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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

This Saturday and Sunday (May 12 and 13) have been designated National Mill Day when some 900 windmills all over the country open their doors to the public. To get you in the mood, here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands’ most enduring industrial monuments. The oldest windmill The oldest remaining mill in the Netherlands is the Zeddam tower mill in the province of Gelderland. It is one of four remaining mills of its type. Built before 1451, it belonged to the ducal Van den Bergh family. Local farmers had no choice but to bring their grain to the mill, hence the name ‘dwangmolen’, or forced mill. During World War II, the mill was used by friend and foe alike: the Wehrmacht used it as a look-out post but it also sheltered local people who needed a safe house. Canadian soldiers left a radio transmitter in the attic which can still be seen today. The highest mill Molen de Noord in Schiedam is the highest classic windmill in the world. It stretches 33.3 metres into the sky and is one of 19 very tall corn windmills which serviced the city’s gin-making industry. In 2006 the Nolet distillery built a new ‘old’ windmill which is nine metres taller. What were windmills used for? The energy generated by wind and watermills was used to turn any raw material that needed pounding, mauling, shredding, hacking or mixing into a tradeable product. The Zaanstreek paper mills, for instance, were renowned throughout the world for their good quality paper. In fact, the American Declaration of Independence was printed on sheets produced there. There were mustard mills, hemp mills, grain mills, snuff mills, cocoa mills, oil mills, chalk mills, paint mills and saw mills. Because of their ability to turn trees into planks (for shipbuilding) much more quickly, the latter were instrumental in making the Netherlands a powerful and very rich sea-faring nation. In fact, some say the first industrial estate in the world was a complex of 23 saw mills on the Kostenverlorenkade in Amsterdam. One, the Otter, still remains. In the 18th century polder windmills, or drainage mills, were used for land reclamation. Do all mills look the same? No. The architecture of the Dutch mills is extremely varied. We’ll mention just a few types. The standerdmolen or post mill has been in use in the Netherlands since the 1200s. Its wooden body pivots on a post and can be turned to take full advantage of the wind. A good example is the Windlust post mill in Nistelrode. The stellingmolen or smock mill is found in cities. It had to be tall enough to catch the wind and has a high gallery from which to arrange the sails. De Gooyer in Amsterdam is a smock mill. A ‘grondzeiler’ is a smock mill whose sails nearly reach the ground. It is dangerous because people or animals could easily get ‘a klap van de molen’ (see Expressions). A typical example of a ‘grondzeiler’ is the Achlumer Molen in Achlum. Say it with sails The position of the sails on a windmill can be used to convey messages such as a death in the family, a joyous occasion such as a wedding, a short or a long time of inactivity or even a call to come to the mill as quickly as possible.  Sail signals also warned locals against impending Nazi raids during World War II. Windmills in art Windmills abound in the paintings of the Golden Age. They could hardly be avoided: some nine thousand dotted the landscape in the 17th century. Rembrandt (a miller’s son) painted a powerful picture in which a windmill towers over the landscape, the sun lighting up its sails as black clouds recede. In 17th century paintings windmills usually weren’t simply windmills but symbols of strength. They kept the soil dry and the people safe. Rembrandt’s mill may also refer to the quiet of peace after the struggle for independence from Spain, according to the experts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Windmills in speech Windmills are emblematic of the Netherlands and it is no wonder they made their way into the Dutch language. ‘Met molentjes lopen’ (walking with windmills) means to be a little crazy as does ‘A klap van de molen hebben’ (to be hit by a sail). ‘Alle molenaars zijn geen dieven’ (not all millers are thieves) seems to imply that not all millers were found to be trustworthy either. The decline of the windmill There are 991 windmills, 397 drainage mills and 594 industrial and corn mills left in the Netherlands, according to Groningen University. The decline of the windmill set in with the discovery of steam power at the start of the industrial revolution. The Dutch polder boards were slow to adopt steam for their pumps - after all, old-fashioned wind power had kept Dutch feet dry for centuries. But eventually land reclamation on a large scale made the use of steam-powered pumps inevitable. A number of windmills were destroyed during World War II and many crumbled through neglect. Where to see windmills today Kinderdijk is one of the best-known places for windmill watching. Its 19 windmills, almost all ‘grondzeilers’, are on the UNESCO world heritage list. These mills, which pumped up the polder water, played an important part in shaping the Netherlands. The Zaanse Schans is another popular windmill destination. It has a collection of working saw mills, oil mills, a spice mill and many more historical monuments. Best avoided during the main tourist season. The new windmills The Netherlands’ new windmills are wind turbines - there are currently some 3,000 wind turbines in action of which some 289 are situated off shore. Some 5% of Dutch electricity is now generated by wind power. On May 12 and 13 windmills all over the country will be open to the public. Check them out via this website  More >


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

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

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


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

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

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


May 4 and 5, remembering the dead and celebrating freedom

May 4 and 5, remembering the dead and celebrating freedom

Five years of occupation during WWII left an indelible imprint on the Netherlands, and the tangible memory of the war means National Remembrance Day is marked at a grand scale, with events and activities in villages, towns, cities and museums up and down the country.  In fact, it’s not just one day, but two. A day to remember the fallen on the May 4, and then a day to celebrate and cherish the freedom that they fought to protect, on the May 5. By Esther o'Toole Every year at 8pm on May 4, a formal Remembrance Day ceremony, headed by the king and queen, takes place in the Nieuwe Kerk followed by a wreath laying and two minutes of silence by the peace monument on the Dam. Around 20,000 members of the public attend the event on the Dam annually. It’s a poignant spot for the service, being the site of one of the last shootings of WWII when German soldiers holed up in the Groote Club shot at Amsterdammers celebrating the German surrender.  The two-minute silence is strictly observed all over the country. Public transport stops, cars pull over to the side of the road and there are no take-offs or landings at Schiphol airport. All over the country, smaller ceremonies take place. Among the most poignant are those in isolated places commemorating members of the resistance executed by the German occupiers. Liberation Day reading - Friesland The start of the traditional liberation celebrations moves to a different spot every year. In 2018 they kick-off in Leeuwarden (Friesland) at 12 noon with the May 5 reading being given by philosopher, writer & TV maker, Stine Jensen. The prime minister will be in attendance and it’ll be broadcast live. To mark the occasion the whole of Leeuwarden town centre will be in festival mode with seven different music events, kids festival activities, and a programme about migration; all centred around ‘Freedom Square’. Veterans View - Doorn Since the end of April a new travelling exhibition from the National Veterans Committee has been on display. At De Basis in Doorn until May 24, Veterans’ View seeks to give the general public a special insight into the individual perspectives of some of the 115,000 Dutch veterans and the diverse missions they have served on from WWII to the present day. After Doorn it will then travel the country to town halls, museums, government buildings, schools and other public places to reach as wide an audience as possible. Liberation Museum - Nijmegen In Gelderland a silent march through Groesbeek on May 4 (starting at 7pm by the town hall) will lead through the town, on to Berg en Dal and end at the Canadian cemetery before a gathering at the Liberation Museum in Nijmegen. British and Canadian troops worked alongside Dutch fighters at the end of the war to liberate the eastern borderlands from German occupation. On May 5 the museum opens its doors from 10-4.30pm for a festive series of events. There will be a WWII book sale; a radio show using the equipment of the day; in the afternoon Dutch grandparents are sharing their personal war stories with children (10 plus recommended); and the permanent exhibitions are also open to visit. From the museum, Grateful Generation Tours will lead groups along battlefields of the famous Operation Market Garden (1944). Participants can travel in authentic WWII jeeps. If you’re still in the area on the May 6 there is a battlefield tour by bike (10km) if you prefer. Entrance for the festivities and tours cost as little as 2 or 3 euros. American Cemetery - Margraten (Limburg) Between May 2 - 6 The Netherlands American Cemetery, will host the Faces of Margraten. The foundation that maintains the cemetery has been collecting photos of those buried there since 2014, and now have more than 5,000. These will be displayed in situ for the first time. Entrance to the cemetery is free and in addition, this year visitors will be able to listen to a free audio tour, The Voices of Margraten.  Liberation Festivals - All Over With performances from 14, 200 artists, across 12 provinces, the Liberation Day Festivals are bigger than ever this year. Every year the National Committee for the 4 and 5 May select a group of Ambassadors of Freedom, from the top performers of the moment. This year performing under the committee’s 2018 theme, Pass Freedom On, you can see: Ronnie Flex, Fedde Le Grand and MY BABY. Amstel concert - Amsterdam On the evening of May 5, the traditional closing concert on the Amstel, will be performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, with Antony Hermus conducting and turns by soloists: Maan, Willemijn Verkaik, CB Milton, Bastiaan Everink and Noa Wildschut as well as dancers from the Nederlands Dans Theater. Boat passes for the concert were given out by lottery sometime ago; if you can’t get a decent view nearby then the performance will be sent out live by NOS on NPO 1, coverage starts at 8.30pm. Militracks - Overloon (N. Brabant) If you want to find out more about the Dutch war time experience here after, then head to the War Museum Overloon (Noord Brabant). In an area that saw some of the fiercest fighting at the close of the war, they hold their Militracks exhibition. It’s coming up on May 19 & 20 and promises to be a big event with an expected 15,000 visitors coming from more than 20 countries, to see the original military vehicles cruising through the woods and to ride alongside them. The museum’s regular exhibitions are open too, as they are on May 4 & 5. More information about events up and down the country and the history of Remembrance & Liberation Day can be found on the 4 and 5 May website.  More >


