Optical illusions and mind bending art (Or: The year of Escher)

The Hague announced that in 2023 The Hague will “be the city of Escher”. M. C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist born in June 1898, 125 years ago. To mark the occasion, exhibitions have been scheduled at the Escher museum and Kunstmusuem.

You probably know Escher from his impossible staircase (English Wikipedia) or his self-portrait in a reflecting sphere. One of my favorite jigsaw puzzles that I have worked on is Day and Night. I am really looking forward to when I can do that puzzle again.

The Hague’s city hall currently has a huge display honoring the artist:

It reminds me of the tribute they made in the same spot for the Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan back in 2017.

In 2023, The Hague will be the city of Escher (from the official website of The Hague)

The exhibit “Escher – Other World” is being held at the Kunstmuseum through 10 September 2023.

The Escher exhibition” is being held at the Escher Museum through 1 October 2023.

Categories: The Hague, Culture | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Birds and buses (Or: Spotted around town)

This past Wednesday was the Dutch provincial elections and the water board elections (English Wikipedia). Both Marco and I voted (Marco for both; I could only vote for the water board as a non-Dutchie).

While shopping in the city centre that day I noticed a stembus or “voting bus” from the local news website Omroep West at the Grote Markstraat:

The bus was an old diesel bus, and you could definitely smell it.

A few days ago I was in Rijswijk, a neighboring town just outside of The Hague. At the top of a building (about three stories high) I spotted a stork building a nest.

Pretty cool.

And, for a touch of randomness: Starlings put on nightly show above Amsterdam’s Sarphatipark, but poop coats neighborhood from nltimes.nl

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Busy weekend (Or: Protests and demonstrations in The Hague)

Yesterday there were two major demonstrations in The Hague at the same time.

The first demonstration was organized by the Farmers Defense Force and held in the Zuiderpark (Dutch Wikipedia). As the name suggests, it’s a park southwest of the city centre. Originally the farmers wanted to protest by Malieveld, a large grass field not far from The Hague’s Central train station. However, today was the CPC marathon (CPC=city-pier-city) so preparations were already underway by Malieveld to get everything set up. Therefore the city instructed them that the protest needed to be held at the Zuiderpark.

The second protest was held by Extinction Rebellion and they blocked a major road by The Hague’s Central Station. In this case, the group did not officially approach the city to discuss arrangements, although The Hague knew it was going to happen due to social media.

One thing the city did was bring in large army vehicles and strategically place them in different parts of the city if they were needed. The farmers have been known for driving to The Hague in their tractors and generally causing havoc. See also a blog post about this a few years ago, before corona. Here is a look at some army vehicles positioned at the crossing of Grote Marktstraat and Spui.

In the end, the protest by the Farmers Defense Force went fairly well, with only one scuffle when a truck drove through a blockade at Zuiderpark, allowing about 20-25 tractors to come into the park. The farmers protested from 12:00-16:00 as scheduled and then started leaving at 16:00.

Compare that with Extinction Rebellion, who stormed the highway at exactly 12:00, blocking everything. Around 17:00, the police told them they had to leave. At 18:00, the police said anything who didn’t leave would get the “water cannon” treatment. A lot of people left at that point – getting wet on a day with temperatures just above freezing isn’t a good idea – but some stayed. And then seemed surprised when they got wet?

700 climate activists arrested at XR demonstration on A12 in The Hague, 4 activists became unwell from nltimes.nl

[Dutch prime minister] Rutte criticizes XR’s blockade of A12, use of water cannons is their own fault from nltimes.nl

Police use water cannon to end climate protest, 700 arrested from dutchnews.nl

Coincidentally, voting will be held this week for the provincial council and water authority elections, so it is a good time to vote and let your voice be heard, no matter who you want to vote for. Get out there and vote!

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Almost time to vote (Or: Provincial Council and Water Board elections)

On March 15, the elections for the provincial council and for the water board will be held. As a foreigner I can only vote for the water board. But a vote for the water board is also an important vote. As you probably know, one third of the Netherlands is under sea level and a large chunk of it is prone to flooding. Each of the 20 municipalities has its own water board, and they can decide things like how water should be used recreationally, what the policy is for low income residents, what investments should be made in nature, etc.

