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


Delft is heating up this summer with the Sizzling Summer of Space

Delft is heating up this summer with the Sizzling Summer of Space

A two month long international space university might not be your idea of a summer vacation, but for experts in the space industry, that’s exactly what they will be doing in Delft during the upcoming months. With them come a summer-long series of events with a space theme, open to every would-be astronaut or astronomer. Some 110 space professionals from 25 countries will pack into Delft later this month to learn about the latest in space technology, advancements in research and to boost cooperation between institutions and universities involved in exploring space - as part of the International Space University's space studies programme. The ISU was founded in the US in 1987 and is headquartered in Strasbourg but moves to a different location for its summer school every year. This year, Delft has the honours. ‘Space is increasingly important for society worldwide. I think the Netherlands is an excellent place for educating the next generation of space professionals,’ says Ger Nieuwpoort, director of the Netherlands Space Office which is hosting this, the 31st edition of the ISU, together with Delft University of Technology, Leiden University and the European Space Agency (ESA.) Astronaut ESA, of course, is the hub of space research in Europe, comparable to the US’s NASA and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, who spent over six months on the International Space Station, is a household name. Space, in the Netherlands, is a popular topic. Seeking to make the most of this influx of space experts, the ISU has organised a series of events open to the public with a focus on space. The programme officially opens on June 25th at ESA in Noordwijk and king Willem-Alexander will be present at the ceremony. While ISU may focus on education and networking, the public calendar is full with events ranging from entertaining to weird. Alumni, students and staff of both TU Delft and the University of Leiden can listen to Jeff Hoffman, known as the Hubble repairman, speak on June 27. Films The Filmhuis Lumen in Delft will show a space-themed movie each week during the summer, all presented by academics from TU Delft with knowledge of the specific issues covered in the movies. Interstellar, Alien and Moon are among the highlights, so if you’ve ever had doubts about life on other planets or wormholes, this is your chance to ask an expert. In addition, space fans can meet astronauts from ESA and NASA during the Astronaut Panel while the Science Cafe Den Haag will host three experts who will talk about the practicalities of space travel, ranging from space law to what it’s like to live on Mars. The programme also offers a number of child-friendly events, including the presentation of the Lego Moon City, built by 300 school children from Delft. ‘Lego is a versatile toy that sparks the imagination of kids and adults alike. Children can imagine and build their own future,’ says Ellen Pennings, owner of De Bonte Bouwplaats, which is organising the Moon City event. The villages will be on display in Delft town hall during the summer. Robots The course also organises a robot building competition for university students and Kuipers will be present for the finale of the competition, where the students will pit their robots against those designed by experts. The public is welcome to attand. Children are also welcome to watch a rocket launch, as the course participants build their own rocket to launch during the summer.. You can find the full programme online at the Sizzling Summer of Space website  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Did You Spill My Coffee Edition – Week 23

DutchNews podcast – The Did You Spill My Coffee Edition – Week 23

This week's podcast asks if Amsterdam can hold back the rampant spread of tourism in the age of Airbnb and stag weekends. We also look back at a week in which Mark Rutte's handiness with a mop broke the internet, universities once again asked if English is taking over on campus, AD's fishy judging panels kicked up a stink and two fallen giants of world football went through the motions in Turin. Ophef of the week Frosty reception for Leidschendam ice-cream salesman's 'healthy option' AD scraps 'taste tests' in row over alleged bias and vitriol Top story Rutte to meet Trump at White House in July – reports Prime minister goes viral after cleaning up own mess \   News Minister says English at Dutch universities 'must not compromise standards' Deal struck on teachers' pay but strikes will still go ahead Dogs and cars top list of neighbourhood nuisances Sport Netherlands and Italy play out 1-1 draw in battle of World Cup absentees (FourFourTwo) Dumoulin will be on start line for Tour de France Ajax 'rejects offer from AS Roma for Justin Kluivert' Discussion: Too many tourists spoil the capital Amsterdam faces radical measures to reverse 'theme park-isation' Tourism sees fastest growth in 10 years (CBS) Tourism in Netherlands increases by 40% in 15 years (2015) Economic benefits of tourism in Amsterdam are overrated, say experts Tourists spent nearly €40 billion in Italy last year (The Local Italy) Madrid brings in Airbnb restrictions to curb mass tourism (CNN)  More >


How to buy a house in Amsterdam and Amstelveen – don’t be afraid to take the plunge!

How to buy a house in Amsterdam and Amstelveen – don’t be afraid to take the plunge!

The housing market in and around Amsterdam and Amstelveen can be pretty complex but more and more international workers see owning their own home as the best answer to ever rising rents. So if you've decided to take the plunge, how to buy a house? Buying your own home in a foreign country might seem daunting, but it is perfectly possible – as long as you get proper advice. Currently in Amsterdam and Amstelveen, properties are selling quickly and prices have risen to record levels over the past year. Nevertheless, there are still great buys around and a tuned-in estate agent will help you make the most of your money. There are plenty of legal ins and outs to deal with as well, so you will need to get good legal advice from a specialist notary too. On Sunday, June 24, a special event is being held at the Vondel church close to the park to help expats find their way around the housing maze. ‘The event will guide you through the entire home buying process, including the roles played by the real estate agent, the mortgage advisor and the notary,’ says organiser Monique Burgemeester. ‘You can find out about getting a mortgage in the Netherlands, get interior designer advice from a pro or even talk to a builder about renovations.’ Shortages ‘It's hard to buy a house in Amsterdam because there is so little owner-occupied property,’ says real estate agency Barry Burgemeester. ‘Just 30% of the city’s total property stock is privately owned. So finding and buying that house can be quite a challenge. That’s why it’s good to talk to someone who really understands the market.’ Of course, before you really get stuck into house hunting you need to find out how much you can borrow. ‘If you find a nice place it is crucial that you can act quickly and know your financial limits,’ says Henk Janssen of Expat Mortgages.   ‘You need to know exactly what you can afford, so that you can make a bid and start negotiating. But you also need to know about the risks associated with a mortgage. We work with most banks and insurance companies so should be able to outline all the options open to you.’ Family law Once you’ve found your ideal home and secured a mortgage, it’s time to think about the paperwork. And that is where the notary – a type of lawyer who deals with housing contracts, wills and other family law issues – comes in. ‘All the official ‘moves’ for buying a home take place in the presence of a notary,’ says Dirk Kasper, of Kasper Notariaat, which specialises in helping internationals deal with the legal side of home ownerships. He too will be on hand to answer questions at the Amsterdam meeting. And if your dream home needs some renovations, Gisela Bakker of building company Bakker Bouw can guide you through the process. 'Getting the right permits can be complicated, but we can take care of that for you,' she says. 'It is our job to find out rules and regulations, before we start. 'Big renovation projects can take up a lot of time and research, and often requires a lot of patience, but the end result will be more than worth it.' In short, there is a lot to think about. If you’d like to find out more, or get answers to some of your questions, sign up for Sunday’s session and talk to the experts face to face. And if you’ve got the kids in tow, there will be a free nanny service to keep them entertained as well.  More >


Dutchnews.nl destinations:  explore 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen

Dutchnews.nl destinations: explore 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen

Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, started life as a Roman military encampment in the 1st century BC. Esther O'Toole spent a weekend exploring. Despite its location on the Waal river, Nijmegen is not the prettiest of Dutch cities - much of it was bombed in World War II and planners in the 1960s and 70s helped finish the job. So, although the charming main square retains a sense of history and the centre is welcoming to visitors, if you are after long strolls through medieval streets you will be largely disappointed. However history buffs, whether young or old or favouring ancient or modern periods, will have lots to explore. Politically Nijmegen is a progressive stronghold in the Netherlands, so much so that it’s sometimes referred to as Havana on the Waal. Its liberalism is tangible in the laid-back, terrace culture that has developed over time; a strong vibe of intellectual curiosity in the events scene, which has lots of ties to the student life of the Radboud University; and the great independent shopping scene. If you've had enough of the city itself, nature lovers can hike, cycle and join the forester for tours of the many surrounding national parks and forests: check out The Ooijpolder-De Vlietburg nature reserve, the Overasseltse and Hatertse fens and,half an hour south, the Maasduinen National Park. Things to do Experience war For visitors whose countries didn’t experience occupation in World War II, the Dutch wartime experience is a revelation of practicalities that you may not have been taught in high school back home. For surprising exhibitions and workshops, in espionage skills or radiography, head to the beautiful grounds of Nijmegen’s Liberation Museum. They have a large permanent collection and also a series of special events throughout the year. Or, head over to the Radboud University's newly opened Escape Room. A unique educational experience for groups, it uses the wartime stories of then rector Bernard Hermesdorf (who shut the campus rather than work with the Germans) and Jozef van Hövell (leader of the student resistance) to give visitors an experiential understanding of life under occupation. If you’re particularly interested in this period of history, you may also want to go a little further south to the War Museum at Overloon too. Experience blindness Another curious museum to see, or in fact not see, is the muZIEem. A unique place dedicated to sight, muZIEM offers you the chance to actually experience for yourself what it is to be blind. They provide tours in English as well as Dutch which are guaranteed to be eye-opening. Go dancing If you’re looking for nightlife the legendary Doornroosje is still going strong. A breeding ground for youth culture since 1968, the venue has expanded in recent years but still has the intimate feel that first made it popular. They have independent indie gigs, dance nights and more. Shop If you want a range of shops and activities all in one place, you could head to the Honigcomplex. The old industrial building is full of independent traders and concept stores. Or try Hezelstraat. It’s a little gem, the oldest shopping street in the entire country! Full of gorgeous independent shops and cafes. You can find anything here; art from around the world, herbs and spices, artisanal cheese, vinyl records - you name it! Stargaze If you should visit in the winter months, head to the Huygens building at the Radboud University, which now houses the biggest telescope in The Netherlands. In the winter months (up to the end of March) they host regular star watching nights. With the telescope’s exceptionally large lens, on a clear night, you may be able to see planets or other galaxies with your own eyes and it’s free! Where to eat After you have shopped yourself silly on Hezelstraat you can rest up at The Yoghurt Barn. No it’s not just yoghurt - though their range of yoghurt-related treats is truly exceptional! They have super quality coffee, uber-healthy lunches and brunches, high tea and even picnics (available to order). Catering or hiring their food truck for your event is also possible. Burger lovers rejoice! Restaurant Wally’s has everything covered for you. It’s local! It’s sustainable! It’s beefy, or veggy or occasionally wild goose! Very child friendly and yet trendy too, Wally’s near the river is a great spot for a late lunch or long dinner. Open 15.00 - 22.00. Ice cream parlours are popular throughout this sunny, summertime city; whichever part of town you’re in you shouldn’t be too far away from a good gelato. Try Vincenzo, Ghiani, or Spinnato which also does good Italian meals. If cocktails are your thing then you will get as far as Cafe Demain and go no further. Every sort of cocktail imaginable can be shaken or stirred for you here, you can learn to do it yourself with their regular workshops, compete with the best in the land in one of their cocktail mixing contests, and do all of this while listening to great live music. Where to stay Prikkels and Blue are hotels located bang in the middle of town, with gorgeous details in the rooms and restaurants full of local produce. If you want to have your own space though, try and get a spot at luxuriant little B&B, Le Charme. They have two very comfortable apartments and both are perfectly situated to enjoy all of Nijmegen’s city-centre charms, or use as a base for exploring the region at large. How to get there Nijmegen is a central train hub for this part of the country, so there are direct trains to Amsterdam, Utrecht and other major cities. By car it is about an hour and a half from Amsterdam, and is connected by the A15, A50, and A73 to other parts of the country. If you’re prepared to do some long distance trekking you could even arrive on foot! The Pieterpad, the longest uninterrupted walking route in The Netherlands (498 km) also passes through the woods outside of town. When to visit Recently Nijmegen has branded itself as The Summer Capital of Holland, and with good reason. There are masses of things to do all throughout the summer months. The city boasts a wide range of summer festivals between July and September including Festival De Oversteek (The Crossing), on the river island of Veur Lent, which offers a rich and eclectic mix of music, literature, theatre and kids stuff. However, unless you are a fan of enormous crowds, avoid the second week of July, when the Nijmegen Vierdaagse, or four-day march, takes place.  More >


