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


10 great Dutch reads in translation

10 great Dutch reads in translation

Heading off on summer holiday? Here's a list of 10 great Dutch reads in translation to take with you. The Dinner by Herman Koch Novelist Herman Koch’s fifth novel takes place in a well-known Amsterdam restaurant (a thinly disguised De Kas) popular with the upwardly mobile. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner and as the evening wears on some very unsavoury truths emerge. The narrator  is disillusioned and deeply cynical former teacher Paul. Although he and his wife Claire seem to enjoy a happy home life, free from the hypocrisy he lays at his politician brother’s door, it transpires that his son has committed a disgusting and cold-blooded crime. Paul may have mislaid his moral compass but his vicious comments on middle-class tastes are right on target. In my father’s garden by Jan Siebelink The book, which won the 2005 Literatuurprijs, follows Hans, a father and gardener who becomes more and more obsessed with Calvinism as the story progresses. Set in several parts of the Netherlands, the book does a wonderful job of depicting the Dutch countryside and living conditions of the time. Siebelink develops interesting characters whose stories you genuinely become involved in. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch This book is truly about ‘life, the universe and everything’ and consequently the plot of the Discovery of Heaven is far too convoluted to explain in a few lines. But here goes: God has decided to break his contract with mankind and wants his tablets back, seeing that no one lives by them. Two of his angels are given the task of manipulating earthly circumstances which results in the birth of a boy who is destined to bring back the tablets. We are told about the events that shape the lives of the people involved and their own attempts at coming to grips with destiny. The Evenings by Gerard van ‘t Reve The Evenings, Reve’s ( he dropped the Van ‘t later) first novel, was published in 1947. It chronicles ten days in the life of 23 year-old Frits Egters which also happen to be the last ten days of the year 1946. Frits works in an office, lives with his parents and finds both frustrating. Frits’ encounters with friends and family show his unerring and merciless eye for the desolate minutiae of life: the decay that comes with passing time – a friend is going prematurely bald – , the dreary lives of his parents and his own less than promising future. A book that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time. Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli Max Havelaar is a civil servant in the Dutch East Indies who, appalled at the cruelty and corruption of Dutch colonial rule, writes an inflammatory book about what he has witnessed. The manuscript makes its way to pompous coffee trader Droogstoppel who, wrong-footed by the title, promises to publish it. Multatuli ( pseudonym for Edward Douwes Dekker), like his protagonist, was a civil servant in the East Indies. His book is said to have hastened the demise of colonialism. Max Havelaar lives on in a 21st century fair trade food label. The Darkroom of Damocles by WF Hermans Another Dutch WWII classic. Hermans’ novel tells the story a man whose double/alter ego encourages him to get involved in anti-German activities during the second World War. When the war is over he is branded a war criminal. His double, the only one who can clear his name, fails to materialise, convincing his prosecutors that he is a figment of his imagination. To Hermans’ dismay critics tended to believe the same. Anything by Marten Toonder Okay, we can’t choose here. Many of writer and illustrator Marten Toonder’s Oliver B. Bumble stories have been translated into English. Bumble is a great comic character. A ‘gentleman of means’, he is always aspiring to greatness but never seems to quite get there in spite of the help of his friend Tom Puss. Very funny, and great drawings. Tonio by A.F. Th. Van der Heijden Van der Heijden’s requiem novel about the death of his son. The rights of this novel were bought by publisher Scribe and it should soon be published in English. The Tea Lords by Hella Haasse The story of ambitious and straight-laced Rudolf Kerkhoven who becomes a tea planter in the Dutch East Indies. Haasse based her documentary novel on documents and letters from the relatives of the characters. Here’s what the Guardian critic said about it: ‘ Realising her characters were once flesh and blood made me feel I had read the most humane sort of biography, in which the writer inhabits every emotional recess and significance’. The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah Novel about the deposition of the Shah and the return of Khomeini and the political division that grips Iran seen through the eyes of the Aqa Jaan family. Abdolah, who fled Iran and was given political asylum in the Netherlands in 1988, wrote the book in Dutch. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