From harps to glass blowing: 14 great things to do in May

From harps to glass blowing: 14 great things to do in May

Celebrate freedom May 5 is Liberation Day and a day of national celebration, with 14 music festivals taking place across the country. Find out who will be performing at a festival near you on this website. Amsterdam is the scene of the traditional Liberation Day open air concert on the Amstel river in the presence of the royals and city dignitaries. You're invited too but it will be a bit of a squeeze. From 8.30pm  Website Come to Planet Harp If you think the harp is about ladies in floaty dresses playing the sort of dreamy music that used to introduce flashbacks in films you are only partly right. The harp is hip and used in pop and jazz as well as classical music. Apart from the annual harp contest the Dutch Harp festival offers a variety of events such as Concerts in the Dark, a concert by Spinvis and a performance by the National Ballet. It even features Harp yoga (cue some dreamy harp music)!  May 12 and13 at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht. Website Have a spoonful of sugar A sedate little outing is on offer at Amsterdam's Museum van Loon, the splendid 17th century mansion built on the fortunes amassed in the Dutch East Indies. On show is a collection of pastel portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries which reflect the fashion of the time for this slightly saccharine way of representing the great and the good. Until June 4. Website  Go to the Loo at Pentecost If you rid yourself of some old tat on King's day here's an excuse to buy some more and walk around a splendid example of baroque gardens to boot. It's the Pinkster Brocante market at Het Loo palace at Apeldoorn where superior old stuff from Belgium, France and Britain is just aching to be transformed into planters. May 19 to May 21, Website See some sculptures at the seaside A much weightier proposition are the abstract steel sculptures of André Volten (1925-2002) which are dotted around many cities in the Netherlands and Germany. The 'knakenpaal' (pile of coins) on the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam is a Voltens, for example.The models of his works, including ones that were never executed, can now be seen in the tranquil surroundings of the Beelden aan Zee museum. Utopia is on until May 25. Website Eye a Russian The EYE film museum in Amsterdam is screening the restored version of Fragments of an Empire by Friedrich Ermler. The 1929 Russian film about a WW I soldier who is shell-shocked into losing his memory and 'wakes up' to a completely different Soviet Union ten years later now includes such missing revolutionary scenes as Jesus in a gas mask. The screening will be accompanied by music composed for the film by Colin Benders (Kyteman). May 26. Website Have a beer or 83 If you can manage to drink 83 beers and a bit every day for three days you will have tried all 250 Dutch beers presented during the Dutch Beer Tasting week. The tasting venue is the Grote Kerk in The Hague from May 24  to May 26. Website Buzz off to a natural history museum 'The Netherlands hums' is the name of a joint exhibition by eleven museums of natural history to alert people to the plight of the wild bee which is endangered. The exhibition - at Ecomare, Museon, Twentse Welle, Naturalis, Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, Natuurmuseum Brabant, de Bastei, natuurmuseum Fryslân, Universiteitsmuseum Utrecht, Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht and Natura Docet Wonderryck Twente - give visitors a chance 'to feel like a bee, carrying pollen around, wearing a thick coat or finding your way around a flower.'The life of a bee is no bed of roses,' the organisers say. Until September 16. Go to the websites of the museums for more info. Fix the future The John Adams Institute is organising an event featuring Andrew Keen, author of How to Fix the Future. Keen is offering scenarios for extricating ourselves from the  (worldwide) web of technology and keeping our sense of what it is to be human intact. May 24, in Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. Website Dance the night away The Vondelpark open air theatre is coming out of hibernation this month and opens with a special Liberation Day spectacle for children on May 5. Mums and dads may want to check out the Orquesta Pegasaya whose latin dance music will dispell whatever winter blues may linger. You can take your chances or reserve a seat for €5. May 27. Website Buy a masterpiece Open Ateliers, the chance to poke your nose into studios, sheds, attics and wherever else art is being created, takes place in Amsterdam's Jordaan district for the 20th time this year. It's your chance to buy an early work of the next Picasso. Or not. Whichever way, it's great fun. May 19, 20 and 21   Website Marvel at the madness of the glass blower A special treat from the Rijksmuseum Twente in the shape of an exhibition of the weird and wonderful world of Bernard Heesen, a man whose lung capacity matches his imagination. Glass blower Heesen presents his latest work, based on 'ugly objects' depicted in 19th century prints which he has rendered in glass. Until August 19. Website Don't miss some English theatre Oedipus The Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam is the scene of a 'contemporary, free' adaptation by British writer and director Robert Icke of tragic hero Oedipus's journey to his doom. This month's performance will be surtitled on May 8 and May 10. Website Entertaining Mr Sloane Joe Orton's black comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane at Mike's Badhuistheater in Amsterdam has been prolonged three more days so now's your chance. From May 25 to May 27. Website Early warning The Pinkpop music festival is on June 15, 16 and 17. Get your tickets now! Website   More >


One in three adults buy something orange for King’s Day – are you one of them?

One in three adults buy something orange for King’s Day – are you one of them?

If you are in the Netherlands at the moment, you cannot fail to have noticed it. Yes, King’s Day is about to hit and the orange tat is everywhere. This year, according to ING, three in 10 adults will buy something orange to wear - with the average bill reaching €26! This year too, the Friday weather forecast is not as bad as it could be. The day will start out sunny but there will be showers, particularly inland, although the temperature could be as high as 17 degrees in the south, the KNMI says optimistically. Here at DutchNews.nl opinion about King’s Day is divided. Some of us have been collecting our clutter to sell for months, some of us have a 24-hour feest ahead of us and some of us are even leaving the country to get away from it all. All you need is a plan. Here’s an updated version of ours. 1. If you are a party animal, you need to know that the best parties all take place the night before King’s Day and run until breakfast. This means you will not be up and about before mid-afternoon and will miss almost the whole thing. 2. If you are a bargain hunter, you need to get up early. If you are a real bargain hunter, you need to get out of the big cities and head for a small town where they won’t expect you to pay €15 for an old pair of shoes or tatty last-season skirt from Zara. The same applies if you hate crowds. Small towns are where the original spirit of King’s Day lives on – if you like silly games involving eating cake which has been tied to a piece of string with your hands behind your back, that is. 3. Take a big bag for your purchases and take lots of coins. No one has 50 cents change to give you for that Beatles plate you just bargained down from €10 to €9.50. According to the ING, sellers expect to learn an average of €90... so that says something about the sales techniques. 4. Don’t buy too much – like that huge fire fighter’s coat and the books and the straw bag and the wine glasses and the hat stand and all the other things which seemed like such a good idea at the time. You’ll have to carry them around and then when you get home you will find nothing fits and the book is missing the final pages. However, you will at least have stock to sell next year. 5. If you have children, buy plastic dinosaurs now. Every child goes through the dinosaur phase and then sells them on again a couple of years later. Same goes for ski clothes, Donald Duck comics and cuddly toys. You will never find Lego on sale on King’s Day. 6. Do not buy dvds of television series and films you have always wanted to see because you will never watch them. 7. Do not overdo the orange unless you want to look like a tourist or a frat boy or girl. An orange hair decoration or a t-shirt with a jokey slogan is okay. But an orange wig, feather boa, crown, trousers and Aperol spritzer is just slightly over the top. 8. Do not feel guilty about not giving 50 cents to cute kids with violins who can’t play or not buying lurid cup cakes from kids whose mums can’t bake – even if they have turned into a soggy heap. These kids make a fortune. We know of children who earn hundreds of euros every year getting folk who had drunk just a little bit too much to try to drop a euro into a glass in a bucket of water. 9.  Do make sure you have befriended someone who lives in a good vrijmarkt spot, so you can drop by and sit down for a bit to watch the world go by – unless it is pouring with rain of course. 10. Do not feel obliged to have a good time because, yay fantastic, it’s King’s Day! Lots of people hate it. They really do. And you can always stay home and watch it all on the telly.  More >


