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


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 >


From careers to childcare, the Amsterdam IamExpat Fair has it covered

From careers to childcare, the Amsterdam IamExpat Fair has it covered

Need help with finding the perfect place to live, that next career move or even mates to hang around with? You'll find all the answers at the fourth edition of the the IamExpat Fair in Amsterdam, which will take place on Saturday April 7 at the Westergasfabriek. The IamExpat Fair was set up to support internationals in the Netherlands and connect them with local businesses and service providers so the organisers are delighted to be hosting their fourth Amsterdam edition. 'The IamExpat Fair is designed for both new arrivals and established expats who want to discover something new or find answers to questions that have been bugging them for some time!,' says co-organiser Nikos Nakos. 'For example, finding time to make an appointment with a mortgage or financial advisor, can seem daunting, but here we've got them all under one roof,' says his colleague Panos Sarlanis. One-stop shop Indeed, the event is a great opportunity to find everything you need in one location, on one day. From companies and services in the areas of career, housing, education and expat services, to family, health and leisure - the IamExpat Fair has it covered! Running from 10am to 5pm in the Zuiveringshal West at Westergasfabriek, this free single-day event will host stands from dozens of companies and organisations - in total 80 different exhibitors. In addition, free workshops and presentations will be happening throughout the day at Het Ketelhuis, the Westergastheater and the Werkkamer. Find out about bitcoin, about how to network like a pro or buy a new home. 'There’s something for everyone: from finding a job or childcare for your kids, to choosing a legal advisor, accountant or MBA and so much more,' says the third member of the team, Charalampos Sergios. Visitors to the IamExpat Fair can: Get assistance to find the right rental property or understand the mortgage process Learn how to advance their career through professional development Discover businesses with a focus on expats’ needs Benefit from many special offers only available on the day of the Fair Meet with recruiters and companies that are hiring Attend workshops and presentations to learn about different aspects of life and work in the Netherlands Connect with local health and lifestyle organisations Network with like-minded locals and expats from around the world Bring the whole family and drop the little ones off at the Kids’ Area, a free supervised play space for children aged zero to four years, operated by Hestia Early Learning Centre Don’t miss the expat event of 2018. Book your free ticket now!   More >


From Easter egg hunts to King’s Day orange: 12 great things to do in April

From Easter egg hunts to King’s Day orange: 12 great things to do in April

The Easter weekend may be set to be chilly and wet, but spring temperatures should be on their way next week - if we are to believe the KNMI weather bureau that is. So here are some great things to do this April. Join the egg hunt There's plenty to do this Easter. You could try the traditional Easter market on The Hague's Lange Voorhout on April 1 and 2 or take the children to join the search for the Easter bunny's lost eggs in the Hortus botanical gardens in Amsterdam. There are Easter bonfires galore as well (a pagan ritual adopted by Christianity to symbolise the resurrection), with one of the biggest taking place in Espelo in the province of Overijssel. on April 1. Pity Oedipus (and his mother) 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. April 12. Website Meet the author The John Adams Institute is hosting an evening with A.M Homes, whose acclaimed novel May We Be Forgiven is being staged by Toneelgroep Amsterdam at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam this month. The play has been dubbed ‘a soap on speed’ so plenty of dysfunctional family fun guaranteed. You can buy a separate ticket to the event on April 13 or in combination with a ticket to the play which will be surtitled on April 5, 12 and 19. For ticket information go to the John Adams Institute or the Stadsschouwburg. Take in some treasures The second week of April is National Museum Week and 400 museums throughout the land have polished up their best bits to show to the public. The special museum week website is highlighting plenty of weird and wonderful  treasures, at well-known museums and some downright obscure ones (Yes PIT Veiligheidsmuseum about police cars, fire engines and ambulances, we are talking about you). April 9 to April 15. Savour some Shakespeare STET English theatre presents the The Hague Shakespeare Fringe Weekend. Cry Havoc, the tale of a traumatised soldier infused with Shakespeare's verse shares the programme with a rollicking version of a Midsummer Night's Dream for all the family and an interactive workshop on Shakespeare for children (5+). April 19 to April 22. For dates and tickets for each of the events go to the STET website. Pay tribute to Prince It is two years ago this month that singer and songwriter Prince died. His life and work are now being picked apart in an exhibition at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam showing the clothes he wore on his many tours, instruments, hand-written texts, jewellery and much more. The Beurs van Berlage does not accept the Museumjaarkaart so be prepared to pay the hefty entrance fee of around €20. Until June 8. Website Bag a bargain at the Museum Market If spring puts in an appearance this year, the Museum Market in Amsterdam is a good option  for a leisurely afternoon stroll. It is held on the Museumplein in Amsterdam every third Sunday of the month and features designer trinkets, clothes and lots of food. April 15. Website Be a monarchist for a day It is, of course, Koningsdag on April 27 and there will be festivals galore the length and breadth of the country. Those not interested in flogging their old stuff or buying someone else's old stuff can go the Kralingse Bosfestival in Rotterdam or head to the Aquabest festival in Eindhoven for some hardcore beats, or go wild at the Urban Music Festival in Amsterdam. There's more King's day festival fun on this website Compare views on the Dutch Typisch Nederlands?Typically Dutch? is a collection of photographs showing the Netherlands through the eyes of photographers from all corners of the world. What caught their eye are not windmills or clogs but Cantas (those little mobilty cars) popping up everywhere and converted churches. In the Zoetermeer city museum until June 24. Website Swim with the fishes The Haringvliet sluices, part of the Dutch coastal defenses, have protected Dutch shores but have also deprived fish like sturgeon, eel and salmon of an important gateway to their spawning grounds. At the end of the year the sluice gates will be opened at certain times so the fish can return. Welcome back herring, sturgeon and salmon! cries the Natuurhistorisch Museum in Rotterdam with characteristic gusto. Its exhibition Swim, Fish, Swim! explains what it all means for the rivers and streams of Europe. Until October 28 Website Cheer up with Vincent The Van Gogh museum is exploring one of the artist's best-loved sources of inspiration: Japanese prints. 'You can't study Japanese art without it making you very cheerful and happy,' the usually morose Vincent wrote to his brother Theo. Inspiration from Japan is on until June 24 Website Sneak a peek at porn Strictly for the adult culture seeker the Meermanno museum in The Hague is revealing all with a no holds barred display of Dutch pornography. Hundreds of books, magazines and podcasts 'explain the relationship between porn and society' as embodied by censorship, the law, politics and the pendulum swings between tolerance and prudery. Porn on paper- Taboo and Tolerance throughout the Ages is on until June 24. Website  More >


