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


The Evolution of Bingo (third party content)

The Evolution of Bingo (third party content)

The way that we interact with each other has changed. The rise and popularity of social media profiles helps us to maintain connections with our friends and family, especially those who live in different countries and cities. But keeping in touch online can never replace spending quality time with the people you love. Bingo has been a popular pastime in the Netherlands for decades. There are still active bingo halls in use but over the past ten years the game of bingo had moved from halls to the internet. Online bingo is a booming industry all over the world, enabling users to play from the comfort of their own home but the sense of community that made the game so popular in the beginning is sometimes lost online. If you’re tired of winning bingo online and not having your friends there to share the moment with, Dutch company Bingocams has developed a solution. In order to connect you with the worldwide bingo community they have created a site that combines the game of online bingo with webcams! There are all sorts of ways to connect with people on Bingocams. You can share your wins in real-time with other players using webcams, either during a group chat in the bingo rooms you’re playing in, or by using the private chat function. As well as playing online bingo with your family and friends, Bingocams enables users to interact in the online bingo community where you can meet new people and make new friends. Take a look at the video below to see how the site works: Head over to Bingocams today to sign up for a free account and see some winning reactions on the Live Win Moment board!  More >


That time an American woman had to convince her Dutch doctor she wasn’t a sex worker

The Dutch have very distinctive ideas about sexual health, as Molly Quell found out. A few weeks ago, I got a letter telling me I was old. Well, not in so many words. I got a letter, from the government, saying that because I am turning 30 this year, it’s time for a pap smear. In the Netherlands, women only start getting pap smears done when they turn 30 and then every five years. In the US, you typically start getting them done when you become sexually active or when you turn 18. From then on, you have them done once a year, during your yearly check up. (Though now the recommendation has changed to every three years.) Needless to say, I have had plenty of pap smears done. I call my doctor’s office and make my appointment, indicating that I got the aforementioned letter. When I arrive several days later for said appointment, the receptionist asks me for my name and the name of my doctor. I tell her and she looks at me and says: 'He’s not in the office today.' I shrug. 'Ok.' ‘Well then you can’t have an appointment with him.’ ‘Clearly.’ We are at an impasse. I politely tell her that simply because my regular doctor isn’t there, doesn’t mean I don’t have an appointment with another doctor and perhaps she should check her computer for just such a thing. She asks me what time my appointment was. ‘I think 11:30.’ ‘Well there’s no appointment at 11:30.’ I take a deep breath. ‘Could you check to see if I have an appointment today?’ She asks my name again and consults the computer. ‘Yes, at 11:25. You can take a seat.’ I blink several times and join the crowd in the waiting room. A few minutes later, my name is called and I introduce myself to the nurse who I very quickly realise isn’t especially well-versed in English. She has an assistant with her who, apparently, speaks no English at all. We go into the office and the nurse asks me to sit, so she can explain the procedure. After a few minutes of tedious attempts to explain in English, supplemented by Dutch, I tell her not to worry. I’ve had a pap smear before and I understand the procedure. The nurse eyes her assistant. ‘When was your last test?’ she asks. ‘A year or so ago, the last time I was in the US.’ ‘And why did you get it done?’ I try to explain that it’s very common in the US to have your first pap smear at an earlier age and that you get them more regularly. The nurse and the assistant exchange sideways glances. ‘We have some more questions,’ the nurse tells me. They proceed to ask some rather probing questions about my sex life, sexual activities, sexual partners and all manner of sexual habits. As I haven’t actually been a nun for my entire life, some of my answers are vague. This only seems to upset them more. Eventually, the nurse declares that I need to talk to the doctor. She disappears from the office and leaves me with the assistant who just stares at the floor. The nurse returns and tells me that there are no female doctors available, so I will have to wait. I raise my eyebrows. ‘Are there male doctors available?’ ‘Yes but do you want to see a male doctor?’ ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ I’ve already been here for an hour, I haven’t had the test and I’ve got work to do. If they gave a chimpanzee a medical degree, I’d talk to her. Or him. The nurse again departs and returns with a man who is at least 85 and probably speaks about as much English as your average chimpanzee. He repeats a number of questions I’ve already been asked and, at this point, I’m beginning to get irritated. ‘Look,’ I finally say, ‘I’ve answered these questions already and I’m failing to see how any of them are relevant to getting a pap done.’ The doctor and the nurse exchange uncomfortable glances. The assistant continues to stare at the floor. The doctor nods and says ok. The test, is, as expected, a pretty standard pap smear experience. Once it’s over, the doctor states that he wants to take a blood and urine sample. Because, he says, ‘he’s concerned about infection.’ Considering this gentleman had just had a more intimate moment with my private parts than I am able to have, I grow concerned. ‘Is something wrong?’ I ask. More uncomfortable glances. ‘No, no,’ the nurse says, ‘Just in case.’ She hands me a sample cup. I go to the bathroom, lock the door and do what any foreigner would do. I call my doctor back home. After answering a series of questions about pain (I have none) and discharges (also none), she tells me there’s nothing to worry about and chalks it up to a language barrier. I return my sample, say my goodbyes and roll my eyes about the absurdity of the Dutch medical system. The next day, my phone rings, and it’s my regular doctor. For the record, his English is perfectly fine. ‘So,’ he starts awkwardly, ‘I hear you had an appointment yesterday.’ ‘Yeah, it was a bit odd,’ I tell him. ‘I heard as much. As you know it’s not common for women here to get pap smears until they are 30.’ ‘Right.’ ‘And, typically, the only women who do get them earlier more often work in certain areas…’ ‘Your colleagues thought I was a hooker?’ ‘I think we would say sex worker, but yes.’ ‘I hope you clarified things.’ ‘Well, I just want you to know that if you are participating in or contemplating that sort of work, I would want to know, as there are certain health precautions…’ he went on, explaining that sex work is legal in the Netherlands and I’d still be a welcome patient at their practice. The Netherlands. Where regular medical check ups are strange, but sex work is welcome. Taken from Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style, an anthology of expat essays written by 27 women, who have all relocated to the Netherlands and are attempting to find a place in Dutch society. Buy this book  More >


10 great things to do this week: August 24-30

10 great things to do this week: August 24-30

From food markets and the new Woody Allen to Miffy's birthday celebrations and music under the trees, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Watch Woody's new film For his 45th feature film Woody Allen has put together an existential thriller which takes various themes from some of his earlier films. Like the wonderful Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and the stodgy Match Point (2005), the film's central conceit is a murder and the effect it has on the perpetrator. And like many of his films, it features an intellectual stewing in frustration and self-disgust, and a Pygmalion-type romance. The Allen tropes of philosphy, morality and the randomness or meaning of existence are also well to the fore. Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe Lucas, a jaded philosophy professor and womaniser who begins an affair with science lecturer Rita (Parker Posey) and begins to flirt with student Jill (Emma Stone). Nothing raises Abe's spirits until he overhears an anguished woman say she wants dead the supposedly-biased judge in her children's custody case. He decides to help the mother and serve society by killing the judge. His lack of motive will make it the perfect crime and it will do more good than philosophy ever could. Irrational Man is a good idea for a film which needed more work. There is some sparky chemistry between Phoenix and Stone and Posey uses her eccentricities as an actress to good effect. However, aimiable and humorous as it is, there are too many implausibilities in the script to make this a great Woody Allen film. Get a taste of Limburg Head to Maastricht for the four-day culinary event known as Preuvenemint. Over 30 stands fill the Vrijthof square from which the top quality restaurants of the area serve their specialities and best wines. And since the city is one of the gastronomic capitals of Europe, top quality means just that. In the evening there is live music on the outdoor stage. Vrijthof, Maastricht, August 27 to 30. www.preuvenemint.nl Check out the new cultural season The new cultural season opens with the annual Uitmarkt where opera companies, choirs, orchestras, theatre and dance companies, museums and many more offer information about their forthcoming performances and exhibitions. There are also tasters in the form of indoor and outdoor performances. Museumplein, Amsterdam, August 28 to 30. www.uitmarkt.nl Listen to the classics under the trees The Hortus festival of classical music takes place in the Netherlands' most beautiful gardens. This week the Hortus Ensemble play Schumann's Nachtstücke and piano trio number 1 and Chausson's concerto for violin, piano and string quartet. Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, August 26; Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam, August 27; Oude Hortus, Utrecht, August 29; Hortus Botanicus, Haren, August 30. www.hortusfestival.nl Stock up on fresh food The Neighbourhood Food Market is a farmer's market which attracts just about everyone involved in fresh food from eco farmers, traiteurs, bakers, butchers, cheese-makers and sausage-makers to juice pressers, soup boilers and tea sellers. Pek Market, Amsterdam Noord, August 29. www.neighbourhoodfoodmarket.nl Celebrate Miffy's 60th The little white rabbit drawn by Dick Bruna is celebrating her 60th birthday so 45 artists from different disciplines have made statues of her. They range from an all gold Miffy entitled Sunshine by Carli Hermès to a blue Miffy balancing on a chair called Equilibrio Iconico by Joseph Klibansky. They are to be found at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht and at various locations in Amsterdam and The Hague. On October 8 they will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to Unicef. Centraal Museum, Utrecht and other venues until September 20. www.nijntjeartparade.nl Immerse yourself in early music This year's Early Music Festival takes as its theme England, My England with a focus on the Renaissance and early Baroque. There will be series around Tudor polyphony (Sheppard, Taverner, Tye), Elizabethan virginalists (Bull, Gibbons, Farnaby, Byrd) and consort music (Lawes, Jenkins and Tomkins). Of course Henry Purcell plays an important role with performances of Funeral Sentences, King Arthur and Dido and Aeneas. There is also music by Handel’s lesser-known contemporaries such as Bononcini, Avison and Boyce. The French-Belgian ensemble Vox Luminis of Lionel Meunier will be artist-in-residence. Other guests this year include L’Arpeggiata, Gabrieli Consort, Gli Angeli Genève, Capriccio Stravagante, Dunedin Consort and La Risonanza. TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht and other venues, Utrecht, August 28 to September 6. www.oudemuziek.nl See traditional cheese selling The cheese market in Alkmaar, which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, hasn't changed much since its inception in 1365. The carriers, placers, throwers and scale masters still wear traditional costume. The cheeses, some 2,200 of them, are laid out early in the morning ready for inspection by the market masters and traders. After which the bidding begins. City centre, Alkmaar, August 28. www.kaasmarkt.nl Discover Guatemala An exhibition of photographs by two very different photographers. Raymond Rutting, photo-journalist for publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian, takes his photos of people instinctively and just snaps away. Sasha de Boer, formerly the reader of the main news on Dutch tv, prefers to take her time, to observe from a distance and then ask permission to take a photo. National Geographic Traveller sent the two of them to Guatemala last year for what the magazine calls 'an image battle'. The results are often spectacular and often moving. Museum Hilversum, Hilversum until September 27. www.museumhilversum.nl Admire vintage cars The Historic Grand Prix provides an opportunity to admire vintage and classic F1, Group C and sports cars in the paddocks, and to watch them racing around the track. Circuit, Zandvoort, August 28 to 30. www.circuit-zandvoort.nl For more suggestions of what to do in August and September visit the full What's On section.  More >


