News

One night of frost (Or: Time to go ice skating?!)

Here is another Dutch stereotype for you: the Dutch love to go ice staking. As I mentioned a few weeks back, the Elfstedentocht (Wikipedia) is the event that stops the country – except for the fact that it has not been held since 1997 due to a lack of ice. Opps.

But the Dutch are an innovative folk and will find any way they can to go ice skating. A student from the university TU Twente developed a system to help keep ice frozen for longer. And this was put to the test on Sunday night as temperatures dropped under the freezing point. He put foam concrete under a layer of asphalt, and then added a layer of water on the asphalt. It froze overnight, creating an ice rink. The foam concrete helps retain the ice that forms, keeping the ice rink intact longer.

The best part? The ice skating rink can be found in the town Winterswijk, near Germany. The name translates loosely to “Winter neighborhood”, which is a great name in this case.

Video: Winterswijk skating rink open after one night of moderate frost from dutchnews.nl.

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Music at the Malieveld? (Or: Parkpop changes)

Yesterday the news broke that the Dutch music festival Parkpop would be moving to Malieveld next year (article from omroepwest.nl in Dutch). The festival has been held at The Hague’s Zuiderpark for the last 40 years. Indeed, the festival gets its name from the fact that it is held at Zuiderpark (Parkpop). In 1992 it claimed the title as the biggest music festival of Europe, drawing over half a mission visitors that weekend (!).

However, location always proved an issue. It’s much easier to get to Malieveld (which is a 2 minute walk from The Hague’s Central Station) than it is to get to Zuiderpark. Another issue was noise: Zuiderpark is surrounded by residential area, whereas Malieveld is not.

In corona news:

De Jonge: Dutch partial lockdown likely to continue past mid-January from nltimes.nl. The worst part is this means restaurants and cafés will not be able to reopen for dine-in for a while, but if it helps…

Government advised to extend Christmas school holidays, not relax other measures from nltimes.nl. I bet kids will be really happy if their Christmas vacation does get extended, but it will probably mean a shorter summer break. But as a kid, would you think of that? (At the moment it is just advice; the government can ignore it.)

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Corona collection (Or: Upcoming exhibition at The Hague Historical museum)

The Haags Historisch Museum (The Hague Historical Museum) will be opening a new exhibition in the first week of December: “Corona collection, The Hague in lockdown“. (On the right side of the page there is a link to their online corona collection, which includes photos taken during the first wave of the coronavirus earlier this year. It’s written in Dutch, but Google translation should also work on the descriptions that accompany each photo.)

Photograph of random art spotted during the first “lockdown”… it translates to “Covid-19 is coming out of my nose!”

If you can’t make it in person, you can see some more of the corona-related photographs from the Dutch photographer Sandra Uittenbogaart at The Hague’s archive. It’s great that this year is being archived online for all to see and remember (or forget…).

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The days are getting colder (Or: At least it’s weekend)

It seems like lately my only moments of fresh air are during quick trips to Albert Heijn for groceries. But because the quietest time to go is in the mornings, that always happens during my work day so I have to rush. But it is now weekend, which means it is easier to get outside and take a walk. Although it is getting colder these days…

The baby panda born at a Dutch zoo earlier this year is now on display:

Still, I have found something even cuter: the tiny owl that was discovered in the Christmas tree at New York City’s Rockefeller Center (nbcnews.com). So cute!

In other news: Netherlands has world’s highest English proficiency for non-native speakers from nltimes.nl. Not that we didn’t know that one already. I still remember my first trip to The Netherlands, sitting in the train to The Hague at close to midnight, nervously trying to ask something of a random stranger in Dutch (Marco and I wanted to sit near him due to a lack of seats elsewhere). Ha. To this day, I still have people switch to English randomly when they hear my American accent. That’s okay. I just keep talking in Dutch, they get a chance to practice their English, everyone is happy…

And here is an article in Dutch from nos.nl: Rutte waarschuwt ministers voor Twitter-slordigheid na incident met geheime code. In summary, the Dutch ministry of Defense is sitting at home in quarantine. She is attending an online meeting with other defense ministers in the European Union. The problem? She let her assistant take a photo of her, but a Dutch news site spotted the login code and 5 of the 6 digits for the password in that photo. They logged into the meeting and quickly introduced themselves as a Dutch journalist and then left again. They logged into a SUPER SECRET MEETING WITH OTHER DEFENSE MINISTERS. Yikes.