The Netherlands’ hidden holiday gems

The Netherlands’ hidden holiday gems

If an exotic foreign holiday is a bit beyond your budget this year and you’re still digging around for something closer to home, then look no further: Esther O’Toole has dug up some hidden treasures for you. Feather Down Get unwired and back in touch with a simpler way of living. Feather Down (in Dutch, Het BoerenBed) has a variety of working farm locations geared up for guests who still want comfort when they're in the great outdoors. If you like to 'rough it' in style then this is a great stop. The children can help fetch water and firewood for your stove and enjoy the novelty of sleeping in a cupboard bed or looking after animals, while you can still be assured of a great tent that doesn't leak, a comfy bed and a hospitable welcome. Special horse riding locations also available. From €455 for a weekend tent stay. De Vreemde Vogel If you're looking for something really quirky then De Vreemde Vogel has lots to offer.  It's in Vlaardingen between Rotterdam and the beach at Hoek van Holland, so a good place from which to explore the surrounding area. From treehouses to olde gypsy wagons, sleeping in a reclaimed aircraft or a giant birdhouse, they pride themselves on variety and comfort. Prices vary, starting from about €155 for a weekend stay, but all general information and contact details in English can be found at the above address. Stortemelk If you're looking for a real getaway how about Vlieland? Tucked in behind the dunes on this protected Wadden island is Stortemelk. It offers a variety of accommodation including small attractive cottages and different types of camping, e.g. family and teen areas. One thing they don't cater for is camper vans, because you can't take any vehicles onto the island at all. For a real 'get back to nature' feel this is a beautiful, untouched and remote spot.  Look at the site for details of how to book the ferry from Harlingen to the island and how to hire a 'baggage car' to go on to Stortemelk itself. Prices vary but tent hires start at €630 for a week in the school holiday season. Luxury and Romance Dutchen Holiday Parks Dutchen promise unusual holiday homes, in small numbers, located at beautiful spots throughout the country; complete with all luxury mod cons, including options such as a sauna or Jacuzzi. For example, Weideduyn has up-to-date luxury eco-cottages, lots of space from your neighbours and a beautiful beach; Vlindervallei is in the middle of the Veluwe woods, outdoorsy yet complete with spa and wellness facilities; at Baayvillas, on the border between Groningen and Friesland, there are large houses with lots of amenities for sea and sailing enthusiasts overlooking the sea off the Lauwersmeer National Park. Though their website is only available in Dutch and German at the moment all customer service workers speak English and can help you book. Prices upwards from €460 a week. Ask for details of where last minute discounts can be had. De Verrekijker If you want to,  you can sleep in a windmill. You can't get much more 'Nederlands' than that. Beautiful and atmospheric mills can be hired for private holidays, such as this one near Gelderland, one of many good quality holiday homes to be found on Belvilla. Prices for the Verrekijker start from €943 Friday to Friday. If you have special access needs, do check whether this is suitable for you. Castles from Bilderberg Hotels Who doesn't want to sleep in a castle? Honestly, who? At least once, let loose your inner Romantic or sweep someone else away with a special castle B&B such as these from Bilderberg Hotels located near Utrecht, Venlo and Maastricht. From €94 per person per night. Tugboat Willem If you're over 18 years old and a water lover you could opt for an unusual stay for 1-2 people on Tugboat Willem; an original 1930's working boat now transformed into a lovely bed and breakfast. Moored at Zoutkamp near the village of De Marne, you will get a truly personalised trip. If you have special access needs, do check whether this is suitable for you. As a sailing ship, it won't be able to accommodate wheelchair users unfortunately. Upwards from €80 per person per night, for a stay of 1-7 nights, including breakfast. Budget Camping Zeeburg, Amsterdam In high season, hotel prices in the capital may price out many families and students, so why not try an alternative city break at Camping Zeeburg? Located in the old harbour area to the east of Amsterdam, Camping Zeeburg offers you the chance to camp out in the city. Be it overlooking the water in your own tent or camper van or in one of their brightly coloured gypsy style 'wagonettes' or 'eco-cabins'. Good amenities include fresh baguettes/croissants daily and free wifi across the whole site.  They're located a short distance from tram 26 which takes you into Amsterdam centre in about ten minutes. Prices start at €25 a night for a three person tent spot, €105 a night for a 3-4 person wagonette, to €115 a night for a four person eco-cabin, in high season. Cube Houses, Rotterdam Another alternative city stay can now be had in the famous Cube Houses in Rotterdam which have been made into a Stay Ok Hostel; a great location from which to explore the city.  From €24.30 per night for a bed in mixed-sex shared rooms. Cycling Tours You're in the Netherlands so get on your bike. All sorts of bike tour holidays, including biking between hotels, family biking and short breaks are available to suit every pocket. All the information you could possibly need about cycling in the Netherlands can be found at Nederland Fietsland, the site of the official Dutch organisation for recreational cycling (Nederlands Fietsplatform). It includes maps, where you can hire bikes and a variety of  information on reputable tour operators.  More >



