Culture

In plain sight (Or: Squatting in Amsterdam)

On Friday Roger, Marco and I went to Amsterdam to see a performance of The Book of Mormon musical. Along the way we spotted a building that definitely wanted to be noticed:

“Kraken” is the Dutch translation of squatting, or taking over a building or residence currently not in use. Squatting in the Netherlands goes back to the 60s (Wikipedia). “Kraken gaat door” means that the squatting hasn’t stopped, regardless of the action the government takes against them.

The musical was held at Amsterdam’s CarrĂ© theatre. It’s a beautiful theatre, though a bit disconcerting if you have a fear of heights.

I was thinking about how cool that backdrop would be as a background on my iPhone.

And above is a look at the seating, although I have been at places with even steeper seating arrangements. The best part was that the row in front of you was rather far down, so you don’t have to worry about someone tall in sitting in front of you.

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Horses and trumpets (Or: Practicing for Prinsjesdag)

Last Sunday Marco and I were enjoying coffee at the central library when we saw a commotion outside the window. The police were practicing with the royal horses in advance of Prinsjesdag (held last Tuesday), with the route going past the library.

The final day of practice is traditionally held the day before the event, with the horses being trained on the beaches of Scheveningen. The horses have to navigate loud crowds, fireworks, sudden movements, etc., as preparation for the ceremony.

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

Eurovision Song Contest (Or: Close to home)

Today it was announced that Rotterdam had won the right to host the Eurovision Song Contest (Eurovisie Songfestival in Dutch) next year in May. This is because the Netherlands won the 2019 version of the song contest with Duncan Lawrence’s Arcade (YouTube) in May. It was their first win in 44 years.

Now, if I am being honest – this whole concept of a European song contest seems polarizing at best (you either love it or hate it) and political at worst. There are two components to the voting – each country has a panel of five judges which cast their vote for other countries using a points system, and each country also has votes coming from televoting from the fans. You are prevented from voting for your other country. Whomever gets the most points from the two combined voting areas wins.

Next year the song contest will be held at the convention centre Ahoy in Rotterdam (Wikipedia) after it was announced that Rotterdam had beaten Maastricht for the right to host the event. I’ve been there a few times for concerts and WWE wrestling events – it is a nice venue. The only annoying thing is that you need to use special tokens to buy food and drink, so we usually don’t buy anything.

Hotel prices in both Rotterdam and The Hague are skyrocketing (article in Dutch). The Netherlands will have a busy month in May 2020, as it was also recently announced that the newly-granted F1 race will happen on May 3 in Zandvoort (in the area of Amsterdam). That’s actually one of the reasons Amsterdam dropped out of the race to host the Eurovision song contest rather quickly – there was already going to be issues with having enough hotel rooms in the area, especially as a lot of press and groups arrive about two weeks early for the song contest.

It should be an interesting May next year!

Categories: Culture, Rotterdam | Leave a comment

A lovely day for the beach (Or: For herring?)

This photo was taken last weekend while Marco and I were visiting Scheveningen with a few friends. It shows the outdoor portion of Museum Beelden aan Zee, with an oversized statue eating herring. That is a well-known tradition in these parts called “Hollandse Nieuwe” where people look forward to the traditional start date of the herring season.

Of course, if you look really closely you can see that his feet are stomping on much smaller statues, but okay… we’ll ignore that.

After the usual visit to the statues part we headed down to the beach, even getting our feet wet (and in my case gingerly stepping over seashells). The sea water was a bit cold, but we got used to it after a while. Most interesting were the little ponds that were left behind further inland from the tides – a lot of kids were playing in those as they were only an inch or two deep. I don’t have any pictures of those, since I figured with my luck I’d try to take a picture and just end up dropping my telephone into the water… haha.

In the other Scheveningen new, the annual fireworks festival won’t be coming back this year. Why is that you ask? It’s actually too popular! No, seriously – the event was attracting around 400,000 people for four days total (across two weekends) and the beach just wasn’t large enough to support that. Most of the problems came after the event ended, since everyone wanted to go home at the same time.

This DHC article from last year has a great overhead photo showing you just how crowded it was trying to get home with public transportation after the event ended. Although HTM (the public transportation company) did say the buses were not riding at that moment and were being used as a buffer to prevent people from climbing over the fences leading to the stop. You can see the road is clear where the buses would actually be driving. There’s a security guy in yellow standing in the road to keep everyone off it. Additionally, HTM had 71 tram rides that night instead of the normal 31, and 54 bus rides as opposed to the normal 15. Still, the wait for some folks was over 90 minutes even with that extra capacity.