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Highland cattle in Westduinpark (Or: Those are some big horns)

One of the weird things about The Hague that I read once in a while: there is actually a herd of Scottish highland cattle (English Wikipedia) hanging out in the dunes, in Westduinpark. In the summer they can be found in another part of The Hague: De Uithof. They can be viewed from a distance; visitors are asked to stay about 75 feet away and to talk to them so the animals know they are in the area. You can see some photos over at indebuurt.nl: De Schotse Hooglanders zijn weer terug in de Haagse duinen.

Another animal article, though not as positive: Covid-19 mink variants discovered in humans in seven countries from theguardian.com. The Netherlands was one of the first countries to report Covid-19 infections in mink, although it was infections from humans to mink. The mink fur farms in The Netherlands were due to be closed by 2024. After the corona crisis started, that date was moved ahead to next spring. There was talk of closing all farms by next month although that probably won’t happen.

I consider this way too ambitious, but the Dutch health ministry announced that they want to expand Covid-19 testing to 10 million tests every month (our entire population is under 18 million). The article is in English from nltimes.nl. Their goal is to allow everyone who wants it to get tested once a month, symptoms or no symptoms.

And finally an interesting story from nltimes.nl in English: Swedish sailor identified 25 years after body was found. It was a 25 year cold case, solved when Dutch authorities realized that the sailor had a few Swedish items in his possession. They contacted the Swedish media who placed information about the case in about 50 newspapers. A relative of the missing sailor saw the ad when she was up late reading the paper due to insomnia.

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Farmers invade The Hague again (Or: More army blockades)

Living in The Hague has some interesting side effects. One of them is that most of the protests happen in your city. But when farmers come to The Hague to protest, they bring their tractors. Which as you can imagine causes traffic chaos. (I guess that is one of the benefits of most people working from home these days, then.) They were protesting the government’s new plans regarding farming pollution, among other topics.

Omroep West has a great article (in Dutch) with many photos: Boeren voeren weer actie in Den Haag. Or you can check out this article in English from dutchnews.nl: Radical farmers drive into The Hague to protest at government regulations.

Things are going a bit better in The Netherlands, in terms of the coronavirus: New coronavirus cases at lowest point in 44 days from nltimes.nl. The Dutch government is holding a press conference at the moment to discuss the current situation, although reports have already said that it is too early to think about what the plans are for Christmas. At best we would get a loosening of restrictions for a few days around the holidays (article in Dutch at nos.nl).

And finally, here is an interesting article (unfortunately in Dutch) about the newest use of drones – The Hague is going to use drones to inspect the sewer system! Gemeente Den Haag gaat drones inzetten om riolering te inspecteren from omroepwest.nl. There are over 1,700 kilometers (just over 1,000 miles) of sewers in the city. The city is fairly ambitious – their plan is to combine work on the sewers below with any needed work on the ground above, to save costs.

And here you thought you wouldn’t read about sewers today. You thought wrong.

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Dutch government considering 2020 fireworks ban (Or: No more war zones)

The Dutch government is considering a fireworks ban during New Year’s Eve due to the corona pandemic (article from notices.nl in English). A decision is expected Friday. This is probably for the best, considering this place always looks like a war zone on New Year’s Eve:

Fireworks trash at a random street corner (NYE 2012)

Check out this YouTube video of the fireworks celebrations in 2017-2018, shot from a drone. After watching the video you will understand why the Dutch government wants to ban fireworks this year. Or you can watch the video because it is very cool. That works too.

This NOS article (in Dutch) says there were 9,300 incidents last year that the police were called to, most of them fireworks related. About 400 people went to the ER, with another 900 visiting their doctor with a fireworks injury. It is not just about lowering the spread of corona, although that helps.