Blogwatching: Where to eat… Dutch food in Amsterdam

Blogwatching: Where to eat… Dutch food in Amsterdam

British by birth and Dutch by choice, Vicky Hampton is a writer, cook and avid foodie who has lived and worked in Amsterdam since 2006. Vicky launched her blog Amsterdam Foodie in 2007 and it is now an indispensable guide to the city’s eateries and beyond. In all honesty, I don’t eat a huge amount of Dutch food. Yes, I live in the Netherlands – but it seems that even the average Dutch person doesn’t eat that much of their national cuisine – especially those who live in Amsterdam. And yet, when I’m approached to write articles, it’s the topic I’m most likely to be asked to write on. A while ago, I wrote this post on Dutch food and drinks for Eating Amsterdam; they’ve commissioned a set of 'foodie maps' – illustrations of the national cuisines of the Netherlands, Czech Republic, United Kingdom and (soon) Italy, and where each dish comes from in the country. I thought the Dutch one was cute (it’s so orange!) and I was interested to teach myself about the origins of the various Dutch foods I take for granted. So I did a little research and this was the result. But then I wondered where I go in Amsterdam when I want to eat Dutch food? And I came up with this (albeit short) list… These restaurants range from traditional to modern, and from places you might eat just a lunchtime snack to those you’d visit to pick up ingredients for dinner. I say this all the time, but on this occasion the words are especially appropriate: Eet Smakelijk! Fine dining: Floreyn There’s very little Dutch food in Amsterdam that’s both sophisticated and true to its traditions. But Floreyn walks that line perfectly. Think bitterbal, but then filled with Messeklever cheese and served with smoked beetroot, radish, apple and fennel. Or mustard soup that’s been deconstructed into a clear broth with a cheese foam and three types of mustard. Even dessert uses local, seasonal vegetables: carrot and parsnip ice cream with a sweet hutspot and citrusy crème brulee. This is very accomplished cooking that stays true to its Dutch roots. It may not be cheap, but the quality of Floreyn’s food and wines, as well as its great location in de Pijp, is more than worth the price tag. Read my full review of Floreyn Traditional: Greetje The perfect place to take your parents to, Greetje serves charmingly translated dishes (pigeon’s hangover, anyone? Or perhaps the yoghurt marbles?) that are as tasty as they are endearing. Think pot roasts, mustard soup, and deer pâté, as well as some fish and vegetarian dishes. It’s not cheap, but the service is excellent – which is not to be underestimated in Amsterdam. Read my full review of Greetje Modern: Wilde Zwijnen Whether you choose to go to the original Wilde Zwijnen or the newer Eetbar Wilde Zwijnen, you won’t be disappointed with the modern Dutch cuisine on offer. I prefer the Eetbar personally – they serve small, shareable plates of creative, seasonal food prepared with care. Slightly disappointingly, neither restaurant generally seems to have wild boar on the menu, but perhaps I’ve just been unlucky. The quality of the other meats, however, is excellent. Read my full reviews of Wilde Zwijnen and Eetbar Wilde Zwijnen Local: de Kas You can’t get much more local than plucking your fruit, veges and herbs from your own garden or greenhouse. And that’s exactly what de Kas (meaning: greenhouse) does at their Amsterdam restaurant adjacent to the Frankendael Park. What they can’t source from their own grounds, they procure from nearby farms. The menu is heavy on vegetables (unsurprisingly) so dinner at de Kas leaves you feeling light and a little virtuous, too. Read my full review of de Kas Lunch: Gartine While Gartine also has its own moestuin (allotment), it’s not quite as close to the restaurant as de Kas’s – which is hardly surprising given that Gartine is sandwiched between the Kalverstraat and the Rokin in the centre of town. I should more properly call it a tearoom, as it’s open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, but not dinner. The location is delicate and classy, but in an old-fashioned way – as if your grandma had taken a degree in interior design. The food is likewise: eggs benedict with salmon for breakfast, crayfish rillettes for lunch, and a plethora of tarts and cupcakes at tea time. While the menu doesn’t exactly scream Dutch, everything is made with such local products that I think it classifies for inclusion. Read my full review of Gartine Pancakes: Pancakes! You can’t visit Amsterdam without trying the legendary Dutch pancakes (although the Honey Badger had been living here nearly four years before I finally remembered to pop his pancake cherry); and where better to try them than the place of the same name? Pancakes! (complete with exclamation mark) serves some of the best versions in the city, and while you will see plenty of tourists, locals do treat themselves to the occasional pancake there too. Of course, you can order the regular toppings (ham and cheese, apple and stroop, and so on), but you’ll also find some more adventurous combinations. I tried one of the house specials: camembert, ham, chicory and raspberry sauce – it sounds odd, but it was strangely addictive. The Honey Badger went for a sweet-n-savoury combo of bacon, bananas and chilli – it was equally tasty so I demanded we share. Shop: Landmarkt If you’re looking to buy Dutch (organic) produce and have a bit of time on your hands, hop on your bike and head over to Schellingwoude. As the name would suggest, Landmarkt sort of resembles a covered market (or perhaps just a very nice supermarket) filled with the best quality produce – including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, charcuterie and the rest. It’s not always Dutch (they do sell bananas that clearly don’t grow here, as well as some other produce that isn’t in season in Holland), but it’s still a good bet for finding truly local, top-quality food all in one place. Try some of the cheeses from the farms north of Amsterdam – heerlijk! They also have a café inside the Landmarkt store, so if you decide to make a day of it you can stop for lunch before buying your ingredients to make dinner. Their bread is excellent, and so are their sandwiches. This blog was first published on Amsterdam Foodie. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Crunching Councils, Sleeping Lion Edition – Week 22

DutchNews podcast – The Crunching Councils, Sleeping Lion Edition – Week 22

This week's podcast brings you up to date on the process of forming council administrations after this year's local elections. Elsewhere, torrential rain causes havoc around the country, the Dutch government gets tough on Russia over the MH17 inquiry, opposition grows to reforming the 30% tax ruling, and a court makes a groundbreaking ruling on gender neutrality. We also look at how Tom Dumoulin narrowly missed out on the Giro d'Italia title and what happened when a purloined lion-shaped pearl went under the hammer. If you live in the Eindhoven area, you can now listen to the DutchNews podcast on Radio 4 Brainport at radio4brainport.org or on AM radio at 747 mHz. Ophef of the week: sad trampolines protest against new flight path over Lelystad Wij zijn er klaar voor! Doe ook mee onder de laagvliegroutes met deze actie!@hoogoverijssel@novliegrouteede@airportnee@liegveld@stildrenthe@2019NEE@reddeveluwe@hoogoverwezep pic.twitter.com/EiSnWhhMRd — Stg Red de Veluwe (@st_RdV) May 30, 2018 TOP STORY Heavy rain causes flash flooding around the country (NOS, Dutch) NEWS   Petition on 30% tax ruling for expats gets 30,000 signatures Dutch trade unions back campaign for transition period for 30% rule Netherlands and Australia blame Russia for shooting down MH17 Foreign minister Stef Blok calls on Russia to take responsibility for MH17 missile Adult wins case to be defined as gender neutral on birth certificate Cases of meningococcal meningitis on the rise Sleeping Lion pearl sells for €320,000 in The Hague SPORT Dumoulin happy with second place in Giro Promes strike saves Oranje from defeat in Slovakia (NOS, Dutch) DISCUSSION: LOCAL GOVERNMENT COALITION TALKS Amsterdam unveils plans to make city 'greenest in Europe' Groep de Mos and partners agree coalition deal in The Hague GroenLinks, D66 and ChristenUnie agree pact in Utrecht Leefbaar Rotterdam frozen out of city's coalition talks (RTV Rijnmond, Dutch) Labour MP Sharon Dijksma swaps The Hague for Amsterdam Amsterdam launches campaign against Brits behaving badly on stag weekends Rutte: 'Amsterdam has been lost to the left' (AD, Dutch) Municipalities across the country finalise coalition deals (NRC, Dutch) Survey shows older white men still dominate local government  More >


A bumper edition of entertainment: 14 great things to do in June

A bumper edition of entertainment: 14 great things to do in June

From beer tasting to bunkers, from posh frocks to a rather spooky sounding Pillowman - here's a round-up of 14 great things to do in June. Try the other Dutch beers Dutch brewers are opening their doors to the public with brewing demonstrations, beer tastings and presentations on June 1,2 and 3. Go to the website to find a brewery at walking distance and discover there is more to Dutch beer than a certain very big lager-producing company would like you to believe. Visit a bunker June 9 is national bunker day, a unique opportunity to visit the bunkers that were part of the World War II Atlantic wall defense line and which are normally not open to visitors. Website Watch a film on the beach There's open air summer entertainment beachside at cultural centre De Pllek (NDSM-werf on the IJ) with Films with a View Sunscreenings every Tuesday from June 5. Go to the website to find out about the programme and tickets. Bring sandwiches The Holland Festival kicks off again in June with a programme choc a bloc with theatre, dance, film, music and combinations of all four. Venues are spread throughout the capital. Keep an eye out for freebies such as the open air big screen presentation of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman by the National Ballet and Opera Company on June 21 in Park Frankendael (surtitled in French and English). June 7 to July 1 Website Be scared The English speaking Orange Theatre Company presents The Pillowman, a spine-  chilling and dark comedy about fiction spilling over into violence, or is it the other way around? The play, by Irish writer Martin McDonagh, explores the horrors of life in a totalitarian society. June 8 and 9. Website Think Pinkpop Pinkpop used to be held on Pinksteren (Whitsun) but has now shifted towards the summer. If you are lucky enough to find a ticket (we did warn you in May) the festival dates for this year are June 15, 16 and 17. The lineup includes Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Bruno Mars among many others. Website Come into the garden If you have ever wondered, and who hasn't, what lies behind the elegant canal houses of Amsterdam here's your chance to find out. Some 30 private owners and organisations lucky enough to occupy a canal house are opening their garden doors to the public. The theme of this year's Open Garden Days is garden design. June 15, 16 and 17. Website Have a look at the new Rembrandt The newly discovered Portrait of a Young Gentleman, widely attributed to Rembrandt, is on show at the Hermitage in Amsterdam for a short period before being sold for gazillions of euros. See it while you can. Until June 15. Website Behold the blob The Rijksmuseum entertains tourists and staycationers alike with a number of summer exhibitions. KWAB, Dutch design in the age of Rembrandt focuses on an ornamental style based on blobs. The Rijks describes it as 'syrup dripping from a spoon' and very delicious it is too. From June 30 Website Go to the park The Parkpop festival is really three in one: there is Parkpop Downtown on Friday June 22 in the centre of The Hague, Parkpop Saturday night on the 23rd and Parkpop proper the following day in the Zuiderpark. Parkpop Saturday night is the only bit you have to pay for and features Kim Wilde, Clouseau, Jason Donovan, The Boss UK, Kiss Forever Band, De Dijk, Martijn Fischer, Hot Chocolate, Gruppo Sportivo, 90's NOW!  and many others. Website Find a frock The Centraal Museum in Utrecht is celebrating a 'master of Dutch couture'. The master in question is Jan Taminiau whose creations are on show along with some of the things that have inspired him over the years, such as art, photography and design. How does a posh frock come into being? What lies behind Máxima's postal bag jacket? Until August 26. Website Bike your way around art The Hoge Veluwe Nature Park has plotted a two-hour cycle tour of a number of works of art which have all been inspired by their natural surroundings. How do works and nature influence each other? Should they be dynamited forthwith or are they an enhancement? Your are invited to ponder these and other questions on June 2 or June 30. Website Chill with Chillida The Rijksmuseum wants its visitors to get some fresh air as well this summer and has organised an outdoors treat: a stroll around the gardens of the museum where the museum's annual sculpture show features ten of Bask artist Eduardo Chillida's large steel structures. It's the first time the works can be seen together in the Netherlands. From June 22. Website Stop press: the Queen's English Theatre Company is putting on two short plays - 'A Chip in the Sugar' and 'Bed Among the Lentils' - by Alan Bennett this month, and they are touring the country. For dates see the website.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: go north to Leeuwarden