Okay, I am going to admit that it still sounds a bit boring, but it is still a useful thing to do and it only takes a few minutes to vote! (Unless perhaps you choose to vote at iconic locations like the Tweede Kamer or the Kunstmuseum, where the line might get a bit longer. You can even vote in the Amare in the city centre this year. Go for it if you have the time. If you’re registered in The Hague you can choose the location you want to vote at.)

Why you should vote for your local water board? A dijkgraaf explains all from dutchnews.nl

Voter information from The Hague’s official website, in English

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Experience Spring (Or: Time to watch some bird webcams?)

And now for something different…

Dutch bird protection organization Vogelbescherming has set up web cameras in and around various nests in the country. It is part of an event called Beleef de lente or “Experience Spring”. You can check it out at their homepage. If a camera is active it will be marked “live”, otherwise it is marked “Binnenkort” or “soon”. You can also collapse the chat window on each web camera to get a larger picture.

I especially like the Slechtvalk (peregrine falcon) camera as you get a lovely view of Amsterdam in the background. The bird is nesting in the clock tower in the Rijksmuseum. You can also switch the camera at the top left of the feed, choosing either Rijksmuseumrooster (the view of the city) or Rijksmuseumbinnen (the view inside the nest).

Categories: Amsterdam, Daily Dutch living | Leave a comment

Breakfast in The Hague (Or: By Hoender en Hop)

Breakfast really isn’t a thing in the Netherlands. At least not the all-you-can-eat and free coffee refills on the side type of breakfast, unless you book a hotel maybe. Recently we read that there is a restaurant in The Hague’s city centre which has a more extensive breakfast that sort of reminded us of American breakfast. We decided to go this past Friday because we both had the day off.

Hoender en Hop translates to something like “Poultry and beer” (Hoender means grouse, a bird, in English). The restaurant is part of the Grote Markt.

This was round one — the highlight for me was the pulled chicken (at the bottom), while the highlight for Marco was the maple-glazed bacon on Marco’s plate at the top. And I even had a bit of scrambled eggs, which is something that only happens every few years at most. Other things on offer were little pancakes and Belgian waffles.

The food was good, the coffee was good. The only thing I might do differently is try it on a Saturday or Sunday. It was pretty quiet on a Friday morning, which meant that we had to wait a while for the coffee refill and the pancakes and waffles weren’t hot anymore. If you had more people taking part in the buffet obviously things would be refreshed more often.

It was definitely worth it, though. We will go back for sure.

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A slightly warmer weekend (Or: Temporary moments of spring)

I have to admit it was nice yesterday to wear a lighter jacket and not my winter jacket. The Netherlands is a bit warmer this week, around 9-11C (48-51F). And we haven’t gotten much rain lately at all, especially not in comparison to last month (see also Netherlands on track for the rainiest January ever at nltimes.nl).

Since my mention last week of the Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, I also saw this letter posted on The Guardian’s website: Illuminating Johannes Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura. It reminded me of an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, Everything Everywhere Daily, where the host discussed whether or not Vermeer used this technology. I like the podcast because there are short episodes coming out of every day about every topic under the sun. Each episode is about 10-15 minutes. If you want an even crazier episode you should try Saint Olga of Kiev: The Patron Saint of Vengeance.

Vermeer’s “A woman asleep”, on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Roger, Marco and I saw it when we were in New York City last November. Read more at their website.

