Author Archives: Niki

About Niki

I run the blog http://www.lifeinthehague.com

Activity at the Binnenhof (Or: Walking past the Tweede Kamer)

First off, the Dutch court of appeals have ruled that the curfew is indeed legal (article from nltimes.nl in English). Not that it mattered, since the Dutch government also pushed through a curfew law “the legal way” while waiting for the appeal to be heard. For the moment the curfew lasts until 15 March, though the number of cases has been going up for over a week so it might not be lifted at that time.

Today I decided to take a walk past the Tweede Kamer (Dutch House of Representatives). This is actually a very ordinary action to do, as the Tweede Kamer is right in the centre of the city and a lot of it is publicly accessible.

At the moment I’m standing on the Plein, with the statue of Willem of Orange behind me to the right (I wrote a blog post about him last week), looking at the one of the entrances to the Tweede Kamer. You can see a few military police agents and vehicles – this is perfectly normal. There are always military police if the Tweede Kamer is in session.

For the photo above I zoomed in. I assume you are allowed to take pictures but it is seems kind of rude. At least this way you get a sense of how they look without being able to recognize them. Normally I (and everyone, really) walk right past them, with the only difference being in corona times I try to keep my distance a bit more to be polite. But it is a public area and a public street, so it is fine to be there.

I also noticed that there was going to be a press conference in the Binnenhof, although I didn’t stick around to hear what it was about. There were gates set up and public waiting.

Normally I would walk from left to right (through the pictured gate) but since there was a potential press conference about to start I took a rarely used entrance instead to avoid people. I blogged about it some time ago.

Press conferences happen pretty frequently, so I don’t pay much attention. I do try to keep my distance and make sure I am behind the cameras, since it is possible to accidentally end up on the 20:00 national news in the background of a shot if you are walking around The Hague’s city centre.

My suspicions about a possible press conference were confirmed when a Red Bee media van pulled up. Although to be honest I have never heard of that company.

While browsing through NOS when I got back I saw that the press conference was with the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate, reminding restaurant owners that they would not be able to open terraces and would be fined €4,000 if they did so. They are closed under the current corona measures (article on nos.nl in Dutch). The original image of the minister giving the press conference was replaced with a more generic image later, however.

And that’s a normal walk through The Hague’s city centre. Happy Friday, all.

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Butter flavored…? (Or: Curious possibilities at the Asian store)

Sometimes I like to go to a local toko, which I usually just call “the Asian store”, to see what odd things they have on the shelves. Next to the awesome things Marco and I can’t live without, of course. I’m back on my faja lobi peanut butter kick (orientalwebshop.nl), which is Surinamese peanut butter mixed with Madam Jeanette peppers. So awesomely spicy.

Anyway, today I spotted these crackers:

The yellow Magic creams product is apparently “butter flavored cream cracker sandwiches”. Who wants cream that tastes like butter? Probably a lot of people, but I can’t wrap my mind around it. The chocolate version on the right looks pretty decent, though.

And sticking with the subject of crackers, check out these Fita crackers:

Does the logo and packaging remind you of anything? They are definitely going for the same branding as Ritz crackers (English Wikipedia), down to the color scheme and the amount of holes on the crackers. I haven’t tried the Fita crackers but they will probably disappoint. Marco and I purchased similar crackers at Xenos (xenos.nl) last year but they weren’t that good. So we still get our Ritz crackers at Kelly’s expat store (kellys-expat-shopping.nl). And since I am on a spicy peanut butter kick, as mentioned above, we usually get two boxes at a time…

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Fleeting – Scents in Colour (Or: Upcoming exhibition at the Mauritshuis museum)

The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague will be unveiling a new exhibition as soon as it is allowed to open its doors again. The exhibition will run through 29 August. The name of the exhibition is Fleeting – Scents in Colour (mauritshuis.nl, in English). According to the Dutch website nu.nl scent dispensers will be available at 8 paintings to allow visitors to “smell” the scene, as it were. The dispensers will be foot activated. The smells range from pleasant (spices, tobacco, coffee and teas from faraway lands) to not-so-pleasant (foul-smelling canals and unpleasant body odors).

It’s an interesting way to make museum visits even more interactive. There is also a book available at the Mauritishuis webshop, in either English or Dutch. The nu.nl article also mentions that the museum is working on packaging the scents so that you can experience the scents from home while visiting the exhibition virtually.

In other news: Foutje herder veroorzaakt babyboom bij schaapskudde Balloo: ‘Nu al 20 lammetjes’ from nos.nl in Dutch. (Herder’s mistake causes babyboom in a flock of sheep: ‘There are already 20 lambs’). In short, a young ram was allowed to stay with his mother too long because he was still nursing. In the meantime he managed to get very frisky before the herder noticed. Since then twenty lambs were born. Since the ram is black, and all of the offspring are black, it was quite obvious to see who the culprit was…

DUO maakt printfout met brieven: burgerservicenummers op straat, from nu.nl in Dutch. (DUO makes a printing error with letters: BSNs accidentally visible). DUO is an government which helps students with financing. They recently printed letters with the burger service number (think social security number for Americans) visible in the address portion of the envelope – that is, visible without even opening the letter. Opps? Up to 1,700 students could be affected although the number is likely to be much less than that as some letters in the batches were fine.