The Maasduinen national park is one of Limburg’s best kept secrets

The Maasduinen national park is one of Limburg’s best kept secrets

Ask anyone if they know of a big nature reserve in the Netherlands, and they are sure to come up with De Hoge Veluwe National Park. However, National Park Maasduinen in the northern part of Limburg is definitely worth a visit as well. Maasduinen National Park only officially opened in 1998 and is still an oasis of calm. Even in the sunniest of weather, you cab pass an entire day enjoying the peace and quiet of this area relatively undisturbed. The park covers 4,500 hectares and is flanked by several picturesque villages. If you go to the main reception area in Well, you will find a touchscreen, offering you approximately 200 different hiking routes, as well cycling, mountain-biking, horse riding and other routes – organised according to theme: through the forest, historical, art and culture, child-friendly, villages and cities, wheelchair-friendly, scenic, etc. In short, there is enough to keep you occupied for days. As befits a nature reserve, Maasduinen has a lot of wildlife - as well as Highland cows you may spot the long-horned Dutch land goat, a herd of sheep with their shepherdess, or a flock of geese. There are beavers, foxes, roe deer, bats, badgers, weasels. magnificent birds of prey and whole lot more. Some of the routes lead you to and around Reindersmeer lake, created by sand and gravel excavations in the last quarter of the former century. Due to the uncharacteristic acidity of the water, which in turn is caused by the presence of pyrite (or fool’s gold) in the aquifers, the water is relatively free of organic material and nutrients. Consequently, the lake has a beautiful azure color and is crystal clear, allowing you to look straight down to surprising depths of some 10 meters. Heather The heaths that can be found spread across the park came about in the Middle Ages. The grazing of the sheep – whose dung was used as fertiliser – the mowing of the plants and the use of the turf hindered the growth of natural vegetation, so that the only plant that could survive was heather – fortunately the staple food of the local sheep. In fact, there is something surprisingly moorland-like about the area; if you wander through the hills behind the village of Afferden, you could almost believe you were in the Scottish Highlands, with the arid, sandy ground, the crunch of the dry heath and lichen as you walk across them and the wide views (on a good day, you can see as far as at least 10 kilometers, meaning your eyes can make a trip across the border to Germany). This is the one place in the Netherlands where you do not see at least five church towers, wherever you look. In fact, going around 360 degrees, you see only one. If you climb up the Lookout Tower, on top of one of these hills – it does a bit of a hula dance in the wind – this will extend your view even further. Castles People have been living in this area since prehistory; these were small groups of hunter-gatherers who did not leave much behind other than axes and spearheads. Then, over the course of time, fixed settlements arose, focused on agriculture, which meant that many parts of the forest were cleared to make room for farmland. By the time the Romans settled in the region, the agricultural importance of the area grew, so that the farms became wealthy estates that housed beautiful villas, while a network of roads connected the various villages. The region retains a feeling of wealth to this day. For those of you who would like to go in search of a bit of history, be sure to visit Bleijenbeek Castle in Afferden; built in the 14th century, it has since been home to knights, dukes and field marshals. This imposing castle survived the many centuries that followed its construction, including attempts by the Spaniards during the 80 Year War (1568-1648) to destroy it. However, when 16 determined and invincible German parachutists took it over during World War II, putting a halt to the liberation of northern Limburg, the British RAF was forced to bomb it on February 22, 1945, turning it into the ruin it is now. If it is gardens you are looking for, then visit Arcen Castle. This castle was built in the 17th century and the gardens occupy 32 hectares of the castle’s entire territory of 450 hectares. A visit to these gardens will take you through a rose garden, a water and sculptures garden, a vegetable garden and their mountain garden (Bergtuin), with steep rock-faces, narrow brooks, grottos and waterfalls – including the Netherlands’s largest waterfall. A longer version of this article was published in the summer edition of the Xpat Journal.  More >


‘She was built to sail any ocean and that’s what we’re achieving’

Commander Gavin Dawe is in charge of the Young Endeavour, a tall ship from Australia that’s currently sailing towards the Netherlands for SAIL Amsterdam. It’s also in the middle of an historic year-long journey around the world. In this interview, Dawe tells Brandon Hartley about everyday life on the high seas, the dangers his crews have encountered so far, and whether or not there’s good coffee on board the ship. What’s life like on board the ship while you’re out at sea? Well, things haven’t changed that much since the old days. We keep watches. Normally, our crew does three per day and eight hours per watch. That can involve helming, a little bit of navigation, keeping lookout, or setting and tending to the sails. We also have other activities on our programme which focus on teaching people about communication, leadership, teamwork and those sorts of things. We’re very conscious of giving [the crew] plenty of downtime, otherwise they’d get very tired. Do you have a traditional ‘crow’s nest’ up on one of the masts for crew members on lookout? Like the ones featured in films including the Pirates of the Caribbean series? No, we don’t. Instead, we post people on the bridge and they have to do lookout through all kinds of weather. We have two people keeping an eye on things below with binoculars. We also have modern navigational tools like GPS, a radar system and electronic charting. So we definitely have a good idea of what’s going on all around us. As part of the Young Endeavour’s year-long journey around the globe, you’re working with various different young crews. What’s it like to deal with an inexperienced crew versus a more experienced one with years of experience under their belts? It’s really rewarding. When we get our crews they may not know much or have only done a little bit of sailing. As our voyages progress they gain knowledge on how to sail the ship, how to set the sails themselves, how to navigate and lots of other things. From our perspective, it’s very rewarding to see how people develop while we have them on board. Life on board the Young Endeavour must be very different to life on board a similar ship back in the 16th or 17th centuries. You mentioned the ship has modern technical equipment that helps your crew navigate, but what about other stuff like wifi? Can you watch satellite tv while you’re out to sea? Surf the internet? We have broadband which allows us to communicate with our team back in Australia 24/7. With our crew though we emphasise that they really don’t need modern technology like mobile phones and computers. It’s all about spending time together and learning about the ship. We try to get them away from all modern technology as much as possible but we still rely on modern communication aids. So no hot showers, espresso machines, or anything like that? We do have hot showers. We’re lucky to have fresh water on board. The crew doesn’t have an espresso machine but we members of the staff do because we couldn’t live without fresh coffee. [laughs] They do get looked after very well while they’re on board. We have a chef and the food is amazing. We don’t deprive them of very much. I think many people would assume you have to make do with MREs, those ready-made meals that soldiers use while they’re out in the field. No, nothing like that. We have a full galley and a chef who’s just brilliant, and bakes fresh bread every day. For each meal we have a choice of three to four dishes and there’s always fresh salads and fruit. The food on board is just amazing. What sort of dangers do you run into while you’re out at sea? Do you have to worry about modern day pirates? Sharks? Angry whales like Moby Dick knocking the ship over? When we were planning the overall voyage we made sure to avoid any known pirate areas. We actually like to see whales and we haven’t had any problems running into one. When we were down in the South Pacific we saw a blue whale. Sometimes, when the weather is really good and there’s no wind, we may stop the ship and have a swim. We haven’t really experienced any problems with sharks either. The biggest challenge is bad weather. We can encounter some really severe weather. Getting through those conditions can present some big challenges but the ship is extremely strong. She was built to sail any ocean in the world and that’s what we’re achieving during the twelve months we’re away from Australia. So what do you do when the ship encounters a storm? Do you have to batten down the hatches and hang on much the same way a crew in the 17th century might in the same scenario? That’s exactly right. We reduce sail or we put up storm sails and secure everything. Then we ride out the storm. Any further adventures or exciting moments you would like to mention? Rounding Cape Horn was very special for us. Not a lot of Australian ships sail around Cape Horn these days. When we came through the Strait of Gibraltar we got hit by severe weather and we had to turn back and return to Cádiz to fix some problems. There was a lot of people smuggling going on in the Mediterranean so we tried to avoid those areas. We had to go through the Strait of Messina to make it to our next port on time. We had lots of adventures along the way. What can visitors to the Young Endeavour experience while it’s in port at SAIL Amsterdam later this week? We’ll have the ship open to the public so they can come on board and have a look around. We’re always happy to tell people about our experiences, what we’ve seen since we left Australia, and how long it’s going to take us to get back as well. Everywhere we’ve been everyone has been very friendly and kind. We’ve met lots of lovely people since we’ve been away from Australia. You can learn more about the Young Endeavour by following its ongoing journey via its website [http://www.youngendeavour.gov.au]. Updates are posted regularly.  More >