Meet Happy Streets: Rotterdam’s cheeky activists for social mobility in the city

Meet Happy Streets: Rotterdam’s cheeky activists for social mobility in the city

A cheerful squad of urban agitators are using Rotterdam to conduct quirky experiments in social mobility. Is this car-centric city ready to rethink its use of space? Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out more. If you wake up one morning to find your street covered in pink and yellow dots, a lawn where once there was a parking space, or a bike-through cafe in your neighbour’s front room, then it might be the work of Happy Streets, a mischievous but well-meaning group of urban activists, with a mission to reclaim the streets of Rotterdam for people rather than cars. Working in association with DRIFT, Veld Academie and the local council, Happy Streets uses urban experiments to trial more inclusive and sustainable mobility concepts. Jorn Wemmenhove is one of the movement’s initiators. Happy Streets, he explains, sprang from the municipality’s 2015 Mobility Arena programme, which was already challenging current models of mobility in the city. ‘It became a much more social story than just moving from A to B,’ he explains. ‘The idea was to make the city centre more like your own living room.’ Rotterdam’s needs are changing Rotterdam is an atypical Dutch city with a biking culture that is far less entrenched. Much of the city was flattened by German bombers in the 1940 blitz and had to be totally rebuilt. While cities like Amsterdam,The Hague and Utrecht were structured around a medieval canal system, this new city was built with cars in mind. Now that the city has become more congested, residents are increasingly open to alternatives. ‘In the last 10 years, we have had an incredible rise in bicycles here,’ says Wemmenhove, but he admits that it has been a battle to change existing patterns of mobility. A fun approach Happy Streets’ playful approach to tackling the problem is refreshing. Recent projects have included creating a temporary bike lane with painted yellow dots to demonstrate that there is room for cyclists, converting parking slots to astro-turfed picnic areas furnished with benches and deck chairs, and creating a pavement version of the game Twister. Such projects have encouraged residents and policy makers to take another look at the purposing of city spaces, and consider alternative, less car-centric models. Tactical urbanism, it seems, is spreading. In one part of town - quite independent of Happy Streets - local residents recently took matters into their own hands and painted their own pedestrian crossing to show that they needed one. ‘I thought that it was really nice that people are sometimes a bit disobedient, not because they want to make a mess, but because they just want to make the city a better place,’ says Wemmenhove. ‘We need to trust people a bit more that they also know what they’re doing.’ Mobility is social too Mobility policies, believe Happy Streets, under-represent the social aspect of our streets. ‘We need to rethink what we’re going to do with all this space and if we really want to dedicate so much space to cars,’ says Wemmenhove. ‘The answer is probably no: we’d rather create lots of really nice public space for people to enjoy.’ Central to making our cities more social is reducing the amount of journeys people make by car, described by Wemmenhove as ‘locking yourself up in a metal box’. Cycling and walking make the city friendlier, he argues. ‘It’s definitely time to get out of our houses and boxes and meet each other on the streets.’ The group are currently developing a Happy Streets Index, a research-based tool to help policy makers identify the uses of space which make people happiest. ‘If you create places that are nice to be, people in general adjust their behaviour,’ says Wemmenhove, giving the example of the reported correlation between access to green spaces and a sense of wellbeing. Green spaces are healthier too. Happy Streets recently helped bring a City Tree to Rotterdam: a solar-powered, self-watering wall of moss with an integrated park bench. The tree helps produce 25% cleaner air, and is an example of a landscaping solution which is architecturally interesting, social, and environmental. Collaboration works Happy Streets describes itself as a beweging van gewone Rotterdammers (a movement of ordinary Rotterdammers), seeing mobility as something which can be solved from a neighbourhood point of view. Jorn acknowledges, however, that different groups have different interests. ‘It is of course also [about] managing conflict and explaining to people that it is now more difficult for them to park their cars on the streets but they get a lot back from it: more green, more children can play. It takes time for people to understand this.’ He gives the example of a local butcher who was furious about losing parking spaces for his customers, but now wants to get involved with the project. ‘Maybe we can find a solution which suits him but fits in our philosophy as well.’ It’s about ‘creating trust’ and ‘really working together’, he says. Experiments can lead to change Councils and communities can be averse to sudden change, so Happy Streets adopts a stealth approach. ‘The best tactic is to call it an experiment,’ says Wemmenhove. ‘We try to make the vision as small as possible and just try things out.’ The initiatives give people a taste of the future and suggest some bold alternatives to the way the city uses space today. If the interventions are popular, then work can be done to make them permanent. The possibilities are boundless. Once we limit mobility, claims Wemmenhove, we experience a closing in on ourselves, a limiting of our horizons. ‘Let’s start moving, and see where we go.’  More >