Red light: air pollution measurement bike shows traffic hotspots

Red light: air pollution measurement bike shows traffic hotspots

Cycling might be a healthy way to get around, but what about all the fumes you breathe in while stuck behind a lorry or a moped? Senay Boztas has been finding out about efforts to quantify exactly what cyclists are inhaling. Laden with solar panels, video camera, batteries and three air-pollution measuring devices, the ‘soot’ bike is no easy ride. Not only does the €30,000 electric vehicle weigh a ton. But a spin on this bicycle will also weigh on your mind. The whole point of the air pollution measuring bike is to record the nitrogen dioxide, soot and ultrafine particles that you have just breathed in en route. A study last year suggested that the Dutch live, on average, four months less due to nitrogen dioxide in the air, and even though estimates for future air pollution levels are falling, last autumn a court in The Hague ordered the government to do more to improve air quality. Traffic fumes Some believe that mobile measurement systems could help. At the Velo-City  conference in Arnhem-Nijmegen last year, Gelderland-based researchers Moniek Zuurbier and Paul Agelink gave a presentation on an innovative vehicle they built to gauge the precise effects of traffic fumes, from the cycling lane itself. A team from Arnhem environmental services department was asked to compare the pollution experienced on a cycle ride along a new bike superhighway between Arnhem and Nijmegen, the Rijnwaalpad, and cycling the old way through villages including Elst. The cycle path, for some distance, runs alongside the A325 road, and the Dutch cycling federation was concerned about air quality there. The team – including fellow expert Coen Jurcka – also wanted to investigate the effects of scooters in the bike lane on the air for cyclists. 'We found an electric bicycle in the cellar of our office that used to be used by the city for post, and built the air pollution measuring bike,' explains Agelink. 'Sun panels are used to charge up the apparatus, there is an extra battery for the equipment and a camera on the handlebars.' Spikes The idea, he explained, is to record how different types of air pollution peak during a journey and compare this with video images to see the cause of spikes and falls. “We measured both routes eight times, and the conclusion was that the new route is better than the old route, because of the effects of stopping still next to cars,” he said. He stressed that although levels of air pollution in the area do not exceed European limits, the bike still showed worrying hot spots: at red traffic lights, in close proximity to a lane of motorised traffic, and at the mouths of traffic tunnels. Although only nitrogen dioxide is a part of European norms at present, the researchers also measured soot (black carbon, or BC) and ultrafine particles (smaller than PM0.7). The World Health Organisation links such air pollution to increased risk of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases including asthma. It would be good if there were norms for these things too, said Agelink, explaining that due to difficulties in standardising measurements, this has not happened Europe-wide. In their presentation to the Velo-City conference, the researchers stressed that cyclists’ exposure to pollutants could be worse than other traffic users: they take more breaths per minute as they exercise, often cycle close to pollution sources, and because cycling is such a ubiquitous mode of transport in the Netherlands (with its estimated 22.5 million bikes). According to a paper by fellow researcher Dr Zuurbier, the concentrations of air pollution varied a lot from day to day, and ultrafine particle exposure was significantly higher on the old route. The bike superhighway exposed cyclists to slightly more nitrogen dioxide 'although not significantly', but passing scooters and motorcyclists also led to peaks in ultrafine particles – with some models of motorbike much worse than others. The consultant in environmental health and environmental epidemiology at Public Health Services Gelderland Midden went on to do a second study which she hopes to publish later this year. This looked at the influence of mopeds on cyclists at several fixed locations on cycling lanes in Nijmegen, Arnhem, Amsterdam and Harderwijk and showed clear peaks in pollution with passing mopeds, particularly from those with two-stroke engines. Patterns Dr Zuurbier says that working out the precise pattern of air pollution in traffic is essential if we want to ensure this mode of transport stays healthy – because in the world’s most polluted cities, for example in Asia, cycling is even believed to be a health hazard. 'We know about the effects of exposure on lung health, but there is also an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,' she said. 'We also see some blood cells change acutely. The effect of short, high peak levels of ultrafine particles is difficult to study, but we think it may be worse than more even exposures. Cyclists [also] have a higher minute rate of breath – which could increase their exposure from twofold to fivefold.' She added: 'We promote cycling for health, but it should be as healthy as possible.' Anne Krol, campaign leader on transport and air pollution for Friends of the Earth Netherlands (also called Milieudefensie), helped take the Dutch government to court in September to legislate for cleaner air, arguing some parts of the Netherlands breach European limits. She said innovative schemes such as the air pollution measuring bike can help locate precise problem points. Precision 'It is very important that these things are being done,' she said. 'We have done a similar project, attaching a camera and measurement device to a bike to see ultrafine particles. Air pollution is invisible, but measuring it accurately can help us reduce it.' In the new Dutch government, environment appears to be more of a priority, with a pledge to incorporate new national climate targets in law, close all coal-fired power stations and reduce greenhouse gases by 49% from 1990 levels in 2030. A spokesman for the environment department said that the government is protesting one part of the court judgement on cleaner air, but 'must come up with a new plan for better air quality'; it is busy mapping high-pollution areas such as Amsterdam, Groningen and places with a lot of livestock farming. Back to Arnhem, in the south eastern Netherlands, the air pollution measuring bike is loaded and ready to measure other roads, if other municipalities commission the team. 'I still cycle,' says Agelink. 'But I try to stay away from motorbikes.'  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: exploring the shores of Ameland

DutchNews.nl destinations: exploring the shores of Ameland

Whether you’re in search of nature, cosy inns, history, kitsch, or just a few good meals, you can find all of them on the Wadden Sea island of Ameland. Brandon Hartley recently visited the often overlooked island. Ameland is sort of like a kid sister to its more popular southern siblings. Texel and Terschelling tend to hog all the attention but there’s plenty to do and explore along its shores and further inland. Centuries ago, Ameland stood apart from the mainland in more ways than one. It used to consist of three separate islands. They were ruled over by a private lordship until 1704 when they were sold for 170,000 Guilders to Johan Willem Friso, the heir regent of Friesland. The construction of drift dikes fused the islands together in the 19th century and it was invaded by the Germans during World War II in 1940. The Allies never bothered to liberate Ameland, since it was hardly a strategic landmark, leaving the troops stationed there to eventually surrender a few weeks after the conflict ended. Nowadays, about 3,700 residents live on the island year-round but the population greatly expands during the summer months when tourists arrive to soak up the sun and invade its holiday homes and hotels. Ameland is definitely quieter during the off-season and it’s a great destination for storm-watchers, intrepid cyclists, and anybody feeling adventurous. Five Things to Do Hit the beach Many people head to Ameland to walk, relax, or swim along its shorelines when the weather is behaving (or stoutly defy it when the skies are dark and cloudy all day). The island has 10 beaches that routinely win awards for their cleanliness. They’re also considerably more laid back during the summer than the ones you’ll find in popular towns along the mainland or the other islands. Stroll, bike, or ride through the dunes About 60 different bird species can be spotted on Ameland at various times throughout the year and there are several nature areas that are great for hikers and birdwatchers alike. The biggest is the roughly 1,000 acre Nieuwlandsrijd, located east of the village of Buren. It’s home to sheep and cattle along with plenty of geese. Elsewhere around Ameland, there are trails and paths that are suitable for horse riders, walkers, and cyclists. Bikes, including ones that are powered via a treadmill-esque system for the brave and the bold, can be rented at Nobel Fietsverhuur. They have five locations on the island. Nobels Nostalgisch Museum This somewhat peculiar museum is located in Ballum, a village on the western side of the island, and it’s curated by Tjeerd Nobel (the gent who owns all those bike rental shops). It will take you on a trip through time from the late 19th century when candle-powered bike lamps were all the rage to the early 20th when Model Ts ruled the road. The museum consists of a series of walk-through storefronts, complete with mannequins dressed in old-fashioned outfits, along with Nobel’s collection of vintage cars and random objects that range from old bikes to tea tins. Some might find the place creepy but it’s a treasure trove of delights for history buffs and kitsch-lovers alike. If it doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, there’s also several other museums on the island devoted to Ameland’s history and wildlife. Climb up Bornrif The official name for Ameland’s lighthouse is Vuurtoren Ameland but everybody calls it ‘Bornrif’, a nickname it acquired in the years following its construction in 1880. A climb to the top of ol’ Bornrif will lead you up 236 steps all the way to an enclosed observation deck with stunning views of the island and the surrounding sea. You’ll also get to meet another gang of mannequins, this time dressed as deep sea divers and sailors, that inhabit various floors along the way.  Watch equine lifeguards save the day The days of horses racing through the streets of Ameland to save drowning swimmers and sailors is long gone. Nevertheless, the tradition continues during demonstrations on certain dates throughout the year and they often attract hundreds of spectators. Click here to view the 2018 schedule and you too can watch these stouthearted horses do their thing. They begin their daring journey at a boathouse in the village of Hollum before they rush over to a nearby beach to dash into the sea. Where to Eat There are a fair amount of cafes that cater to tourists, especially those with kids who will probably love Neighbours, a ‘50s style American cafe that serves hamburgers during lunchtime in Buren village. Their evening menu is more sophisticated and it offers steaks, fish dishes, and vegetarian options. The cheekily named Nes Cafe over in Nes is also kid-friendly. Het Witte Paard, also in Nes, is a charming spot for dinner. It’s housed inside a building that dates back to 1734 and was named after a famous ship that never returned from an ill-fated journey to Greenland. Nearby Rixt, which takes its name from a local legend, is a great for fans of ribs, steaks, and other meaty dishes. In Hollum, there’s Cantina Delores, a large cafe with an adjacent hotel that serves dishes that are better than much of what passes for Mexican fare back on the mainland. The adorable Eeterij Tante A'n is a great spot for lunch or just a leisurely latte on a rainy afternoon. If that isn’t enough, it’s also worthwhile tracking down locally made food and spirits like Amelander Commandeurtje, a sweet liquor that will brighten up even the stormiest winter day. You can find bottles of it at TopSlijter De Jong, a well-stocked shop in Nes. Where to stay Ameland has a wide array of hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and holiday homes  and the island's VVV website is a good place to start looking. Pension Bakema Ameland is a small inn with friendly owners in Nes that won’t break the bank. Hotel de Jong, also in Nes, is charming with a large lobby and restaurant. The comfy chairs by the fireplace are a great place to sit out a storm. If they’re full, there’s also plenty of tables or one you can play billiards on in the adjacent lounge. How to get there A ferry leaves several times a day from a terminal in Holwerd and you can find the schedule here. The journey takes about 45 minutes but, if you’re travelling by car, here’s a rundown on the parking lots located on the island. Three companies also run water taxis that go to and fro and you can learn more about them by clicking here. If you have a small plane available and know how to fly it, you can reach the island by air and land at its tiny airport outside of Ballum. Believe it or not, the truly daring can reach Ameland during certain times of the year by marching over there on foot. Everything you need to know about making a ‘mudflat trip’ to the island can be found at the website for Wadloop Centrum, just one of the organisations that arranges these treks. It’s strongly advised to go with a guide because the tides can roll in quick and the weather can change at the drop of a hat, even during the summer. Anything else? Johannes de Jong spent his childhood years on Ameland. The Dutch cardinal famously ordered his priests to refuse sacraments to Nazi-sympathisers during World War II and opposed Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands. A statue in his honour can be found in a park in the centre of Nes. Many a brave sailor from Ameland attempted to strike it rich in the 17th and 18th centuries by going whaling. Several of them never made it back to shore and their memorials can be found at cemeteries on the island. Also keep an eye out for gigantic whale jawbones from this era that serve as archways outside of a few historic homes on Ameland in addition to the school along the Ballumerweg in Nes.  More >