DutchNews.nl destinations: go north to Leeuwarden

It's the capital of Friesland, in which case its name is spelt Ljouwert . The elfstedentocht starts and finishes here. It’s home to Mata Hari and Escher and the 2018 European Capital of Culture. Molly Quell has been checking out Leeuwarden. Leeuwarden is north. Like any well-integrated person in the Netherlands, I consider any place more than 20 kilometres far. So the two hour train trip (from Amsterdam) seems like an eternity. But the trek was worth it to spend a weekend in this small city in Friesland with unexpectedly great cocktails and really interesting museums. Things to do People having been living in the region continously since the 10th century and Leeuwarden was granted city status in 1435. As such, it boasts a tremendous amount of history, as well as 617 national monuments. Walk Leeuwarden is a walkable city, so set out for a walking tour of the city centre. Visitors should start with the Blokhuispoort, a former prison. You can head inside to check out the prison cells turned artist spaces or just take a good Instagram picture. Then head over to the Kanselarij, a former hospital; the neo-gothic Sint-Bonifatiuskerk and end at de Waag, the former weigh station. Visit the Princessehof National Ceramics Museum This former palace was built in 1693 and occupied by Marie Louise, dowager Princess of Orange, who acquired a large ceramic collection during her life. Upon her death, the palace was split into three houses and, in 1898, MC Escher was born in the middle house. The houses were recombined in 1917 and turned into a museum. The permanent collection contains a variety of ceramic objects from around the world including a large assortment of Frisian pottery and a tempting gift shop. Check out the Fries Museum The museum's permanent collection brings you the history of the region through art, pottery, costumes and domesticity - check out the 'mother of all Hinderlooper rooms' for full-on Dutch tiles, chintz and hand-painted furniture. There's also a cinema, which regularly shows art house films. The museum accepts the national museum card but if you don't have one, you can get a discount on both tickets if you purchase a package for the ceramics museum as well. Climb the Oldehove.  After heaving yourself up the 183 steps, there's a nice view of the city from the top of Leeuwarden's own leaning tower. The 40 metre high medieval church tower was supposed to be 120 metres in the original planning, but started to sag and was never finished. The locals will remind you that it leans further than the Tower of Pisa and there’s even a saying about it: 'A'k de Oldehove niet siën ken, dan foël ik my onwennich' or 'If I don’t see the Oudehove, I’m uncomfortable' - meaning real locals don’t want to stay away for too long. Get in some cultural events Leeuwarden is the 2018 European City of Culture and has a packed programme of events. The blockbusters include exhibitions about MC Escher at the Fries Museum; a play involving 100 Frisian horses called De Stormruiter; French street theatre company Royal de Luxe which performs with 15-metre tall marionettes and the tall Ships Races Harlingen 2018. Welcome To The Village, a musical festival, takes place from July 19 - 22 while the Northern Film Festival takes places from November 5 - 9. Where To Eat Leeuwarden has a surprising number of very good restaurants. You can find a really nice bite at Sjoddy, a wine bar which also offers chorizo bitterballen and oysters. For a more substantial meal, try Eindeloos, which offers a prix fixe menu using seasonal ingredients. The fixed menu concept is popular in the city, as another highly regarded restaurant, By Us, offers the same concept. Skip the tearoom at the Princessehof museum and head around the corner to Barrevoets for a sandwich or a smoothie. And if you want a stroll before your meal, walk outside the city center to Wannee, which also offers a substantial and inexpensive breakfast. Where to stay The former post office has been converted into a hotel and restaurant, now known as the Post-Plaza Hotel & Grand Café. The hotel is lovely and includes a variety of room types, including some designed for parents. The hotel also offers spa services and has an excellent restaurant and bar, which will make you a tasty gin and tonic, among others. The aforementioned Wannee is attached to the Stenden Hotel which is located a bit outside the city center, but offers luxurious rooms. For something less expensive, ‘t Anker is an efficient and centrally located option. How to get there Leeuwarden itself is small and walkable, so go by train. You get to admire the countryside on the way.  More >


DutchNews podcast: The 8% is the Goldilocks Zone of Communism Edition

DutchNews podcast: The 8% is the Goldilocks Zone of Communism Edition

This week's podcast looks at the ramifications of the latest developments in the MH17 inquiry as the Dutch government and joint investigation team point the finger of blame squarely at Russia. We also find out about the Friesland community came up with an eye-catching additional member to the European Capital of Culture programme, why a soldier is being given a ceremonial burial four centuries after he died and who won the battle of the Dicks on the football field. In the discussion we ask if the Dutch system of holiday pay is a nice little seasonal sweetener or a paternalistic anachronism. Ophef of the week Nursery considers suing council over objection to 'striptease' birthday party Top story: MH17 Netherlands and Australia blame Russia for shooting down flight MH17 over Ukraine Rutte flies back early from India trade mission to chair MH17 talks News Illegal cannabis production boosts Dutch economy but could cause rift with EU Friesland locals crowdfund 230-penis fountain to subvert modern art project (Guardian) Watch a video of the fountain under construction and in operation (AD.nl, Dutch) New Amsterdam coalition unveils 'ambitious' programme for greener, more social city Eighty Years War soldier reburied with full military honours Sport Emmen win battle of the Dicks as Advocaat's bid to spare Sparta fails (AD.nl, Dutch) Giro d'Italia back in the balance as Dumoulin halves Yates's lead with late burst (Guardian) Discussion: holiday pay (vakantiegeld) What is vakantiegeld? (Wikipedia) Workers more likely to spend vakantiegeld this year (Telegraaf, Dutch) Nibud survey on how workers spend holiday pay  More >


10 ways Webster Leiden differs from Dutch universities

10 ways Webster Leiden differs from Dutch universities

Are you thinking about pursuing a degree here in the Netherlands? There are many things to think about while you decide which university to enrol in. From small class sizes to the ease of studying abroad, here are several reasons why you might want to consider studying at Webster Leiden instead of a more traditional Dutch university. 1 Smaller classes Many of the lecture halls you’ll find at Dutch universities can accommodate dozens of students, often more than a hundred at any one time. Attending a lecture can seem more like going to a TED Talk than a class. At Webster Leiden, the classes are much smaller, with an average of ten to fifteen students enrolled in any given course. ‘I’ve taught in both scenarios’, said Dr. Yang Fan, who teaches in the university’s Business & Management department. ‘A smaller class makes for a more interesting learning environment’. 2 More individual attention from professors Webster Leiden’s classrooms and curriculum allow for more engagement between students and educators. The university’s faculty enjoy not contending with hundreds of students during a single semester, whereas students appreciate not competing with dozens of their peers for a professor’s time. ‘The attention that a professor can give each single student is so much greater’, Dr. Fan said. ‘It’s very nice for both sides’. 3 Superior classroom discussions These smaller classes can also better facilitate discourse among students and professors. ‘They allow for better and multi-directional discussions’, Dr. Fan said. ‘You don’t end up with one-way lectures. Professors can ensure that they chat with everybody. They can also make sure that everyone in their class gets to share their opinions and is able to communicate not just with them but with each other, too’. 4 More versatile classes Attending classes at a traditional university can become incredibly routine and even tedious, especially in the liberal arts. Students attend lectures, write papers, and take exams, ad nauseam. At Webster Leiden, the smaller class sizes allow professors to become more versatile and creative with their syllabi. Students can participate in hands-on projects that will help them develop real-world skills that will prove valuable as they embark on future careers. ‘With only ten to fifteen students, things are much more flexible’, Dr. Fan said. ‘We can do seminars, workshops, case studies, study trips, or other projects. You can’t do these things in a lecture hall with a hundred students’. 5 Greater diversity At Webster Leiden, you could find yourself studying alongside someone from America, the Netherlands, or any number of other countries around the world. Students come from all across Europe and beyond, and so do the professors themselves. ‘We have over 50 nationalities represented among our students and faculty’, Dr. Fan said. ‘So students can get a broader perspective during their classes. They can get different opinions, and hear different thoughts and perspectives, which is very important in a university environment’. 6 More flexibility The currricula at Dutch universities can be quite stringent for undergrads, which can make switching majors difficult if a student has second thoughts. American universities tend to be more flexible when it comes to majors, especially during a student’s first year of study. ‘At Dutch universities, you pretty much need to pin down what you’re going to do from day one’, Dr. Fan said. ‘With a three or four-year framework at an American one you have more time to figure out what you want to study, and experiment with different majors and career options’. 7 All classes are taught in English This one should be a given. While many Dutch universities have begun offering classes in English, not everything in their course catalogue is available to those who don’t speak Dutch. International students have also reported issue with the language skills of many educators at these schools. A 2015 poll revealed that 60% of students had suffered through lectures that were downright incomprehensible. This isn’t a problem at Webster Leiden, where everything is taught in English by experts. 8 Even Dutch students study at Webster Leiden Believe it or not, many Dutch students have opted to enrol at Webster Leiden as opposed to Dutch universities. The reasons are many and it’s not just because of the diverse student body and curriculums. ‘They say they want individual attention from their professors’, Dr. Fan said. ‘They’re looking for more encouragement and guidance from faculty. They appreciate the additional help and don’t like to spend so much of their learning time just reading books in their room’. 9 Webster Leiden makes it easy to study abroad If you’re looking to spend a semester or longer in another European locale, Webster makes that fairly easy. The university has several ‘satellite campuses’ located around the continent in addition to its main one in Webster Groves, Missouri over in the United States. Students can study in vibrant cities including Vienna, Geneva, and Athens along with other destinations located around the world. 10 It’s more of a community At a traditional Dutch university, students often join fraternity or sorority-style ‘student houses’, where studying is often anything but encouraged, or live in apartments off campus. Webster Leiden offers student housing located mere footsteps from its classrooms. ‘Student life and classroom life are often separated at Dutch universities’, Dr. Fan said. ‘We offer on-site accommodation, which means that students can live together and have a social network with their peers. It’s more of a community experience. It also means they don’t have to worry about landlords and finding a place to live’. Would you like to learn more about Webster Leiden and the educational programmes it offers? You can do so by visiting its website.   More >