Hidden like Anne Frank: children who survived WWII tell their stories

Hidden like Anne Frank: children who survived WWII tell their stories

Anne Frank and her diary are a symbol of the Holocaust, but many other children also went into hiding and some survived World War II. Anne Frank has become both a symbol of the Holocaust and of the city of Amsterdam, attested to by book sales, film rights, and an annual figure of over one million visitors to the Anne Frank house on the Prinsengracht. Yet the story of Anne Frank is not the definitive Holocaust story.  An estimated 28,000 Jewish people living in the Netherlands were forced into hiding during WWII. Of this number, an estimated 16,000 people survived the war years, avoiding the concentration camps responsible for the deaths of an estimated 75% of the Dutch Jewish population during the 1940s. As a child, Marcel Prins became familiar with the story of his mother, Rita Degen (77), who at the age of five was separated from her family and hidden in the homes of non-Jewish families. Later, it was his mother’s story that motivated him to embark on a research project seeking other Jewish people with similar childhood experiences. Collaborating with Peter Henk Steenhuis, the project encountered individuals who agreed to have their stories made public, initially on a website (www.hiddenlikeannefrank.com) and later in a book entitled Hidden Like Anne Frank, recently released in English. Personal stories Hidden Like Anne Frank contains the personal accounts of 14 Dutch Jewish people, who like Anne Frank, hid from the Nazis during World War II, but unlike Anne, survived. All fourteen individuals were children when they were separated from their parents and siblings and concealed, sometimes with a frequently changing roster of strangers and sometimes with non-Jewish family members or friends - who had agreed to protect and hide the children from the German soldiers.  It was a time of uncertainty, loss and fear that forever shaped the lives of the survivors. Loss of Identity From 1941, Dutch Jewish people over the age of six where required to identify themselves by prominently wearing a yellow star inscribed with the word ‘Jood’ on their clothing. Obviously when a Jewish person went into hiding, the yellow stars were removed. Next, new names were given, personal stories discarded, new stories created, appearances were often changed, and behaviours modified to camouflage the person into the non-Jewish society. For young children already exposed to the loss of a familiar existence, this loss of identity was especially difficult.  As one woman who was eventually betrayed and imprisoned in Auschwitz recalled, 'It was good to use my real name again.  It was only then that I realised how difficult it had been to keep using that other name.  Bloeme Emden – I savoured my own name.' Loss of Attachment Attachment theorists have provided strong evidence of the correlation between childhood attachments and adult capacity to create and sustain good relationships. Adversely, a child removed from a loving supportive home and placed, over an extended period, in a stressful environment  risks developing problems with future close relationships.  This phenomenon is evident throughout many of the stories in the book. Leni de Vries, now 74, went into hiding at the age of four. 'I found it hard to become attached to people after the war,' she says. 'During the war I’d often longed for my parents, but once I was back at home I realised something was broken.  My mother was no longer able to make me feel safe and loved.' Similarly Jack Eljon (77), who was hidden in numerous homes between the ages of four to eight and eventually reunited with his parents, says 'I couldn’t forgive my parents… That warm feeling I had as a little boy sitting on my father’s shoulders was gone for good.  I rejected my father.' Anger It is almost 70 years since the end of WWII yet the memories are still fresh for many survivors.  Rose-Mary Kahn (89), daughter of the previous owner of Hirsh (a large clothing store on Leidseplein in Amsterdam), claimed that going into hiding 'was the worst time of my life'. Like many Jewish people who survived the war, the time of liberation was not the end of the suffering for Rose-Mary’s family:  their home was occupied; the family business destroyed; and they were given little assistance by the Dutch government who considered the Jewish survivors to be 'an administrative nuisance'. Jack Eljon says that even now, he still becomes anxious at the sound of heavy footsteps approaching. Tolerance Feeling towards the German soldiers was surprisingly tolerant.  Some survivors felt that the soldiers were forced into their role, often themselves only children blindly following orders. Jaap Sitters (80) identified a more human side to the soldiers with his account of being discovered by a German soldier as he hid in a cupboard.  The soldier closed the cupboard door and left the house crying, leaving Jaap in his hiding place. For others the anger lingers, as admitted by Jaap’s daughter, who spoke of being angry for many years at the persecution of the Dutch Jewish people, and the suffering her father had endured as a child.  More >


Dutch Beatlemania 50 years on

Dutch Beatlemania 50 years on

On June 6, 1964, in an auction hall in the Dutch village of Blokker, four musicans played two concerts – each lasting only about 25 minutes – and caused a national sensation, writes Tracy Brown Hamilton. It was the second stop of the Beatles' first world tour, which was nearly cancelled when drummer Ringo Starr fell ill in London a few days earlier and was unable to travel. Beatlemania had hit the Netherlands. By that June, the Beatles had already had two number one records in Holland, and had six others ranking in the Hit Parade charts. Shops sold dresses, neckties and even pantyhose featuring the band members’ faces. Yet this would be the Beatles’ first and only time performing on Dutch soil. Photo journalist Eddy Posthuma de Boer, 83, was on assignment for the Volkskrant when Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and temporary replacement drummer Jimmy Nichol touched down at Schiphol on June 5, 1964 (Ringo rejoined the band ten days later in Australia). The 'missing' Beatle did not discourage Dutch fans. The band was greeted by women in traditional Volendam clothing, journalists, police and thousands of shrieking, ecstatic fans. 'It was the first time that you really saw Dutch people going crazy for popular musicians,' Posthuma de Boer says. 'Today you see it often, but this was quite new.' Posthuma de Boer, then 33, was granted full access to the Beatles’ Dutch leg of their world tour. This included joining the band on a cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, where a crowd of more than 50,000 people lined the banks and bridges. Boat 'The Beatles were flabbergasted by the attention,' Posthuma de Boer recalls. They were really just four young chaps from Liverpool – so fresh-faced and youthful – and they were delighted and surprised to have their own boat going around the city, and for all the people so thrilled to see them.' One photo shows a young man treading water in the canal, gazing up starry-eyed at an amused Paul McCartney before being dragged out of the water by police. Looking back at his photographs, which were recently exhibited in Haarlem and feature in a new book, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder, the photographer wonders about the fates of some of his subjects. 'Imagine, this was fifty years ago,' he says, flipping through his photos. 'These people, all these kids in these photos, they are now in their 70s,' he says. 'I was hoping the boy from the canal would turn up at the exhibition, but he didn’t. You never know where they are now.' He says he’d particularly like to meet people who came to see the Beatles fifty years ago who are now 64, a reference to the Beatles’ song, ‘When I’m 64’. 'It’s strange to me that it was so long ago,' he says. 'I wonder how it feels to have been a teenager then and be 64 now. Myself, I still feel 18.' Although he remembers the Beatles fondly, he was not a fan of their music when he was first assigned to photograph them. 'I had heard of the Beatles, of course,' he says. 'But there was a lot of new rock music at that time that I did not like. I was a jazz man.' But the experience converted him. Their playlist consisted of just eight songs, including Twist and Shout, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and Can’t Buy Me Love, and Posthuma de Boer took notice. 'I did not have any of their albums before these shows, but after I bought them all,' Posthuma de Boer says. 'The Beatles were really something different. The sounds, the rhythms, the words. It actually changed how we spoke English in Holland. We started saying things like "let it be" and "yeah".' And as in other parts of the world, the band’s style had an influence on young Dutch people. 'It was the hair,' Posthuma de Boer says. 'Today you do not consider their hair long, but back then it was really something unusual. Six months after they came, you saw young men with long hair in Holland as well.' Posthuma de Boer is not surprised by the attention the anniversary of two short concerts is getting. 'There are other bands that are still around – like the Rolling Stones,' he says. 'But the Beatles. That’s something different. Their music from then is still loved now. People keep liking the Beatles, at any age.' The jubilee has also allowed him to reminisce about his experience. 'I have a lot of files, a lot of work that is put away and doesn’t come out for a long time,' he says. 'And then something like this 50 years anniversary comes along, and this file comes out again. It’s wonderful when that happens.' Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder, available from bol.com  More >