Oh, and in other news – I am having way too much fun playing the newly released Hogwarts Legacy on PlayStation. It is a lot of fun to run around and get collectibles and gear. More fun than actually doing the storyline, perhaps…

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“Chance of a lifetime” Vermeer exhibition (Or: On display at the Rijksmuseum)

If you enjoy the paintings by Johannes Vermeer, then you should consider going to the Rijksmuseum to see the latest exhibition. It will run from 10 February through 4 June. What makes this exhibition special, you might ask? It will feature 28 of Vermeer’s paintings. Considering he only has about 40 paintings credited to him, this is a lot of Vermeer in one museum. The Rijksmuseum was able to get other museums to lend their paintings for the exhibition. For example, it will feature the “Girl with the Pearl Earring” which is normally in The Hague’s Mauritshuis. It will be on loan through the end of March. Other paintings include “Girl Reading a Letter at the Open Window” from Dresden and “The Mistress and the Maid” from the Frick collection in New York. Paintings are also on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre.

If you want to book tickets, see the Rijksmuseum website. You need to pick a date and start time.

See also ‘Chance of a lifetime’ Vermeer exhibition to open in Amsterdam at theguardian.com.

Above: Girl reading a letter by an open window. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Reading_a_Letter_at_an_Open_Window

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Lazy Sundays (Or: Just the way I like it)

Today is turning out to be a lovely, lazy Sunday. Marco and I slept in a bit before enjoying a nice breakfast (peanut butter toast and buttered toast for me, banana spelt pancakes for Marco). Later on we’ll go visit a friend for his birthday, but for now we’re just taking it easy.

Here are some random things going on in The Netherlands:

The Netherlands is getting rid of its deer farms after new breeding ban from dutchreview.nl. This also has an effect on The Hague’s deer farm by Central Station/Malieveld, although the farms will only disappear from 2024 after the last deer passes away. But it makes sense in today’s world – why keep an animal in captivity, even if you have done so for hundreds of years.

Above is a deer by Koekamp near Central Station/Malieveld (August 2020).

Going Dutch? The language test won’t be harder this year after all from dutchnews.nl. About a year after you come to the Netherlands you need to take a language test to allow you to stay in the country. When I came over the language level was A2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (English Wikipedia). A2 is still fairly basic; you can understand simple situations but you can’t independently get through most Dutch conversations. The Dutch government wanted to increase the requirement to B1 but they weren’t able to do so for 2023. After moving here I took the equivalent of the B1 test and it was okay. I continued on with B2 classes and stopped halfway through the C1 classes.

Note: it’s also interesting to click on the article above because you can see a photo of a corona sign asking people to stay 1.5 meters apart. But in the sign it says “1.5 meters kan je mama’s life saven“, which is a horrible, horrible mix of English and Dutch. Someone also took offense to the use of English, crossing out life saven and writing leven redden, what it should be. Just like Spanish (where non-Spanish speakers like to add an -o to everything), people who don’t speak Dutch or remember the verb will sometimes use the English word and just add -en.

French fries become more expensive due to price increase of Dutch potatoes from nltimes.nl. Oh uh. There are many factors here: the dry summer last year, increased demand, the war in Ukraine (due to rising energy costs), etc. etc. But considering this country loves its potatoes, that’s not good.

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Random finds at Xenos (Or: The store known for its randomness)

Xenos is a store which sells random stuff (official website in Dutch). Housewares, posters, keychains, outdoor furniture, food, drinks, you name it. I’ve been blogged about them before – the word “Xenos” is Greek and means stranger or foreigner.

First up we have the cookie dough bites cereal:

When I was growing up, the most unhealthy cereal we had was Cocoa Puffs. At some point in my childhood I also saw Reese’s cereal in the store, but I never had any interest in trying that. Cookie Dough Bites originated as a movie theatre candy in the US. I can remember Marco and Roger buying those at the movie theatre (or at Target and sneaking them into the theatre!). And then suddenly they were sold in the Netherlands. These days they had a dozen flavors and now they are a cereal. Who knew.

And here is a key chain that Xenos sells:

Having been born in the 80’s and spending my childhood playing (or watching others play) Super Mario Brothers, I told Marco that is probably the only keychain I would consider buying. Not that I need a keychain; it would probably go on my backpack if I ever did buy it. But considering Xenos has offered it for sale the last 5 years I am in no rush to purchase it. And if they ever discontinue it, I will always have this picture to remember it by.

Categories: Everyday purchases | Tags: | Leave a comment

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