The adventures of young Rembrandt; follow in his footsteps in Leiden

The adventures of young Rembrandt; follow in his footsteps in Leiden

Centuries before The Night Watch would go on to become one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Amsterdam, Rembrandt was just another struggling artist living down in Leiden. Here is Brandon Hartley’s rundown on his time in the city and various local attractions you can visit if you’d like to learn more about his early days. A stroll through the centre of Leiden can lead you past the historic Beestenmarkt, several picturesque canals, and more than a few friendly ducks that will happily relieve you of any unwanted bread you’ve brought along. If you point yourself in the right direction, you may also find yourself in a small square dominated by a solitary, enigmatic figure. It’s a boy standing in front of a bronze portrait of Rembrandt, perhaps contemplating his own ambitions and potential future as an artist. A few steps from the statue is the spot where his childhood home once stood. These are just two of the landmarks and other attractions devoted to the Golden Age artist that you’ll find in Leiden/ The benefits of a classical education Before we get started, there’s the spelling of Rembrandt’s first name. Scholars say he was born ‘Rembrant’ and later added the silent D for reasons unknown around 1633. He signed many of his paintings with this spelling but, oddly enough, several historical documents from his lifetime feature the original version. We’ll stick with the better known ‘Rembrandt’. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leiden on 15 July, 1606. He was the ninth of eventually ten child in the busy household of Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck. By all accounts, the family was solidly middle-class. Rembrandt’s father worked as a miller who specialised in grinding malt for beer breweries and his mother was the daughter of a well-to-do baker. This meant that they had enough money to send him to study at the nearby Latin School when he was 10, which served as a stepping for many of its all-male alumni (no girls were allowed) to attend university. Along with studying Latin and Greek, he likely received a classical education and would have become well versed in history and literature. Most importantly, it was here that Rembrandt received his first lessons in drawing. University He later enrolled at the University of Leiden at the young of age 14. Weirdly enough, most incoming freshman would have been 17 during this era. The reasons for Rembrandt’s perhaps premature enrolment have been lost to the ages but he may have never even attended classes. He had instead fallen in love with the idea of becoming an artist. But studying to become one was hardly cheap in those days and Rembrandt, even though he was still just a teenager, was no spring chicken when it came to art. Most painters got started when they were pre-adolescents. Nevertheless, his parents covered the cost of him becoming an apprentice to Jacob Isaacszoon van Swanenburg, a Leiden-based artist best known for some pretty grim religious paintings reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. Van Swanenburg was also pretty great at city scenes and depicting historical battlefields. Rembrandt studied and worked with him for three years. While he never wound up emulating his mentor’s hellscapes, scholars have theorised that the artist’s near lifelong fascination with replicating natural and artificial light may have been inspired by Van Swanenburg’s skills at painting some pretty fearsome flames. Sometime around 1624 or 1625, Rembrandt likely opened a studio in Leiden with a colleague named Jan Lievens, who was something of a child savant when it came to painting. He got started at the age of eight, nearly a full decade before Rembrandt, and had begun working as a professional artist at around age 12. However, Rembrandt's time at the Latin School eventually proved useful when it came time for him to choose some intriguing subject matter for his later paintings. The young Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam for six months to serve as an apprentice for artist Pieter Lastman. In those days, going to Italy to study was all the rage for artists-in-training. Curiously enough, Rembrandt resisted the urge, even though he might have been able to convince his parents to cover the costs. Whether or not he ever tried is now long forgotten. Perhaps stranger: Rembrandt never spent time outside of the Dutch Republic during his lifetime. Big break Fortunately, Lastman and Van Swanenburg had journeyed to Italy and brought the mastery of Italian Renaissance artists back north where they passed them onto Rembrandt. Rembrandt later returned to the studio in Leiden in 1625 to rejoin Lievens and even accepted his own students. They included Gerrit Dou, an artist who would go on to become one of the Leiden Fijnschilders, a group of Golden Age artists that strove to replicate everyday scenes as realistically and accurately as possible. Then Constantijn Huygens showed up about five years later and provided Rembrandt with his first big break. Huygens was a poet and composer who also spent time working as a secretary to two of the Dutch Republic’s princes. He helped Rembrandt arrange a series of important commissions for political leaders and royals in The Hague. In 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam where his career, needless to say, really took off. Here’s how you can retrace Rembrandt’s early years in Leiden There are a few Rembrandt-related attractions and monuments in Leiden that fuel an interesting day trip to the city. You can start with a stop at the Young Rembrandt Studio, a new exhibition that opened earlier this spring. Located inside a 17th century house at Langebrug 89, the exhibit features a seven minute video projection that offers a whirlwind journey through the artist’s years in Leiden. There’s also a gift shop that features Rembrandt-themed products, in addition to information about other attractions around the city. There’s also the Rembrandtwandeling (‘The Rembrandt Walk’). This walking route will lead you past Rembrandt’s birthplace, the Latin School, and several more of the artist’s former haunts in Leiden. There are informational boards along the way that offer additional details about each historic site. Informational booklets about the route, which are packed with tons of facts about Rembrandt’s early years and what the city was like in the early 17th century, can be purchased at the VVV Leiden tourist centre at Stationsweg 26. Park The picturesque Rembrandtpark is a nice place to stop for a snack or a lunch if the weather’s cooperating after you pass over the Rembrandtbrug and snap a few photos of the Molen de Put, a nearby windmill. Be sure to check out the mysterious statue in the nearby Rembrandtplein. Is the boy looking at the portrait supposed to be Rembrandt himself? No one quite knows for sure. Sculptor Stephan Balkenhol made it for the 400th anniversary of the artist’s birth in 2006, but left the boy’s true identity a secret. Nearby, there’s the former location of Rembrandt’s childhood home. It was torn down in the early 20th century to make way for the extension of a printer’s office. A commemorative plaque can now be found on one of the exterior walls. You can also stroll over to view a large bust of the artist depicted in his later years along the Witte Singel. A wreath is placed on it at the stroke of midnight every year on Rembrandt’s birthday. Art Finally, Leiden’s Museum De Lakenhal is due to reopen after an extensive refurbishment in the spring of 2019. It will host an exhibit titled Young Rembrandt from 3 November 2019 to 9 February 2020. Along with works by the artist himself, it will also feature paintings by Lievens, Lastman, and Van Swanenburg. ‘It will be a quite large exhibition with over 120 works of art’, curator Christiaan Vogelaar said. ‘Some of them will be coming over from the UK, Berlin, and the Louvre in Paris. Visitors can also enjoy our historical collections and 20th century art. The De Stijl movement was founded in Leiden and we have a beautiful collection’.  More >


Eindhoven offers great opportunities for would-be home owners

Eindhoven offers great opportunities for would-be home owners

If you are looking to put down roots in Eindhoven, buying a house could be the perfect investment. The city is proving so popular with internationals that the experts behind the Expat Housing Seminars are holding an event in the city on May 29. Just last month, the Eindhoven region was revealed to have the sharpest increase in economic growth in the country, thanks to its numerous high tech industries, many of which have sprung up around Eindhoven University of Technology. The city is surrounded by rolling countryside, its football team PSV Eindhoven has just taken the league title for the 10th time this century, it has its own airport and you snap up a big new family home in a nice area for under €500,000. Hardly surprising then, that more and more international workers are opting to stay on and settle down in this Noord Brabant city of 230,000. Settling down Olivia van den Broek-Neri, the project coordinator for communications and events at the Holland Expat Center South, says she has noticed a rise in the number of people settling down in the region and buying a home. ‘A lot of people are choosing to live in Eindhoven for longer, for example, PhD students settle down and get a job after they’ve finished their research,’ she says. ‘We want people to stay and invest in their future here.’ So where to look? ‘It can be hard to find a place to rent here, but of course, house prices have also risen a lot,’ says Olivia. ‘Meerhoven is one place where homes sell very quickly and has a lot of expats. But I’d recommend people get on their bikes and look at other places too. ‘Eindhoven has a lot of great places to live but you need to think about where you work as well. Can you cycle to work easily, for example? Look north as well as south and check out the villages.’ Chris van Maasdijk, one of the founders of Expat Mortgages, which has just opened an office in the city, agrees. ‘Look at places like the suburb of Veldhoven and the village of Waalre,’ he says. ‘It is always worth looking at more rural areas, when you are still so close to the city centre. In fact, the whole south of the Netherlands is becoming more popular with international workers.’ Son en Breugel, Best, Nuenen and Helmond are other towns worth checking out when you are looking for a new home in the area, and want to avoid the overheating which has hit the city centre itself. Knowing the best places to look requires research, says Van Maasdijk. ‘That’s why it is always good to talk to experts on the ground.’ The popularity of the south of the country among the international community is one of the driving forces behind Expat Mortgages’ decision to open up its own office in the region. Now, local expats can benefit from the team’s years of expertise in helping international workers get the best possible deal. ‘I was born and raised in the south of the Netherlands and I know almost all the estate agents, valuation experts, construction companies and civil law notaries in this area,’ says Roy Schreurs, who heads up the Eindhoven operation. ‘Eindhoven provides more value for your money and offers a different way of living. It is more laid back, more Bourgondian. But there are also lots of concert venues, cinemas and theatre. My secret tip – if you like water sports, then you must head for nearby Roermond, where there are several beautiful lakes for boating, windsurfing, or simply relaxing.’ If you are in the Eindhoven region and are thinking about buying a house, feel free to get in touch with Roy Schreurs via info@expatmortgages.nl Find out more about the Expat Housing Seminar here You can also meet the Expat Mortgages team at the I am not a Tourist expat fair in Eindhoven on June 10.   More >


