After a long workday (one more day until the weekend!) I logged off around 17:00, glad to close the computer and rest my brain for a bit. Turns out it could be worse: there are no trains running at the moment in the country. There is a disruption with the train communication system. That means traffic controllers can’t speak with the conductors. This is deemed a safety risk so all trains have been stopped.
The crazy thing is that this is not the first time this happened this year. It also happened back in May (also nltimes.nl in English). It makes me glad that I don’t need to grab the train today – good luck to everyone who does!
Side note: it is getting way too easy to use the British spelling for some phrases, like “centre” instead of “center”. Hmmm.
Below is a photo of the tourist tram riding through the centre (!) of the city. The Grote Kerk (literally “Big Church”) is off to the left, just out of the photo. I’ve posted a picture of this area a few times after its renovation a few years back. It looks a lot better with the greenery and stone walkways than it used to look.
Here is a photo of the church from the air (pre-renovation), from monumentenzorgdenhaag.nl. And here is information on the tourist tram, from denhaag.nl in English. Unfortunately it is a bit overpriced, but for tourists it could be nice.
In a sign that I no longer ride the tram every day, here is a photo of a new check in / out machine in the older Dutch trams. They were first installed back in January of this year in older red-and-beige trams (article in Dutch from omroepwest.nl).
The “no more gibberish” comment is in reference to a blog post that I did late last year where I showed how screwed up the older machines were getting. One of the bigger pluses with the new machines is the space for where you can put your card is much wider (basically hold your card against the screen or underneath). I still remember with faint embarrassment how I tried to put my OV chip card on the tiny green screen when I first moved here (see image in the blog post linked above). With the old machines you needed to put your card against the white part where the pink logo was. Opps.
But we will see how the coming days play out. On the one hand the government wants to ease restrictions to help the economy (among other things), on the other hand we had over 9,600 corona cases today, the most since early January. It will be an interesting few weeks, that’s for sure.
I decided to start following a new Dutch podcast a few days ago, a slightly nerdy one in fact. The name is Spoorcast (Apple | Spotify). It is about Dutch trains (spoor being Dutch for track). Actually, my favorite hobby has always been to read up on The Hague’s tram system, but trains are second best. However I don’t follow as much public transportation news since the pandemic started.
I listened to an old episode of Spoorcast from last year and learned that Rotterdam is working on their own sort of High Line, re-using elevated railroad tracks as a park. I also felt a bit nerdy when I realized I was actually enjoying one of the more recent episodes about the interior of a train. I was glad to hear they also think the current mini trash cans by each seat area are way, way too loud. I jump every time someone slams the lid down…
When I first started listening I was dismayed to hear that it was very difficult to understand what they were saying, as each episode featured three or four people talking to each other. They kept interrupting each other and talking over what the other was saying. I was starting to wonder if this was actually a Belgian podcast (wouldn’t be the first time!) or a Frisian podcast since it was so difficult to comprehend. And then I realized I had it on my default speed setting for podcasts (1.4x). I reduced it to 1.2x and suddenly it was much more bearable. Strange I guess. I usually don’t have issues with the speed, even with the other Dutch podcasts I listen to like Echt Gebeurd. Who knows.
A tweet showing full trains without the ability to keep 1.5 meters distance, noting that shops are closed but this is allowed.
Speaking of shops, they are now allowed to be open for click & collect, but a lot of bigger stores are not offering this option, including H&M, Bijenkorf and Zara (article in Dutch at nos.nl). In some cases because they think the work involved won’t be worth the money gained.
Arnhem zoo brings penguins inside due to the cold from nltimes.nl. Considering these penguins occur naturally in South Africa and Namibia, this does make sense. It does say that the only the partner-less penguins and young penguins without a cave to keep them warm were brought inside (awww, they have their own caves?)
And, finally, while not related to the Netherlands at all, I must simply share this tweet:
Marco and I went for a walk around lunchtime today to take a few pictures of the snow that fell. It was fairly cold, but that was mostly restricted to my fingertips.
First a picture of a very cold Hofvijfer. There were actually about 10-15 birds in this part of the water, although it is pretty difficult to see.
I didn’t even see the bird flying above when I was taking the picture. My only thought was of my freezing hands and wondering how fast I could take the picture and put my gloves back on.
Lange Voorhout. Off in the distance (and almost impossible to see) is the Escher museum (official website in English). Did you know it is possible to take a virtual tour of the museum? I found it pretty interesting, even if I felt like I had to move the mouse in the “wrong” direction to move around. Note: I’m not sure if they will keep the virtual tour up after the museum opens its doors again, so don’t wait too long.