Vermeer’s Girl with a Lego Earring in Amsterdam

Vermeer’s Girl with a Lego Earring in Amsterdam

Childhood memories, art and engineering come together in the new Lego exhibition in Amsterdam, writes Ana McGinley. Ever wondered what Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring would look like if it was created out of Lego? How about Van Gogh's The Starry Night, Michelangelo’s David or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? Opening in Amsterdam this week is The Art of Brick - an exhibition showcasing the work of American artist Nathan Sawaya, an ex-corporate lawyer, who has successfully tackled these artistic challenges in his chosen medium - Lego bricks. Childhood The exhibition is an amazing mix of childhood memories, artistic talent and engineering prowess. Sawaya owns over four million Lego pieces, arranged by colour and housed in one of two studios based in New York and Los Angeles. Like many people, Sawaya was five years old when he was given his first Lego set, which he opened and immediately assembled a house.  Later, he claims to have made himself a Lego lifesize dog when his parents refused to buy him a pet. The Art of Brick showcases 75 works constructed from over one million Lego bricks.  The exhibition includes a self portrait of the artist, a T-Rex dinosaur measuring 6 metres and made from 80,020 Lego bricks, and numerous replications of famous paintings, sculptures  and photographs. All pieces have been made by Sawaya, including the gluing together of the bricks to give the artworks permanency and to make transportation of this internationally touring exhibition possible. Rectangular bricks For the most part, Sawaya uses the basic rectangular brick and restricts his 3D pieces to a single colour scheme.  He explains this fascination with creating art from a single shape thus: 'I love seeing how curves can be made out of rectangles.' Lego creator, Ole Kirk Christiansen, started producing the bricks as an addition to his wooden toy business in 1932.  The Danish carpenter and his son Godret Kirk became inspired by the works of Hilary Fisher Price, a British child psychologist, who made interlocking plastic bricks for children. The father and son team produced their own version of the interlocking bricks and launched their own company Lego, the name derived from the Danish 'leg godt', which translates as 'play well'.  As of 2013, approximately 560 billion Lego pieces have been made. The exhibition Rated as one of the world’s 10 must-see exhibitions by CNN, visitors can marvel at The Art of Brick exhibition from 29 May until 14 September 2014 at Amsterdam EXPO. In addition to the exhibition, younger visitors are invited into the Play Zone to explore their own Lego construction skills and creativity.  Tickets are available at the exhibition centre or via www.amsterdamexpo.nl In the meantime if you are in Amsterdam look out for Hugman, Sawaya’s contribution to street art.  Hugman is a yellow Lego sculpture created from 273 pieces, who has been seeing hugging streetposts, bicycle stands, fences – around the world.  More >


10 reasons why the Dutch women are hot favourites for the hockey World Cup

10 reasons why the Dutch women are hot favourites for the hockey World Cup

Blog Netherlands by Numbers has been looking at why the Dutch are so good at field hockey - ahead of the World Cup which takes place in The Hague over the next two weeks. Forget Brazil and the football. The hockey World Cup kicks off in The Hague on Saturday – both the men and the women’s competitions. There are 15 different countries taking part – 12 teams in each competition – and the Dutch women are hot favourites to take the title. Just so you won’t sound stupid if you should end up discussing the finer points of Maartje Paumen’s techniques with someone who knows all about it, here are some key facts about hockey in the Netherlands. 1. Hockey was introduced to the Netherlands way back in 1891 and soon afterwards the first clubs opened in Amsterdam, The Hague and Haarlem. 2. Today there are 320 hockey clubs in the Netherlands and the sport is played by nearly 240,000 people. The big clubs, like Rotterdam, have over 3,000 members and there are over 100 youth teams. 3. Hockey clubs are mostly named after the place where they are based, but some have more imaginative names. Take the Strawberries from Driehuis, the Kikkers (frogs) from Nieuw-Vennep or even the Kraaien (crows) of Wijdewormer. 4. Hockey is the second most popular team sport in the Netherlands after football but the hockey teams are much more successful. 5. There are three standard competitions in the Netherlands: juniors, seniors (18 to 34) and veterans (35+). But you can also play company hockey, wheelchair hockey, beach hockey, disabled hockey, street hockey, indoor hockey, school hockey, keep fit hockey and something they call Funkey…. The Dutch are so hockey-mad that during the World Cup there is even a special competition for 70+ players. 6. The Dutch women have won the World Cup six out of 12 times and silver four times. Their big rivals are the women of Argentina and Australia. Oranje women are currently top of the world rankings. 7. The Dutch men have won the world title three out of 12 times and silver twice. Their biggest rivals are Australia and Germany. The Oranje men are currently ranked three in the world. 8. This year, the national Dutch men’ champions are Oranje Zwart (orange black), the women’s national champions are Den Bosch – as usual. Den Bosch have won the women’s title in 14 of the past 20 years. Bloemendaal and Amsterdam tend to dominate the men’s game. 9. Midfielder Maartje Paumen (who of course plays for Den Bosch) won the title of world’s best player in 2011 and 2012. But then, Argentina’s Luciana Aymar has won the title eight times since 2001. 10. The Dutch men are in group A with Germany, New Zealand, Korea, South Africa and Argentina. The Dutch women face Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea and Belgium in their group. The top two teams in the groups progress to the knock-out rounds. You can watch the Dutch matches live on Nos television. And for those who think (field) hockey is slow and boring: the very top players can flick the ball at speeds of over 110 kph and hit it to travel at over 130kph. Ow! The Netherlands by Numbers blog publishes lists of all things Dutch.  More >