The Dutch are being converted to rugby, on the pitch, beach and in prison

The Dutch are being converted to rugby, on the pitch, beach and in prison

The season is winding down, but Dutch rugby is making great strides, winning both players and fans. So forget the hockey sticks and the ice-skates, it’s time to grab your boots and turn your focus towards the Dutch rugby pitches, says Rachel Kilbee. This weekend sees the last rugby matches played in the national championships just before the local players should be taking their foot off the gas for a short summer break. But in reality, the Dutch players don’t have too much time to rest with new rugby challenges lining up in the Netherlands. On the professional field it has been confirmed that Brazil will visit Amsterdam on 16th June in an exciting game against the Dutch, a result which if positive, will raise the Rugby NL team to 26th in the IRB ranking. ‘It’s been a long season for us, but since hearing the news last week, we’re making a game plan and we want to win. It will mean more funding and more sponsorship for us,’ says team captain, Dirk Danen. With youth rugby growing year on year and with the regional NTC academies identifying fresh talent, the growth of rugby in the Lowlands has seen a dramatic rise and has had a positive response from both local and expat players. Angus Rutherford (18) hailing from Durham, Britain has lived in Hilversum for 14 years and he first cut his teeth on the rugby field playing for the U15’s. Now selected for the Netherlands U20’s team he has only positive things to say for the sport here. ‘You have to look on the bright side, rugby isn’t so big in the Netherlands, so yes there has been a lack of funding,' he says.  'But the last two years have seen such an improvement in the training level. The Dutch rugby community is really trying to make changes. There is a huge growth taking place and it can only get better from here!’ This positivity is clearly being led from the top with Gareth Gilbert, technical director for Rugby NL pushing for more. ‘With 12 of our team playing professionally and semi-professionally outside NL, we have something to be proud of – it’s a real achievement!’ Conversely, Rugby NL unfortunately hasn't reached the heights of being able to finance the players or offer contracts which makes it difficult to always keep the players motivated at the top. ‘We’re in talks with Rugby Europe. We want to set up more regional competitions and start a semi-professional competition. I don’t think we’re too far off and we’re content with the progression. We’ve recently gained new sponsorship and we’re investing in both the youth and seniors. Finances are always an issue but hopefully this will change as our results and performances improve,’ Gilbert says. Cross-field With the Under 20’s successfully reaching 4th spot at the European Championships Oranje achieved above and beyond their expectations. ‘The frustrating thing at the moment is that these young successful players often get better prospects abroad’ says Marcus Holden, head coach at Hilversum rugby club. ‘We need to look after our players in the Netherlands,' he says.  'We’ve got some really experienced Dutch players, like Tim Visser, and they should be utilised to try and grow the sport even further. I’d really like to see more recruitment in schools for this sport, it’s such a disciplined sport with lessons you can take through life with you. It’s about core values, a strong mentality and learning to work in a team.’ This ethos of ‘What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch’ is one which is mirrored by Joeri Peperkamp who founded the Turn-Over project. Beginning four years ago, he bought a bus and approached truant teenagers on the street. By introducing them to a three month project built on the strengths of rugby, he has successfully seen 80% of his students re-integrate into the workplace. ‘The government thought we were crazy, and said we would fail but now they have changed their minds. Now they tell me that it’s a beautiful thing!’ he said. The project has been so successful that he has organised a rugby match on the 7th June between Rugby NL and the prisoners from an Amsterdam jail. ‘Being involved in rugby is all about giving back. This demonstrates the strength of what rugby can do!’ enthused Gareth Gilbert, who is taking part in the match alongside Tijmen Vader and Mats Marker. Beach ball Also affiliated with Rugby NL and the EBRA is the North Sea Beach Rugby competition taking place in the Hague 26-27 May. With over 1200 players and 16 pitches stretching along Scheveningen beach it guarantees to offer rugby fans an action-packed weekend. ‘It is the most spectacular game of rugby on a small pitch with the beautiful back drop of the North sea!’ says chairman and founder Kasper Bleijenberg. With the Netherlands mindset being so open to rugby, it is no surprise when Annelies Acda, board member of Rugby NL says ‘We want rugby to be an inclusive sport and we want the clubs to be ready for it.’ Another growing group of players in the sport are those in the National Rugby Wheelchair championship. ‘Rugby lets me forget my problems, when I play I forget that I am in a wheelchair – I play rugby!’ says Frank van Es who plays for the Scorpions in Utrecht. ‘We need to encourage women, mixed abilities and disabilities and get investing in better training and then the atmosphere will follow.’ says Annelies. ‘The expats in the Netherlands are very valuable to us. They bring more knowledge, a strong rugby background and most importantly – one expat attracts another! It’s an international game with a worldwide community. Let’s keep the game growing!’  More >


The ‘I am not a Tourist’ expat fair and festival return to Eindhoven

The ‘I am not a Tourist’ expat fair and festival return to Eindhoven

Want to learn Dutch? Find a house? Experience Dutch culture, find a job, make connections, or solve immigration and tax issues? Or do you just want to have a fun day out? It’s all possible at the 'I am not a Tourist' Expat Fair & Festival which takes place on Sunday June 10 in Eindhoven. Check out an impression of the day here and get your free ticket now online! If you’re not yet familiar with it, Expatica’s 'I am not a Tourist' Expat Fair is the biggest expat-oriented event in the Netherlands. And this year, for the third time, it’s coming to Eindhoven! 'I am not a tourist' Expat Fair Eindhoven, organised with the Holland Expat Center South, is a prime opportunity for the international community in the south of the Netherlands to get the low-down on life in the ‘low countries’. On June 10 the historical VDMA area in Eindhoven’s city centre will see 50 specialist exhibitors and more than 1,500 internationals come together to exchange information, find opportunities, orientation and business contacts. There will be workshops on all sorts of topics: think employment & entrepreneurship, banking, tax and insurance, housing and education. Opportunities for internationals in the Netherlands and in particular to the Brainport region of Eindhoven will be highlighted, and experts will be on hand to give you one-to-one advice. This year's special theme is 'Jobs for expats' and is designed for visitors who are pursuing an international career in the Netherlands. Employers, experts and recruiters will be on hand to help expats wishing to build a professional network, continue their education, pursue their career or succeed as an entrepreneur. Follow the 'Jobs for Expats' signs on the exhibition floor to find the employment stands at the event. Grasp strategic networking moments by the hand and mingle with specialists from major industries. You can find everything you need to succeed in the Dutch job market under one roof at the Expat Fair. Take a look on our Job Board for a selection of the jobs offered at the Expat Fair. International Festival Outside the VDMA building and at the Hub Eindhoven, the International Festival Eindhoven will take place for the third time. The festival will offer an international market with food, drinks and hand-made products like art and jewellery. The market will be combined with live music from international and local artists and, of course, entertainment for children. Inside the Hub Eindhoven, you can enjoy music, presentations, workshops and much more! Follow the IF Facebook page for detailed information about the festival! Join the Expat Fair & Festival Eindhoven and meet the expat community in the South at a unique combination of business and entertainment. Order your FREE tickets right here!   More >


From the sea front to suburbs, here’s how to buy a house in The Hague

From the sea front to suburbs, here’s how to buy a house in The Hague

As the cost of rental housing continues to rise, buying your own home has become a very real alternative for expats – and no-where more so than in The Hague. The Hague is a welcoming city with a wide variety of places to live, from the rolling dunes in Kijkduin to the canals and gracious mansions of the city centre. You can live in an 18th century town house or a modern home in one of the many suburbs, a high-rise flat near the main railway station or close to the sea in Scheveningen. The first thing you need to do is decide where you would like to live, says Bernadette Willems, of estate agency BW Housing. ‘If your children go to an international school, you will want to be near them,’ she points out. ‘Otherwise, the Statenkwartier, Belgisch Park, Benoordenhout, Archipel and Duinoord are currently among the most popular areas. Price, of course is key and The Hague has homes for every budget. For example, a smart, four bedroom home on a new development near Kijkduin will cost you around €500,000 but while a seven-room flat in a 1920s house overlooking the sea will be nearer to €800,000. A family home in a popular area will cost around €1m, but there are large family flats to be had for around €550,000. Starter homes But if you are looking for a starter home at under €350,000, you have hundreds to choose from as well, especially if you are flexible about the neighbourhood. ‘€400,000 will get a young couple a good flat in a popular area,’ says Bernadette. So if you’ve decided to take the plunge, how to buy a house? Buying your own home in a foreign country might seem daunting, but it is perfectly possible – as long as you get proper advice. Currently in The Hague, properties are selling quickly and prices have risen to record levels over the past year. In fact, earlier this year, the Dutch real estate agent’s association NVM published a new report showing that house prices in The Hague are soaring, and have risen some 24% over the past 12 months. Nevertheless, there are still great buys around and a tuned-in estate agent will help you make the most of your money. There are plenty of legal ins and outs to deal with as well, so you will need to get good legal advice from a specialist notary too. To help more expats find out about the process, experts from across all aspects of the chain will be on hand in The Hague on Sunday May 27 to answer questions. This free seminar, organised by How To Buy A House, will take place at the Museum for Communications on the Zeestraat from 2pm-5pm. And you get free entrance to the museum as well! You’ll be able to talk to experts in getting a mortgage, an estate agent who understands The Hague market thoroughly, a notary to guide you through the legal process, tax advisors and even a builder, if you think you might want to add in extension or a new bathroom to your dream home. ‘The event will guide you through the entire home buying process, including the roles played by the real estate agent, the mortgage advisor and the notary,’ says organiser Monique Burgemeester. ‘You can find out about getting a mortgage in the Netherlands, check out what the tax implications are and talk to a builder about renovations.’ Sign up here  More >


Tax matters: your worldwide assets and the 30% tax ruling

Tax matters: your worldwide assets and the 30% tax ruling

It's a hot topic in the news at the moment, so what are the advantages of having the 30% ruling and what are the consequences for you when your 30% ruling period is over? As well as cutting your tax bill, the ruling does have another very important tax advantage, which often gets forgotten. If you are able to benefit from the 30%-ruling, it can have a large impact on your assets as well as your salary. This is because you can opt to be considered for partial non-domestic taxation, which means that you don’t need to state your assets in your Dutch tax return - with the exception of Dutch investment property. To qualify for partial non-domestic taxation, you need to make sure your tax return is completed properly and if you mention you have a Dutch bank account, you do not qualify. In that case, you will be treated as a full resident tax payer and you will need to state all your worldwide assets instead. ‘All the more reason why it is crucial to get proper advice,’ says tax expert Lennart Suurmond. ‘People may think filling in their tax return is relatively straight forward, but if you’ve got foreign assets, it may not be.’ The annual tax return: seven ways of cutting your Dutch tax bill You can benefit from partial non-domestic status for as long as the 30% ruling lasts. The government said in April that it is planning to cut the maximum number of years the benefit covers from eight to five from January 2019, and will publish further details in September on Budget Day. This has implications for current claimants as well. After all, once you are no longer eligible for the ruling, you can no longer opt to be considered a partial non-domestic taxpayer. In other words, you will become a domestic taxpayer and will need to state your worldwide assets in your Dutch tax return. ‘We notice that taxpayers who have benefited from the 30% ruling find it somewhat uncomfortable to suddenly have to start talking about their assets, particularly their foreign ones,’ says Lennart. ‘But it is really important to be honest and fill in your tax form correctly. The Dutch tax office is particularly hot on foreign bank accounts, and you can be fined up to 300% of the unpaid tax if you forget to mention them.’ This means of course, that not only will you have a lower take-home salary when the 30% ruling ends, but that you will need to start thinking about your wealth and what this will mean for your tax return. This year, each individual may have up to € 30,000 in assets before the asset tax kicks in. Your assets of between €30,000 and € 100,000 are taxed at 0.795%; assets of between €100,000 and €1m will be taxed at 1.356%; and anything over that at 1.614%. Given these fixed amounts of tax are unrelated to the actual income your assets generate, the higher your income, the more tax efficient you are. But they are still amounts which have to be found and paid. Property Real estate is also taxed in box 3 – according to its official WOZ value. Your local council will send you a letter detailing how much your Dutch property is worth every year. If the property is rented out, the value can be reduced, depending on the amount of rental income it generates. That rental income itself is not taxed. You also need to include foreign real estate in your tax return and request a deduction for double taxation. In most Dutch tax treaties, the taxation of real estate is always allocated to the country where the property is located. If you would like to find out more about maximising your tax efficiency and decreasing your risk of fines, please feel free to contact Suurmond Tax Consultants www.suurmond-taxconsultants.com . Our experts have been helping expats from all over the world make use of existing tax regulations in the Netherlands to reduce their tax liability for more than 30 years. We offer a free tax scan, to check whether you are making the most of the opportunities on offer. Feel free to email taxadvice@jcsuurmond.nl This article was updated in May 2018 to take into account the government's planned changes to the regulations.  More >