DUO said that the numbers were printed a bit too high on the paper. They are now investigating whether the numbers need to be on the letter in the first place. It does seem like a good idea to leave them off…

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Risk vs reward (Or: Press conference from 23 February)

There was another press conference this evening to discuss the coronavirus measures. The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that we are now at a phase where we are able to take more risks, although that statement should be taken with a grain of salt. The number of infections in Netherlands isn’t getting better, but people are starting to get more and more restless. Especially as the weather gets better. Here are some updates regarding the corona measures:

  • Middle schools will open for at least one day per week (with more days allowed, at the school’s discretion), from 2 March
  • “Contact professions” (hair dressers, beauticians, massagers, etc.) will re-open from 3 March
  • Along with the already present “click and collect” option at stores, shops will be able to offer shopping by appointment from 3 March. There can be a maximum of two customers per floor, with a minimum time slot of 10 minutes, for a total of 12 customers per hour per floor. Of course, that is less than ideal for some of the larger stores. Rutte did say they were going to enter into conversations with larger stores about additional financial support, but he did not go into details.
  • Young adults up to the age of 27 will be allowed to participate in team sports (previously this was capped at 18 years old), although there was no mention of gyms re-opening yet.

There will be another press conference on Monday, March 8 to discuss the curfew and other coronavirus measures. The curfew needs to be discussed because the following week general elections will be held, and voting locations stay open until 21:00. That clashes with the start of the nightly curfew.

So: risk versus reward. It is quite possible the number of infections will start going back up again, and in that case some of these measures would need to be repealed. So as usual it is sort of “wait and see” over here.

Curfew extended, other restrictions relaxed; “Your behavior matters” from nltimes.nl

In more positive news, the weather is still great. Marco and I took a walk earlier to soak in some sun!

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Start of another week (Or: Happy Monday, everyone)

Tomorrow there will be a press conference to go over the current status of the corona measures, as usually happens one week before their possible end date. There are a lot of rumors of course – curfew extended for three weeks, hairdressers allowed to open, middle schools allowed to go to school one or two times a week, etc. But it is always best to wait and see what is officially said tomorrow evening rather than to speculate already. Technically the corona situation is not good enough to allow hairdressers to open again, but I think the decision was influenced by the fact that hairdressers are reopening in both Belgium and parts of Germany. Tomorrow evening should be interesting.

In other news:

Tenant ordered to vacate apartment for howling like a wolf from nltimes.nl. The noise complaints started in October 2019 and were due to a “vocal tic” and psychological disorder. Some of his neighbors sold their apartments and moved out over the last few years, not wanting to wait.

Faces of Margraten project finds 8,000th photo of a WWII soldier from dutchnews.nl. There are 10,000 US soldiers buried or named on an honor role at Margraten, a village in east Netherlands. So far they have been able to find photographs for 8,000 of them.

Zon overdag nauwelijks zichtbaar door Saharastof from nos.nl in Dutch. Loosely translated: The sun was barely visible during the day due to sand from the Sahara desert. There are a few cool photos of the sun today. Here is a tweet with a satellite image (the sand is circled):

The joke at the top of the tweet: “Everyone goes to the car wash [to get the snow and salt off their cars]… Nature says: Hold my beer!”

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Walking in sunshine (Or: Apparently this is the warmest 21 February ever)

As usually happens these days, the Netherlands broke another record today with the warmest 21 February ever (article from omroepwest.nl in Dutch). The previous record was 14.8C (59F), although temperatures are expected to rise to 16-17C (60-62F) today.

I took a walk this morning around the city centre, stopping to take a photo of the Plein and the statue of Willem van Oranje:

There were plenty of places to soak in some sun today. You can check out the boulevard webcam at scheveningenlive.nl. Fairly busy, both in terms of pedestrians and traffic.

In other news: Investigation started as cargo plane showers metal parts on Limburg village from dutchnews.nl. (Coincdentally I read a similar thing happened in Denver, with a passenger plane.)

Also omroepwest.nl (Dutch website) has a handful of photos of places covered in ice a few weeks back and the same places after the ice melted.

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Walking in the sun (Or: Spring has arrived)

I briefly paid a visit to the grocery store this morning, enjoying the moments of sun on my face. How nice it is to feel the sun again! We also opened the bedroom window to get a bit of fresh air in the apartment.

We are not there yet, but: Events to take place again with rapid testing and a CoronaCheck app from nltimes.nl. The government wants to start experimenting with small-scale events to see how it goes. Tomorrow there will be a football game with 1,500 fans separated into six “bubbles” with different rules (article from rtlnieuws.nl in Dutch). For example, bubble #1 has the following rules: wear a face mask unless sitting, restaurants and cafés are available at all times, seat placement is determined in advance but you can sit next to other participants, etc.