What to do with the kids over Easter?

What to do with the kids over Easter?

With the Easter holidays and other school breaks coming up, Esther O'Toole has some suggestions to keep your offspring amused.     With the Easter and May holidays ahead, how can you make sure the kids are exhausted enough to fall into bed and leave you alone with a bottle of red wine and left-over chocolate? If you are in Amsterdam, why not start off over the long Easter weekend with Nemo’s High Tea on April 20 and 21? Food science Especially for Easter there’s a set-price menu with a wide array of cakes and treats to nibble while you learn the science behind turning your tea into…ice cream! If the wonderful weather holds, you may decide to eat your high tea on their fantastic roof top terrace; eat some more while the children pretend to be kings and queens on the giant chess board. Then, of course, you have the rest of the day to explore the permanent exhibition (for those taking tea, there is a 50% reduction on the entry price of €15). Top tip: take extra clothes in case the littlest throw all their cake up again on the centrifugal force machine. Find out more: www.e-nemo.nl Get arty If you’re not feeling scienc-y how about getting arty? There’s new awesomeness to explore down at the Rijksmuseum for ages 6+. Since it’s reopened the museum has expanded its family activities, including learning how to etch like Rembrandt, discovering life in the Golden Age and a family tour. Find out more: www.rijksmuseum.nl Over at the Van Gogh take a trip back in time with Vincent’s suitcase. Available in Dutch or English; it’s full of interesting activities for kids to dive into that turns the visit into a treasure hunt (again from age 6). They also offer very affordable art courses for youngsters throughout the year. Find out more: www.vangoghmuseum.nl Regular arts and crafts workshops can also be found in the studio of the children’s department at the Central library near Central station. For bi-lingual kids these are often coupled with book readings in the library’s Annie MG Schmidt theatre. Find out more: www.oba.nl Get messy If you fancy getting out of town and getting messy then check out Oerrr from Dutch natural heritage (Natuurmonumenten). It’s full of great family ideas on where to get muddy country-wide. Plus sign up for the newsletter and get free wildlife activity cards throughout the year. Learn how to survive in the wild from April 13 with the ‘Wild Outdoors Day’ at Overijssel, Utrecht, Gelderland and other locations up and down the country. The thing that most caught my eye amongst the night time walks, castle exploration and deer watching activities had to be seal spotting off Zeeland – an exciting and mucky day is guaranteed for all! Find out more: www.natuurmonumenten.nl/kinderen/oerrr (Dutch only) Southern fun For those further south here’s a tried and tested favourite in our household. Eleven minutes out of central Eindhoven brings you to Nuenen and its massive children’s wildlife park - Dierenrijk. Large enclosures and a wide selection of well-cared for animals - both obvious biggies (tigers, bears, lions and seals) and surprise winners. My kids both adored the…Garra Rufa Fish. That’s right - the ones you get at foot spas. You can wash your hands and put your fingers in so they can be nibbled at. Endlessly exciting for the under tens. Two major benefits here: if it’s raining there is a gigantic indoor jungle-themed play-zone with seating for parents with tired feet, and great Puro coffee for any parents with tired heads. Find out more: www.dierenrijk.nl The Hague And last but not least: if you have children of three and up then maybe they need to know that in The Hague there is a rabbit on the run from the police. On Sunday May 4 the hunt is on for the meddlesome bunny in Maas Theater en Dans’ WANTED: RABBIT. This highly successful show is on its fourth run promising lots of slapstick and suspense for young and old. Find out more: www.mastd.nl Amusement parks Now is the time when Dutch amusement parks come to life again after the winter months. Website Netherlands by Numbers has a list of 10 of the country's best theme parks, from the much-praised Efteling to Walibi and the more gentle fun of Plopsaland.  More >


