause of her demise by his superiors. Fortunately, Henk is able to identify the tattoo on the corpse'Ž“s ankle before he is barred from the investigation. The tattoo directs him to Amsterdam'Ž“s underbelly, the red light district, where he uncovers an unhealthy relationship between the pimps, prostitutes, police and politicians. This discovery places Henk and his family in peril, and entails Henk fighting for their safety without the support of the local constabulary. The Harbour Master is a fast, tight and suspenseful read. The economical format of the novella demands the removal of all excess fodder from the narrative. The characters are swiftly introduced, developed and connected to the plot. Henks'Ž“ colleagues, both old and new, are smoothly incorporated, with dialogue and action congruous to the specific character and situation. The relationships linking Henk, his wife, and their daughter are flawlessly executed. A good example is the description of Henk's daughter, Nadia, receiving a surprise visit from her father at the café¸ she works in. Her discomfort, apparent in what she says and how her movements are described, makes the reader feel like an eye witness. Pembrey shows great skill as a crime fiction writer. His understanding and portrayal of people, places and situations is remarkable. The Harbour Master is a highly recommended addition to this popular literary genre. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Mr Miller

Born in Australia in 1952, Charles den Tex was five years old when his parents repatriated home to the Netherlands. As a young adult, den Tex studied and worked in Paris and England before embarking on a career as a communication and management consultant in the Netherlands. From communications consultant to writer Since publishing his first book in 1995, Den Tex has been a prolific writer of crime fiction often against a background of fraud in trade and industry. Until recently all his works were written and published only in Dutch, limiting his appeal to an enthusiastic Dutch reading audience. Throughout his career as a writer Den Tex has been frequently nominated for book awards. Three of his books: Schijn de Kans (2002); De Macht van Meneer Miller) (2005; Cel (2008) - have won the prestigious Golden Noose award (a Dutch annual prize for the best thriller). The first two books listed here were made into television series, and Cel a film Mr Miller The first of den Tex’s novels to become available in English translation from World Editions, Mr Miller was first published more than a decade ago. The cover identifies the book as ‘the ultimate internet conspiracy’, which in 2005 would have attracted more questions than in 2016 when Internet treachery seems commonplace in the crime world. Central character, Michael Bellicher is a communication consultant for HC&P, an Amsterdam based company with an impressive list of high profile European clients. Bellicher is young, smart, ambitious and reaping the rewards of sacrificing his personal life for the company. Both his best friend (Gijs) and love-interest (Jessica) are employees of HC&P. The story opens with Michael at Schiphol airport awaiting the arrival of his brother, Kurt, who he has not see for five and a half years. On seeing his brother, Michael collapses from an anxiety attack. He abandons his family for the solitude of his apartment, drinks heavily for three days, and then returns to his workplace to discover the fallout from his solecism. In a desperate move to save his career, Michael quickly secures an important client and hides in the company building after closing hours, allowing him to work on his new project through the night. His plan dissolves on discovering a dead woman outside the office canteen, and overhearing her murderers discussing what to do with the body. After the body is found in the company’s basement parking garage, Michael is identified as the only person registered as being inside the building on the night of the murder – making him the primary suspect in the case. Fearing for his freedom, Michael absconds and goes underground seeking information needed to prove his innocence. Things quickly become crazy when it becomes evident that not only does someone want Michael dead, they seem to know his every move. Following some serious attempts on his life, Michael unravels a small part of the mystery by connecting the website of Mr Miller to both the dead woman and his current peril. Who or what Mr Miller is becomes the foundation for this racing thriller. Authentic Dutch thrills As a techno conspiracy theory thriller, Mr Miller is a tight tale. Having worked in the same world as Michael, den Tex provides a believable account of the world of a high-end communication consultant. By setting the thriller predominantly in Amsterdam, he provides local flavor to the tale and adds authenticity to the characters and their relationships. Credit too to Nancy Forest-Flier as the novel’s translator. This exciting read from Charles den Tex comes highly recommended. Ana McGinley Read Charles den Tex' blog on identity  More >