It’s that time of year again: you’ve only got a few days left to file your tax return

It’s that time of year again: you’ve only got a few days left to file your tax return

Yes, it is that time of the year again. You’ve got until April 30 to hand in your annual tax return and this year, like every year, a few things have changed. Here’s a handy overview of what you need to know. 1 Do you have to file an income tax return? If you received an invitation from the Dutch tax office to file your income tax, you are required to comply, even if you had no income. The letters are typically sent in the month of February. If you live in the Netherlands currently or have done for part of the year you may also file a tax return voluntarily. You may, for example, expect a refund or you have received undeclared income. And who knows, perhaps you will be entitled to money back. 2 If you are a new arrival Tax filing for the year you arrived in the Netherlands is different from filings for residents with a complete tax year. You become liable for tax the moment you arrive but you might find the tax office has a different date – such as the date you registered with your local council. The tax office should use the actual date you arrived, so if there is a discrepancy, let them know, via your tax advisor. 3 The 30% ruling If you were recruited from outside the Netherlands and you meet the minimum taxable salary threshold of € 37,296 (2018), you might be eligible for the 30% ruling. This allows employers to pay staff 30% of their salary free of tax. The rules for benefiting from this tax break have become more complicated as of late, and a tax advisor can help you find out if you qualify. Find out more here 4 Worldwide income and double tax relief Residents of the Netherlands and non-residential tax payers should report their entire worldwide income in their income tax returns. This worldwide income may include revenue which the Dutch tax office is not entitled to tax because of bilateral tax treaties. To avoid a situation where you have to pay tax twice in both countries over the same source, the Netherlands grants a credit to compensate for the tax owed outside the Netherlands. This is commonly referred to as double tax relief. 5 Company cars (or bikes) If you have a company car and use it privately to drive more than 500 kilometres a year, you will have to pay tax on it. The tax is based on the value of the car when it was new, including taxes, and varies depending on how energy efficient the vehicle is. Find out more. There are also specific rules if your company has provided you with a bike. 6 Mortgage tax relief and other tax breaks The maximum amount mortgage holders can deduct from tax is gradually being reduced and last year the amount was cut to 50%. This means that if you are a high earner and pay 52% tax on some of your income, the mortgage tax relief break is only 50% – in other words, your mortgage will cost you a little more. You may also be entitled to tax relief on the cost of education and on some extra healthcare costs. You can find an overview of the changes made to tax law this year here. 7 Remember your Digid All personal tax returns are supposed to be made online or via a special app, and that means you’ll need a Digid, the personal identification number used for all contact with government departments. So it is no good trying to complete the form on April 30 and then discovering you don’t have the all important number, because it takes a few days to get one. Be prepared. 8 And if you miss the deadline? The Dutch tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. You have until April 30 to file your tax return, unless you ask for an extension and the tax office is fairly relaxed about providing one. Dial the toll free number 0800-0543 and ask. If you file your taxes through a tax adviser, than he or she can request an extension (usually free of charge) for you. For more information contact Blue Umbrella at phone +31(0)204687560, e-mail info@blueumbrella.nl or website www.blueumbrella.nl  More >


It’s Dutch American Friendship Day and the DAFT visa is not as stupid as it may sound

It’s Dutch American Friendship Day and the DAFT visa is not as stupid as it may sound

Today, the Netherlands and the United States celebrate their friendship which stretches back 226 years. But it’s more than an excuse to have a party. The treaty recognising the relationship between these two nations also offers the opportunity for citizens to move to the other country under the DAFT visa. Molly Quell finds out more. The Netherlands and the US began diplomatic relations way back in 1782 and the Netherlands was the second country to recognise the US as an independent nation - after Morocco. Indeed, the US relationship with the Dutch is the longest, unbroken peaceful relationship that it has with any nation. During the 1950s, the US went on a charm offensive in an effort to combat the spread of communism by the then USSR. As part of this officials signed a number of so-called friendship treaties with other nations. The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, or DAFT, was signed in The Hague on March 27, 1956.   Many of these treaties, including DAFT, made vague promises to promote trade and commerce. 'Most of the provisions are irrelevant,' says Jeremy Bierbach, an immigration lawyer who specialises in the visas created by the treaty. However, DAFT also stipulates that a special visa should be created for either American or Dutch entrepreneurs who want to establish businesses in the other country - and that has proved a success to many. Kathy Merrill and her husband picked the Netherlands specifically because of the DAFT treaty. 'My husband was working in Germany but didn’t like the job. He started freelancing there but the bureaucracy was awful. We started looking around and found this opportunity in the Netherlands,' she says. Red tape DAFT removes many of the bureaucratic hurdles that entrepreneurs normally face in obtaining a visa to work in the Netherlands. The amount of money that must be invested in the company was set at 10,000 guilders, now €4,500. The treaty also removes otherwise obligatory integration requirements. While the Netherlands has maintained all of these provisions since the signing, the US has not been so generous. The US raised its investment requirement to around $100,000 and has tightened other restrictions as well. 'Legally, there’s nothing stopping the Netherlands from doing the same,' says Bierbach. 'It’s only the generosity of the country.' 'I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for DAFT,' says Tara Michael. She had been living in the Netherlands for eight years before applying, having originally come to the country to study. After her divorce, she had a gap before she could apply for permanent residency and the DAFT visa allowed her to stay until she was eligible. But as Mandie van der Meer discovered, you have to be a true entrepreneur to utilise the visa. Like Michael, she sought out a stop-gap measure after the immigration service said her Dutch partner didn’t earn enough money to qualify to sponsor her for a partner visa. Her immigration lawyer suggested DAFT and Van der Meer applied for and got a permit in 2011. Unlike Michael, however, van der Meer wasn’t a natural business owner. 'I didn’t want to be the boss,' she said. Michael, however, had been running her small business helping student athletes to study abroad for years prior to applying and found the application process significantly easier. That doesn’t mean everyone finds it simple. Real business 'You have to be a real business owner,' Bierbach says. Not only do you have to invest in your company, you must also be registered with the KvK (Chamber of Commerce), open a business bank account and provide IND with a business plan. To be able to renew the visa, the entrepreneur must demonstrate their company is making a profit.  The total number of applicants, however, is low. According to the Dutch immigration service, there were 360 DAFT visa applications in 2017. This is up from 2015 (230) and 2016 (320), which is as far back as they could provide data for. In 2016 and 2017, 100% of those applications were successful. Bierbach, however, stresses that the application isn’t just rubber stamped. 'You can’t be living off of your savings or running a business elsewhere in the world,' he says. Friendship day The DAFT visa is just one part of the formalisation of the links between the Netherlands and the US. It was in 1982, after lobbying by Roberta Enschede of Overseas Americans Remember (OAR), that president Ronald Reagan signed the Joint Resolution - HJ 410 - which declared April 19th as the official Dutch-American Friendship Day. 'The treaty celebrates 200 years of Dutch and American trading history,' says Dennis Cowles, president of the Amsterdam American Business Club which group holds an annual networking event on the day to celebrate, 'so we try to keep it alive.'  More >