Today we are finally back under 5,000 daily infections, a number we last saw in the first week of October. Our high point was around 10,200-10,300 cases during this second wave. Hospitalizations are still high, though.

And now for something completely different, and cute. A black rhinoceros was born at the Blijdorp, the zoo in Rotterdam. If you click the link in the tweet you can go through the various webcams to see if you can spot the zoo’s newest arrival.

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Additional restrictions in NL (Or: From 22:00 tonight)

Last night there was another press conference with the Dutch prime minister and Minister of Health. Long story short: the number of infections are decreasing but the number of hospital admissions are still going up (rivm.nl). Therefore the government has decided that additional restrictions will be in force from 22:00 night, for two weeks, on top of the restrictions that are already in place. In theory the restrictions are automatically lifted after the two week period (but who knows if that will actually happen).

The most important points are:

  • closure of theaters, museums, zoos, attraction parks, cinemas, and other areas normally open to the public (but retail stores and hairdressers and the like are still open)
    • originally libraries were in this list, but today the government said that it is possible to check out books from the library, but not go there for activities like studying. It’s a bit of a question mark still, though. But it makes sense since everyone kept asking why the cultural institutions needed to close for two weeks but not the local Ikea or home improvement store (both of which are way too popular in this country).
    • I saw this one coming and checked out another three books on Monday, just in case.
  • traveling aboard between now and mid-January for holidays and family visits is strongly discouraged
    • a lot of Europeans travel to other countries for winter sports, and a lot of the infections in the first wave back in March were linked to winter sport trips in Italy.
  • you can only have up to two guests in your house per day (reduced from 4)
  • you can only be outside with one other person (households and children exempted). This was reduced from a maximum of three other people.
    • groups of three or more can be fined during this two week period.

For now, schools remain open.

More information can be found at rijksoverheid.nl: Temporary tightening of partial lockdown and Tijdelijke verzwaring van de gedeeltelijke lockdown.

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99 percent invisible podcast (Or: Dutch references)

I was catching up on some episodes of the 99% invisible podcast last week (also known as 99pi). It’s quite informative, although I must admit that I like it because the host, Roman Mars, has such a soothing voice. What can I say – some people just sound really good on radio.

One of the episodes I listened to last week was Mini-stories 8, an episode of, you guessed it, mini stories. They usually broadcast a few of those at the end of the year around the holidays. One of the mini stories was entitled “The Forever Bond“. Bonds are something governments or companies offer in exchange for a loan from you. Over time the bonds pay interest, usually maturing over 30 years, meaning that if you’re patient you’ll make a bit of money on the side.

But there are also “perpetual bonds”, which never mature and always create interest for the holder. Those are quite rare. The oldest one still paying interest is a 1648 bond from a Dutch water authority to help pay for the construction of a pier. It is written on goatskin and now owned by Yale University.

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The Hague in the international news (Or: How dumb can you be?)

Late last night I saw a story on Omroep West, a local news website, with a link to this video on Twitter:

The video is from a BBC correspondent. It shows Dutchies partying at 21:35 last night, right before the partial lockdown went into effect, closing restaurants for four weeks. Sure, let’s get some dance music going and have a great old time… That’s perfectly fine. Idiots. The craziest part? This is at the Plein in The Hague, which is literally at the doorstep of the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives). Politicians were discussing the particulars of emergency corona law at the same moment these folks were partying right outside.

The owner says it was a combination of the wrong music, saying goodbye to restaurants and cafés, and emotion (omroepwest.nl article in Dutch). There is also an article in English at nltimes.nl: Parties held outside parliament as Dutch pubs close for lockdown.

On a related note: Berlin gives middle finger to anti-maskers in tourism agency ad from theguardian.com. It is exactly what you think it is. Though I try not to pass judgement on those without a mask, since there are valid reasons that someone cannot wear one. But I reserve the right to roll my eyes at people who have a mask on but do not wear it correctly. No, I don’t want to see your nose right now!

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