Recently I stumbled on an article from Atlas Obscura about a Japanese man who has been writing letters to a Dutch hotel for over 40 years (!). Usually once a week, sometimes more. As of 2018 he has spent about 4,500 euros on stamps alone. The crazy thing is – he has never been to The Netherlands and has no plans to go there. The letters usually had the same message – asking about the weather and asking them to give his regards to all the members (employees). The hotel would sometimes write back, but they never received a different message.
The hotel (Art hotel Spaander) is located in Volendam, northeast of Amsterdam. A Dutch paper (Het Parool) stumbled on the mystery a handful of years back. After some investigation, they were able to travel to Japan to meet him. They even had a Dutch artist come along (as the Volendam hotel is an art hotel, they hoped to paint a portrait of him to hang in their hotel). When they asked the man why he was writing the letters, he explained that he was born on the 22nd, which was letter V in the alphabet. Also, his father was born in the year of the mouse, or nezumi in Japanese, which sounds a bit like “Netherlands” when pronounced. He also liked strawberries, which The Netherlands is apparently famous for (I didn’t realize).
If you are up for a bit of Google translate from Dutch to English, you can try this Google cache version of the Het Parool article, which goes into extensive detail about the mystery and trip to Japan.
The painting of Mr. Kaor for illustration, but note if you do not have a subscription with Het Parool it is better to click the Google cached version above this tweet (the Google cache version isn’t behind a paywall).
Back on the day that stores were allowed to reopen (January 15) I saw a curious find at Xenos. Xenos is a national chain here in The Netherlands. The Dutch Wikipedia page summarizes it well when they say Xenos specializes in selling “mass produced exotic goods”.
Well, apparently they also had a leftover stock of chocolate letters (English Wikipedia) from the Sinterklaas holiday, celebrated on 5 December. I know the stores had to close in mid-December due to the lockdown, but still! Albert Heijn and Hema always clear out their stock even before 5 December.
Of course, at this point they only had the most common letters (M) or some rarer ones (O, P). They still had all of the usual flavors, though. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, hazelnut…
In other news, for the history buffs among us:
Digitalised Holland Amerika line passenger lists reveal famous names from dutchnews.nl. “The digital archive, which is kept at the Rotterdam city archive and accessible to the public, covers the period between 1900 and 1969 when millions of people made the journey [from Rotterdam to the United States] and took three years to complete.” Apparently Albert Einstein was also one of the regular passengers, as he frequently taught a course at nearby Leiden University. The direct link to the list is available here (stadsarchief.rotterdam.nl, in Dutch).
Here is a look at the Grote Marktstraat in The Hague’s city centre:
Off in the distance you can see a bit of mist. It was a bit cold, but not raining for once. Today was the first day that non-essentials shops are allowed to be open again, until 17:00. Corona cases are on the rise (the average is now around 31,000 cases a day) but hospitalizations seem to be okay for the moment. We will see.
Unfortunately restaurants and cafés will have to wait just a bit longer; they are still only open for takeout and delivery. The government said they would review the decision in about 10 days.
I did take advantage of the shops being open to buy the most boring stuff ever from Blokker – dish towels and descaler for the coffee machine. Quite boring indeed.
As noted, everything is closed at the moment due to the lockdown. With the exception of course of supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential stores. It doesn’t seem to help that much though, as the omicron wave has hit the Netherlands (nltimes.nl in English).
Here is a look at the Pathé movie theatre on the Spui:
In the background you can see the escalators leading up to the cashiers and theatres. As I blogged previously, at least we got to see Spiderman the day before lockdown started.
Of special note is the sign in the foreground: “We’ll be back… again and again”.
I received my booster shot earlier this morning. I feel pretty good, just a pretty sore arm and what feels like a light cold.
The appointment was by the World Forum (official website) in The Hague, a conference center. Apparently the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also got his booster shot at the World Forum last week Thursday. The linked article is from ad.nl in Dutch but there are a few pictures to show you what the inside looked like. It was a different location than my first two vaccinations; those were at the Broodfabriek in Rijswijk (literally “bread factory” in English, although it was converted to an event hall years ago).