It’s spring, so to celebrate here are nine things to know about tulips

It’s spring, so to celebrate here are nine things to know about tulips

Spring is officially here and that means the Keukenhof bulb gardens in Lisse are now open. It is the 69th time that the gardens will have opened to the public and they are expecting over a million visitors in eight short weeks. This year's theme is romance and so among the special gardens in 2018 are Cupid's Garden, with a kissing gate, a Holiday Romance garden, with a tropical atmosphere under the palms and Rob's Oriental Romance. For those of you who are a little less soppy about your flowers, the Hipster Garden could be a good alternative, with such no-nonsense pastimes as chopping wood, throwing some meat on the barbecue and knocking back a beer or two! The Keukenhof - first designed in 1957 as a garden for the Keukenhof castle - might be open for business for just eight weeks, but you'll still need a little patience before the tulip fields are in full bloom - as you can see from this report. In the meantime here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands' eponymous flower - which actually originated around the Mediterranean 1 Dealing with cut tulips Dutch grandmothers have many wise tips to make the most of cut tulips. For a start, they say you should leave the flowers wrapped up in paper and put them into a vase of water (at room temperature) overnight. This will keep them fresh for longer. To stop the blooms drooping, push a pin through the stem just under the bloom. This is supposed to stop them growing - which many cut tulips do. A good bunch of tulips will last for well over a week, but beware of those bargain bunches of 50 tulips for five euros... they may well be past their prime. 2 Tulip varieties All new tulip varieties have to be registered with the grandly named Koninklijke Algemeene Vereeniging voor Bloembollencultuur (KAVB). It has over 8,000 different kinds on its list. Among the most popular sorts are the Strong Gold, the Leen van Mark, the Debutante and the Viking. 3 A major industry The amount of land dedicated to growing bulbs in the Netherlands has soared by almost 75% in the last 35 years. Most bulbs are grown in the sandy soils of Noord-Holland but Drenthe, Flevoland and Overijssel are doing their best to catch up. The tulip is still the most popular bulb by far: almost half of the bulb fields bring forth tulips. The Netherlands exports some two million bulbs a year and has almost 400 growers. 4 What you see is not what you get Few of the riotous blooms you see in the Netherlands in spring are going to end up in a vase on your sideboard. Most of the cut tulips which you buy in shops have been grown in greenhouses. They are first planted in sand boxes and stored in a refrigerated room. Then they are moved into greenhouses to speed up the blooming process. This means growers can ensure a supply of tulips over several months. The ones which colour the fields in spring are being grown for the bulbs. Once the flowers are in full bloom, the heads are stripped off and discarded. The bulbs themselves are harvested by big machines later in the year. Then they are washed and the dried roots and bulblets are removed by hand, a process known as bollen pellen. The bulbs are then graded according to size. Big bulbs are sold and smaller ones kept to plant next year. It takes two to three years for a bulblet to become big enough to sell. 5 A stock exchange boom In the 17th century, Haarlem became the centre of tulpomania, or tulip madness. Bulbs like the Semper Augustus could fetch prices of 10,000 guilders, which was what you would have to fork out for a house on one of the canals. The speculative bubble burst and instead of bulb-shaped gold ingots, tulips became tulips once more. 6 The black tulip A book by Alexandre Dumas about a competition to grow the elusive black flower.  No one has yet succeeded but some have come close. On the market today are the Black Parrot, the Queen of the Night and the Ayaan Hirsi Ali, named after the Somali refugee turned Dutch MP and anti-Islam campaigner who now lives in the US. Operation Black Tulip was also the name given to the process of deporting German nationals who lived in the Netherlands after World War II. 7 An emergency foodstuff During the last bitter winter of World War II when people in the Netherlands were starving, tulip bulbs became a source of sustenance. The war had stopped trade and there were plenty of bulbs to be had. The papers published recipes for potato, cabbage and tulip bulb stew. The bulbs, minus their green flower bud, took about as long to cook as potatoes and their taste is not dissimilar (apparently). 8 A tribute When French artist Claude Monet visited the Netherlands in 1886 he loved the tulip fields around The Hague so much he painted them five times. He sold all five paintings to Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s art dealer brother. Vincent van Gogh, as we know, preferred sunflowers. He did have a reddish-brown tulip named after him in 2015 by the Keukenhof when his work was that year’s theme. Other famous folk who have had tulips named after them include Mickey Mouse, Rambo, Armani, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Abba 9 Tulip events Apart from the Keukenhof, there are various other tulip-related things you can do - but remember, you need to wait a few weeks for the fields to be most glorious. Museum De Zwarte Tulp is in Lisse where much of the bulb action takes place and is housed in an old bollenschuur, the sheds where tulip bulbs were processed and stored. In the run up to April 21, it's Corsoweek in the Bollenstreek - the area south of Haarlem where bulb growing is concentrated. The spectacular floral procession between Noordwijk and Haarlem takes place on the last day. Throughout April, Amsterdam has its own tulip festival with tulips scattered all over the city at 85 different locations. Amsterdam has a tulip museum next to a cheese museum and we think both are simply an excuse to sell stuff to tourists.  More >