10 great things to do this week – August 17-23

From welcoming tall ships and saving the bassoon to celebrating Amy and enjoying opera in a beautiful garden, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Welcome the tall ships Sail Amsterdam is the huge maritime manifestation when tall ships from all over the world visit the city to moor in its eastern harbour, and people can then visit the ships. There are also hundreds of other historical ships moored in the harbour. There is a programme of events during the festival involving small sail boats, sailor choirs or re-enactments of naval battles. The Sail In or Parade of Sail on the first day sees over 43 tall ships along with five Dutch Marine boats and hundreds more vessels sail down the North Sea Canal into central Amsterdam. There is a naval pageant on the penultimate day and the Sail Out on the final day. Among the music events which take place on a large stage in the IJ river are concerts by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the pop acts Kensington and Miss Montreal. Oosterdok, Amsterdam, August 19 to 23. www.sail.nl Murmer along to Mozart The South African-born pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout is the soloist for Mozart's piano concerto nr 18 with its change of tempo in the finale, which was unusual for the time. He plays with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra which also performs two works by Dvořák: symphony nr 8 and the overture to Othello. The conductor is Daniel Harding. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 21. www.concertgebouw.nl Get close to Amy The rise and fall of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was so closely covered in the media that a documentary about her life would seem unnecessary. However, this unsensational and infinitely sad film by Asif Kapadia (Senna), consisting of interview voices against a background of edited archive footage, home movies and song lyrics used as captions, creates an almost overwhelming sense of intimacy with the girl who could have become one of the all-time greats. The film opens with a home video from 1998 with a young Amy impersonating Marilyn Monroe on her friend's 14th birthday. It ends 13 years later with her funeral in 2011. In between there is video camera and mobile phone footage, newsreels and tv shows and the voices of close friends, her managers and collaborators, including Tony Bennett with whom she recorded Body and Soul towards the end of her life. The villain of the piece, as was clear at the time, is Blake Fielder-Civil, who was her husband for several years and got her hooked on heroin and crack cocaine. But her father, Mitch, who has disassociated himself from the film, is also shown basking in her fame while giving scant concern to her well-being. Fortunately, the film ends with the recording session with Bennett who places Winehouse in the ranks of Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin. It's a shame she did not meet people of the calibre and gentlemanliness of Bennett earlier in her career. Watch an apple tree A short opera followed by drinks in the lovely gardens of Museum van Loon in Amsterdam is an annual event. This year's opera is The Apple Tree, written by Mark Twain and set to music by Jerry Bock of Fiddler on the Roof fame. It's the story of Adam and Eve from Eve's viewpoint, full of sarcastic humour and subtle remarks about the weaknesses of men. It is sung by Jan Willem Baljet (baritone, Adam), Esther Kuiper (mezzo-soprano, Eve) and Willem de Vries (baritone, God, devil, snake). They are accompanied by Jeroen Sarphati at the piano. Museum van Loon, Amsterdam, August 19 to 23. www.grachtenfestival.nl Help save the bassoon The campaign Save the Bassoon is spreading around the world, but it began as part of the Holland Festival earlier this year when seven short works were commissioned to celebrate the instrument. Leading the campaign is Dutch virtuoso bassoonist Bram van Sambeek who fears the bassoon is an 'endangered species'. Van Sambeek has already appeared at Berlin's Konzerthaus and takes his rock version of Vivaldi's bassoon music to London next year. This week he and his students are playing music by Bach together with the newly composed works in the stately setting of the Gemeenlandshuis. Gemeenlandshuis, Amsterdam, August 17 at 2pm. www.grachtenfestival.nl Celebrate a film star dog The Ketelhuis film theatre in Amsterdam is showing Michel Hazanavicius' Oscar-winning silent film The Artist outdoors on a giant screen (weather permitting). Two human actors think they are the stars of this wonderful film, but they are completely upstaged by Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who died last week. The film begins around 9.30pm and is free. Be on time to get a seat. Ketelhuis, Amsterdam, August 22. www.ketelhuis.nl Try staying seated It's impossible not to leap about once the Maison du Malheur start playing. Singer and guitarist JP Mesker and his nine-piece band play a mix of rhythm & blues, honky tonk, jazz, mariachi and Balkan. De Parade, Martin Luther King Park, Amsterdam, August 19. www.deparade.nl Relive the swinging sixties Photo: Traffic, 1960, Norman Parkinson An exhibition of photographs by Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy, Norman Parkinson, John Hopkins, James Barnor, John Cowan, Eric Swayne and Philip Townsend capturing the atmosphere of the 1960s in London. This was the decade in which London became the international epicentre for style, culture and fashion. Time Magazine devoted an entire issue to the city in April 1966, in which journalist Piri Halasz wrote: Ancient elegance and new opulence are all tangled up in a dazzling blur of op and pop. Foam, Amsterdam until September 2. www.foam.org Thrill to the sound of a violin The glamorous American violinist Sarah Chang, who first played with an orchestra at the age of nine, is the soloist with the Duisburger Philharmoniker for Sibelius' violin concerto in D. The orchestra, conducted by Giordano Bellincampi, also plays Nielsen's overture Helios and Beethoven's symphony nr 7. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 20. www.concertgebouw.nl Swing to all kinds of jazz Four market squares in the old centre of Haarlem host the Jazz & More four-day festival this week. The More covers a number of DJs and soul artists. Most of the artists taking part are Dutch, but they include great performers such as Benjamin Hermans, Bo Saris and Giovanca. Grote Markt and other venues, Haarlem, August 19 to 22. www.haarlemjazzandmore.nl For more suggestions of what to do in August and September visit the full What's On section.  More >


Celebrate Amsterdam’s maritime past at SAIL 2015

Celebrate Amsterdam’s maritime past at SAIL 2015

SAIL is one of the city’s biggest and most unique festivals but it only happens once every five years. Brandon Hartley checks out what is on offer for the 2015 edition. Amsterdam and boats have gone hand in hand since it consisted of little more than a few cottages and a bridge over the Amstel. Needless to say, the city has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the Middle Ages. During the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam’s ports helped it become one of the wealthiest places on the planet. Flash forward to the early ‘70s when Amsterdam officials were looking for a way to celebrate the city’s 700th anniversary. What they came up with was SAIL Amsterdam, a nautical event in the summer of 1975 devoted to the history of the city’s maritime industry and its culture. The five-day extravaganza featured ‘tall ships’ from all across Europe, around 500 modern vessels and over 700,000 visitors. By all accounts, it was a huge success; so much so that the organisers decided to host the event again in 1980 Sailing Into the Present Day Now in its ninth edition, SAIL Amsterdam is held every five years and it’s grown into the largest free maritime event in the world. It’s now a tradition for thousands of spectators line the banks of the river IJ to watch the ships arrive on the first day of the festival. The 2015 celebration will take place from Wednesday 19 until Sunday 23 August. The fun will begin with the Sail-In Parade, which organisers promise will be the biggest opening event in SAIL Amsterdam’s history. Over 43 tall ships along with five Dutch Marine boats and hundreds more vessels are scheduled to sail in file down the North Sea Canal into central Amsterdam. If you can’t make it to the shores of the IJ to watch the fleet arrive, you can always tune in from home. The Sail-In Parade will be broadcast live on national television on the 19th. The ships will set sail for Amsterdam at 10:00 and are due to arrive in the city around 15:00. While the parade itself is a spectacle, what traditionally happens afterwards can be, well, a little less so. Getting all of those boats into the correct spots along the IJ’s quays tends to make the average rush hour traffic jam in Los Angeles look downright orderly by comparison. Tall ships SAIL Amsterdam will feature countless boats and numerous events but, as with prior editions, the main draw will likely be the tall ships travelling to the city from ports all across the world. These gorgeous vessels and their photogenic masts harken back to the classic era of seafaring. The STS Young Endeavour is just one of the dozens that will appear at the 2015 festival. This tall ship hails from Australia and is currently in the middle of a year-long voyage around the world. A replica of the legendary Nao Victoria will also appear. The original ship was one of the first vessels to circumnavigate the globe back in the 16th century. The Biggest SAIL of All Time ‘1.7 million people visited SAIL Amsterdam 2010,’ SAIL spokesperson Jan Driessen told DutchNews. ‘This year we expect even more visitors because we have an extra (fifth) day.’ In addition to giving the schedule a boost, Driessen and his colleagues have done their best to make this year’s event the biggest and best SAIL Amsterdam thus far. The festival’s grounds have been expanded to cover a wider portion of the city. It’s been divided into five areas dubbed ‘Oceans,’ each with its own unique theme and colour. Those eager to have a look at the tall ships can head to ‘Orange Ocean’, the spot where they’ll be moored along the IJ. The ships will be joined by a full programme of live music at the nearby SAIL Music Marina and a nightly fireworks display. In search of calmer seas? Then aim for the ‘Red Ocean’, which will feature educational exhibitions and lectures at various locations across the city centre. Over at the NDSM Wharf visitors can enjoy exhibits that focus on technology, sustainable shipbuilding and innovation in the ‘Green Ocean’. The centrepiece of this area is sure to be the Volvo Ocean Race Team’s Brunel yacht. Crew members will be on hand to tell attendees about their experiences during their races on the high seas and what everyday life is like on board the ship. ‘White Ocean’, located near the EYE Film Museum, will serve as the home of the Northwave Festival. It offers a relaxing departure from the hustle and bustle of central Amsterdam with food and live music. Finally, ‘Blue Ocean’, over by the National Maritime Museum, will host a series of corporate events and a private ‘Captain’s Dinner’ with the commanders of the event’s tall ships. The full programme for SAIL Amsterdam 2015 can be found online.  More >