Look at the snow on this car on the Lange Voorhout – you can see how hard the wind was blowing.
Handhaving grijpt in vanwege drukte tijdens sneeuwpret from regio15.nl in Dutch. In English: Security intervenes due to overcrowding during “snow fun”. The University of Delft’s library is built into a hillside, which means their roof is basically a grassy hill. They said it was okay to snow down the hill (provided no one uses sharp objects which might damage the roof underneath), but of course that meant massive crowds arrived by the afternoon. It is a very cool library design; I’ve been inside once.
Opps. Tram 16 derailed earlier this morning. Admittedly HTM (The Hague’s bus and tram provider) is still trying to ride most of their routes, with an adjusted schedule. NS, the national train service, said no trains would run today. Amsterdam’s buses and trams were running this morning but have since stopped. Amsterdam’s metro held out a bit longer, until earlier this evening, before that was stopped as well.
As you can see the top is covered in Nutella (English Wikipedia) and chocolate shavings. The inside of the oliebol is also filled with Nutella, because it can never be sweet enough. And it was delicious! The dangerous kind of delicious that makes you want to buy one every week…
However, it was sweet enough that I decided to save half of it for tomorrow evening. Otherwise I’ll be bouncing off the walls in no time.
Random article of the day: Anger over NS plan to remove conductor whistle from nltimes.nl. It is not quite what it sounds like. Each train has a conductor who checks to make sure that all passengers have entered the train. When it is time to leave the conductor blows their whistle and passengers (in theory) do not try to enter or exit the train after that moment. The NS (the largest Dutch train company) plans to use cameras instead to watch the doors. They say this will make trains more punctual however the union sees that as an easy way to get rid of the conductor’s job altogether.
Marco and I just finished watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Wikipedia). It is something we do every year, along with A Christmas Story (Wikipedia). You don’t mess with success like that. Luckily Marco was okay with marrying into this ritual. Admittedly, he already had the DVD box set (Vacation, European vacation, Christmas vacation and Vegas vacation).
I love going through the flyers placed into old DVDs like this. Most of the flyers here were about piracy, although there was one flyer listing all of the trailers coming out around the time this DVD set did.
Here are two of the flyers about piracy:
The one on the right talks about how they cried when they saw the poor quality of the bootleg DVD they bought (not really even talking about streaming yet! – just the purchase of a bootleg copy). The one on the left reminds people that bootleg DVDs are usually filmed in the back of the cinema, featuring obscured footage and muffled sound. So yeah, I keep the flyers to be amused year after year.
In other news: if you have some knowledge of Dutch (and are okay with subtitles in The Hague dialect), you should check out this video from two HTM workers sung to the tune of “Oh Oh Den Haag”, talking about how much the workers miss seeing everyone. HTM is The Hague’s public transportation company and as you might expect patronage has dropped drastically this year. As expected, HTM also wishes everyone happy holidays and a happy new year, with good health, love and happiness. Oh, and there is a bit of fake snow…
Have you read about this one yet? I have never seen something so cool (which I only feel comfortable saying because no one was injured):
This happened late on Sunday night into Monday, just after midnight. The metro went straight through the stop blocks at the final stop, crashing off the platform, landing on a whale’s tail. (Don’t believe the rumor that the artwork is called “Saved by the Whale’s Tail”, as cool as that would be. The actual name is “Whale tails”.) The artwork was installed in 2002 and is a reference to the metro’s tail track.
I give the dismount a perfect 10. More news articles:
The artist also says in this article that he wanted to go a different direction, however he decided to stick with the whale tail because residents in the area reminded him that he had promised them a whale tail (or two).
And because of that the driver is still alive today.
Rain rain rain. That’s all it does these days. It’s cold and wet and dreary and (even without the corona issues) it would be the perfect time to stay inside.
This morning I searched my drawer for an appropriate sweater to wear. I don’t have many – I found one, which is actually one more than I expected to find. I don’t usually wear sweaters, but maybe that will change now that I am at home and not in a climate controlled workplace. We’ll see…
An 8 minute YouTube video from the Haagse Dingen van toen channel which shows how different Grote Markt used to be 25 years ago when it was actually a major street with cars, buses and trams flying past. These days it is closed off and only pedestrians and cyclists can enter – see some photos of the Grote Markt shopping area from denhaag.nl.