A slice of Dutch history: castles, forts and fortified towns to visit

A slice of Dutch history: castles, forts and fortified towns to visit

Ever fancied playing monarch for a day? Enjoying some jousting, a feast fit for a king or wandering in the lanes of the royal gardens? Here in the Netherlands there is a rich and varied heritage sector: from sites of archaeological interest to romantic retreats in restored castles. Muiderslot The ‘Muiderslot’ is barely a 30 minute drive from central Amsterdam but it feels surprisingly rural. Just outside the pretty town of Muiden, this 13th century keep was first erected by the famous knight Floris V. Shortly afterwards however, Floris met a sticky end and the castle was destroyed. Restored and strengthened in later years, it is now a beautiful living museum covering three main periods of history: the Middle Ages, the Golden Age and the 19th century. There are a wide variety of different kinds of activities on offer to the public: there are multiple treasure hunts for kids; glorious gardens to explore; an expansive collection of armour and regular exhibitions. This year they have Armed With Beauty, looking at famous Dutch women in history; and the Water Route, that uses a new water installation to examine the relationship of the castle history and the surrounding waterways. De Haar The Rothschild family funded a 20-year neo-gothic restoration project for De Haar, one of the most luxurious castles in Europe, and the largest in the Netherlands. Surrounding the castle, 7,000 40-year old trees transported from the province of Utrecht created a modern-day park. In 2000 the family passed ownership on to the Dutch Natuurmonumenten (national heritage society) but retained the right to spend the month of September in the castle until the end of time. Necessary maintenance funds come through tourism, private receptions and events. Huis de Voorst When it was first built in 1695, for an intimate friend of then king Willem III, Huis de Voorst was quickly nicknamed the ‘Versailles van de Achterhoek’ by locals. Renovated and reopened in 2015, the regularly hosts weddings, with luxury receptions plus use of the gardens and boating. They also have four suites in their 5* restored coach house which are are open to visitors. Kitted out in full Golden Age glory, they look out on the ornamental English gardens and the moat. A further 50 hotel rooms are also available on site. Ideal for romantics, whether you’re looking for a weekend away or a venue for your big day. Cannenburch Castle History lovers will delight in the former home of Field Marshall Marten van Rossem, who built the moated mansion on the site of a former medieval castle. After changing hands many times, Cannenburch was confiscated by the Dutch government after WWII and sold to a preservation society for the token price of 1 guilder. The impressive building has been fully restored including its many original Restoration details. There are audio tours in both Dutch and English, and curiosities like paintings that move for children to uncover. Gelderland has a wealth of historical properties, from manor houses to fortresses. You can find information about all of them at the Gelderse Landschap & Kastelen, a charitable group that looks after the preservation of the province’s heritage sites. Fortified Cities Popular Dutch TV show Doctor Tinus was filmed in Woudrichem, Noord Brabant, a beautiful little fortified ‘city’ on the Waal. On sunny days it’s sleepy and dreamy. Enjoy the monumental harbour, walk the city walls, go swimming, or rent a traditional tented salmon boat to take out on the river. When you’re done pop into the cafes, take the kids to the ice cream parlour or the pancake house and buy a souvenir at the local gallery. There are ‘vesting’ cities up and down the country with their protective walls still standing. Erected between the 15th and 18th century they were intended to protect land and citizens from invaders, such as the Spanish. If you like Woudrichem, you might want to head to other walled towns: Bergen op Zoom alone boasts over 800 monuments of historical interest! Many of these towns stage battle reenactments or special events throughout the summer, and each year one hosts the association of fortified towns annual shindig. Castle Valkenburg Most famous for the ruins of the castle, which date back to the 11th century, this powerful stronghold finally fell at the hand of Willem III in 1672. Nowadays it is also well-known for its tours of the ‘velvet’ cave, bird of prey shows and treasure hunts. A good choice for a day out with your little historians. Fort Sint Pieter Not far from Valkenburg in Maastricht, you will find 80 km of underground caverns secreted away under St. Peter’s Mount. Excavated over the centuries for the useful limestone, they were used as a hideaway by the people of the city during times of siege. On top of the mount you will find the ruins of the 18th century St. Peter’s Fort, once used to defend against the French. Guided tours of both are available for all ages and there is a restaurant where you can rest up afterwards.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Breaking Brabant Edition – Week 15

DutchNews podcast – The Breaking Brabant Edition – Week 15

It's a week of shattered illusions on the podcast as a former CDA politician in Brabant is jailed for his part in the Netherlands' biggest ever drugs farm and a Jeff Koons sculpture meets an explosive fate in an Amsterdam church. Also: is the housing market overheating, why did a singing road lose its voice, and how did hawks and sea eagles become embroiled in a treetop turf war? Top story Former politician jailed for hosting Netherlands' biggest drugs lab on his farm News House prices approach 2008 record levels First-time buyers turning to 'bank of mum and dad' Dutch government waters down 'Big Brother' tapping law after 'no' vote Jeff Koons artwork accidentally destroyed by visitor Residents' protests silence musical road in Friesland Nest war breaks out between hawks and sea eagles Sport Dutch women's team close in on first World Cup qualification Hamilton and Verstappen mend fences after Bahrain collision (The Guardian) Discusion: 'Cocaine yogis' and the Dutch drugs trade Netherlands 'needs to stop romanticising drug taking' (Nieuwsuur, Dutch) Justice minister 'embarrassed' by scale of Dutch drug production (Telegraaf, Dutch) Drug taking habits in 50 European cities compared (EMCDDA) EMCDDA's 2017 report on drugs in the Netherlands  More >


Could a custom-made Tiny House be your affordable new home?

Could a custom-made Tiny House be your affordable new home?