10 great things to do this week – August 10-16

10 great things to do this week – August 10-16

From bursts of colour at the seaside and the music of George Gershwin to tall men and self-mockery, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Ooh and aah with delight The coastline at Scheveningen is lit up by thousands of fireworks during the annual International Firework Festival which takes place over two weekends, starting this Friday. This weekend there are displays by firework experts from Poland, Germany, Japan and Korea. Next weekend it's the turn of Italy, the Netherlands, China and Spain. Scheveningen, August 14, 15, 21 and 22. www.vuurwerkfestivalscheveningen.nl Sway to smooth sounds Former leader Henk Meutgeert returns to conduct the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in a programme of Riffs and Rhythms from composers ranging from George Gershwin to Duke Ellington. He is joined by guests such as American vocalist Deborah Brown, singer and pianist Georgie Fame and saxophonist Benjamin Herman. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 16. www.concertgebouw.nl Admire the athleticism on the beach Top teams from around the world compete in the World Tour Grand Slam beach volleyball. There are also competitions for young and less experienced players. Scheveningen, August 15 and 16. www.circuit.beachvolley.nl Listen to music among the trees The Hortus Festival of classical music, which takes place in the Netherlands' most beautiful gardens, features the music of Schumann, Chausson, Schoenberg, Listz and Mendelssohn. Among those taking part are the Hortus Ensemble and the Thalia Ensemble. Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam; De Oude Hortus, Utrecht; Hortus Botanicus, Leiden; Hortus Haren until August 30. www.hortusfestival.nl Have visions of the world For the exhibition Global Imaginations, Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden invited international artists to contribute a piece of work - existing or new - which shows their vision of our globalised world. The results range from large-scale installations and sculpture to video projections. Among the artist exhibiting are the Ghana Thinktank, which was founded in 2006 by Christopher Robbins, John Ewing and Matey Odonkor, with Monument to the Dutch (photo, 2015). Others taking part are Simryn Gill from Singapore, Mona Hatoum from Libanon and Dutch artist Marjolijn Dijkman. De Meelfabriek, Leiden until October 4. www.lakenhal.nl Shiver to a dark tale Dark Places is the second film adaptation of a novel by Gillian Flynn, following the success of Gone Girl. It mixes serial killings, satanic cults, true-crime obsessives and family secrets but comes up short of the tension of the first film. It does, however, offer twists and revelations, and it benefits from the strong performances of Charlize Theron and Chloe Grace Moretz. Theron plays Libby Day, whose surly attitude to life stems from the murder of her mother (Christina Hendricks) and her two sisters on their family farm when she was eight-years-old (played in the flashbacks by Sterling Jerins). Her brother, Ben, is in jail for the murder. It's coming up to 30 years after the crime and Libby accepts an invitation, in return for some much-needed cash, to talk about the case to the Kill Club, a group of true-crime enthusiasts led by local laundromat owner Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult). Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner tells this complex tale clearly while flashing back and forth between the past and the present. Disappointing, then, that the solution to what actually happened on that long ago night should be so implausible. Laugh at yourself Boom Chicago is celebrating 21 years of improvisation with 21 Years of Mockery. The programme is a mix of the comedians' favourite improvs and new scenes making fun of Dutch people, Americans and just about everything else. You shout out a subject and they will mock it. Check out the website for the evenings it is playing. Boom Chicago, Amsterdam until September 19. www.boomchicago.nl Visit some unusual music venues The Canal Festival of classical music takes place along the canals of Amsterdam in unusual places, such as hotels, churches and museums and on boats and in parks. It attracts an international line-up of musicians. This year, for instance, the Vespucci Quartet plays Debussy and Stravinsky on the Fort Island Pampus, and the Keuris Quartet are on the Vuurtoren (Lighthouse) Island playing Vaughan Williams and Tidrow. One of the highlights is the Prinsengracht Concert on August 22, which takes place on a pontoon across the Prinsengracht outside the Pulitzer Hotel. The soloist this year is the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud who headlines a programme of classical music, flamenco and French chansons. Compagnietheater and other locations, Amsterdam, August 14 to 23. www.grachtenfestival.nl Gasp at the tallness of men The Netherlands basketball team plays the Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois, one of America's top teams. The Dutch team have been making a come-back after a mediocre period between 1991 and 2012. Under coach Toon van Helfteren, they have been scoring some surprising victories. Topsportcentrum, Rotterdam, August 12. www.rotterdamtopsport.nl Chill out to Tchaikovsky Xian Zhang conducts the European Youth Orchestra in a programme of works by Tchaikovsky. It includes Rococo variations in A with Alisa Weilerstein on cello. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 13. www.concertgebouw.nl   For more suggestions of what to do in August and September visit the full What's On section.    More >


Science and technology still fail to attract Dutch female students

Science and technology still fail to attract Dutch female students

For all its innovative work in tech, engineering and the sciences, the Netherlands lags behind in encouraging women into these fields. Esther O’Toole talks to some of the women working to right the balance. Last month there was uproar in the international science community when Nobel Prize winning biochemist Tim Hunt stood up in front of a conference of science journalists in Seoul, South Korea and said: ‘Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.’ In the ensuing media storm, Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant said: ‘One thing is certain: Hunt’s remarks...touch on something bigger than himself. He unleashed a worldwide discussion over sexism and gender…in the sciences.’ Scientists In 2010, figures from Unesco showed the Netherlands had fewer female science graduates than any other country in the world. Though the representation varies across the different specialities and in some fields there are undoubtedly more women than in others, for a country that considers itself generally open-minded, egalitarian and educationally advanced, last place seems pretty damning. Dutch government figures show that since 2007, the number of girls opting for technical courses at havo secondary schools has risen from 15% to 26% and at pre-university vwo secondary schools from 20% to 38%. Around one in five girls now study technical subjects at vocational or hbo colleges. However, the number of female students taking technical courses at university has remained the same, at 26%. So progress is being made in the Netherlands but very slowly. There is a desperate need for more science and engineering graduates to fill the growing number of jobs in the science and technological fields, so why are girls and young women so reluctant to take up these subjects? Role models A study published by Northwestern University in the US at the beginning of May found that the Dutch were the most likely to associate the sciences with men and masculinity. The report concluded that this kind of ‘explicit’ stereotyping is an indicator of biased hiring and a lack of encouragement for girls towards engineering and the sciences. VHTO, a Dutch expert advocacy group for women in science, says self-confidence, fertility/lifestyle issues and the necessity to opt for specific study paths early in Dutch education are contributing factors to the problem. In addition, ‘it is hard to find female role models to guest lecture,' VHTO spokeswoman Masja Gielstra, said. The VHTO has now developed a database of nearly 2,000 female role models they can call upon. Together they conduct research, consult and organise programmes and events and work closely with the education ministry. The flagship programme is Girlsday which takes place nationwide every April. Female experts, coached by VHTO to effectively deal with different age groups, visit schools; specifically to introduce strong role models to girls. ‘We find it really important that they start at an early age,’ Gielstra added. Not only schools participate in Girlsday. This year over 10,000 girls aged 10-15 years visited a company or science centre and 310 companies threw open their doors for experiental workshops, giving girls an opportunity to see for themselves what working in these industries is like. 'Companies know that more diversity in their teams is good for productivity,’ Gielstra said. Real Chances One Dutch company which took part in Girlsday this year is engineering group Royal HaskoningDHV.  While women account for 47% of HR, communications and IT jobs, just 11% of technical staff are female. Environmental consultant Coco Smits studied environmental science at university and is keen to get more girls onto science and industrial engineering pathways. Assertiveness is essential in a company with multiple projects going on, she says,  but after a time your work will speak for itself. '‘Take the chances that come by, be visible and have a clear story of who you are and what you want to do,’ Smit says. That position is echoed by Annemarie Kin, an experienced Royal HaskoningDHV asset management advisor, who has worked there for 12 years and has four children. ‘It’s important to assess yourself again and again against development points,' she said. 'Where can I improve? What can I do for the company…there are real chances here.’ The VHTO does see the fruits of these kinds of partnerships between businesses, themselves, government bodies and educational establishments. Nevertheless, ‘we’re not there yet,' Gielstra says. 'It is vitally important that education and businesses keep working together in public-private partnership in the future, so that…the chances for girls in technology and IT remain clearly visible.’  More >