From tacos to tiras a la Mexicana – the best Mexican food in the Netherlands

From tacos to tiras a la Mexicana – the best Mexican food in the Netherlands

Many people from North America often bemoan the lack of quality Mexican food here in the Lowlands. Fortunately, things have been steadily improving on this particular culinary front in recent years. Whether your gut demands fajitas cooked to near perfection or you simply can’t shake your cravings for Grilled Stuft Burritos, here’s a few of Brandon Hartley’s picks that will help you get your fix. KUA - The Hague and Rotterdam What’s the best authentic Mexican restaurant in the Netherlands? It’s open to debate but these two cafes owned by Monterrey, Mexico native Daniel Muñoz and his colleague Rass Butt are both a safe bet. Their menus are packed with dishes from all over Mexico and many of their tacos are among the best you’ll find anywhere in Europe. Doubt it? Reserve judgement until you give their slow-cooked taco de barbacoa a shot or try a mouthwatering taco estilo al pastor before you wash it down with a margarita at their taco bar in Rotterdam. The menu at their Den Haag location is more diverse and offers specialities like corte de arrachera Monterrey along with soups and starters. Los Feliz - Amsterdam Located on the Albert Cuypstraat, this cafe specialises in Cali-Mex fare and was inspired by the neighbourhood of the same name in Los Angeles. Here you’ll find a lively and vibrant atmosphere along with standards and more unique dishes. Los Feliz’s tortas are top notch and it’s a great place to head if you’ve ever wanted to try chargrilled corn on the cob dripping with cayenne cumin butter or an equally fiery michelada. They also host brunches on the weekends with mouthwatering huevos rancheros and a total gut-bomb churros/fried chicken combo. Los Pilones - Amsterdam In 2001, three brothers from Mexico decided to bring what they call ‘100% Mex Mex’ cuisine to the Netherlands. Nearly two decades later, they’re still serving up authentic tacos, quesadillas, and more at their eateries in the nation’s capital. Along with the standards, you can also enjoy harder to find classic Mexican dishes like tinga and tiras a la Mexicana (sliced beef or chicken served with strips of cactus, pico de gallo, rice, and beans served in flour tortillas). They’ve even got a truly impressive selection of south of the border spirits with over 200 different types of tequila and mezcal to choose from. Los Pilones also makes their own line of salsa. At last count, there were six varieties and they’re available for sale at their restaurants. Salsa Shop - multiple locations If you’re a fan of huge burritos and have been living in Amsterdam for several years, you may still be lamenting the closure of the late/great Taco Shop on the Amsteldijk in 2014. Similar operations have sprung up in its absence and it’s debatable which one is the best. The California Burrito Kitchen in the Jordaan and the independently-owned and operated Burrito Maker on the Haarlemmerplein offer good eats but Salsa Shop has them both beat in the opinion of this writer. Ordering a carnitas burrito drenched in guacamole and smoky pineapple chipotle sauce with a frosty Jarritos soda on the side can at least temporarily offset longings for your favourite burrito cart across the Atlantic. Even better, they’ve got locations in not just Amsterdam but Utrecht as well with additional ones in Den Haag and Rotterdam due to open later this year. Tomatillo - Amsterdam This small Tex-Mex cafe is still going strong on the Overtoom and, if you like more sophisticated burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas, it’s the place to head. Along with the standard beef and chicken, you can get them with Alaskan salmon, chorizo, tempeh, and additional vegetarian options. Definitely a great spot for takeout, delivery, or a quick meal on the go. Chidoz - Utrecht and Eindhoven This small chain of burrito shops currently has two locations with more in the works. Much like Salsa Shop, they specialise in gigantic burritos made with quality ingredients but they also offer ‘double decker’ tacos and smaller ones for those eager to try as many of their fillings as possible. Chidoz also has several different and unique hot sauces, which include creamy chipotle mayo and the truly bombastic ‘explosive mango’. If you pick one that’s got too much kick, they’ve also got Fritz Cola on the menu. While those who insist on ‘authenticity’ might leave Chidoz disappointed, there’s a good chance their truly tasty burritos will prevent them from posting a snotty review on Yelp. Cantina San Juan - Den Bosch Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to Mexican food outside of the Randstad. In many cases, you’ve got to pick between the nearest Taco Mundo (every American expat’s least favourite fast food joint) or mediocre cafes with menus that have been toned down in order to appeal to unadventurous locals. Den Bosch is home to the Latina cafe and grill which has a great atmosphere and a solid menu. Their downright devilish camarones diablo are served with chilli cream sauce and their main course menu is stuffed with standards like enchiladas and fajitas. Because this is Den Bosch we’re talking about, they also offer hamburgers for those with more delicate palates. Cantina Dolores - Hollum Cantina Dolores is the exact opposite of what you might call ‘conveniently located’. You’ll find it on Ameland island and getting there typically involves a ferry ride over from the coastal town of Holwerd. Their menu offers tapas and steaks along with a surprising variety of fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, and more. Among their classics, there’s dorade veracruzana, a spicy fish dish served with guacamole, rice, beans, and tortillas. You can make a weekend of it since the cantina is also part of a 20 room hotel with an outdoor Finnish sauna for those in search of something even hotter. Taco Bell - multiple locations Many reading this article might be downright disgusted with the inclusion of America’s much maligned fast food chain and even bemoan the fact that there’s currently not just one but three Taco Bells within the Netherlands’ borders (with more on the horizon). But for many of us who grew up in ‘Middle America’, Taco Bell is the ultimate comfort food. There’s also the simple fact that a Grilled Stuft Burrito is one of the best ways to prevent a hangover after a long evening out on the town. But there are some notable differences between the Taco Bells over in the States and the newer ones in the Lowlands. ‘Dutch Taco Bell’ has a smaller menu with better ingredients and their locations have a sleeker decor and much nicer dining rooms. At the very least, a trip to ‘The Bell’ will treat your digestive system far more kindly than a trip to Taco Mundo.  More >