The hottest ticket in Amsterdam is a seat at the Holleeder trial

The hottest ticket in Amsterdam is a seat at the Holleeder trial

This week hearings resume in the trial of Willem Holleeder, accused of ordering six gangland killings. His sister Astrid is a key witness for the prosecution. The hottest ticket in Amsterdam right now is not for the Rijksmuseum or some Dutch dj, but a battened-down brick courthouse on an industrial estate on the city's western fringe. On a damp, cold morning in mid-March dozens of silhouettes were discernible in the gloom, dancing on their feet to keep warm, in a queue that stretched back towards a bed centre, a car parts dealer and a drive-through KFC. They had set out in the early hours from Brabant or Rotterdam, camped out on the doorstep, taken days off work, skipped school and college to catch a glimpse of the Netherlands' most infamous gangster through a bulletproof-glass screen. Willem Holleeder, 59, is the central figure in the finale of a real-life family saga of revenge and betrayal. He has rarely been out of the news since his gang kidnapped Alfred Heineken, the CEO of the brewing giant and one of the Netherlands' richest men, outside the brewery's headquarters in November 1983. With his share of the ransom money Holleeder embarked on a career of brothel keeping, drug running, blackmail, extortion and – according to the charge sheet – murder. He is alleged to have ordered or been involved in the deaths of six gangland associates, including his fellow Heineken kidnapper, old school friend and brother-in-law Cor van Hout. Holleeder is an example of that curious phenomenon, an underworld figure who crosses into the pop-culture mainstream. Where Britain had the Krays and America had the Capone gang, the Netherlands has the Heineken kidnappers. In the words of Amsterdam's local TV station AT5: 'Holleeder is the Netherlands' most successful product after cheese.' 'He was someone who never had to deal with rush-hour traffic or problems at the office' Auke Kok, whose biography Holleeder: The Early Years, is part of the groaning pile of Holleeder memorabilia, says: 'He was this mercenary figure who rode round town on his scooter with businesses and women here and there. Bad boys are always appealing and this wasn't happening in a novel or a film but on the street corner. 'And he looked good and scrubbed up well. He was someone who never had to deal with rush-hour traffic or problems at the office. Everyone knew he was a crook, but it was never quite clear exactly how involved he was in the murders. There was an excitement about it.' Three years ago the excitement stepped up a notch with the publication of Judas, a memoir by Astrid Holleeder, the younger of Willem's two sisters. Half a million copies were sold in the first 12 months, in a country of 17 million people. Millions more devoured well-thumbed copies passed on by friends and relatives – it's the kind of book everyone reads but nobody wants on the shelf. An English translation is being published later this year and an American TV adaptation has been mooted. The Dutch public, noses pressed against the glass of the goldfish bowl, devoured the intimate details of a family whose world is immersed in chaos and violence. Astrid The people queueing outside the courthouse on that gloomy March morning had come to see Astrid testify against her brother. Most of them had read Judas, and everyone had an opinion on it. 'I feel for her, but I'm curious about the other side of the story,' one woman from Haarlem told RTL Nieuws. 'I'm going to try to follow the case, but this is the third time I've been here and I think I'm not going to get in again.' 'It's really a family tragedy being played out in the open, in the deepest sense,' says Kok. 'A family from the Jordaan, one of the country's most famous neighbourhoods, with the two sisters and the put-upon mother and the raving mad aggressive father who worked for Heineken, of all places. It's a mini-universe where people scheme against each other and accuse each other of the most terrible things. It's almost like a film.' Astrid's explanation for breaking Willem's code of omertà is that she feared for her own safety and that of her other sister, Sonja, who is also the widow of Cor van Hout. For five years she secretly recorded hundreds of hours of conversations with her brother, then took the tapes to the judicial authorities. For decades she had been one of Willem's closest confidantes; as a trained defence lawyer she was indispensable as anyone could be. But she also knew very well the price that people paid for failing to submit to her brother's will. 'You know what I'll do, right?' she repeatedly quotes him as saying, in the veiled language that was the Holleeders' mother tongue. Blackmail She describes how Willem blackmailed and extorted his business partners until they were bled dry, then killed them. After serving their prison sentences for the Heineken kidnapping, Holleeder and Van Hout invested in a sex club in Amsterdam and three brothels in Alkmaar. The pair fell out and Holleeder teamed up with two of Van Hout's gangland rivals, Sam Klepper and John Mieremet. Van Hout survived two attempts on his life before he was gunned down outside a Chinese restaurant in Amstelveen in 2003. By then Klepper had been shot dead at his Amsterdam penthouse in 2000; Mieremet followed in 2005, shortly after moving to Thailand. Holleeder is accused of directing all three killings as well as the murders of Willem Endstra, a property developer who laundered gangsters' millions through real estate investments, and Thomas van der Bijl, a bar owner with criminal connections. The last two had allegedly committed the mortal sin, in Holleeder's eyes, of talking to the police. 'It was the combination of sensational events and the fact that these were guys from the street corner' Within weeks of Van Hout's murder, according to Astrid, Willem had set his sights on the assets that were now in the hands of their sister, Sonja. He wanted the properties in Alkmaar, the car she had bought for her son Richie, and later on her share of the profits from two movies based on the Heineken kidnapping. When she refused, Astrid claims he began plotting to have her and the children killed. For Willem, there were no friends and family, only people who wouldn't let go of their money. Blood 'My brother had grown into a serial killer who was up to his ankles in blood,' Astrid wrote. She decided that the only way to keep her family safe was to gather enough evidence against Willem to lock him up for life. In court, Willem described the notion that he planned to eliminate his two closest relatives as 'absolute nonsense'. 'It's not in my interest for anything to happen to my sisters, and I don't want anything to happen to them.' By 8am it was clear almost none of the crowd would get in, and there were still two hours until the start of the day's business. Nearly all the seats were taken by the 63 accredited journalists. By 10 o'clock most of the aspiring spectators had cut their losses and gone home, but a determined few were still sitting on the steps five hours later, like rock band fans staking out the stage door before a concert. 'At least we've had a bit of a sense of it,' said a man who gave his name as Dylan, shortly before quitting his eight-hour vigil at 3pm. A few days later the Dutch court service opened a second courtroom in Amsterdam's main courthouse on Parnassusweg so spectators could follow the trial by video link. Heineken kidnapping The Heineken kidnapping is a piece of modern Dutch folklore. Just before 7pm on November 9, 1983, Freddy Heineken, the CEO of Heineken International, was ambushed by four armed men outside his office in Amsterdam and bundled into an orange Renault van. When his chauffeur, Ab Doderer, tried to save his boss he was bundled in beside him before the van sped away, its rear doors flapping open, towards the Westpoort docklands area where one end of a storage shed had been converted into a makeshift prison. Heineken and Doderer spent the next three weeks in a damp, windowless cell, handcuffed to the wall and sleeping on mattresses on the floor with their heads next to a chemical toilet. When the manacles started to chafe around his wrists Heineken fashioned a protective bracelet from the core of the toilet roll. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of 35 million guilders (around €16 million) in four currencies, to be delivered by car relay and stuffed into plastic barrels in the woods outside Zeist. On November 30 an anonymous tip-off led police to the shed where Heineken and Doderer were being held. But it was too late – the money had been handed over two days earlier and Holleeder and Van Hout fled to France with their share of the bounty. Extradition Since the fugitives' photographs had been circulated by police and spread like an oil leak through the Dutch media, it didn't take French police long to track down and arrest them. But there was a complication: the extradition treaty between the Netherlands and France dated from 1895 and didn't cover kidnapping or blackmail. The only charge Holleeder and Van Hout could be sent home to face was making written death threats, with a maximum penalty of four years. The Dutch prosecution service withdrew the extradition request and pondered its next move. As the case sank into a legal quagmire, a tenacious young crime reporter named Peter R. de Vries travelled to Paris and made contact with Van Hout in prison. 'I was extremely intrigued to see how they were able to carry out such a sophisticated crime that had made headlines around the world,' De Vries said in court last month. In truth, there wasn't much sophisticated about the Heineken kidnapping. One of the four kidnappers, Jan Boellaard and an accomplice, Martin Erkamps, were arrested when the hostages were freed; another of the gang, Frans Meijer, came out of hiding in Amsterdam a month later. Most of the ransom money was recovered either from the drop site in Zeist or in subsequent house searches; in the end just 8 million of the 35 million guilders reached the kidnappers' hands. Only Holleeder and Van Hout escaped capture for long, mainly because of the anachronistic extradition system. Farce The sense of farce was heightened when the French authorities flew the pair to Guadeloupe, hoping to slip them across the border between French and Dutch Caribbean territories, but the kidnappers got wind of the plan and refused to leave the plane. When they were redirected to the French island of St Barthélmy, locals came out into the streets to protest against Europe's latest attempt to dump its criminals on its colonies. Eventually the kidnappers were returned to mainland France, where they were confined as illegal aliens to the Ibis hotel in Evry. In a final reversal of fortune, Freddy Heineken stationed two bodyguards outside the building. After a new extradition treaty was concluded, the pair return to the Netherlands in October 1986 to stand trial for kidnap and extortion. The dash across the Caribbean and the house arrest in France were a feast for a hungry Dutch media. 'It was a very hectic time,' recalled De Vries, who had bagged a seat on the plane to Guadeloupe and later shadowed Holleder and Van Hout on St Martin, where they were detained for their own protection on a boat moored off an uninhabited island. 'They were being chased around by furious islanders.' Back in France, De Vries approached Van Hout with the idea of writing a book on the Heineken kidnapping. The profits would be split two to one, with Van Hout taking the larger share. 'I told Cor: at some point you're going to be sent back to the Netherlands and they'll convict you,' De Vries told the courtroom. 'I laid it on the line: if there's going to be a book, it has to be now. After sleeping on it for a night he agreed.' Escapism Most of the world quickly forgot about the Heineken case, but the Netherlands was in thrall. By Dutch standards it was drenched in glamour – one of the country's wealthiest businessmen and biggest brand names, a three-week hostage negotiation conducted in the media spotlight (the kidnappers posted their demands in coded messages in the small ads) and two dashing young criminals leading flat-footed officials on a game of tropical island hopscotch. It was a dose of much-needed escapism amid the country's most dismal period since the end of the war: unemployment almost quadrupled to more than 10% between 1981 and 1983, anxiety about nuclear conflict drove hundreds of thousands to join ban-the-bomb demonstrations, and even the feted football team failed to qualify for two World Cups in a row. Frank van Gemert, professor of criminology at the University of Amsterdam, says the kidnappers' 'approachable' image helped capture the public's imagination. 'It was the combination of sensational events and the fact that these were guys from the street corner. Ordinary people who were capable of anything. The Heineken kidnapping was unprecedented for its time, but what also made it unusual was that you could get to know the people behind it from the reports. There were all sorts of conflicting images, but people were clearly curious about it.' 'It's the fifth time I've been here. People are calling it the trial of the century, the biggest in living memory.' De Vries's book, The Kidnapping of Alfred Heineken, was a runaway bestseller when it was published in 1987, just as Holleeder and Van Hout were convicted and jailed for 11 years. The time they spent in a French hotel teeming with journalists was deemed to count as time already served and deducted from their sentence. It was the start of a mini-industry in Holleeder publications. De Vries urged Van Hout to cash in on the film rights, but Van Hout demurred. A decade after his death two adaptations appeared, both co-written by De Vries: the Dutch-language De Heineken Ontvoering in 2011, and a lacklustre Hollywood version, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, memorable chiefly for the perverse casting of Sir Anthony Hopkins in the title role. The Holleeders grew up in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam, now a chic hipster enclave bursting with artisan boutiques and vegan cafes. But before gentrification it was inhabited by factory workers such as Willem Holleeder senior, who earned his crust at the Heineken brewery. Jordanezen had a reputation for hard work, heavy drinking and plain speaking; Astrid Holleeder's recordings of her brother's conversations are peppered with epithets such as kankerhond ('cancer dog'), reflecting that Dutch quirk of infusing insults with names of fatal diseases. It was also a culture in which violence thrived: Willem Holleeder senior was an alcoholic tyrant who beat his wife and children mercilessly until they fled the house, around the same time that he was sacked for drinking too much at the brewery. By Astrid's account, the penchant for domestic violence was passed on from father to son, but to the outside world her brother fitted the profile of the streetwise working-class boy living by his wits. 