One of the key requirements for starting events again in the summer is that testing must be scaled up to at least 400k a day, with a test certificate available for checking via a CoronaCheck app. Of course, keep in mind the Netherlands is also holding general elections next month so it looks good if they announce initiatives like this.

In other, random news: if you want to see map of all the trees in The Hague, check out the “Haagse Bomen app” at ddh.maps.arcgis.com. Larger green circles denote older trees, whereas purple and orange circles denote “monumental” trees, with orange ones owned by the city and purple ones owned by a private citizen. Most of the monumental trees are in the city centre.

Above is a 2013 photo of the tree next to Grote Kerk (Big Church) in The Hague. According to the app website it is 120 years old!

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Spring arrives (But: Just for a few days)

While my winter jacket was perfectly acceptable this morning, it was less acceptable in the afternoon when I went out for a longer walk. It is still jacket weather, of course. But you can feel Spring inching in, however briefly. Which makes sense if we really do hit 16-17C or 60-62F this weekend.

Quick note on the curfew: Dutch curfew to remain in effect for at least a week while court considers verdict from nltimes.nl. it is a stark contrast with how crazy Tuesday was – no more curfew, maybe we have one still, we do indeed. And now they need a week, which is a bit ironic since the law is currently set to expire on 3 March. I suspect they will extend it again, though. There will also be a planned press conference next Tuesday, but considering the 7-day average of infections has started to go up again I don’t see much room for lifting measures.

Random news: ING, the last Dutch bank to cash cheques no longer offers the service from dutchnews.nl. Huh. I’m going to admit I did not even know that was a possibility, but it just means you can’t cash checks. You can still deposit them. I’m a big fan of payment methods in this country. The first is pinning with a debit card. There is no signature, and if the purchase is under €50 you only need to enter your pin every once in a while. It used to be €25 but the limit was raised to promote contactless payments in corona times. When using the card you just put it near the side of the machine and wait for it to beep that it was successful. The beep is slightly different if you then need to enter your pin, but the benefit is the card never leaves your hands.

The other payment method is iDEAL (English Wikipedia) which allows you to buy things online using direct online transfers from your bank account. In other words, the payment request happens between the company you are buying from and your bank, so that your bank details are kept secure. Almost every Dutch website uses it. It was a huge shock when we tried to order online for pickup at Five Guys a few weeks back, as they didn’t offer iDEAL as a payment option. How old school! Needless to say we just ordered when we got there instead.

And in some cute news, a Flemish photographer spotted a yellow penguin on an island in the south Atlantic:

The yellow color was likely from Leucism (English Wikipedia), or a partial loss of pigmentation.

Happy Friday, everyone. Enjoy your weekend!

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In the meantime, at Albert Heijn (Or: Different batches, I guess?)

Earlier this week I was at Albert Heijn and idly looking at the focaccia breads on sale. My eye was immediately drawn to a focaccia that looked almost burnt, next to a pale one that looked okay.

I suspect I’d probably buy the lighter version if I really wanted it, but I can’t say that the darker version didn’t look tasty as well. Just… slightly burnt. (You can also see some dark exemplars in the back, so it seems like there was just a difference in the batches.)

Today is kind of a weird day, probably a day when I should stay away from checking the news. A few days ago we were at 2,700 infections, then yesterday 3,600, and now today 4,600. Last week’s winter weather could be a culprit, since a lot of testing areas were closed. There were also closures this past Monday when rain came while temperatures were still around freezing. Still, I think it is a sign I should read less news, to avoid feeling frustrated.

For a crazy-but-very-interesting story, check out: People are rescuing thousands of ‘cold-stunned’ sea turtles in Texas from theguardian.com. The cold-blooded sea turtles became paralyzed due to the temperature of the water. At this point over 3,500 sea turtles have been brought in. They will be released once the water warms up, but that will take some time as another cold front is expected in the coming days.

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Lange Voorhout under snow (Or: Before it all melted, of course)


Quick update on where we stand with the curfew: it is still in place until a new court session this Friday. In the meantime the government is also working on an emergency law (done the proper way this time) which they hope to have passed on Friday. That way even if they lose the court case, which said the original curfew law was not legal, the curfew itself is still active. It was a crazy day yesterday, that’s for sure!

In happier news: I have a few remaining pictures from last week of a snowy Lange Voorhout. Taken by Marco, of course. He braves the snow and ice better than I do!

The Lange Voorhout is an L-shaped path in the city centre (article from denhaag.com in English).

Beautiful, isn’t it?

And a photo of the Escher museum, with snow. Of course, by now all the snow and ice has melted away. If you’re lucky you might find a pile here or there. But I am not complaining – I had my fun last Sunday (blog post). I am looking forward to the Spring-like temperatures this weekend as well. It should be nice!

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

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