Greek start-ups go orange

Greek start-ups go orange

The Orange Grove initiative is a Dutch-Greek start-up which aims to stem the brain drain and reduce youth unemployment, writes Maria Vasileiou. It might sound like an initiave to stimulate citrus farmers in Greece, but Orange Grove is actually a start-up incubator in Athens launched with the help of Dutch money. At the flexible workspace of Orange Grove, a typical example of crowd funding initiated by the Dutch embassy in Athens, around 80 young Greek and Dutch entrepreneurs get together, work, network, learn, meet like-minded people and follow master classes and lectures by experts from Dutch multinational and Greek companies and university professors. Among the companies involved is Heineken’s subsidiary in Greece (Athenian Brewery), which is the main sponsor of Orange Grove, Interamerican, Philips, KLM and Coco-Mat. Academic experts offering master classes to the young entrepreneurs come from Dutch and Greek top-ranked universities. Group effort 'Orange Grove is very much a group effort. Many people and institutions with a link to both countries contribute,' explains Jan Versteeg, the Dutch ambassador in Greece. 'The bill is almost entirely paid by Dutch and Greek companies. Many of them are very important players in the Greek economy.' The idea was first conceived on board a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Athens in February 2013, after Versteeg had visited a similar incubator in Groningen. The next steps involved discussions with alumni of Dutch universities living in Athens and Greek students in the Netherlands, but also with Dutch ministers. When foreign affairs minister Frans Timmermans visited Greece in April last year the ambassador raised the idea with him. As he says: 'the minister exploded with enthusiasm'. Companies Two months later Eurogroup president and Dutch minister of finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem also encouraged the embassy team to push on with the project. Academics and business leaders then came on board. The Orange Grove initiative aims to stem the brain drain and youth unemployment issues in Greece. Six out of 10 Greek young people are currently jobless. But those who are selected to join Orange Grove are given the opportunity to create their own start-up company. 'Our aim is to help turn brain drain into two-way brain mobility. We offer help to young entrepreneurs, so they can stay here and work on their innovative idea, or return to Greece after finishing their studies in the Netherlands or elsewhere, says Versteeg. Greek industry When Boukje Vastbinder, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Delft University of Technology first visited Orange Grove in November, she was impressed by the variation in business ideas and the enthusiasm. 'The entrepreneurs seem to be highly educated, in Greece and abroad, and very motivated to work at an exciting start-up. The products seem to connect with recent start-up trends or strengths of the Greek society and economy like agriculture, tourism, transport and shipping,' she says. Michalis Sinodinos joined Orange Grove when the initiative started in autumn last year. After having studied economics in Europe and the USA and working on a project in Asia and in a governmental department in Athens he found himself jobless. Innovation 'At that point I said to myself: I will either join Orange Grove or leave Greece,' he says. After six months with the project, he has developed Poseadon, an app which gives information to people at sea about their whereabouts. 'The difference between a navigator system and our project is that the user becomes part of the map,' says the 35-year-old, who has been sailing since the age of six. Sinodinos is currently looking for funds to take his product to market and calls his experience at Orange Grove 'a real opportunity'. 'When [European commissioner] Neelie Kroes was here, we had the chance to speak to her directly and show her our projects. We asked her how we could access European funds for financing,' Sinodinos explains. 'At Orange Grove we also learned how to cooperate. Most of us stay here until late in the evening talking about our projects and brainstorming about new possibilities.' Christina Stribacu, a 33-year-old art history graduate, says Orange Grove made it possible for her to start exporting her family’s olive oil production under her own brand, LIA. 'Until recently we were selling to a wholesaler. But now we have started exporting to France and Belgium and we will soon expand to the Netherlands and to New York under our own label,' she explains. Both Sinodinos and Stribacu were among the first group of entrepreneurs to join Orange Grove. 'The initial group consisted of young people working on ten start-ups,' says Natasha Apostolidi, political advisor at the Dutch embassy, who is also in charge of running Orange Grove. Selection process 'The second group was made up of 20 projects and the third, which has been finalised, has another 10. Projects have to be innovative in order to be selected.' Every project is 'allowed' to use the premises for a full year. 'During the next few months we will see how many of these projects manage to get financing and become independent enterprises,' says Apostolidi. The success rate will also be taken into account when the initiative is evaluated afte three years. In the meantime, official visitors are on the increase. Dutch trade minister Lilianne Ploumen and senior economic affairs ministry official Simon Smits were two of the latest visitors, and representatives from Dutch embassies around the world have been looking at how the project was set up. 'The initiative is still very young but seems to be a big success already in terms of getting exposure for the Greek start-up scene and in the amount of start-ups that entered the programme,' says Delft's Vastbinder. Of course, Greece cannot compare to Silicon Valley or Amsterdam, one of Europe’s hottest start-up capitals. Yet the project's supporters see such developments as an unquestionable sign of latent potential, reflecting a spin in the country’s sad economic story. The seeds are growing roots, nourished by the ideas and entrepreneurial spirit of a new generation, marking Greece’s efforts for deeply grounded turnaround, but also Europe’s potential for effective cooperation.  More >


Do Dutch lotteries appeal to expats?