10 great things to do this week – August 3 – 9

10 great things to do this week – August 3 – 9

From watching films outdoors and checking out a huge market of hand-crafted items to admiring Matisse cutouts and steaming through the countryside, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Catch Matisse while you still can Photo: Stedelijk Collection Don't miss the biggest collection ever exhibited in the Netherlands of the work of the French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954), which has two weeks to run. In his paintings and cut-outs Matisse sought the most perfect possible union between shape and colour. He depicted Eastern nudes, colourful fabrics, carpets, potted plants and idyllic landscapes. Using its permanent collection, the Stedelijk also provides surprising combinations with the work of his contemporaries, teachers and followers, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Kirchner, Mondrian and Cézanne. At the heart of the exhibition is Matisse’s most popular work: The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952-1953, photo). Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam until August 16. www.stedelijk.nl Take the bus to interesting theatre locations Festival Boulevard offers theatre and music performances at interesting locations indoors and outside throughout the picturesque city of Den Bosch. There are buses to take visitors to the locations. This year’s participants include the Belgian theatre company FC Bergman with the dialogue-free The Land Nod. Using slapstick, film and their physical style of theatre, they use the history of the art museum in Antwerp and its large collection of paintings by Rubens to tell their story. Elsewhere, theater-maker Boukje Schweigman creates a theatre experience called Curve using lighting, sound and architectural forms. Various locations, Den Bosch, August 6 to 16. www.festivalboulevard.nl Try out some good food The great marketplace - Grote Markt - in Haarlem plays host to 13 top class restaurants from the city and its surrounding areas for the annual Haarlem Culinair. From their stalls around the marketplace they serve small portions of their signature dishes for a reasonable price accompanied by an appropriate wine. There is also a craft beer market on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival. Haarlem is the capital city of Noord-Holland province and the buildings on the Grote Markt were built between the 15th and 17th century. Grote Markt, Haarlem, August 6 to 9. www.haarlemculinair.nl Change seats when the music stops The programme Musical Chairs is an opportunity to have a look around the Delft University of Technology while listening to classical music performances. For instance, there is Fauré's piano quartet nr 1 played by the Fauré Quartet in the botanic garden and Bach's solo for cello played by Jakob Koranyi at the Architecture Faculty. TU Delft, August 7. www.delftmusicfestival.nl Feel jealous of the younger generation Noah Baumbach's latest film is a sparkling comedy of inter-generational jealousy and midlife anxiety packed with wit and vigour. Ben Stiller, who was at the centre of Baumbach's Greenberg, plays Josh. He and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple in New York whose friends are all producing babies. When they befriend Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a young, loft-dwelling couple, they abandon their old friends in favour of doing fun stuff with their new best friends: attending 'street beach' parties and hip-hop exercise classes, bike riding and buying a hat. There is one sequence where Baumbach takes things too far when the foursome take hallucinogens under the guidance of a shaman and are encouraged to vomit out their demons. For the rest of the film Baumbach does what he does better than most: observe the manners and morals of the various demographic groups of the white, urban classes. Get cool with the DJs The Crazy Sexy Cool outdoor festival offers five stages: the main stage plus one each for eclectic, deep/tech house, Caribbean and UK garage/trap. Among those appearing are Billy the Kit, Vinny Jones, Contrasted, Isaac de Cuba and The Artful Dodger. Zuiderpark, Rotterdam, August 8. www.crazysexycoolfestival.com Steam through the countryside Take the steam tram from Hoorn station through the countryside and villages of Noord-Holland province to Enkhuizen. This local railway line was constructed in 1887 and is 20 km long. The tram has a fireman to shovel the coal into the firebox and wooden seats in its carriages. The engine whistles, the wheels sing and the steam hisses. In Enkhuizen, the journey continues to Medemblik on an old-fashioned steamer with a saloon deck which sails along the coast of the IJsselmeer lake. Museum Steam Tram, Hoorn until August 31. www.museumstoomtram.nl/en Watch films outdoors Out on an old pier in what was once the western port area of Amsterdam is a big screen and rows of deckchairs ready for the evening showing of a film not previously seen in the Netherlands. It's the festival Pluk de Nacht (seize the night) which offers a different film each evening. Many of them are in foreign languages with Dutch subtitles, but for those with limited Dutch there are two English language films. The Wolfpack about a family of brothers locked away in their apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan who learn about the world from watching and re-enacting films (August 12). Sam Klemke's Time Machine is Klemke's 30 years worth of videoed New Year messages cut by director Matthew Bate with an old documentary about the space shuttle Voyager (August 14). The festival terrain is about five minutes walk from Amsterdam central station and offers an arts programme and food and drink. Stenen Hoofd, Amsterdam, August 5 to 15. www.plukdenacht.nl Thrill to the young Mendelssohn The closing night of the Delft Chamber Music Festival features the piano quartet nr 3 by the young Mendelssohn and the string quintet by the Russian composer Georgy Catoire. The performers are the violinist Liza Ferschtman (photo), viola player Marc Desmons, the cellists Jakob Koranyi and Danjulo Ishizaka and the Fauré Quartet. Museum Prinsenhof, Delft, August 9. www.delftmusicfestival.nl Buy some hand-made items The Swan Market bills itself as a lifestyle event. It is a large market with mainly hand-made items such as jewellery, accessories, art, design, fashion and vintage. There is also a food market with street food trucks offering a wide variety of things to eat and drink, and a stage with live music ranging from folk to funk and soul. Vredenburg, Utrecht, August 9. www.swanmarket.nl  More >


Buy-to-let mortgages in the Netherlands (third party content)

Buy-to-let mortgages in the Netherlands (third party content)

In some countries buying property to rent out is a popular investment. So what is the situation in the Netherlands? Henk van Seijen of financial advisory group Finsens has the low-down. Expats often come to us asking whether it would be possible for them to purchase a apartment to rent out. This is because apartments and residences in the large Dutch cities are considered an interesting investment. In addition to rental income, the properties also go up in value. Obviously these properties may be purchased with private cash. But recently, taking out a mortgage has become an option. On behalf of the expat community, we have investigated the requirements. Expats must have spent at least three years living and working in the Netherlands. Their minimum gross income should be €45,000 per year and they must have EU nationality. Another significant detail is that private cash is required at all times. The bank will expect buyers to invest roughly 40% of the purchase price from their own resources. Provided the above conditions are met, it is possible to request a mortgage. The bank will set yet a few more conditions regarding (the rental of) the apartment. For instance, you will need to have a permanent tenant. Short term rentals via AirBnB and the like are not allowed. Cities The bank will only finance apartments and residences located in large cities because the risk that they will become vacant is low. Up to 50% of the value of the property can be paid off (with a maximum period of 30 years). If the mortgage is higher, then this part of the mortgage needs to be repaid over 10 years. In addition, the rental income on the property needs to exceed the interest and repayment in the first year. The tax consequences are as follows: you will have to pay 1.2% levy on the value of the apartment less the mortgage. This is the box 3 levy in terms of income tax. If you would like to find out more about buy-to-let mortgages, please feel free to contact our team at info@finsens.nl or 020-6234447. Henk van Seijen is a partner at Finsens, specialists in rendering services to expats in the areas of tax, mortgages and investment advice.  More >


How to plan a cycling city: university summer school course is a big draw

How to plan a cycling city: university summer school course is a big draw

Amsterdam is known the world over for its bikes and its cycling population. Esther O’Toole visits a unique summer course at the University of Amsterdam that seeks to give students insight into the world of Dutch cycling. The University of Amsterdam has been running summer courses for nearly 20 years. However, this is the first time that they have run a Planning the Cycling City course, which looks at the history, policy, infrastructure, planning, and culture of urban cycling in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is the world’s cycling capital, so you would think that it would be obvious that folks from abroad should want to look into the reasons behind the thriving ‘on yer bike’ lifestyle of the Dutch. For the Dutch though, for whom cycling is as natural as breathing, that interest is not so immediately apparent. As Mirjam Schieveld, the programme director at the Graduate School of Social Sciences summer programmes office, explains: ‘For us it’s a lot like being fish in a bowl. We’re used to it. Lots of visiting students come to do research here though and many chose to look at cycling in Holland. So that’s where the idea for this course came from.’ Popularity According to 2014 figures from the World Health Organisation, one-third of trips made in Amsterdam are by bike, by far the highest percentage in Europe. The WHO report estimates 1,600 jobs are connected with cycling in Amsterdam - from bicycle retail and maintenance, the provision of clothing and accessories for cyclists, urban development and developing new mobility schemes. Last year, the city council agreed to spend €120m in improving facilities for cyclists, of which €90m will be spent on 40,000 new bike parking places. The city's current bike path network is under pressure and efforts are being made to find new ways to cope with the sheer number of cyclists and bikes. No wonder, then, that the cycling city course has proven enormously popular and all 30 places were quickly taken. The university has already confirmed the course will be back in 2016. Status Brett Petzer, 29, an urban planning masters student from Cape Town, South Africa, was particularly interested in the cycling culture here. Back home, he says, cycling is intrinsically linked to status. In South Africa ‘captive cyclists’ are the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, having to use bikes by necessity. The middle class, by contrast, can afford to live within cycling distance of city centres and go biking for leisure. As such bikes become a status symbol. ‘When I come here it’s a different universe. I’m really interested to find out how cycling is linked to Dutch identity.’ Petzer said. Context By contrast, Cosmin Popan, 34, originally from Romania but studying for his PhD at Lancaster University in the UK, wants to use his social science background to shake up urban planning. He’s determined that cycling should be looked at in a broader context. ‘Often cycling is looked at very narrowly,' he says. 'I want to know what other things make people choose it other than economics and time efficiency. Too often planners and engineers have the last word and I think that needs to be challenged.’ Other students, such as Marin Hara, a 22 year old undergraduate from Tokyo, Japan,  is simply ‘looking for inspiration’ for the next phase of her studies. ‘Everyone is super passionate. I’m really impressed,’ she says. Dynamics In the first days of the course students have started to get a tangible feel for the subject with a hectic ride from their residence to class and ‘rush hour’ observations outside Amstel station. In the days to they will look at system’s dynamics, land use, network analysis and public space in relation to cycling. The UvA's summer courses are a chance for the university to both promote itself on the global academic stage and to give those visiting a good idea of what it’s like to live and study here. Many return to take up full time places on other courses as a result. There has traditionally been an emphasis on including subjects that the Dutch have a particularly strong record in with topics such as Sexuality & Politics (sodomy laws were first repealed here in 1811 and Drugs Policy & Addiction Management (soft drug legislation first came into effect in the 70’s). Cycling course leader Marco te Brӧmmelstroet issued a disclaimer at the outset telling participants not to ‘expect a silver bullet’. There is no one solution for them to take home and apply to their own cities, he said. Cycling in the Netherlands has been an evolution ‘There was no plan, no cycling advocacy groups; it came piecemeal in the beginning,' he told his students. There was also a warning – once the course has been completed, Te Brӧmmelstroet said, you will never look at cycling the same way again. UvA summer school courses  More >