'There is a familiar role, a script and a model that people recognise and relate to,' says Van Gemert. 'The kind of savvy Jordanees that Holleeder was is obviously good fodder for media articles.' 'If you yell at me one more time, you'll see what I do to you, kankerhoer!' In the early 2010s, shortly after he was released from prison for the second time (for beating up and blackmailing the real estate developer Willem Endstra), gossip magazines were full of pictures of Willem Holleeder buzzing round Amsterdam on his black Vespa scooter. He made a record with the Dutch rapper Lange Frans, Willem is terug ('Willem is back'), and had a column in the magazine Nieuwe Revu. Holleeder was approaching the status of folk hero, with the suitably folksy nickname of De Neus – 'the nose', in tribute to his most prominent facial feature. Courtroom artists battled with their pencils for the most outlandish portrayal of Holleeder's rough-chiselled physiognomy. People stopped him in the street to claim his autograph or pose with him for photographs. In 2012 he gave an hour-long television interview to Twan Huys, one of the Netherlands' best-known broadcast journalists, in College Tour, a programme filmed in a lecture hall in Utrecht packed with students. At one point Huys gamely tried to pin down Holleeder on the issue of the 8 million guilders of untraced Heineken loot. Three times, he asked where the money was; three times Holleeder batted the question straight back with a dead stare: 'As far as I know it was burned on the beach. It's all gone.' Only someone who had made a career out of lying would dare to sell such a brazen falsehood to a television audience of millions. Astrid Holleeder wrote in Judas that her brother had a boundless ability to convince himself and everyone around him that his version of reality was true. 'Wim lacks for nothing when it comes to persuasiveness. Within half an hour he'll have gained your sympathy. In 45 minutes he'll brainwash you with conspiracy theories. After an hour he'll have you questioning everything I've told you. And after another 15 minutes you'll be thinking: “How could this friendly, charming man have done those kinds of things?”' But Judas punctured Holleeder's reputation as a lovable rogue. Astrid portrayed him as a merciless psychopath who terrorised not just his partners in crime, but his own family. She described how once, during the long war of attrition with Van Hout, he pressed a gun to the side of his eight-year-old nephew's head and ordered Sonja to tell him where her husband was. It was one of the claims Willem Holleeder most furiously denied in court: 'I'm not a beast. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything Astrid says is a pile of crap.' More damning than the book, perhaps, were the tapes, which were soon acquired and broadcast by the Dutch media7. Studios fell silent as Holleeder's rasping tirades at Sonja, warped by the crude sound recording, blasted out of the speakers: 'If you yell at me one more time, you'll see what I do to you, kankerhoer!' 'You shut your mouth in front of me, understand? Otherwise I'll kick you down the street.' 'Don't shout at me again, because next time I'll kick your cancerous head in. I'm a Dutch celebrity, nobody gets to bawl me out.' 'De Neus' was condemned, ultimately, by his own mouth. Two weeks after Astrid Holleeder's evidence it is the turn of Sandra van Hartog, one of Holleeder's former partners and the widow of Sam Klepper, to take the witness stand. According to Astrid Holleeder assumed the role of Sandra's protector after her husband's death so that he could siphon off the millions Klepper had earned from his criminal activities. It was a textbook example of the technique Astrid calls 'kidnapping by angst', whereby her brother would convince his victims they were ensnared in a bitter underworld conflict that they could only escape alive by hiring him to settle the dispute. The target would then be drawn into a spider's web of threats, deceit and payoffs that ended only when they had been picked clean, or killed, or both. Sandra den Hartog may lack the box-office appeal of the Holleeder name, but by 8am, two hours before proceedings begin, a few devotees are gathered outside the courtroom, hopping on their feet as if to stamp out the cold. 'It's the fifth time I've been here,' says Remco Zwijnstra, a civil servant in his forties from Leiden. 'It's not an obsession, but it's interesting to see what's happening. People are calling it the trial of the century, the biggest in living memory.' Folk hero Is Holleeder a folk hero, I ask? 'He used to be,' replies Zwijnstra. 'When he came out of prison he was writing columns and suddenly he was this lovable criminal and came across as being very nice to people. But when you hear the phone conversations with his sister it was shocking to hear how he reacts when he's angry. You see the beast in the man.' The buzz in the small crowd rises in pitch as Astrid's memoir is discussed. Is the 'beast' in Holleeder really the serial killer that his sister makes him out to be? 'How do you know he's behind the murders?' says Bartje Goud, a 26-year-old council worker from Badhoeverdorp. 'None of it's been proven. The people who did the shooting were never caught. They never gave evidence. If there's no evidence you've got nothing.' At 10 o'clock the heavy glass door opens and the queue of people files in, one by one, through a pair of sliding doors resembling an air lock and an airport-style security funnel. Shoes are removed; names are taken by the posse of police officers standing round the machine. The atmosphere is solemn but relaxed. There is no jostling or scramble for seats; like the public, the press pack has dwindled to a hard core of Holleeder watchers. The windowless waiting room is decorated with photographs of the courtroom we are about to witness, but when we file into the gallery the glass partition is covered by thick grey blinds, as if we have strayed into a fringe theatre venue. 'He wanted to show me how great he was but also how dangerous. I didn't take it seriously at first, but now I did' The blinds go up. Holleeder is already seated, hunched over a table beside his lawyer, Robert Malewicz. Throughout the morning's evidence Holleeder squats, gazing straight ahead, only stirring to lean over and whisper something in Malewicz's ear. Sandra den Hartog is across the room, hidden by a protective witness box. A screen separates her from Holleeder and despite their once close association, her voice is mechanically distorted so that it sounds as if her words are being broadcast from a distant island. A few times her disembodied hand appears in the shape of a two-fingered pistol, replicating what was reputedly Willem Holleeder favourite gesture. One of the judges leads Sandra through the 440 pages of evidence she has given to prosecutors and to the investigating judge in an earlier hearing. The facts are laid out plainly and unemotionally, and Sandra's warped voice heightens the sense of detachment. But what unfolds is a 10-year litany of domestic terror that culminates in a shocking revelation. Holleeder enters Sandra's life in 2000, shortly after Sam Klepper has been shot dead in a shopping centre in Amsterdam. She describes him as attentive and caring: 'I was just happy that someone was listening to me.' At the time she was unaware that Holleeder was a business associate of her husband – or that he was fishing for the money that Klepper had hidden in a safe in the family home. 'I didn't see at the time that he was trying to manipulate me,' she says. Holleeder tells her he is in dispute with Johnny Mieremet about Klepper's legacy. He warns her that her children's lives are in danger unless she hands over a share of the estate. Sandra ends up paying €4 million over several years. At the same time they begin an affair. Holleeder offers to protect her and moves her into a flat that he fits out with security cameras. Only later does she understand that his real motive is to isolate her from the outside world and anyone who might intrude on the version of reality he has constructed for her. When Holleeder is sent back to prison in 2006 for blackmailing Willem Endstra, he orders his two sisters to keep watch on Sandra. He doesn't reckon with the possibility that Astrid and Sonja will eventually recruit Sandra as a witness. Holleeder becomes more aggressive and controlling, says Sandra. He starts to talk about colleagues who have 'lain down' or 'taken their turn' – Holleeder doublespeak for assassination, she explains. 'He wanted to show me how great he was but also how dangerous. I didn't take it seriously at first, but now I did.' And there was the constant monitoring. Once he phoned her while she was in a street which had been opened up for roadworks. The lack of traffic noise or footsteps made Holleeder so suspicious that she had to walk to another street to convince him she was telling the truth. Over the years Holleeder swears to kill Van Hout, Endstra, Mieremet and Van der Bijl. All of them duly perish by gunfire. 'Either he's clairvoyant, or it was him,' Sandra observes. ‘You could say Holleeder belongs to a generation whose time has passed. He’s been overshadowed' She recalls his fury when he learned that Endstra was talking to the police. 'Raging and howling, his ears went red and he was frothing at the mouth. He said, “he doesn't have to pay any more – more to the point, I won't let him pay.”' Refusing permission to pay was Holleeder's ultimate sanction. It meant you could no longer depend on his protection; you had outlived your purpose and were on borrowed time. Like the doctor who tells a terminal patient: 'go home, there's nothing more we can do.' And then comes the clincher. Holleeder has told Sandra that her husband was killed on the orders of Mieremet, but after Mieremet's murder in 2005 her suspicion grows that Willem was involved. In 2013, in the heat of an argument about her son, he says: 'I'll make that boy lie down, just like I did with his father.' She goes to Astrid seeking confirmation. Astrid, suspecting Sandra may have been sent by her brother to test her loyalty, makes her strip to the waist so she can check for wires. Then Sandra says, if you know he did it, tell me. Even if you can only nod. And Astrid nods. She advises Sandra not to end the relationship: 'Keep him close'. But Sandra says: 'My whole world changed. Not so much on the outside, because I tried to act normal. But I didn't believe him any more.' Cuddly criminal She keeps up the relationship for another year, until he moves out of her house, at Astrid's prompting. By this time Sandra has joined the sisters' clandestine pact against Willem. Astrid cites his reaction in Judas: 'That woman's gone mad, but it's a pity about the house. Now I need to find myself another bitch so I can lie around in her garden all day.' In its opening statement to the court in February, the prosecution explicitly stated its ambition not only to convict Willem Holleeder, but to destroy his image as a knuffelcrimineel: 'There is nothing cuddly about the matters that are set out before you here,' said prosecuting lawyer Sabine Tammes. 'For us the time has come to demythologise the accused. The man on trial is not a master criminal or a cuddly criminal, but a cold, everyday kidnapper and killer.' In a sense Willem Holleeder represents the last of a breed. For the last year Dutch media have been filled with stories of a new gangland turf war dubbed the 'Mocro Wars', whose main protagonists are drawn from the Moroccan immigrant community. Older generation They inspire a different kind of sentiment from the Jordanees criminal fraternity, even though the 'Mocros' have adopted many of the practices of Holleeder's generation: drug running, brothel keeping, blackmail, laundering money through real estate and settling scores at the point of a semi-automatic rifle. 'You could say Holleeder belongs to a generation whose time has passed,' says Frank van Gemert. 'He's been overshadowed by the news reports of the more recent wave of killings. The difference is that the most recent killings, as far as we know, weren't carried out by professionals but by young lads who are sent out onto the streets with very powerful weapons and no training, with all the risks that implies.' Just about anything with Holledeer's name on it sells, acknowledges Auke Kok, whose biography won critical acclaim when it was published in 2011. 'You can't avoid the fact that you're contributing to a certain image of the man, that's part of being a journalist, but it wasn't my main concern,' he says. Kok argues there is an element of escapism about the Holleeder saga. 'Knowing who Willem Holleeder and his sisters are and the whole Heineken story behind it is a kind of flight from reality, and at the same time something that brings the country together. It's what people used to get from the church or the trade union or a political party, you know? A shared heritage in a divided country.' Back in court Later this week Astrid Holleeder will return to court, continuing her quest to keep her brother behind bars for life. 'If you have a friendly dog that bites children, you take the children's side and have it put down,' she told the judges back in March. But in one sense her mission has succeeded: the popular myth of Willem as a mercenary and a rebel, driving around on his scooter and staying one step ahead of the law, has been disfigured by the raw brutality exposed in the recordings, and the ruthless pursuit of his own family depicted in Judas. 'I find it hard to imagine him appearing on College Tour again,' says Van Gemert. 'The benefit of the doubt that there was at one point for this man who was maybe not sympathetic, but who'd kidnapped Heineken and let him live – that's not coming back. The details and the things that have been revealed have reached such a mass that I don't believe it can swing back in his favour again.' Astrid Holleeder believes her betrayal will cost her her life: that Willem will not rest in prison until he has taken his revenge on his two sisters and his ex-partner, Sandra den Hartog. 'If I die because of him, at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing that the truth about him is known at last and that he has paid for the suffering he caused to Cor and so many others,' Astrid writes. But even those words hint at how the truth has become a hostage in the Holleeder saga, a bargaining chip; all that really counts is who has the last word. The English translation of Judas will be published by Little, Brown on August 14   More >