A year without money: one Dutchman’s journey to find human happiness

A year without money: one Dutchman’s journey to find human happiness

When Mundo Resink (35) realised that money was holding him back in life, he chose a drastic solution: to live without it. Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out more about his life-changing experiment. On the evening of January 6, 2013, Mundo Resink couldn’t sleep. Something had been growing inside of him: a resounding truth which this night refused to be silenced. ‘It was like something from my belly just came up and it was unstoppable,’ he says. That night Mundo realised that the path he had chosen - the startup he was working on, the money he was trying to make - was unnatural, joyless and at odds with his inner voice. The more he chased money, the more it eluded him. ‘Every time I allowed myself to be talked into things I didn’t want to do, that didn’t feel right... we would end up throwing money into a bottomless pit, working with clients that were not happy, making ourselves unhappy and just not living,’ he says, five years on. The reverse was also true: ‘Every time I just went for something on an impulse that felt good, I would meet the most amazing people. Beautiful projects would come out of that and, more often than not, I would actually be given money for it as well.’ The message became impossible to ignore. ‘It was like someone turned around my hand and tattooed there was, ‘Mundo, stop trying to fool yourself.’ And this tattoo had been there my whole life, I just hadn’t seen it.’ No money Acknowledging that money was not his lifeblood and a major cause of stress to boot, Mundo began to organise gatherings and to blog on the topic. Eventually, he decided to explore and transform his relationship with money in the clearest manner possible: by simply removing it temporarily from his life. For eight months between 2015 and 2016, he made himself the subject of his experiment. He travelled across Scotland and Portugal ‘and all the countries in between’, hitchhiking, volunteering and knocking on doors, until a sudden decline in his father’s health brought him back to Amsterdam, where he continued the project until he felt the experiment was over. The first few days were not easy. When he reached the east coast of Scotland with no tent, no sleeping bag, no destination and no money in the middle of winter, Mundo felt for the first time the fear of being without food or shelter and of having ‘dived into the unknown’. ‘I encountered all of the worries that you might think of,’ he admits. ‘I had an infected toe and I was feeling physically ill and miserable and very depressed.’ But imagining the worst-case scenario and reminding himself that he been through worse ordeals in the past, allowed him to embrace the experience - however challenging - and revived the conviction that something positive lay ahead. No Measuring His instincts were good. While hitchhiking, he passed a farm: ‘Something told me that I had to get out there.’ He met a family who welcomed him with open arms and put him up for the night. They told him about a place that was doing restoration work and this became his next stop. A commune, a retreat centre, an overgrown estate - he rolled from one place to the next. Building jobs, repairs, cooking and cleaning – he was open to it all. ‘I made more beds than I’ve done in my entire life,’ he jokes. Taking money away had a stripping-down effect and forced a journey of self-knowledge. ‘I ran into myself a lot,’ he confesses. ‘I would arrive somewhere and my drive to want to pay someone hadn’t gone, I just didn’t have money to do it. So, I would be like, ‘I can help with this; I can do this for you…’ … People would even tell me, ‘Mundo, you’ve been travelling all day, relax. Welcome. Have dinner with us and we’ll see tomorrow.’' Letting go of the idea that his value was somehow measurable – in money or otherwise - was difficult. Yet having no money did not impoverish Mundo’s relationship with the people he met. Instead, he says, it forced an honesty, free of personal gain, which enriched the bond. Often, people would offer him more than he needed. If hunger did strike, he would ‘practise not labelling that sensation as something bad,’ rather than ask for food. ‘It came down to just trusting that I would meet my needs, even if it meant a day of fasting, which never happened in the end.’ And ringing strangers’ doorbells and hitchhiking became a positive thing, rather than something to fear, always leading him to ‘an avalanche of new experiences and new connections.’ England was the only place where, the further south he went, the more often he was asked 'Are you an axe-murderer?'. ‘People are afraid of people,’ he tells me. ‘[Yet] in all of those ten months, I didn’t have a single negative experience.’ Leven not Overleven Returning home, Mundo stopped defining goals and success in terms of money, creating space to do the things that really brought him joy, such as writing about his experiences. His book, Geld Gaat Nooit Over Geld (Money is Never about Money), is free to read and his travels required nothing but the willingness to ask and to give. Neither were about making money, but both, he says, made him feel more alive than ever before. ‘The desire for a life that feels like living instead of surviving – leven [rather than] overleven is something we all know inside to be the life that we are born to live, but we are not validated in that,’ explains Mundo. ‘We are validated by something else that completely goes against the grain of who we are in our hearts.’ ‘And what of norms and expectations?’ I ask. He looks me straight in the eye: ‘They are unshakable only so long as we believe them.’ Visit Mundo’s website to find out more about his trip, his writing and his workshops.   More >