I do hope they can figure something out for next year though. The fireworks festival was a lot of fun, if too crowded for me in the end.

Categories: Culture, Friends&Family, Scheveningen | Tags: | Leave a comment

Cotton candy truck in The Hague (Or: My head hurts)

Like everywhere else in the world, The Hague has its own dialect. The comic Haagse Harry exclusively uses this dialect (Dutch Wikipedia). It gives me a bit of a headache to try to read that one, but of course Marco can do it fairly easily.

Last month we spotted this cotton candy truck, written phonetically in the Haags dialect. The actual Dutch is “Genoeg suikerspin voor weinig” or “Enough cotton candy for little” (cheaply). But as you can see, the letters don’t look anything like that!

Seen on some street in The Hague early last month

If you want to translate some Dutch to Haags you can do so with this translator. Or check out the blog post I wrote when The Hague erected a statue of Haagse Harry in the artist’s (Marnix Rueb) honor.

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Lady on the bench (Or: Statue in The Hague)

Not far from the Peace Palace you can find a lady sitting on a bench, watching the world go by. And not just any lady, but Anna Pavlovna of Russia, Queen Consort to the Netherlands back in the 18th century. She married Willam the II in 1816 and had five children. If you read the Wikipedia page you’ll notice how odd it is to have a statue here – apparently she wasn’t a fan of the Netherlands and preferred instead to be in what is now Belgium (or better yet, Russia). But okay, the statue itself is still very beautiful.

A bit dusty, but a very pretty statue. Added in 1999 by the Russian architect Alexander Taratynov.

A bit further along the path you come across the Peace Palace. I had a bit of luck that day in terms of weather – no grey skies that day. (Unlike today!)

Blue, blue, and a bit of red flowers…
Categories: Culture, The Hague | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Day of Remembrance (Or: Jewish monument of The Hague)

Today was a Holocaust Day of Remembrance in The Hague for the Jewish population. There was a small ceremony held in the city centre in the afternoon to remember those who were lost during WWII.

The Jewish monument in The Hague – at Rabbijn Maarsenplein, a Jewish neighborhood prior to WWII

You can read more about the monument at the official website (nl | en). Also something interesting: some of the flowers came from various embassies, including Germany, Austria, and Israel. Others came from citizens.

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Warm weather (Or: Who needs a jacket?)

Yesterday I had the day off so I went for a walk. The weather has been great for the Easter holiday: 70-75F with a ton of sun. One of the places I walked through is the Binnenhof, a place mentioned a lot on this blog. I like going there and watching the tourists, actually. It’s weird to live somewhere that tourists visit. So I go there and watch the families and friends excitedly taking photos of this and that…

Here is my photo, with the beautiful blue sky behind.

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The yearly tradition (Or: Zuurkool, better known as Sauerkraut)

Last Tuesday Marco’s mom made zuurkool for Marco and I (yay!). The three of us have an agreement that she makes zuurkool once a year, when it gets cold out.

This year worked perfectly as Tuesday was the first snowfall in here in the Netherlands. Only about half an inch, give or take, and gone within a day or so. Nothing compared to the cold weather which parts of the U.S. are getting with that polar vortex!

Zuurkool was on Tuesday’s menu

The best way to describe zuurkool is “sour mashed potatoes” (indeed, the Dutch version is generally a combination of zuurkool and potatoes).

It’s very tasty when the weather is cold out. Which is exactly what I said last year, it looks like…

Categories: Culture, Food | 2 Comments

The fables of Jean de la Fontaine (Or: Exhibition at the Central Library)

From now through April 1st, there is an exhibition (De Raaf, de Vos en Kornuiten) going on at the Central Library. That translates as The raven, the fox, and his mates. The exhibition covers the work of Jean de la Fontaine, a French fabulist.

The header translates as “A lesson in behavior”. The beginning of the text reads: “A fable is a short story or poem with a moral. The intent is to both amuse you and to teach you something. You can think of the moral as the soul of the fable…”

The fables shown in the library were translated by Rob Scholten while Carlijn van Vlijmen worked on the illustrations.

“The monkey and the dolphin”
“The wolf and the dog”

As mentioned, the exhibit runs through April 1st and can be seen on the first floor of the Central Library, next to the escalators.

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