10 things you need to know about Vincent van Gogh

On July 29, it is 125 years since master painter Vincent van Gogh shot himself in France. Here’s a list of facts about Van Gogh which you can drop into the conversation and become an instant expert. 1 Van Gogh was a post impressionist Van Gogh is ranked among the post impressionists. Typical of the period, roughly between 1885 and 1905, were a bold use of colour and dark contour lines, both of which are evident in his work, especially in his French paintings. Other post impressionists include Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne and George Seurat. 2 He did sell a painting Contrary to popular belief Van Gogh did sell work in his lifetime. It was ‘La Vigne Rouge’ (1888) which was shown in an exhibition of Les XX in Brussels and sold for 400 francs to Belgian artist Anna Boch (of Villeroy & Boch fame). The painting, of a vineyard near Arles, ended up in a collection in Russia which was seized by Stalin in 1918. It is now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The red and yellow leaves of the vines led experts to believe that the phylloxera that had plagued French vineyards for decades had reached epidemic proportions. 3 He was close to his brother Vincent’s younger brother Theo was his mainstay and protector. The two were very close as their voluminous correspondence shows. When Vincent died, Theo suffered a complete breakdown. His body and mind were being destroyed by syphilis, a disease which also affected Vincent, and he deteriorated quickly. He spent the rest of his life in an asylum and died in 1891, aged 33. Theo’s wife Jo van Gogh-Bongerd later buried him next to his brother. ‘They rest together in the small cemetery between the corn fields in Auvers’, she wrote. 4 The mystery of the ear It is not quite clear how Vincent lost part of his ear. He may have lopped it off himself in a fit of madness, but it could also have been his friend Paul Gauguin’s doing: the two had a stormy relationship. The story goes that when Van Gogh prevented Gauguin from leaving the house in Arles, Gauguin drew his sabre and caught Van Gogh’s ear. The two then decided not to say anything about it. There’s a letter to Gauguin in which Van Gogh writes: ‘You remain quiet, I shall too’. 5 Was it suicide? In July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself and died a few days later on July 29. In 2011, American scholars came up with the theory that Van Gogh had been shot by one of two teenagers who had been harassing him for some time. The artist had supposedly kept quiet about it. Stories about the shooting had been doing the rounds in Auvers, they claimed, and the wound was too messy for a suicide. Moreover, Vincent didn’t leave a suicide note. The theory was dismissed by experts who said the wound showed powder marks which meant the gun was fired from up close, presumably by Vincent himself. 6 The most expensive painting The highest amount of money ever paid for a Van Gogh (up to now) is $82.5 million (€65.8 million). Portrait of Dr Gachet (1890) was sold in 1990 to Ryoei Saito, a Japanese paper manufacturer who snapped it up within three minutes of the auction kicking off. In 2014, Van Gogh’s Vase with Red Poppies (1886) was sold to an unknown buyer by Sotheby’s for $61.8 million dollars. The latest painting to change hands is L’Allée des Alyscamps which went for $66.3 million (almost €60 million) in May 2015. 7 Lost Van Goghs Six Van Goghs were destroyed by fire, 85 are lost, and three were stolen and haven’t been recovered, among them Poppy Flowers (1878) which was stolen twice from the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt. It was stolen for the first time in June 1997, recovered 10 years later in Kuwait and stolen again in 2010. It hasn’t been seen since. All in all, there are over 2,000 known works by Van Gogh but the number grows: in 2013 curators in Amsterdam authenticated a ‘new’ Van Gogh, Sunset at Montmajour (1888). 8 Vincent in love Vincent never married but as far as we know he did fall in love a couple of times. His first love was Caroline Haanebeek who was a friend of the family. Nothing came of it and she married someone else. In London, Vincent fell head over heels in love with the 19-year-old daughter of his landlord, Eugenie Loyer, who didn’t want him either. In 1881 he found himself once more living at his parents’ house in Etten. During this time he fell in love with his cousin, Kee Vos. His parents disapproved, as he wrote in a letter to Theo: ‘Mother and father say She will tell you no, never, so don’t say a word.’ He asked Theo to put in a good word with his parents and explain that ‘to work and become an artist one needs love’. His parents were right, however: Kee wouldn’t have him. In The Hague, Vincent met prostitute Sien Hoornik and the two lived together for eighteen months. The relationship shocked his relatives and as numerous fights cooled his initial zeal to redeem a lost soul, the affair quickly ran its course. In 1883, Vincent met Margot Begeman who lived next door to his parents in Nuenen and who was twelve years his senior. They fell in love but once again his parents conspired against the match. Begeman tried to commit suicide in 1884 when the relationship came to an end. 9 Absinthe Absinthe, also known as the Green Fairy, is supposed to give the drinker a heightened sense of colour and is said to account for some of the vivid yellow in Van Gogh’s paintings. This is by no means the only – or most fanciful – report of the effects of his health on his painting: he is also rumoured to have suffered from lead poisoning which may have caused him to see the kind of halos he painted in The Starry Night. 10 Fading colours In 2014, Dr Ella Hendricks, head of conservation at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, found that the colours in a number of Van Gogh’s paintings are fading because of too much UV light. The amount of light at the museum has now been reduced. Restorers are now looking to the vivid descriptions of colours in his letters to help them decide what they originally looked like.  More >


10 great things to do this week – July 27-August 2

10 great things to do this week – July 27-August 2

From a tiny superhero and iron men to floating flowers and vintage cars, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do. Check out the competitions Sneek Week is a week of races on the lake of the Frisian town of Sneek. There are competitions for boats and catamarans in all classes, including Falcons, Rainbows and Ynglings. Among the races is the final of the championship for the typical Frisian sailing boats known as skütjes. Elsewhere in the town the entertainment includes street theatre, live music in cafes and outdoors, parades and a sand sculpture festival. Sneek, July 31 to August 9. www.sneekweek.nl Hie over to Haydn The French string quartet Zaïde was formed five years ago and the young women won first prize at the Haydn Competition in Vienna in 2012. They play Haydn's first string quartet at this concert, but also works by Mendelssohn and Debussy. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, July 28. www.concertgebouw.nl Discover where your style comes from A major retrospective of the Rijksmuseum's rich collection of costume and fashion prints showing the change in women's and men's fashion from the year 1600 up to and including the first half of the 20th century. The 300 prints trace the development of the fashion magazine into the fashion glossies of the present era. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam until September 27. www.rijksmuseum.nl Watch a tiny superhero Having exploited all its best known superheroes, Marvel turns to one of its lesser known and smallest characters. However, putting Ant-Man (directed by Peyton Reed) on the big screen proves more problematic than is the case with Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and Captain America. The story has Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a burglar just released from prison for stealing from corporate crooks, agree to one last heist. Behind the heist is Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), an aging scientist who wants the younger man to take up his mantle as Ant-Man, a superhero with a special suit that shrinks him to the size of an insect. Once Ant-Man has mastered the use of the suit, the heist is on. Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to replicating Pym's shrinking technology which he wants for nefarious reasons. Ant-Man must infiltrate Cross's stronghold and steal back the technology. Ant-Man does have its moments of humour and emotion and the effects used for the miniaturised scenes are astounding. The final confrontation between Ant-Man and Cross, for instance, takes place on a tabletop toy railway. Rudd is fine as the straight guy who must get to grips with shrink-ray technology and transition into a hero, although he could have used some help from the script in the humour department. And Douglas has a whale of a time with the role of Pym. However, Ant-Man lacks the action spectacle of earlier Marvel films - perhaps because an ant army is less impressive than a full-size man with a magic shield or hammer. Cheer on the iron men Hundreds of athletes from around the world and ranging in age from 18 to 80 take on the challenge of the triathlon. The 2.4 mile swim is in the river Maas and goes under the Provincial Government Building, which is partly built over the river. The 112 mile bike course follows the same course as the yearly Amstel Gold Race, with the Cauberg Hill in Valkenburg as the make-or-break feature. This is followed by a full 26.2 mile marathon run which takes in the Sint Pieter Hill in Maastricht and the Jeker valley (Jekerdal). The finish line will be in the historic city centre of Maastricht on the square in front of City Hall. Ironman Maastricht offers 50 qualifying slots for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiï. Maastricht, August 2. www.ironman.com Hum along to a favourite musical There is a new Dutch production of The Sound of Music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film version starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, and it is the best stage version for some time in any language. It stars Anouk Maas as Maria and Ad Knippels as Captain Von Trapp. Theater Carré, Amsterdam, July 29 to August 23. www.theatercarre.nl Westland flower parade Most flower parades take place on motorised vehicles. But not in the Westland region of the Netherlands. Here the floats literally float. There are 50 of them covered with 450,000 flowers, 120,000 plants and 80,000 various vegetables and fruit. They sail away from the Trade Parc Westland in Naaldwijk and visit Delft, Maassluis, Midden-Delfland and The Hague over the three days of the event. Naaldwijk, July 31, August 1 and 2. www.varendcorso.nl Admire some old-timers The National Old Timers Festival features a wide selection of classic and vintage racing and sports cars which can be admired in the paddock or on the track during the demonstrations. The day also includes one paddock full of old and new Porsches and one with the best of British racing cars. Circuit, Zandvoort, August 2. www.circuit-zandvoort.nl Listen to chamber music in beautiful locations Each year some of the world's best musicians gather in Delft to play chamber music in unusual combinations. This year such luminaries as the Doric String Quartet, violinist Liza Ferschtman (photo), cellist Konstantin Heidrich, Cappella Amsterdam and bass-baritone Robert Holl perform music by composers ranging from Bach to Kalevi Aho, Haydn to Hindemith and Mozart to John Tavener. Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft until August 9. www.delftmusicfestival.nl Get passionate about flamenco Alfonso Losa dances flamenco accompanied by his company which includes the singers La Fabi and El Zambuyo. Losa is recognised throughout the flamenco scene as one of the absolute talents of the current generation. He is a highly inspired dancer with an energetic and expressive style, who has modernised flamenco without ignoring its traditions. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, August 1. www.concertgebouw.nl    More >