It’s windmill weekend: 10 things you should know about Dutch windmills

It’s windmill weekend: 10 things you should know about Dutch windmills

This Saturday and Sunday (May 12 and 13) have been designated National Mill Day when some 900 windmills all over the country open their doors 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, 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 - there are currently some 3,000 wind turbines in action of which some 289 are situated off shore. Some 5% of Dutch electricity is now generated by wind power. On May 12 and 13 windmills all over the country will be open to the public. Check them out via this website  More >


Off for a run? Don’t forget your rubber gloves and eye mask!

Off for a run? Don’t forget your rubber gloves and eye mask!

With summer on its way, the streets of the Netherlands have reawakened with the sight of dusted-off trainers and lycra-clad runners but, as Rachel Kilbee has been finding out, there are some new necessities for the everyday runner to consider before lacing-up. By Rachel Kilbee Plogging - No, it’s not a typo — it’s definitely ‘Plogging' and it’s the latest craze that is spreading it’s environmental arms across over 40 countries, with the Netherlands taking up the baton with fervour. ‘Find a group of people to do it with. The more of you there are, the more fun you will have, you’ll clean up a bigger area and feel more productive pushing each other,’ says Erik Ahlström, founder of Plogga in Sweden where it all began. So what exactly does Erik want us to do? ‘It’s a treasure hunt!’ he said. The concept is simple — you run around your local area, collecting rubbish in a bag as you go. It’s cardio exercise with an added bonus of complimentary squats and lunges whilst you litter-pick. Rubber gloves With over €200m spent annually in the Netherlands for cleaning up litter alone, there is certainly scope for this fitness concept to become more than just a trend. A local group that recently took to the streets of Hilversum were amazed by the results. ‘Initially I felt self-conscious, I don’t usually run through town with my rubber gloves on! But it’s a community spirited thing to do, and I’d definitely do it again!’ said Liz Young. ‘After a while, I didn’t even realise I was doing it. It’s a fun thing to do with friends!’ agreed Sanna Rantala. Sam Atkins, an experienced marathon runner and also a member of her local plogging group said: ‘It’s good to be able to give something back and the response from the public is incredible. I even had a gentleman doff his cap to me today.’ Catalina Negru, founder and president of Rompro, has also joined the clean up movement. ‘We’re encouraging an active role in the community. We all need to contribute, and integrate into our society, and through our actions, such as plogging, we are creating a difference. People appreciate it so much. We regularly receive a thumbs up! It’s so refreshing.’ Is your mind running away with you? If picking up rubbish is not your thing, how about mindful running instead? Donning an eye mask may not seem the usual running attire, but in combination with sticky tape affixed across your mouth the concept may initially strike runners as somewhat bizarre. However, there are currently 170 active mindful running groups across the Netherlands demonstrating that the idea is being embraced with zeal. Jill Engelsman-Gamma is a mindful running instructor in Blaricum and encourages her clients to use the experience to take time for themselves. ‘So many of my clients are just too busy with life that somewhere along the line it malfunctions, there will be shortcomings, so I encourage mindfulness. They learn to focus on their breathing, becoming aware of their time. Less is more.’ Eye mask Ilse Loo, who is just beginning a 5-week mindful run course, realised that she was looking after her body with plenty of exercise, but in today’s busy world she was often forgetting to take a rest for her mind. After wearing the eye mask for an exercise in mindful trust, she suddenly had a flashback to 35 years ago. ‘I was snow-blinded as a teenager, for a whole week I couldn't see a thing. I had an amazing friend who took care of me and she guided me everywhere. I think today’s mindful run has happened for a reason — I haven't seen her in years, this could be the start of re-connecting with her.’ After donating a kidney to her nephew, Sonja Hagen de Wit joined her local mindful running course. ‘I wanted to run again but I’m always at war with my breath. This helps me learn to make peace in my head whilst meeting new friends. It’s a great reward.’ Sticky tape The idea started in Arnhem with Martijn Mensink, creator of Mindful Run. ‘It’s simplicity and it’s pure. By taping up the mouth, you pay more attention to your breathing and not what’s in your mind. The good, deep breathing creates more energy and less stress.’ Mindful Run has been established for two years and in that time the concept has spread from the Netherlands to Belgium and Germany with interest also coming from Britain. ‘You come to us and mindful running gives you what you need. I don't ask personal questions, I just give my clients the tools they need to deal with it,' says Martijn. 'Some people use it as therapy, others as life coaching, but at the root of it, the focus is fun. Lose the stress between your ears!’  More >


Rabbi Lody van de Kamp: ‘I refuse to let myself be used to exclude other groups’

Rabbi Lody van de Kamp: ‘I refuse to let myself be used to exclude other groups’

Attacks on a Jewish restaurant in Amsterdam, political parties signing a ‘Jewish Pact’ to protect the Jewish community, and a new report with shocking findings about increasing antisemitism in the Netherlands - amid all of the noise and hysteria, rabbi Lody van de Kamp has a different way of dealing with hate and discrimination. Laura Vrijsen went to meet him. Lody Van de Kamp (69) is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi living in Amsterdam. Being the son of two Holocaust survivors, he is very much aware of the dangers of discrimination and the exclusion of certain groups in society. He wrote several books about the Holocaust, and he regularly visits schools to teach children about World War II. More than this, the rabbi is involved in many projects aiming at building bridges between people from different backgrounds. He has particularly good connections within the Muslim community, and whenever he senses discrimination towards them, he is the first one to show his support. I meet Van de Kamp on a Sunday morning in a hotel lounge in Amsterdam Zuid, an area with a large Jewish population. As usual, the rabbi shows up visibly Jewish, wearing a black kippa on his head. While he sips his black coffee, I asks him about the rise in anti-semitism in the Netherlands, and his perspective on it. 'Anti-semitism has always been bad, and I guess it will always be,' he says. 'It has never been any different. When I walk on the street, people recognise me as a Jew. I only have to bump into the wrong person in the wrong place, and there could be real trouble.’ However, this does not only apply to Jews, he adds. ‘The same goes for other minority groups, such as Surinamese, gays, or Muslims. To me, there is no difference. Sadly, this is the situation.’ Shift to the right Discrimination has always been there, but the increasing influence of the right has changed the political climate, says the rabbi. ‘And this change has made new space for discrimination and the exclusion of minorities.' He is particularly concerned about Geert Wilders’ right-wing anti-immigration PVV. ‘The PVV gets away with the statement "Islam is deadly", in their most recent campaign video. But 20 to 30 years ago this would have been unheard of,’ he says. Van de Kamp is very sceptical about the attention right-wing parties like the PVV are suddenly giving to anti-semitism. ‘The fact that they care so much about anti-semitism has everything to do with the anti-Muslim debate. 'When Geert Wilders visited the Jewish restaurant that was attacked a few months ago, it was not out of love for Jews, but out of hatred against Muslims,’ he says. A Dutch luxury Van de Kamp believes the hysteria that arose after the attacks at the Jewish restaurant in Amsterdam are exaggerated. ‘There have been very serious terrorist attacks on Jewish institutions in Vienna, as well as in Brussels. In France hostages have been taken. 'Here in Amsterdam, there was a refugee who smashed a window with a stick. Later on, someone else smeared dirty stuff on the window, and then a stone was thrown at it a few days later.’ The rabbi pauses briefly, giving the words some time to land. ‘Honestly, the fact that we can worry about such incidents, is a great luxury. For sure, there is enough reason to stay alert. But comparing this with Germany in the 1930s, as some people have done, really is based on historical ignorance.’ The rabbi warns of the danger of exclusion. ‘If one group knows best what it means to be excluded and what it can lead to, it is the Jewish people,' he states. 'It starts with exclusion, and it ends with destruction. So I think the Jewish people should be respectful enough to say that they will not let themselves be used for this purpose’ Said and Lody Currently, van de Kamp is actively engaged in projects to stop youngsters turning to crime and from becoming radicalised and has a close relationship with Said Bensellam, a youth worker with a Moroccan-Muslim background. ‘We speak with young people, often from a Muslim background, who are about to get into the criminal circuit. Our experience has been the same again and again: give those people a chance, listen to them, make sure they will also get a job,' he says. 'Then they are really not interested in getting into the drugs circuit, or fighting in Syria. These youngsters are constantly being excluded and driven into a corner. Politicians need to stand up for them, and help them to become part of society.’ Nazi salute Ironically, it was a Nazi salute that led the rabbi into this field. It happened eight years ago, when he and a group of Jewish students were walking in Amsterdam. A teenage boy saw them and demonstratively made a Nazi salute. The act was filmed and caused considerable commotion in the media. The boy was identified and put on trial. But before that, Van de Kamp went to talk with him. ‘It turned out that the boy, who was then 16, didn’t know anything about the meaning of the Hitler salute. And he wanted to do everything to fix what he had done,’ the rabbi said. The boy asked the rabbi to stay in touch with him, and if he could take him to the Anne Frank house, where he had once been when he was 12. ‘So we went together to the Anne Frank house, where we spent several hours. He wanted to know everything. I remember the moment when we watched the video of Miep Gies, who helped Anne Frank’s family to go into hiding. After seeing that, he wanted to see the video again. 'Eventually he said: “Mister Lody, when I did the Hitler greeting on the street, I thought I was cool. But what this woman did, that is really cool!” Wearing a kippa So how does the rabbi himself experience walking around wearing a kippa? Are there any places where he feels unsafe? ‘If there is a pro-Palestine demonstration on the Malieveld in the Hague or the Museumplein in Amsterdam, then I would rather not cross it wearing a kippa. You always have to consider where it could be seen as provocative.’ However, Van de Kamp can often be found in western Amsterdam where the city's Muslim community are largely concentrated and where he feels comfortable enough to walk with his kippa. ‘Not long ago, I walked in the Kolenkit neighbourhood together with an imam, who was wearing a djellaba. Suddenly, an elderly man approached us. He burst into tears and said "this is how it is supposed to be!” For some people it is still very special to see Muslims and Jews out walking together, even in this country.’   More >