Who would want to live in a space the size of a shed at the mercy of the elements? Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out why the Tiny House movement is gaining ground in the Netherlands. Sometimes a queue forms outside Marjolein Jonker’s Alkmaar home. She enjoys showing people around her house, but at just 20m², only a few visitors at a time can fit inside. Co-designed with students from the TU Delft and parked since 2016 on grassy wasteland where a gas factory once stood, Marjolein’s Tiny House was one of the first of its kind in the Netherlands. Marjolein (42) co-founded Stichting Tiny House Nederland in 2015 and is one of the most active voices in the Tiny House movement here which, in times of sky-high property prices and massive personal debt, is gathering momentum (see map). Tiny Houses are cleverly-designed homes, no more than 50m², which make efficient use of a small space. Most, like Marjolein’s, have self-sufficient features such as a composting toilet, a rain water collection and filtering system, and solar panels; so that they are moveable, environmentally-friendly, and can function off-grid. Aesthetics are also important and designs include the triangular tiny-A, the triplex Slim fit with a footprint of just 16.4m², and the glass-fronted Wikkelhouse made by combining three or more cardboard-insulated segments. ‘Diversity is key,’ explains Marjolein. ‘People can design for themselves how they want to live and not buy a house because the contractor decided this is what we should live in.’ Less is More Despite the attention it attracts, Marjolein’s house conforms to many norms. There is a kitchen area; a sofa, where her cat Hella likes to sleep; a desk; a bathroom; and a bedroom on a mezzanine ‘upstairs’ – although the stairs double as cupboards. What’s extraordinary is that a structure with all these elements can still fit on a trailer and yet offer bright and playful accommodation that feels unlike the prefabricated mobile homes of the past. ‘It just fits me like a glove,’ says Marjolein. ‘I spent a whole lot of time thinking about what is important to me in my house, and I stripped out everything that was not necessary. I’m so much more happy with this tiny wooden house than I was in this concrete block with three bedrooms that I didn’t use.’ Costs Her new smaller house also requires less energy to heat and, because of its size, building costs are relatively low. A ready-made Tiny House costs around €45,000 but if you build it yourself with salvaged materials you can do it for around half that. Minimalism is a key part of the movement: ‘A lot of people are waking up to the fact that … we have to work so very hard to acquire all this ‘stuff’ with a big house – it’s not working for them and not working for the planet, and they want to change that and the way to do that is to live in a small or tiny house … You get more time to spend doing things you like, and spend time with each other and on experiences instead of chasing stuff.’ In the City Even in cities, Tiny Houses are beginning to pop up. Noortje Veerman (32) and Jan Willem van der Male (33) have lived in their 19m² Tiny House in Rotterdam’s Heijplaat since 2017. ‘A lot of cities are offering testing locations for experimental houses - Tiny Houses included,’ explains Noortje. ‘Since the cities are growing and the house shortage increases, we need to find new ways to build houses. They need to be affordable and sustainable, but most of all, flexible and low impact.’ Choosing a Tiny lifestyle seemed the perfect fit for the couple. Noortje wanted the freedom of a life without mortgage payments and her partner Jan Willem was an architect who dreamed of designing his own house. They feel that their new tailor-made home works for them, rather than them working for it. Though Noortje and Jan Willem enjoy getting back to nature, it is not isolation they are seeking. They have linked up with six other properties seeking a location for an experimental, pocket-sized community (postzegelbuurtje) of Tiny Houses at the end of 2018. Tiny villages are also emerging in Almere with the Ecodorp Bolderburen development and in The Hague with the Proeftuin Erasmusveld project. Challenges Back in Alkmaar, Marjolein is also building a community and has already welcomed her first neighbour, who arrived at the end of March. The municipality originally gave permission for three further properties, but challenges by the district council mean the future of the community is uncertain. ‘The main difficulty at this point is finding a legal place to live in your Tiny House,’ says Marjolein. ‘It’s a new way of living and the municipalities, they’re warming up to the idea, but they still have some issues with it.’ Financing the build is also a challenge. You cannot get a mortgage for a house on wheels so people are forced to turn to their network for loans. Weather And then there’s the weather. A frozen water supply, droughts and freezing cold nights require a certain resilience. ‘I have to live with the seasons and with the weather because my energy and water are dependent on nature,’ says Marjolein. ‘I don’t take those things for granted anymore.’ Marjolein’s monthly open house is also subject to the weather. She won’t have guests getting soaked while they queue so cancels on wet days. When the visiting hours have come to an end and the shoes lined up on her door mat are reunited with their owners, Marjolein can have the small space to herself – and her cat – again. But sharing with others a taste of Tiny living is important to her: ‘It breaks open our way of thinking - not only for people who want to live in a Tiny House, but for other people who see, ‘Oh wait, there are other choices, other options in life’.’ You can follow Marjolein’s progress at https://www.marjoleininhetklein.com/ and Noortje and Jan Willem’s at http://www.tinyhouserotterdam.nl/  More >


Ingeburgered? Then here are a few of the best and most bizarre burgers in NL

Ingeburgered? Then here are a few of the best and most bizarre burgers in NL

The Netherlands is in the middle of a full-fledged burger bonanza. It seems like there’s a cafe devoted to them on every corner, especially in Amsterdam. This means there’s a burger for nearly every taste, whether you’re a vegetarian or eat red meat with every meal. Here’s Brandon Hartley’s picks for a few of the best, weirdest, and wildest ones in the country. A burger for those who consider variety the spice of life Burgermeester - Amsterdam Since 2007, Burgermeester has specialised in a wide array of burgers. They now have four locations in the nation’s capital where you can enjoy ones with patties made out of everything from salmon to apples and cheese. There’s several beefy burgers too, of course, and they include the ‘Cheese Deluxe’ (Blonde d’Aquitaine beef, cheddar, jalapeños, pancetta, onions, and harissa mayo). Burgermeester also has a monthly burger. The one for March was a vegan option with a spicy falafel patty. If you can’t pick just one, try the Mini Trio, which features three pint-sized burgers of your choice. DIY burgers Burger Bar - Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague The burgers at this small chain tend to get so messy that they’re served on metal trays that catch everything that slips out of them. Ordering one also involves a lot of decision-making and there’s no telling exactly how many different combinations are possible (feel free to do the maths and let us know). Customers can try one of three different types of beef, which include a Kobe-style patty, that are minced in the kitchens each day. There’s also vegetarian options that include portobello or chickpea patties. Burger Bar also offers four different buns and four different varieties of cheese. Then there’s all the toppings, which include jalapenos, avocado, and even fried eggs. Burgers for foodies with dark senses of humour Cannibale Royale - Amsterdam While you (probably) will never find any human burgers on the menu at any of these four disturbingly named cafes in Amsterdam, they do specialise in a few ambitious ones that could drive even a cow to do the unthinkable. In March, Cannibale Royale’s ‘Burger du Moment’ was dubbed ‘La Dinde et L'oeuf’. It featured a turkey patty, grilled pineapple, cucumber, yellow zucchini, homemade chili-tequila mayonnaise, and several other ingredients on a cheese onion bun with a fried egg proudly perched on the top. This burger and its predecessors usually stick around on the menu for a few weeks but permanent additions include the more traditional ‘La Classique’ and ‘L’Herbivore’, a vegetarian option with a patty comprised of beets, goat cheese, and lentils. Cannibale Royale also specialises in a variety of other meat dishes so there’s something to tempt the taste buds of even the hardest to please of bloodthirsty flesh-eaters. Needless to say, vegans should probably steer clear of these cafes, which feature macabre decor that wouldn’t look out of place in Wednesday Addams’ bedroom, and their grimly funny website. A burger for those who still frequently quote Pulp Fiction Rotisserie - Amsterdam If you spent your teen years in America in the 1990s, Amsterdam was synonymous with three things: weed, tulips, and director Quentin Tarantino’s profanity-soaked and infinitely quotable Pulp Fiction. One iconic scene features Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta talking about Parisian and Dutch fast food burgers, which include the not quite accurate ‘Royale with Cheese’. You can enjoy a tasty burger inspired by Tarantino at both of Rotisserie’s two cafes in Amsterdam. It comes with a double-beef patty, tomato, pickles, and sauce. There’s also the self-explanatory ‘Fried Chicken Bun’ and ‘Solid Veggie’, a vegetarian option served with broccoli. Rotisserie also has an impressive selection of gin and tonics in addition to a monthly burger as part of what the proprietors call ‘The Dynamic Burger Development Program’. The one for March featured both fake crab and fried chicken. Burgers that walk on the wild side? Getto - Amsterdam This eclectic restaurant, lounge, and club in Amsterdam’s red light district has been going strong since 1996 and it’s the home of Elvis, a remarkably unflappable cafe cat who can often be found slumbering in the dining room. It’s also known for its ‘Diva Dinners’ and ‘Fabulous Diva Burgers’ named for drag queens. One of the most recent additions is the ‘Aryelle Beef Burger’, named for the winner of the 2017 Amsterdam Drag Olympics. Locally-sourced burgers The Beef Chief - Amsterdam (and sometimes elsewhere) Chef Simon Parrott owns and operates this catering company, which features two food trucks that typically pop up at festivals. His highly-rated burgers, which often feature kimchi as a principle ingredient, can also be found at the Cafe Tapmarin in De Pijp and the Oedipus Taproom in Noord. He uses locally-sourced ingredients to create some of the best traditional burgers in the country along with a few unusual ones as well. Have a look at his Instagram account where you’ll find a recent goth-themed burger with a black bun. If this sounds like your sort of thing, check out the Beef Chief’s Facebook page to track down his schedule and learn where he’ll be grilling up perfection next. The not-so deceptively named burger The Dutch Weed Burger - various locations Contrary to what you might think at first glance, this super healthy burger isn’t made out of marijuana. Nevertheless, it’s proven to be a hit at the cafes and other establishments that serve them all around the country. Weeds are, however, the main ingredients. These burgers are seasoned with seaweed and the patties are made up of soy and Royal Kombu, a sustainably grown weed that’s harvested in the Oosterschelde National Park. Then there’s the bun, which is infused with Chlorella, a type of microalgae that’s typically used as a detoxifying supplement. You can learn more about the ‘Dutch Weed Burger’ (and where to find one) by visiting its website. The once and possibly future best burgers in Rotterdam and beyond Ter Marsch & Co - Rotterdam and Amsterdam ‘The Ter Marsch Grande’ earned Ter Marsch & Co Esquire’s award for Best Burger in Rotterdam back in 2015. It comes with Scottish Angus beef and several other toppings that include lightly-grilled Spanish onions, truffle mayonnaise, and farmhouse cheese. Two of their other burgers have won similar awards in competitions in Amsterdam and, believe it or not, Florida as well. In 2015, their crew nabbed another award for ‘Best Hamburger of the Netherlands’ at the World Food Championships over in America’s ‘Sunshine State’. Burgers from the 1950s Gracy’s - Rotterdam ‘50s-style diners were all the rage in the United States and beyond back in the 1980s. Several of them are still in operation around the Netherlands. Gracy’s is one of the best and it’s down in Rotterdam. There you’ll find Grease playing on a loop on the TV behind the counter and milkshakes topped with enough whipped cream to replicate Marge Simpson’s iconic beehive hairdo. ‘The Amazing Gracy’s Burger’ comes with Black Angus beef and a stack of toppings along with the cafe’s signature Gracy’s sauce. This one and the cafe’s other burgers are also cooked on an ‘open fire’ Spanish grill-oven with a slow-cooking technique. Together, they landed on CityStyleGuide’s list of ‘Best Hamburgers in Rotterdam’ for 2017. Burgers for the whole family Meneer Smakers - Utrecht This small chain in Utrecht serves artistinal burgers at their three locations (and a food truck) that come with familial names like ‘De Opa Harry’ and ‘De Tante Connie’. ‘De Mevrouw Smakers’ is a particular favourite and it comes with a spicy beef patty that’s served with grilled peppers, zucchini, jalapeños, and Secret Smakers sauce. Those who don’t like meat will likely enjoy ‘De Tante Lieke’, a veggie burger with a patty made of white lupin beans, carrots, and curry spices along with grilled peppers, cashew nuts, and mango chutney as toppings. Meneer Smakers’ location on the Oudegracht also features some rather unusual murals in the stairwell that leads to the bathroom on the first floor. The prerequisite American fast food burger Five Guys - Utrecht and Eindhoven McDonalds and Burger King stormed the shores of the Netherlands long ago but this popular stateside chain is a recent arrival. Its burgers are also much better than its fast food forebears. The ‘five guys’ in question are the five sons of a couple that started the franchise in Virginia in 1986. Since then, their burger empire has grown to over a thousand locations in North America. Regulars swear by the quality of their ingredients and their simple but complex menu. According to one estimate, it’s possible to create around 250,000 unique burgers out Five Guy’s various toppings. There’s also the milkshakes, which come in ten different flavors that include bacon, coffee, and salted caramel that can all be mixed and matched for the truly daring. The most controversial burger in the Netherlands The Unwanted Animal Kitchen - various locations This food cart has shocked and/or delighted plenty of attendees at Amsterdam's annual Rollende Keukens festival over the years. It’s also received press attention from The Huffington Post, NPR, and other international media outlets. It’s because the duo that owns and operates it has filled their menu with meat from ‘unwanted’ animals that would otherwise be discarded following their deaths. These have included old horses, pigeons, crayfish, geese, coots, parakeets, swans, and even rats. But their signature dish is ‘The My Little Pony Burger’, that is, yes, made out of ponies. It should go without saying that a stop at the Unwanted Animal Kitchen is *not* for the faint of heart. However, the entire point of the operation is to draw attention to humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom and the often inhumane practises of the meat industry. You can learn more about the kitchen and the crew’s periodic dinner events by visiting their website.  More >