Amsterdam gets ready to celebrate Gay Pride

Amsterdam gets ready to celebrate Gay Pride

Some 350,000 people are expected in Amsterdam over the coming week to celebrate Gay Pride. Brandon Hartley looks back at the event's history and what you can expect during the week long 2015 edition The annual celebration of gay, lesbian, and transgender culture first took place in Amsterdam in 1996. Since then, it’s become one of the city’s most popular summertime jubilees. In its early days, the annual extravaganza was a bit smaller and a little wilder than it is now. Organisers have made efforts to tone down the amount of nudity in recent years during popular events like the colossal canal parade in order to make the celebration more family-friendly and accessible for a wider audience. Gay Pride was originally launched to help strengthen the city’s gay friendly image while also drawing attention to important issues that impact citizens in the Netherlands and other nations around the world. Today it features an extensive programme of events ranging from parties to film screenings and museum exhibitions. Over 350,000 visitors flood into the city for the celebration every year, making it one of the largest annual Gay Pride events in the world. Not Just a Party While many attendees go to Amsterdam Gay Pride to dance and have fun, it also serves as a reminder that there’s still much to be done for gay communities both here and abroad. ‘In terms of LGBT rights a huge amount has been achieved,’ Peter de Ruijter, chairman of gay rights lobby group COC told DutchNews.nl. ‘[Our] focus in the Netherlands is now on acceptance in daily life, in schools, sports clubs, amongst seniors and by religious groups. A lot of effort by many people, initiatives and organisations is aimed at raising awareness and improving acceptance through lectures, discussions, and organising activities around (LGBT) diversity.’ The canal parade The crown jewel in Amsterdam Gay Pride’s annual programme is definitely the canal parade. This year’s edition is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 1 August. Tens of thousands of spectators line up along the parade route to watch dozens of barges sail down the Prinsengracht and along the Amstel River. Many feature vibrant decorations and dancers in elaborate costumes, DJs, and sound systems powerful enough to shake nearby windows and set off car alarms. In prior editions, the boats have been sponsored by Dutch corporations and even local politicians sometimes hop aboard them to ‘shake their groove thing’. An increasingly diverse array have appeared in recent years. The 2013 parade included a boat sponsored by the Dutch football association and featured an appearance by the the then manager Louis van Gaal. He even danced. Well, a little bit. Pridestream Can’t make it to the parade this year? You can still attend virtually via Pridestream. This innovative project will send an ‘empty’ boat down the waterways of Amsterdam but that doesn’t mean that they’re won’t be anybody on it. Thousands of people around the world will climb aboard by logging on to Pridestream’s website. The boat, which is equipped with cameras, will offer virtual attendees a 360-degree panoramic view of the celebration. Meanwhile, those along the parade route will be able to view video messages on its large screens that have been submitted by people from all around the world. For many of them, it’s not possible to celebrate Gay Pride events in their native countries. Pridestream will allow them to do so via the internet without fear of reprisals from government officials and others. Gay Pride 2015 ‘We have 160 events during the nine days of our festivals,’ AGP spokesman Danny de Vries told DutchNews.nl. ‘Sports, arts & culture, debates, parties, etc. For everyone there is something to do.’ The full lineup can be found on AGP’s official website. For those in search of an event that’s sure to be lighthearted and silly, there’s the International Drag Queen Olympics. It features events including the handbag discus and the 100 metre stiletto sprint in addition to fashion competitions. The 11th annual games will begin at 19:00 on 31 July at the Homomonument in the Westermarkt.  More >


Leeuwarden prepares to be Europe’s capital of culture – in 2018

Leeuwarden prepares to be Europe’s capital of culture – in 2018

When Leeuwarden won the Dutch bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2018, the Frisian flag was hung from the tower of the Westerkerk church in Amsterdam’s historic centre in celebration. The Frisian capital had an outsider chance of beating much bigger cities like Maastricht and Eindhoven to host the ECC 2018, but it also had a couple of secret weapons. Firstly, its Mienskip, the Frisian community itself. The Leeuwarden-Fryslân bid didn’t spend huge amounts on advertising agencies to develop a publicity campaign, but looked to its own residents to come up with their own ideas and initiatives. Secondly, it is keeping costs down to a modest €74m. The city is not planning to build massive hotels to accommodate the extra visitors. Empty farms, schools and churches will be revamped to take in the extra influx. And thirdly, the city is planning well beyond 2018 to make sure the legacy doesn’t end up being a white elephant. Many of the projects would have been carried out if Leeuwarden hadn’t won the bid. However, the fact that it has is a tremendous impulse. Liverpool Leeuwarden’s prime example is Liverpool which held the title of European Capital of Culture in 2008. In the 1980s, this once magnificent metropole was being run down as part of the then prime minister Margret Thatcher’s policy of 'managed decline'. Thirty years later on, the city on the Mersey has been transformed into a bustling hub. In 2008, an extra nine million tourists spent an extra one million pounds. And day trippers have been flocking to the city ever since. Leeuwarden hopes to emulate that effect, attracting as many as three million additional visitors to the Netherlands’ northernmost province. At the same time, it hopes the event will be an economic boost to the whole region. Talent In spite of its pretty medieval streets, you cannot help noticing the odd empty shop window in this fortified city. Leeuwarden loses many of its young people to other Dutch cities and finding work is a problem. But that could be about to change. Talented creatives are trained at the Academy for Pop Culture to turn their interests into thriving start-ups. International students are being attracted to the brand new European Institute for Water Technology. The cells of former prison complex De Blokhuispoort now house offices and studios for creative entrepreneurs. The forbidding old prison has also become a venue for upcoming local talent organised by Podium Asteriks, which began as a bottom-up initiative five years ago. In fact, it is striking how the young people involved in the 2018 projects feel responsibility for their part in the preparations. Everyone, from marketing staff to festival organisers are quick to say 'We are responsible for the European Capital of Culture in 2018'. Festivals Take Welcome to the Village which began as a local initiative with young enthusiasts setting up their own 3-day festival. “The village is central to how we set up the festival, it’s a metaphore for society in general, where everyone has a part to play,” says Koen Haringa of the festival’s management team. Two years on, the organisation has professionalised with an impressive line-up and 6000 visitors. Nevertheless it is still very much a self-made event relying on its 500 volunteers. Construction work is also underway on Neushoorn (rhino), which will not be just another pop podium. This cultural centre may have been funded by the local municipality, but that is where interference from the authorities ends. Programming, running and use has been handed over to Leeuwarden’s bright minds. On their white board it says 'Avoid the P-word' at the top followed by a whole load of synonyms for the word podium. Province-wide In 2018, events will be held throughout the province and far beyond. The 11 cities 240-km skating marathon has become famous throughout the world even though the winters in which it is held are few and far between. It is major events like this that demonstrate Friesland’s potential to rally its community quickly. A unique fountain will be designed for each of the 11 cities. In Leeuwarden, a fountain entitled Love by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa will consist of two huge heads of a boy and a girl in the mist, inspired by the mist that hangs over Frisian fields at dawn. Local residents of all ages and walks of life are enthusiastic about what is happening. It’s a far cry from the local football club motto 'It has never been anything and it never will be.' Perhaps after 2018, Cambuur fans will chant 'You’ll never walk alone', which festival director Ton van Dijk translates into Fries as 'De mienskip moat it dwaan.'  More >


10 great things to do this week – July 20-26

From glossy dogs and live works of art to artists' muses and thousands of walkers, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do. Watch a live work of art A major survey of the work of the German-British artist Tino Sehgal unfolds in 12 chapters and 12 different rooms in the Stedelijk Museum throughout the year. This week the live artwork is Yet Untitled (2013), performed by three of his 'interpreters'. They produce music using a combination of amateur beat box and short phrases extracted from pop songs. The work is on the first floor of the museum. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam until July 31. The survey continues until December 31. www.stedelijk.nl Experience visualised emotions The latest offering from Pixar is this beautifully animated tale of what goes on inside the head of an 11-year-old girl. The exterior story is simple. Young Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) has an idyllic life in rural Minnesota but is uprooted when her parents move to downtown San Francisco. The interior story is much more complex, with five main emotions at a space-age Headquarters directing Riley in the decisions she takes. There is excitement as characters race to catch the Train of Thought, and fun for adults as characters get to Imagination Land by cutting through Abstract Thought where they are turned into first Cubist and then flat 2D figures. Directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc and Up), it is a joyous and thought-provoking look at how Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) are both necessary for a fully-rounded life. Thrill to a master pianist The Belgian jazz and classical pianist and composer Jef Neve, who played on the soundtrack of the 2011 Oscar-winning film The Artist, plays a solo concert of works from his album, One. British newspaper The Guardian called his playing 'a very personal language, one which draws freely on classical music and has the impetus of jazz and rock'. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, July 24. www.concertgebouw.nl Cheer on the walkers The Four-Day Walk in Nijmegen (Nijmeegse Vierdaagse) is the world's largest walking event. It began in 1909 and has been based in Nijmegen since 1916. It was originally a military event, but these days about 5,000 of the over 40,000 walkers are from the military. Participants walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometres each day, depending on age group and category. Each day the route goes through a different town around Nijmegen, taking in Elst, Wijchen, Groesbeek and Cuijk. On Friday, as the walkers near the finish, the crowds along the route award the walkers with gladioli, a symbol of force and victory since Roman times, when gladiators were showered with these flowers. The entry into the city to the finish line, the St. Annastraat, is renamed the Via Gladiola for the occasion. Nijmegen, July 21 to 24. www.4daagse.nl Hear voices in total harmony The British a capella group The King's Singers usually combine Renaissance music with popular songs. For this concert they are concentrating on the American Songbook with numbers by composers such as Gershwin, Porter and Rodgers. The King's Singers were formed in 1969 by six choral scholars from King's College in Cambridge. Over the years, they added popular songs to their repertoire bringing them to a wider audience. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, July 23. www.concertgebouw.nl Oooh and aaah over dogs Over 2400 dogs of all breeds gather to be judged Best in Breed and Best in Show by expert judges. There are also competitons for best puppy and best older dog. Ahoy, Rotterdam, July 25 and 26. www.dogshowrotterdam.nl Sit outdoors for Shakespeare The Bos Theater and the Noord Nederlands Toneel have joined forces for this summer's production in the amphitheatre in the Amsterdam Bos. They present a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Benedick and Beatrice, Claudio and Hero sort out their misunderstandings on a deserted car park where a van selling french fries provides the only comfort. The production is in Dutch but the story is so well-known and the surroundings of tall trees so beguiling, it is worth a visit. There is also lots of music by Eef van Been and four other musicians. If the weather is dodgy, check the website to find out if the performance is going ahead. Bos Theater, Amsterdam, July 21 to September 5. www.bostheater.nl Discover a little-known artist Groningen printer and artist HN Werkman (1882-1945) was executed just before the end of World War II on April 10 1945 by a Nazi firing squad. The reason for his death has not yet been established. This major retrospective presents his prints and paintings, experimental printed matter and his work for De Blauwe Schuit magazine during the war. It shows his development as an artist and how he brought his own ideas to the terms Abstract and Figurative. There are also letters, portraits, photos and family prints showing the times in which he lived. Groninger Museum, Groningen until November 1. www.groningermuseum.nl Get inspired by muses The summer exhibition O MUSE! focuses on the men and women who were an important source of inspiration for Dutch artists from 1850 onwards. Paintings, photographs, video works and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries are on display, complemented by notable contemporary examples. The works highlight different sources of inspiration: lovers, nude models, colleagues, writers, biblical characters, doppelgängers and stage stars. Among the exhibits are works by artists ranging from Kees van Dongen, Isaac Israels, Jan Sluijters and Carel Willink to Gijs Frieling, Pavèl van Houten and Manon de Boer. De Hallen, Haarlem until August 30. www.dehallen.nl Pity poor Shylock Polly Findlay's take on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice at the RSC brings out the love between Antonio and Bassanio much more frankly than is usually the case. The cast includes Makram J Khoury as a touching Shylock and Patsy Ferron, so good in Treasure Island, as Portia. It is broadcast live from Stratford upon Avon. Pathé cinemas, Amsterdam, The Hague, July 22. www.pathe.nl   More >