An allround experience: watching Sven and Ireen skate in front of their home crowd

An allround experience: watching Sven and Ireen skate in front of their home crowd

There are some things you just can’t avoid to really understand the Dutch and speed skating is one of them. Robin Pascoe went to see Sven (Kramer) and Ireen (Wüst) in action at the world allround championships. Many years ago, when my children were small, we did the obligatory skating lessons at the Jaap Edenbaan ice rink in Amsterdam. This usually involved spending all day of the one-week autumn holiday at the rink, watching small boys and girls strap skates to their boots, don waterproofs and set off round the ice at breakneck speed. After a year of watching little Svens and Ireens, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and sign up for the adult class which took place at the same time. I bought a pair of ‘hoge noren’ speed skates and signed up for lessons. Eventually my years of Saturday mornings at the Silver Blades ice rink in Bradford attempting to learn how to do a half lutz were converted into something vaguely resembling the Dutch long glide – if you put your hands confidently behind your back, it looks pretty convincing to the novice. I’ve skated a couple of tours – when the ice is thick enough to follow a route of 10, or 20 or even 50 kilometres – and I get my skates out and look at them every time it freezes – as I did a couple of weeks ago. Speed Just one thing was missing from my skating education – attending a full on Dutch speed skating competition – so when I saw that the world allround championships were being held in the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam, what could I do but buy tickets? Allround is a very particular test of endurance - skating four distances and totting up the times. The men’s competition involves races of 500m, 1,500m, 5km and 10km, the women’s 500m, 1,500m, 3km and 5km. Now, the Dutch being skating fanatics had snapped up all the bargain seats so we were stuck with the €70 tickets – given the fact that it rained most of the night and we were under the roof, we did get one advantage out of it. There was a lot of queuing involved – queuing to get in, queuing to get something to eat – the queues to the loos were so long we decided not to drink anything in case we needed to take advantage of that particular facility. There was also a lot of orange about - shades of King’s Day in the orange hats, the face painting and the orange everything. The stadium itself was packed – a sea of orange with the odd nest of Norwegians in between. The mood was enthusiastic, hyped up by the stadium announcer and the constant boom boom boom of the chart hits blaring over the sound system. Pop star The first event was the men’s 500 metres – which takes about 35 seconds a race – in other words, almost over before you’ve even noticed. You watch, somewhat bemused, the first couple of races and then it happens. Someone has noticed Sven is warming up. The crowd begins to roar as if he is a pop star. I have once attended a papal mass and witnessed the nuns screaming for the pope. This is pretty similar. We can call him Sven. Everyone knows him. The presenter announces he will be in the outside lane. ‘Sven Krrrrrramer’ he booms, before listing all his achievements – which take longer to read out than the race itself. It’s pretty much the same when Ireen Wüst takes to the track a while later for the 1,500 metres. She is the Netherlands most successful Olympic athlete, the announcer tells us several times. She has hundreds of gold medals… Like Sven, Ireen waves at the crowd and acknowledges her fans. They go wild. Rain The 1,500 metres is a better race length… a couple of the heats are actually exciting and the crowd is on its feet, roaring the leader home, despite the rain. Their orange gear has been covered up by yellow and green rain capes, thoughtfully provided by the organisers. In between all this racing, the track, which is covered in rain, gets cleaned up a few times while the audience is entertained with oompah bands and some dreadful chap at a piano singing Queen and Meatloaf songs. The crowd love it. They are on their feet waving and singing along. I start to think I may have slipped into a parallel universe. Next up is the men’s 5,000 metres. This is a race which takes over six minutes… which is quite a long time to watch two men skating round an ice rink – 12 laps and a bit extra in total. We get to worship Sven again. He’s just pipped at the post by Sverre Lunde Pedersen who is in the last race. Final More work on the ice, more oompah music and then comes the final event of the evening – the women’s 5,000 metres. We already know that Ireen won’t retain her title, but we love her anyway. We are all on our feet cheering when she beats Japan’s Miho Takagi at the finish, but we know Miho is the new queen of allround. And I have a sneaking feeling that Miho didn’t quite pull out all the stops, so that Ireen could celebrate victory in the 5,000 metres in front of her home crowd. After that it is a mad dash for the exit so you don’t get caught in the queue to go home. We’re out before the prizes are handed out. I can’t take any more hyped-up Ireeeeeeeen Wüst and boom boom boom music. The men’s competition finishes on Sunday and I am quite happy to watch that on the telly. Stop press: Sven did not win the men's title. Young whippersnapper Patrick Roest picked up the gold after Sverre Lunde Pedersen fell. Sven came in fourth.  More >


Dying is expensive: so do you need Dutch funeral insurance?