Lotteries are and have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and especially in times of crisis are welcomed by many as a potential way to 'escape the misery'. Really? An article about lotteries on a respectable platform for English speaking expats in the Netherlands? Yes - and why not? Lotteries are and have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and especially in times of crisis and/or economic uncertainty lotteries are welcomed by many as a potential way to 'escape the misery'. And while the Netherlands have a lot to offer to expats, the weather conditions are not among the perks. The many rainy days offer a perfect opportunity to play, occasionally or on a regular basis, the lottery online and play for gigantic international lottery jackpots! Lotteries are popular the world over. Giant amounts of money are at stake, basically all the time. That is to say, giant to some might be less giant to others, depending on your frame of reference. While the jackpots in the Netherlands' biggest lotteries may be impressive, they are a lot less impressive when compared to the gigantic amounts that await the more than lucky winners of pan-European lotteries like the EuroMillions lottery and especially the big American lotteries, Mega Millions and US Powerball. Jackpots in the EuroMillions lottery can reach up to €190 million, but the jackpots in aforementioned US lotteries don't have a limit and have grown to amounts that pass the half million dollar bar! Mega Millions holds the record of the biggest jackpot ever with the amount of $656 million, while the largest jackpot won by a single winner is the $590.5 million US Powerball jackpot, which was won in May 2013. Definitely the kind of prizes that start temporary instances of 'jackpot madness'! Holland's King's Day Lottery One of the biggest Dutch lottery events of the year is the upcoming King's Day draw of the Dutch state lottery. The player that wins the jackpot will receive €10,000 every month for as long as thirty years! Still, a simple calculation (without taking interest into account, which in all fairness is currently almost negligible in the Netherlands anyway) tells us that the total amount won is €3.6 million. By all means a very nice and large amounts, but not in the least bit an amount that rabid lottery players will start drooling over. The Dutch New Year’s lottery often offers a larger, one-time amount (close to €40 million on December 30th 2013), but equally often is shared by many winners who all take a fairly small piece of the jackpot 'cake'. In short: lottery loving expats are not in for a treat when stationed in the Netherlands. From Amsterdam to Chicago, from Manchester to Tokyo This is not the end of the world and it definitely does not mean that expats should put their lottery playing needs in the freezer while living in the Netherlands. Nowadays, it is so much easier to play lottery online anyway that it really doesn't matter where in the world you live, as long as you have a working internet connection. You could be in an internet cafe in Nepal, or lean back in New York's Central Park with your iPad or smartphone, really, and find an online lottery provider that offers tickets to your favorite lotteries - which will most likely be the lotteries that offer the biggest jackpots. One of those online lottery agencies is theLotter, based in the UK, with more than ten years of experience one of the more established players in the field. theLotter offers the opportunity to play online in the world's biggest and most exciting lotteries, including the biggest American, European and Australian lotteries. Local representatives buy official lottery tickets in your name, which are safely stored and scanned directly to your account for proof and safety reasons. theLotter shows you exactly how the ticket purchasing process works and offer you a very easy way of participating, with regular special deals and discounts you can benefit from. Lottery prizes may be prone to local taxes, but are 100% free of commission! If you're a lottery fan, make sure to take your shot at winning more than amazing prices. If you're not, then go about your business as usual. Martijn Opperdoes  More >


Cycling in the King’s footsteps

Cycling in the King’s footsteps

Cycle along past the most important places in King Willem-Alexander’s life and enjoy some unique Dutch scenery at the same time! After over a hundred years of rule by queens, Holland has a king once more. To commemorate this milestone, Cycle Trips Holland has launched a truly royal cycling route. You can peddle in the footsteps of the new Dutch king, past all the important places in his life and see some beautiful, typically Dutch landscapes too. The King’s Route begins and ends in Utrecht, the city in which King Willem-Alexander was born in 1965. En route cyclists will encounter many stately homes, royal palaces and country homes. You can trace the King’s footsteps from his youth in the wooded surroundings of Lage Vuursche via Leiden, where he went to university, on to the impressive church in Amsterdam where His Majesty was sworn in. 'The route was inspired by last year’s inauguration,' Desiree Moonen, founder of Cycle Trips Holland explains. 'When I began setting out the route soon after, I was overwhelmed by the choice of wonderful locations. It was almost too much to fit into a single route!' Steeped in tradition The King’s Route is an excellent choice for cyclists with a keen interest in traditions and history. Some of Holland’s best-kept country houses and mansions are along the way. Buitenplaats Vreedenhoff, for instance, with its impressive wrought iron gates which date back to 1749 and took three men to make. Or De Hooge Vuursche, built in 1912 by a rich merchant navy officer and his baroness wife and richly decorated by many influential Dutch artists. The most impressive buildings, however, are of course the many palaces of the Dutch Royal Family. The route leads past Drakesteyn Castle, where the King and his two brothers grew up, and Soestdijk Palace, where his grandmother Princess Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard lived. When his mother became Queen, her family moved with her to The Hague, to Huis ten Bosch Palace. It was Willem-Alexander’s home for many years and is soon to be his home again once more. Hobnobbing in The Hague The overnight stay in The Hague offers you the opportunity to take a look at the beautiful Binnenhof, Holland’s seat of parliament. The first buildings on this site originate from the 13th century and were all clustered around the fishing pond on the country estate of Count Floris IV. The pond is still there: it’s now called the Hofvijver. Sit in the courtyard and enjoy an Italian ice cream as you watch cabinet ministers and MPs hurry between buildings. Be careful, though – you’re allowed to cycle through the courtyard so look out for fellow tourists and locals rushing to work! Lively: Leiden and Amsterdam It’s not all palaces and ancient history on the King’s Route. There’s a stop in the lively city of Leiden, where the King lived while he was studying for a degree in History. You can cycle or stroll past his digs on the Rapenburg and have a beer at Cafe L’Espérance, where the Prince was a regular. Of course the route would not be complete without a visit to Holland’s capital Amsterdam and the Nieuwe Kerk where King Willem-Alexander was sworn in. The church borders on Dam Square, a stone’s throw away from the picturesque canals and beautiful town houses that wealthy Dutch merchants built in the 17th and 18th century. Be sure to take time out for the Rijkmuseum too, which recently reopened after extensive renovations. Cycling through the countryside As you cycle from city to city, you’ll enjoy the typically Dutch landscapes that inspired the country’s master painters: green meadows interspersed with narrow brooks and fluffy white clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. The King’s Route will also take you through picturesque country villages and lively cities, along the North Sea coast and through the wide, sandy dunes. If you book for arrival in spring, you can expect to see field after field of colourful flower bulbs in bloom. Tulips, daffodils, bluebells and of course wonderfully fragrant hyacinths. Just add clogs and a windmill for the ultimate Dutch picture postcard! Full-service Cycle Trips Holland is known for its high level of service and flexibility, as schedules and routes can be adapted to suit individual wishes. Accommodation on the King’s Route is in keeping with the route’s royal flair and includes boutique hotels in which the customer truly is king. There’s no need to worry about your luggage – it will be transported to your next hotel. And should you need technical assistance en route, skilled technicians will ensure you’re back in the (cycle) saddle as soon as possible. 'Our motto is ‘Scenic Routes, Exclusive Accommodation’,' Desiree Moonen explains. 'That’s why we take great care in selecting hotels and guest houses with that little bit extra. Some are uniquely situated in historic buildings, like many of the hotels on our Zuiderzee Route. Others are country escapes offering luxurious surroundings and personal service.' Spoilt for choice Cycle Trips Holland has a total of ten routes to choose from, each highlighting some of Holland’s most beautiful scenery and must-see sites. On the Zeeland Route, for instance, you can learn more about Holland’s eternal struggle with the mighty sea and marvel at the activity in Rotterdam’s busy seaport. The Friesland Route, on the other hand, introduces you to a green and lovely Holland, dotted with picturesque towns and peaceful hamlets. It’s the ideal cycling trip for those who wish to relax and unwind. 'Whichever route you choose, Cycle Trips Holland has one ambition: to make your cycling holiday a truly unforgettable experience,' Desiree Moonen concludes with a smile. For more information, please visit www.cycletripsholland.com or contact Desiree Moonen by mail at info@cycletripsholland.com.  More >