A white-tailed eagle’s view of Gelderland

A white-tailed eagle’s view of Gelderland

A six minute video shot by a miniature camera and showing the flight of a white-tailed sea eagle over Gelderland is a new internet hit. The trained bird was taken into the sky by hot hair balloon and released at a height of 700 metres to fly back to falconer Gerard van den Brink. During the flight, which covers a couple of kilometres, the bird glides over Barneveldt and the A1 and A30 motorways before dropping sharply to meet Van den Brink. White-tailed eagles are among the biggest birds in the world with wingspans of up to 2.5 metres.   More >


11 Dutch islands where you can get away from it all

11 Dutch islands where you can get away from it all

Looking for an island escape, but no time or money to head to the Caribbean?  If you aren’t too fussed about getting a tan, why not head to a Dutch island.  Fresh air, cycle paths, nature and long beaches – and most of the Dutch islands are only a short ferry ride away. Pampus: an artificial island constructed in the late 19th century in the IJmeer lake, close to Amsterdam.  One of four forts commissioned as part of the Stelling van Amsterdam (Defence Line of Amsterdam), it had the capacity to accommodate 200 men but was only fully utilised during WWI. The Wadden Islands Terschelling:  with approximately 20,000 tourist beds, Terschelling is the largest and most visited Wadden Island.  Head west from the main town centre of West Terschelling to experience untamed nature and long white beaches.  In June, the island hosts the 10-day Oerol festival, attracting many visitors to the art and theatre performances taking place across the island. Vlieland: smaller, less densely populated than the neighbouring islands, yet only 90 minutes by ferry from Harlingen in Friesland. Vlieland entices visitors with its serenity and nature, extensive network of cycle paths, and the promise of 20% more sunny days than the mainland. Texel: boasting 24kms of beaches and easy to reach via ferry from Den Helder, Texel is also famous for its lamb.  All year, visitors can cycle around the island taking in the nature and stopping at one of the seven villages to refuel. Ameland:  hosts a human population of around 3,500, an estimated 60 types of birds and copious flora species.  In 1871, attempts were made to build a dyke between the island and the mainland.  The 8.7km dyke lacked durability and was destroyed by storms the following year, leaving remains that can be seen at low tide. Schiermonnikoog:  the name of the island translates as ‘island of grey monks’, referring to the original owners who were forced to hand over the island during the Dutch Reformation. This was followed by 500 years of invasion, occupation and serious storm damage – until the island was turned into a national park in 1989.  Voted the prettiest place in the Netherlands by the Dutch, Schiermonnikoog can be reached via ferry from Lauwersoog.  See also Nine National Parks The Frisian Islands Griend: this uninhabited small island, 12km south of Terschelling, has the largest colony of Sandwich terns (birds).  In the Middle Ages a colony of monks also lived in the walled monastery on the island. Rottumerplaat: not accessible to ordinary humans, Rottumerplaat is a zone restricted to resting and foraging for the numerous bird species who live on the island and is the northernmost part of the Netherlands. Rottumerplaat is notorious in literary circles as being the place that spawned two extremely different novels based on the individual experiences of the two authors (Jan Wolkers and Godfried Bomans) who spent a solitary week on the island in 1971. Rottumeroog: uninhabited and under threat of disappearing into the Ems estuary due to changing sea currents. Zuiderduintjes: a small island providing sanctuary to birds and seals, but inaccessible to humans. Rif: with an area of less than 0.1 square kilometres, this bump in the water lies between Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. Yes, we know. We have not included the Dutch Caribbean islands – that’s a different story. And Urk, Marken and all the rest of the islands which have been attached to the mainland don’t count.  But if we’ve forgotten any significant pieces of land surrounded by water, please do let us know.  More >


Looking for a quick getaway? Here’s some quirky Dutch options

Looking for a quick getaway? Here’s some quirky Dutch options

So, the long Dutch summer vacation is nearly upon us and that means time to seek adventure, relax in luxury after a hard quarter or spend some quality time with loved ones. If you have been too disorganised or cash strapped to book something so far, but can’t stand the idea of a crowded campsite or bog standard chalet holiday, then Esther O'Toole has found some quick and quirky Dutch options to inspire you. Urban Campsite, IJburg, Amsterdam This unusual initiative is now in its second year. Part open air art installation, part camping experience, Urban Campsite touts itself as a chance to get some new perspective on city life in a surprisingly quiet spot just outside the centre of town. Handcrafted wooden cabins, sit alongside tepee-esque tents and even a bottle! The message in it – you. Not all the accommodation is suited to families so do ask when booking. It’s a little rough and ready in its finish but you certainly feel out in the wilds. There is a communal fire pit with comfy benches and workshops with the artists, all very ‘gezellig’. The well-known café/bar, Blijburg, is just next door. Though it’s not quite back up to speed since its recent move, the beach has been renewed and is ready for the summer season; there are bins, toilets, a snack bar and swimming area. What’s more, the new location allows for fantastic views across the IJmeer towards Pampus Island and Durgerdam. Open June, July and August. Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, Amsterdam One for culture lovers who want to be able to get into town easily, but are also after a more unusual holiday experience, would be the Lloyd Hotel. A very comfortable, up-market hotel with café/bar and an emphasis on design. It also acts as a ‘Cultural Embassy’, hosting events from book readings and cinema to theatre productions in the rooms! Definitely big enough for families but also a great place if you’re looking to escape the children. Regular special offers include things like bike hire and picnics with champers as part of your booking. De Leeuw, Deventer Definitely one for with the kids, Hotel Hanzestadslogement or, ‘De Leeuw’ as it is commonly known, is a hotel with olde worlde sweet and tea shoppe (Weds-Sat). It boasts over 200 different types of traditional sweets, alongside other local delicacies. With its range of charming rooms and apartments the hotel can accommodate different size groups, all located in a beautiful 17th century building. You will find it right in the historic centre of Deventer. Kruisheren Hotel, Maastricht Venturing further south you can stop off in what the Huffington Post called a ‘one of a kind’ hotel, the Kruisheren. Originally a gothic church, this design hotel has over 60 rooms, each individually designed to combine the best of old and new, as well as a terrace in the 15th century cloister. Castles in the Netherlands If you’re looking for a really dreamy trip, why not check out one of the other fairy tale castles on Chateaus.nl run by the family Oostwegel. Ranging in size, price and facilities, these are mainly found in South Limburg and the Belgian border region. They promise luxury (with swimming pools and spas), wonderful countryside views and southern hospitality. Camp Silver, Texel If you’re looking to get way out of town and are in search of a memorable experience, you could try Camp Silver on Texel. Perhaps more for couples or small groups of friends than families, this is a real hideaway. With its beautiful, silver Airstream caravans and a Pacific Dome for breakfast/dining room, it promises rest and relaxation in the middle of a UNESCO heritage site and is under two hours drive from the capital. Camp Spirit, Veluwemeer Somewhere similarly remote but with more activities for the family is Camp Spirit. On an island in the Veluwemeer, just 45 minutes east of Amsterdam, Camp Spirit has a range of Yurts, Indian and Swedish tepees and Sahara tents. You can swim, do yoga and there are children’s and community activities laid on throughout the day. Bike & Barge In search of something more challenging? Well, nothing says Holland like bikes and barges so why not combine the two in a uniquely Dutch tour? Responsible Travel and Utracks both organise biking and barging holidays for individuals or families and pride themselves on working with small, local guides and travel partners.  More >