You might not be aware of it, but the Netherlands is full of valleys

You might not be aware of it, but the Netherlands is full of valleys

As every cyclist knows the Netherlands is as flat as a pancake, bar a few hillocks in the province of Limburg. However, over the last few years, the Netherlands had become riddled with valleys. Food Valley, Metal Valley, Seed Valley - the country is positively mountainous. The fashion for valleys can be blamed squarely on the wits of those who decided to call part of California Silicon Valley because of all the tech companies that are based there. Perhaps not realising that this area in American actually was bound in by hills, Dutch PR whizzkids have leapt on the valley concept and use it to describe any cluster of industrial activity. Here's a list. Food Valley Food Valley is not an area where five star restaurants are jostling for space but a commercial partnership between lots of companies and what they call 'knowledge institutes' dealing with (agro) food production and innovation. How green is this valley? Quite green in fact, as Food Valley inexplicably takes in the Veluwe Natural Park as well where not much food production is going on. Here's a map. Energy Valley Energy Valley is also a partnership, in this case between energy producers. This particular valley is comprised of the provinces of Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen and Noord-Holland Noord, so roughly the country’s top bit. The valley is home to 4,550 companies and 31,300 full time jobs, all in the business of producing (sustainable) energy. Given that large swathes of Groningen are actually sinking because of the gas industry, this is one valley that could actually become a physical thing. Health Valley Health Valley sounds like the sort of place where rich silver-haired octogenarians play golf. But no. Where the other valleys can define their location, Health Valley has dropped all pretence and simply calls itself ‘an innovation network’ which any company to do with health can join. Immuno Valley If Immuno Valley were not a non-physical place it should really merge with Health Valley to form, well, to form Paradise really. Man and beast alike would live forever in the safe hands of top pharmaceutical companies and top veterinary researchers. But it is not. Sadly, it is just another network. Metal Valley This one is not a place either but ‘platform’, not made of of good sturdy Dutch metal but a metaphorical space. On it are perched the usual suspects of companies and knowledge institutions. Metal Valley is particularly focused on innovation in the face of a lack of raw materials and improving the link between industry practice and training institutes. As all valleys are. Seed Valley At last, here’s a valley that is, potentially anyway, green. Seed Valley is in the Kop of Noord Holland, just underneath the Wadden islands. Seed Valley companies develop ‘green software’, i.e they fiddle around with the genetic makeup of plants so they become resistant to disease, become more productive or taste different. Before you think ‘Monsanto’, Seed Valley wants to be ‘at the source of healthy food and a flourishing world’. Cheese Valley The latest of the Dutch valleys is Cheese Valley, conjuring up a happy image of hills and vales made entirely from delicious cheese. This valley - which exists only in the minds of the bright sparks of the Dutch tourist board - is made up of four cheese producing areas, to wit Gouda, Bodegraven-Reeuwijk, Woerden and Krimpenerwaard. It is also called ‘the yellow heart’, which sounds as if a trip to Health Valley should be next on the itinerary.    More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: take the train for a weekend in Rotterdam