Dying is expensive: so do you need Dutch funeral insurance?

The Dutch are a pragmatic people about many things, not least of all about death. For many of them, that means planning ahead - and taking out insurance to pay for the cost of their funeral. Not surprisingly, a funeral insurance (in Dutch: uitvaartverzekering) is one of the most common types of insurance policies in the Netherlands. About 60% of the Dutch population have taken out insurance to cover the costs of their funeral. According to Dutch family spending institute Nibud, the Dutch spend an average of €7,500 on a funeral. Nevertheless, a large part of the population does not know what the true cost of a funeral is and around half of the policies they take out do not fully cover the ceremony and funeral costs. So, how essential is funeral planning? And do we really need an insurance that covers those expenses? Planning a funeral To put it bluntly, when you die, your family will suddenly have to find the money to pay for the funeral. This will almost certainly add to their stress levels at an already very difficult time. So, funeral insurance seems a sensible thing to have. When the times comes, the insurance company will ensure a smooth pay-out, taking one worry away from the family as well as removing the financial burden. Moreover, you can save 12% on average when you choose to insure yourself for the cost of your funeral instead of saving up for the expenses. Find a suitable funeral insurance here As an expat, you may want to be buried or cremated in your home country. These kind of arrangements are possible, but bear in mind that this is much more expensive than having a funeral in The Netherlands. The cost of having your body shipped back home can run up to more than €15,000.  Another reason, therefore, to consider funeral insurance. Types of insurances There are several different types of funeral insurances to chose from. Some insurance plans offer a pre-arranged package of funeral services and the insurance company will then settle the bill directly with a Dutch undertaker. Other plans are based on a ‘expenses only’ system, where the beneficiaries only get a pay-out for the expenses that are linked to the funeral itself. If you want to be completely free in spending the insurance money as you please, you may want to apply for a kapitaalverzekering. This type of plan will be very suitable for a funeral abroad, since the insurance money can be used for any purpose. Comparing insurances pays off Comparing different funeral insurance policies may save you a lot of money. This is because the Dutch funeral industry is a free market with numerous insurers, policy types and price differences. Asking for different quotations or using a comparison website is the wisest thing to do.  More >


Just how easy is it to buy a house in the Netherlands?

Just how easy is it to buy a house in the Netherlands?

So, you’ve lived in the Netherlands long enough to know that you plan to stay. Now it is time to get out of that rental apartment and buy a place of your own and really become a local. But how much do you really know about the process? Take our quiz and find out. You’ve decided to take the plunge and become a home owner. It should be pretty simple, right? Here’s 12 key questions to help you find out everything you don’t know about how to buy a house. 1 You’ve got a great job which pays you €60,000 a year but you’ve only got a one-year contract and your partner is a freelancer. Can you still get a mortgage? 2 You want to buy a neat little apartment which is priced at €350,000 and you’ve got around €20,000 in savings. Can you borrow enough to buy the property, pay all the bills and put in a new bathroom? 3 You’ve been to look at a great place but you are not sure about the sloping floor in the bedroom. Does the selling agent have to tell you what the problem is? 4 The selling agent tells you that the ownership association (VVE) in your building is not very active and that the fees are only €50 a month. Should you be worried? 5 To help pay the bills, you plan to rent out one of the two bedrooms in your new flat to a friend. Is that allowed? 6  To help pay the bills, you plan to rent out your flat via Airbnb when you go on holiday. Do you have to tell anyone? 7 What does a notary do, and do you have to use one? 8 You and your partner are from different countries but neither of you are Dutch. If one of you, heaven forbid, were to die, what would happen to your dream home? Added complication, you’ve got children. 9 You are planning to buy a property which you’ve been told is a monument. But will you be able to put in a new, bigger window in your bedroom? 10  You’d like to extend your downstairs sitting room into the garden a little and create a sun lounge. Will you need a special building permit to build it, and to get rid of that tree which is in the way? 11 Your Aunt Margaret left you a fantastic and rather valuable dining room table in her will. You want to bring it over to the Netherlands. What should you do 12 And how will you get that table into your third-floor flat? If you still think buying a house in the Netherlands is as easy as falling off a bike, you won’t need any more advice from us. But if you’d like to quiz the experts, come to the How to Buy a House event at the Vondelkerk in Amsterdam on Saturday, March 24. A mortgage advisor, a notary, an estate agent, a builder, an interior designer and an international moving company will all be on hand so you can get the answers directly from the experts. And if you do complete the quiz, you could win a great prize as well.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle

DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle

Once considered a broken down, blue-collar burg, Leiden has shed this reputation in recent years to become a sort of ‘mini Amsterdam’. Brandon Hartley shares a glimpse at one of the most often overlooked cities in the Randstad. At first glance, it might be easy to mistake the canals of Leiden for those in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. They’re lined with picturesque houses, arched bridges, and the occasional house cat snoozing in the sun. While the city lacks the world famous museums and bustling nightlife of the real deal, it’s also a welcome refuge from the stag parties and tourist hordes that have laid claim to the nation’s capital. It’s also a city rich with history. Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt and was once home to the American Pilgrims before they hightailed it to the New World. In 1574, its brave citizens managed to withstand a months-long siege by the Spanish. They were later rewarded by King William of Orange with their very own college. Leiden University’s alumni list includes prime minister Mark Rutte, former Queen Beatrix and her son, Willem-Alexander. Albert Einstein also lectured there in the 1920s, which is why one of Leiden’s most popular taverns was named in his honour. The city was in decline and unemployment was high throughout much of the 20th century. Over the past generation, however, Leiden has bounced back and it’s a great place to visit for both history buffs and those looking for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the country’s larger communities. Things to do Hortus Botanicus Leiden Dating back to 1590, this botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands. You’ll find gigantic water lilies among the 60,000 plant specimens among its indoor and outdoor exhibits, which include a small Japanese garden. One of the Hortus’ ‘crown jewels’ is a Titan arum, a rare plant that’s native solely to western Sumatra in Indonesia. It gives off a notoriously foul smell when it’s in full bloom. Burcht van Leiden Located on a man-made hill in the centre of the city, this fortress dates back to the 11th century. It’s a great place to take in a 360 degree view of the city and the nearby Hooglandse Kerk, a gothic church built in the 15th century. Over the years, the Burcht has served as everything from a water tower to a stronghold for Ada van Holland, a 12th century countess who got into a bitter battle with her meddlesome uncle over her title. These days, the hill and the fort are used for public events, picnics, weddings, and sledding whenever it snows. Wander the streets Leiden is home to a series of gorgeous canals and cobblestone streets. The ones near the Pieterskerk, the final resting place of several American Pilgrims, served as stand-ins for Amsterdam in The Miniaturist. Pop into the nearly unpronounceable 't Suppiershuysinghe for a koffie verkeerd if you need a break. This centuries-old cafe is the very definition of gezellig but the adjacent public square’s blood-soaked history is anything but (it was used as an execution grounds for the neighbouring prison). Also keep an eye out for Leiden’s wall poems. At the last count, there are 110 of them all across the city. Naturalis This research centre and natural history museum is best known as the home of Trix, one of the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons. At the time of  writing, she’s on tour and will be making stops at museums in Barcelona and Paris before returning to Leiden in 2019. Naturalis is also undergoing renovations but it’s open to the public and currently hosting an exhibit about poisonous animals. De Valk Fully restored in 2000, this majestic 18th century tower mill currently serves as both a museum and Leiden’s centrepiece. It’s another great spot to take in a panorama of the city or learn more about the inner workings of windmills. De Valk also features living quarters that contain original furnishings and decor. Where to Eat It’s tough to find a decent bagel in the Netherlands but Leiden is home to the country’s first traditional bagel bakery. Proprietor Frank Zweerus and his crew at Better Bagels specialise in making them fresh each day and often break out themed-ones inspired by everything from Pokemon to Maria ‘Goeie Mie’ Swanenburg, the notorious serial killer who killed dozens of innocent Leideners in the late 19th century. It’s a great place to stop for lunch but, if you’re on the go, Mamie Gourmande is another option. This authentic French bakery is one of the very best in the lowlands. Stop here for a delicious sandwich or a take-away quiche along with a frosty Orangina. There are also plenty of freshly-made croissants, macarons, and eclairs up for grabs. If it’s a Saturday, check out Leiden’s nearby outdoor market, which has been going strong for over 900 years. Vishandel Atlantic owns a stand and they’re among the top contenders for the coveted ‘best herring’ award every year. The Bishop, a bistro located in an historic building that once served as a brothel, is where to head for ‘hip’ international cuisine. For more family-friendly fare that won’t break the bank, there’s Oudt Leyden, a beloved cafe stuffed full of ‘Old Dutch’ decor that’s been around since 1907. Over the past century, they’ve served Dutch-style pancakes to Charles de Gaulle, Sir Winston Churchill, and members of the royal family. Where to Stay The Golden Tulip owns two side-by-side properties near Leiden Centraal station; the four star Hotel Golden Tulip and the more low-key Hotel Tulip Inn. For a more unique experience, book a few nights at the historic Nieuw Minerva. Located inside a 16th century canal house, a few of its rooms feature some truly extraordinary beds. The Rembrandt Room contains an exact copy of a gorgeous box bed once owned by the artist himself. How to Get There Leiden is easy get to by train and you can be standing in Leiden Centraal within 15 minutes of departing from Schiphol Airport. Making the journey by car along the A44 from Amsterdam takes about 45 minutes. If it’s springtime and you’re feeling limber, you can also cycle down from Amsterdam through the tulip fields outside the city and make a pit-stop at the world famous Keukenhof. A non-stop journey via bike from the nation’s capital takes a little over two hours. When to visit? Much like the old cliché claims, just about anytime is a great time to come to Leiden. Every spring, the SieboldHuis museum hosts an incredibly popular Japanese market to honour a visit made by the country’s emperor in 2000. The annual springtime Lakenfeesten feature a whimsical boat parade that’s always guaranteed to be a hoot. The Leiden International Film Festival, which takes place in the autumn, keeps getting bigger and better with each passing year. The city also hosts a floating Christmas market with an ice rink during the holiday season on a canal located mere footsteps from its monumental stadhuis. But Leiden is best avoided during its notorious 3 Oktober celebrations. The city is invaded for several days by rowdy crowds on the prowl for carnival rides, ear-splitting dance music, and tons of cheap Amstel pilsner. Some people love it, some people loathe it and, if you can’t stand drunken revelry, stay away.  More >