The location was fairly similar in setup to the Broodfabriek in Rijswijk. The main difference is that two people wait in the same area to get their vaccination; you can kind of see that in the first photo in the ad.nl article, although there the second chair is empty. This is useful because one person is getting their vaccination while the second person sits down, removes their coat, pulls up their sleeve, etc. And so the process repeats. All of this is done to try and get boosters administered as fast as possible (The Netherlands started late compared to other European countries so they have had to play catchup.)
Here is another example of more efficient methods: if you go to the Broodfabriek now for your booster, you receive a designated chair to sit at. The person giving the vaccination has a cart and they wheel the vaccinations to each person in the row (i.e. the person giving the vaccination moves around while the people receiving it stay put). This can be important in the case of The Netherlands as the health ministry recommended that everyone wait for 15 minutes after getting their vaccination before they leave. Not everyone does, of course, but it does make it a bit more efficient and limit movement. In my case at the World Forum I needed to move to a separate area called the “recovery area” before I could leave, so that is additional movement that the Broodfabriek doesn’t have with their setup.
Bonus: I got to see a rainbow on my way out.
The World Forum is behind me and not pictured. To the left is actually Europol, the European law enforcement agency. You can just make out the high fence on the left and the many obstacles alongside the road to prevent someone driving a car into this area.
Have a great weekend everyone. I am definitely looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning!
For New Year’s Eve, Marco and I spent the night at Roger’s as we always like to do. This time we had some guests over at the dinner table:
That’s right – a stuffed teddy bear and reindeer decided to pay us a visit in their Christmas best.
And not to be forgotten, the oliebollen-themed napkins that they were sharing. New Year’s Eve gourmetten (link to iamexpat.nl in English) does get a bit messy at times…
I did forget to post a picture of the oliebollen Marco and I made yesterday. Opps!
In the foreground is krentebollen (oliebollen with raisins) and in the background, just barely visible, is oliebollen (no raisins). I am a fan of the no-raisins variant, partially because raisins make everything sweeter. And I want to save my extra sweetness levels for a bit of powdered sugar. Although in the last few years or so I have realized that cinnamon sugar – just barely pictured in the background – is even better than powdered sugar. Although perhaps that opinion makes me a bit of a heretic…
Outside it is fairly quiet although I do hear the occasional boom from fireworks off in the distance. That is slightly surprising, since fireworks have been banned for the last two years thanks to corona. Even these fireworks have been illegally stored in people’s basements or they made the trip to Germany or Belgium to purchase fireworks. Hmmm.
Although who am I kidding. It is not surprising at all to hear fireworks today: Belgian border towns busy with firework-mad Dutch, despite the ban, from dutchnews.nl.
Marco and I made oliebollen tonight (Wikipedia). Or, more accurately, Marco made oliebollen and I helped/looked cute/cleaned things occasionally. Now that we have a bit of experience, we’re definitely getting better and faster at making them. The longest wait is letting the raisins soak for 15 minutes and then letting the oliebollen dough rise for 45 minutes. You then fry them at around 190C/375F for about 3-4 minutes each.
This batch of oliebollen is for tomorrow evening’s New Year’s Eve festivities. I will also stop by the Grote Markt oliebollen stand (official website) while I am in the city centre to pick up a few apple beignets.
Speaking of oliebollen… Koopmans (a major distributor of boxes of oliebollen mix) forgot to put yeast into a small percentage of their boxes. Opps?
It’s not harmful, but the mix won’t rise at all, meaning your oliebollen will be more like bricks then fluffy donuts. It’s a bit of bad timing on their part as everyone and their mother bakes oliebollen around New Year’s Eve.
The funniest part? The affected products have a production code of L212447 and a timestamp between 02:30 and 05:00. Yeah, I wouldn’t be awake at that time of the day either, so it makes sense that someone forgot to press the button to add the yeast in…
If you don’t like the thought of the dreaded needle, you can request a special appointment to wear virtual reality glasses and headphones to distract you. At the moment the service is only offered at a few locations like Rotterdam, but they are looking to expand it.
Check out this tweet from Hugo de Jonge, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport:
Hey, whatever works to get more people vaccinated.
Here is an article from a local news website a few weeks ago:
In other words, a tree is busy eating a nearby traffic sign. Apparently the tree views the traffic sign as a sort of “wound” or “injury” which it needs to heal. It does so by growing around it. If you click the article, you’ll see a second photo at the end of the article with how the tree and sign looked back in 2005. It is definitely a slow process, but it makes for some cool pictures!