The House of Dolls

British author David Hewson is better known for writing two novels based on the hit Danish television show, The Killing, but this time, he'Ž“s in Amsterdam, with his new novel, The House of Dolls, which will be part of a series. The book follows a retired police detective who is brought back to work after the purported kidnapping of a young woman under circumstances similar to those of his own daughterŽ“s three years before. Like Hewson'Ž“s other work, The House of Dolls is a dark thriller that follows the flow of the city it's set in. The protagonist, Pieter Vos, is pulled back into the underworld of Amsterdam'Ž“s organised crime in the hope that he can offer some insight into the possible kidnapping of Katja Prins, the daughter of a local politician. He'Ž“s partnered with Laura Bakker, a junior detective whose Frisian accent and small-town upbringing don'Ž“t mesh with the hardened Amsterdam police force. Vos agrees to help the case, in the hopes that solving it will lead him to his own missing daughter. The novel vividly describes Amsterdam, both in appearance and in feel and it'Ž“s easy to get lost in the city'Ž“s seedy underworld. In all, a great holiday read. Buy this book by David Hewson  More >


Hieronymus

Marcel Ruijters is an award winning Dutch comic artist with a fascination for medieval art, which is obvious in his own artwork. As part of the 2016 programme of festivities commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, Ruijters was commissioned by the Bosch 500 Foundation and Mondriaan Art Fund to produce a graphic book about the artist’s life. The result of this commission is the graphic novel Hieronymus (English) or Jheronimus (Dutch version), a hard-covered comic arranged in five chapters and filled with phantasmagorical images recognisable from Bosch’s own art. A history trip Rather than a comprehensive biography, the five chapters cover various significant periods in the author’s life. The drawings add the historical context to the narrative: the role of the Church; the public hatred of the Dominican Order for their participation in the Inquisition; the 1463 fire that destroyed a considerable section of Den Bosch’s inner city buildings; and a culture that incorporated both debauchery and chronic hardships. The story of Hieronymus is weaved through the illustrations, depicting him as the third son in a family of artists – who made a living producing artworks commissioned by the Church. As a young man he questioned his work and domestic situation, almost moving to Belgium before heeding the foreboding of a palm reader he encountered in a tavern. On his return to Den Bosch, he is confronted by serious family conflict that eventually results in his taking control of the business. Bizarre and amazing art Ruijters’ illustrations are difficult to describe. Often simultaneously gruesome and hilarious, especially the images of convicted criminals having their limbs chopped off and genitals mutilated in front of a jeering crowd, and under the supervision of a religious dignitary. Individual characters have unique features and expressions, an impressive feat considering the numerous crowd scenes. Background sketches of a Dutch city and surrounding countryside in the 1500s seem authentic, often including unsavory details like freak show employees and leper colonies hassling for coins. Who was Hieronymus? I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic ride but was left with some unanswered questions about the artist and his work. What is the actual story behind the surreal creatures in his famous triptych ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’? Was Hieronymus having fun or mentally ill as he painted these images? Hopefully, the flurry of activities being organised to commemorate 500 years since his death will answer them. Ana McGinley books@dutchnews.nl  More >


The Little History of The Hague for Dummies

Adding to the Dummies franchise of books is a new historical reference guide to The Hague. Written by Leon van der Hulst and translated by Barbara Stuart, A Little History of The Hague for Dummies is a pocket book of 159 pages encompassing 6,000 years of life in the political capital of the Netherlands. Despite its size, it adheres to the traditional Dummies format with the familiar icons and concluding with a list of 10 interesting facts. History books usually read like storybooks. They are, after all, a tale of events that have taken place over long periods of time. The For Dummies reference guides generally target an audience seeking a basic understanding of a topic. As such, The Little History of The Hague for Dummies is successful in highlighting all major developments in the city’s history. The chapters are short and include interesting tidbits on local people and topics that enhance the reading experience. The downside of this book is that the disjointed structure and paucity of information makes it difficult to get a clear grasp on the themes and events that have taken place. Adding to the confusion is the repetition of some details, the fact that the kings had the same name (different number), and the sheer mass of the significant events that demand inclusion but are restricted in length to a few short sentences. It is all in the reading Nevertheless, while a tourist guide will give descriptions about specific buildings, this book provides an opportunity to dive a little deeper into The Hague by offering some historical facts about what happened within its boundaries. A good example is the Huis ten Bosch which was built in 1645 and currently one of the official residences of the Dutch royal family. It has, the book informs the reader, been home to King Louis Napolean and stadthouders Frederik Hendrik, Willem IV and V – and has functioned as a summerhouse, prison, brothel and museum. (p.151) A little summary The Little History of The Hague for Dummies is a pocket size guide to the history of the city. For readers who love their history books, it will whet your appetite to learn more. Tourists will attain a deeper understanding of the city using the guide then possible from travel guidebooks. And for the non-Dutch reader living in the Netherlands, the book will equip you with sufficient knowledge to participate in many discussions about the city without sounding like a total twit. Ana McGinley  More >