Master Dutch painter revolutionised fire-fighting

Master Dutch painter revolutionised fire-fighting

As the Wassenaar Brandweermuseum prepares to celebrate the man behind the modern fire hose, Tracy Brown Hamilton discovers the impact of his invention. On July 6, 1652, Amsterdam’s fire brigade fought in vain to save the Old Town Hall on Dam Square. All contemporary fire-fighting methods were employed: buckets of water, long poles to pull down burning walls and wet tarpaulins to throw over nearby buildings. The fire spread so quickly that nothing but a smoking tower remained. The scene has been immortalised in paintings and drawings by the likes of Rembrandt, Aert van der Neer and Jan Beerstraten. Inspiration Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712) was 15 years old when he witnessed the Town Hall blaze, and like other artists he also depicted the scene in sketches and paintings. But the event also inspired him to invent an engine that revolutionised fire-fighting. One of these engines can be seen at the Wassenaar Brandweermuseum, or fire-fighting museum, a unique collection of engines, uniforms and other fire-fighting memorabilia. On Saturday, March 1, the museum celebrates his birthday with a tour guided by an English-speaking historian. 'Van der Heyden is really a great hero of the seventeenth century,' says Kees Plaisier, coordinator of the Brandweermuseum. 'Fire was a major problem in those days.' Destruction Carelessness with a candle or a bed warmer could be almost instantly destructive. 'There were many wooden houses and very narrow streets,' Plaiser says. 'A fire could devastate the entire city.' Fire 'engines' in Van der Heyden’s day were cumbersome tubs into which water had to be manually placed and then pumped and sprayed out of a rotating, gooseneck nozzle. The engines had to be placed dangerously close to the fire. 'It was very ineffective,' Plaisier says, 'because you could not move around. You could not fight the fire from above or the side. You could only stay in one place.' Revolutionary invention Van der Heyden, who was also a successful cityscapes painter on a par with Rembrandt, designed a fire engine that was lightweight and mobile, and had hoses for both water supply and output. 'With the hose, the firemen could really direct the water at the fire, from above or below, rather than stand in one spot,' Plaisier explains. The engines made Van der Heyden a very rich man. He sold them to the likes of Peter the Great, and William of Orange took some of the engines with him to England in 1672. He also completely reorganised the fire brigade in Amsterdam. 'He divided the city into districts,' explains Plaiser, 'and the men who lived in each district would fight fires there, rather than fire fighters going all over the city and arriving too late.' According to Peter Sutton’s book, Jan van der Heyden, firemen were volunteers who received training and drills overseen by Van der Heyden every year. They did not receive wages and, in fact, were subject to fines if they arrived late to a scene. According to Sutton: 'Even bystanders who refused to lend a hand when conscripted by firemen could have their hat or coat confiscated!' In addition, the victims, who were assumed to have caused the fire through carelessness, paid the cost of putting out the fire. Van der Heyden’s engine was the basis for fire-fighting technology until the invention of the steam engine nearly 200 years later. The Wassenaar Brandweermuseum is open every Saturday and Sunday, 12:00-16:00. Entrance is free. www.brandweermuseumwassenaar.nl  More >



An MBA is not a degree

An MBA is an integral part of ongoing personal development, not just a piece of paper, says Christo Nel of Nyenrode Business Universiteit. (Sponsored feature) (more…)  More >