DutchNews.nl destinations: take the train for a weekend in Rotterdam

With Eurostar now running a three-hour service from London to Rotterdam, the city's fortunes as a tourist hub are set to boom. So, get over there now and appreciate the fantastic views, great museums and excellent cocktails before the British stag parties take over, says Molly Quell. Only slightly smaller than Amsterdam by population, Rotterdam is the Netherland's second largest city. It is home to the largest port in Europe, a fact which is partially responsible for its diverse population - more than half of the city’s residents have at least one parents who was born abroad. Rotterdam was granted city rights in 1340 but was, famously, nearly totally destroyed during World War II, leaving the city with a much more modern skyline than the capital. Get walking The city is too large to do a walking tour of everything, but you can easily get around with the city’s bus and tram system, but also the water taxi system. It’s fast, efficient and just a lot of fun. Go up the Euromast, go under (and walk over) the Erasmus bridge, check out the Witte Huis, snap a photo of the Kabouter Buttplug, marvel at the Cube Houses, grab a snack at the Markthal, wander down the Witte de Withstraat and see the Van Nelle factory. If you’re really up for a walk, walk the Fire Boundary Line, which demarks what parts of the city were destroyed during the bombing and subsequent fire. Check out a museum Rotterdam offers a wide variety of museums and the Netherlands Photo Museum is one of the best. The permanent collection contains the archives of over 160 historical and contemporary photographers. A lot of the works focus on the Netherlands, but the exhibitions often come from all over the world. If you can’t make it to the actual museum, you can view some of the collection online. You can book a tour, free on Sundays, and the museum is part of the Museum Card, so if you have that, entrance is free. Have a cocktail at sunset Like any good city these days, cocktails are on offer and Rotterdam is a good city. It’s got several options for a tasty beverage. The Suicide Club, near the central station, is an eclectic bar with a nice view of the city from their 8th floor location. Another choice would be the Aloha Bar, in a former indoor swimming pool. Or make an appointment with the Doctor, which can give you a prescription for anything that ails you. Take in a show Take in a show at one of the many theater and performance venues in the city. There’s the Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestra, which performs at De Doelen, which is also the home of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. There’s lots of smaller venues as well, such as the Luxor, Theater Rotterdam and the Ro Theater. (The last two merged together under one name but in two separate venues.) The Luxor is, at the time of publication, showing Fiddler on the Roof while the Ro has Woof Side Story, West Side Story but with dogs. For something (even) more out of the box, try the Worm, which hosts everything from musical acts to live performances. Go for a sail Since you’re in the city with the largest port in Europe, you should take a good dip into the city’s maritime offerings. You can book a boat tour of the harbour, including the aforementioned port. Or if you want a shorter trip, take a water taxi around to the SS Rotterdam, the former flagship of the Holland-America line. You can wander around the ship and have a drink at the bar. The Maritime Museum, also a Museum Card member, highlights the port and shipping in general. And if you want to get out of the city a bit, check out the Maeslantkering storm surge barrier. It’s part of the Delta Works and you can get an explanation of how this engineering marvel keeps the country dry. You’ll even get to touch the barrier itself. Where to eat You can easily find a full meal at the Markthal, the fairly recently opened food hall whose building has a unique profile. The same goes for the more hipster Fenix Food Factory. But consider just snacking on the various bites (the croquette stand at the Markhal and the butcher at the Fenix Food Factory are especially delicious) on offer and spending your limited meal times at one of the other delicious restaurants. V11, a converted English ship, will give British visitors a taste of home, including an excellent Sunday roast. Or the De Matroos en Het Meisje, a fish restaurant with a prix fixe menu. For an upscale option Parkheuvel boasts a Michelin star and a French-inspired menu. For breakfast, go to The Bazaar and get the full breakfast spread (and bring your appetite.) If you’re just looking for a coffee and a snack, try De Zeeuwse Meisjes. The fenix Food Factory also has a good coffee place. And, if you want something sweet, try Baker’s Dough, a cookie dough restaurant. Where to stay The famous Hotel New York, which previously served as the launching point for the Holland-America line, is now a fantastic hotel with a lot of charm and a great restaurant and cocktail bar of its own. Get a room on the water side to enjoy the view. For a less expensive, but more adventurous option, Stay Ok offers rooms in Rotterdam’s famous cube houses, a slightly disorientating but architecturally interesting experience. How to get there Londoners, hop on the direct train and be there in three hours. For the rest of us the train is also a good option. Rotterdam is large but the city offers good local public transport, so you can get around by bus, tram, metro and even, as mentioned water taxi. Many thanks to Suus Peet, my Rotterdam expert, who gave me a list of things to do and see in the city that will take me years to work through.   More >


Blogwatching: Five bands from Amsterdam that won’t let you sit still

Blogwatching: Five bands from Amsterdam that won’t let you sit still

Ana V. Martins is a Portuguese actress and a writer who lives in Amsterdam. Her blog AmsterDive is about her relationship with Amsterdam with a focus on arts and culture. In this post, she writes about five of the lesser known Amsterdam bands who get her feet moving. Ah, bands from Amsterdam! Not the good old classics, not the über famous ones. Real bands composed of real people who make real sound and play in real concerts that real people attend. Some of these musicians are folks whose activity I follow closely because I KNOW that whatever they are involved in, it’s bound to be good (or simply put, bound to make me happy). This is how I have seen a couple of these bands a few times already (Furake, Conjunto Papa Upa) and don’t seem to get tired of it. If you’re into dancing like a freak, this is possibly going to be your pool as well. Let’s jump right in. Furake Furake is an experimental project which has West African music at its core. It combines n’goni, balaphone, trumpet, electronic sounds and drums. This mix makes for a reinterpretation of traditional African Malinke melodies, with a twist. I marvelled to their dreamy musical atmosphere at the Magma Festival in Noorderlicht, last summer. Jungle by Night This band is a real energy injection. First time I saw them was at Doka, on a Sunday evening in 2014, by complete accident. I had no idea who they were nor that a band was playing at the venue that night. Nine dudes looking no older than 20 playing brass instruments as if there were no tomorrow and setting the audience completely on fire: this is the image I have of that night. Their mix of afrobeat, ethiobreak, Turkish psych and cumbia is highly contagious, hence the popularity of this guys. They have gotten so big, they’re playing next in… Carré! Benjamin Fro Technically this is a one-man rap / hip-hop / spoken-word show. I first saw Benjamin perform at SHFT Happens, and his poetry struck me. There is a realness to this rapper that is impressive. Not only you feel his music & lyrics come from his gut, but you also see a musician who is giving his everything on stage, in all his vulnerability. That’s powerful. Later I saw him again at Paradiso, during the launch of his second album, accompanied by a band of young musicians that have totally enhanced his performance. Mauskovic Dance Band This band brings us a shake of the most perfected Afro-Caribean grooves with cumbia and psychedelia. I read that what they do is “Afro-Caribbean space disco”. Well, labels apart, just listen to this madness and try to stay still if you can. They are going to play tonight at Paradiso Tolhuistuin and I can take one of you with me! But please, listen and read further. Conjunto Papa Upa If they’re playing in Amsterdam I usually don’t miss their gig. Seeing Conjunto Papa Upa is a musical voyage of Latin American flavours, to a place where good old salsa meets samba, Caribbean rhythms, funk, surf, and psychedelic grooves. Their sound is innovative and ancient at the same time. For me, all of this means three things: dance, dance, dance. You can read the original post on AmsterDive. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


Life in a suitcase: The Expatriate Archive Centre celebrates 10 years

Life in a suitcase: The Expatriate Archive Centre celebrates 10 years

Thirty years ago, a suitcase full of papers and photos sat on a shelf. What that suitcase contained would go on to become the start of the Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague. Now, it’s going on tour.  Molly Quell finds out more about a globetrotting piece of luggage. Years ago a group of Shell wives (as they referred to themselves) set about to publish a book on the experiences of the families of Shell expatriate employees to celebrate the oil giant's centenary. They called it the Shell Ladies Project and they collected letters, diaries and handwritten accountants of the life experiences of families who had been moved abroad by the energy company. One of these women, Judy Moody-Stuart, stored the materials in a suitcase and kept it at her home. The suitcase had been used to tote belongings to boarding school in London for her children, clothing in Brunei and had gotten soaking wet while stacked on the top of a car in Nigeria. It was as well-traveled as the people whose momentos it contained. Moody-Stuart and another group member, Glenda Lewin, together with professor of social history Dewey White went on to found the Outpost Family Archive Centre in 2003 to serve as a repository for the collection. Eventually the centre split away from Shell and opened its doors as the Expatriate Archive Centre. Exhibition Since then the collection has only grown in size to create a unique archive of personal writing and memories from expats all over the globe. The Expatriate Archive Centre celebrates its 10 year anniversary in 2018 - the perfect opportunity for a celebration. 'We wanted to share the experiences of expats with the public, beyond the researchers who use the archive,' says archive director Kristine Racina. What better way to celebrate than to honour the suitcase which inspired the founding of the archives in the first place. The resulting exhibition is called Saudade, a Portuguese word that for the nostalgic longing for a loved but absent person or thing. Exhibition curator Natalie McIlroy brought together 10 artists who took their inspiration from the letters, diaries and photographs in the archive. As an added complication - all 10 of the works had to fit in the original archive suitcase. 'The suitcase has been here since we opened and is an important part of the centre’s history,' says Racina. The artists McIlroy has worked with archives and archival material frequently during her career as an artist and was excited about the prospect of curating this exhibition. 'As the centre is based in The Hague, we wanted to find some local artists but since the subject matter is international, we also found artists from all over the world,' she says.  The final group of 10 hail from Japan, the United States, the UK and beyond. The artists were able to freely chose what to use as their inspiration. Their selections ranged from an English couple who lived in Venezuela, Qatar and Nigeria to a Dutchman who lived in the then Belgian Congo in 1898, and wrote several books about his experiences. Other selections include children’s school work and letters, scrapbooks and even wedding announcements. The name of the Dutchman was Alfons Vermeulen and artist Nico Angiuli was able to interview his great-grandson for the project. 'On the one hand, he is regarded with honour and respect by the ruling Belgian authorities. On the other, he expresses a feeling of deep involvement with the African culture in which he lives, a culture seen by most Europeans at the time as devoid of history and meaning,' Angiuli writes. Beyond the exhibition, the centre is publishing a book about the project, also called Saudade, which highlights the artists and includes essays from experts in the field. The exhibition runs from April 11 - April 15th at Twelve Twelve Gallery in The Hague. For more information about the Expatriate Archive Centre, including information on how you can donate your materials to the archive, visit the website.  More >