Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands this Saturday from Spain, as is tradition (read more at English Wikipedia). After his arrival Dutch children start counting down to December 5, as that evening they can open their presents. Minor gifts are given (usually left in shoes) between the arrival of Sinterklaas and December 5.
Albert Heijn is getting into the party with their own version of an advent calendar with mini chocolates:
Every day from November 13 through December 5 has a little window to open (in random order, which as an adult I find a bit annoying). Aftellen tot pakjesavond = countdown to gifts evening (a literal translation).
We’ll see if things proceed as planned. The nationally televised arrival of Sinterklaas can go ahead because almost all of it is taped in advance and the city he arrives in doesn’t actually exist, due to the pandemic. Normally he arrives to much fanfare and thousands of young kids cheering him on in person or watching from home.
Regional arrivals have started to be cancelled, with Utrecht being the first big city to cancel theirs (official website in Dutch). A decision for The Hague hasn’t been made yet, but the signs informing travelers of bus and tram re-routing on Saturday are still in place, and inside the trams an automated message plays saying there will be re-routing on Saturday. It will probably go ahead as the arrival of Sinterklaas at the harbor in Scheveningen now requires tickets and they are restricting the number of tickets offered. At the moment the parade through The Hague is also still on. We’ll see.
Autumn arrived at the end of September, bringing a lot of rain and cold with it. If you are not paying attention, you will get caught in a sudden downpour that soaks you and then dissipates within 10 minutes. Marco and I also still need to try the yearly traditional of oliebollen, as I mentioned in a previous blog post. Soon!
At least the weather looks a bit drier this week, even if the warmth of summer is gone.
Imagine my surprise when the mascot at Albert Heijn (one of the local grocery stores) was staring at me creepily while I was choosing which sparkling water to purchase. I don’t know; maybe it was the wide open eyes staring back at me? Also slightly creepy is the very realistic pink nose with wrinkles..
But that will never top the satirical video that made fun of stockpiling (YouTube) last March at the height of the corona craziness. It used images from a movie, with the Albert Heijn jingle slowed down and creepy sounding on top of it. Twitch.
Dutch lesson: 2e gratis = second (item) free.
2 = twee, second = tweede, which frequently gets abbreviated to 2e.
Covid quick tests for home use have been available at Dutch supermarkets for the last month or two. Today I noticed a pile of tests by the self-checkout. I am sure they have always been there and that I just hadn’t noticed them.
Also: Golden Carriage arrives at Amsterdam Museum after restoration from dutchnews.nl. The golden carriage needed to be maneuvered into position with a crane, as the carriage was placed in the (inner) courtyard. The museum used to be an orphanage and orphans had helped design the carriage back in 1898, hence why it is going on display there after a five year renovation.
It is almost time for the European football championship 2020 (Wikipedia). No – you are not going back in time; it’s the European football championship that was supposed to be held last year but was delayed by corona.
Last week Marco picked up some pancake mix from the local grocery store, Albert Heijn. The brand was Pondan, an Indonesian company.
I was slightly confused when I looked at the back of packaging to see what extra ingredients were needed (top left with the red arrow):
What? I need 100ml air? How does that work?
And then my brain kicked in and my eyes started working. Air in Indonesian is water in English. How confusing!
But I must admit I love the fact that most packaging is not just in Dutch. Usually you see Dutch and French, because the two main languages in Belgium are Dutch and French. My contact solution bottle has 10+ languages on it. It’s so different from packaging in the United States. For logical reasons of course, but it still is something that makes me pause sometimes.
King’s Day is next Tuesday which means a lovely day off. That’s about the only advantage these days, since the usual King’s Night parties (the evening before) and the King’s Day market can’t take place this year due to the pandemic. But who am I kidding? I probably haven’t gone to a King’s Night party in the last 5 years (back when it used to be Queen’s Night, before she abdicated and gave the throne to her son).
It also means you see a lot of toxic orange baked goods at the grocery stores.
On the left in the back you have soesjes (profiterole according to the English Wikipedia). Those are pastries filled with cream. In the middle you have tompouce, which is just called tompouce over at the English Wikipedia because it is a Dutch/Belgium pastry. My sweet tooth doesn’t usually show itself so I don’t eat this kind of stuff that often anymore. The best tompouce I ever had was from Hema with a lime flavor, putting it a bit more on the sour spectrum than the sweet spectrum. But tompouces are tricky to eat, more like overstuffed hamburgers. If you bite wrong the cream in the middle squirts out in the back.
On the right you have a schnitte. I had no idea what this was. I told Marco and Roger this and they looked at me a bit incredulously. Apparently its a two or three layer cake with whipped cream between the layers, or sometimes jam. Marco said that Viennetta ice cream (English Wikipedia) could also be an example of an ice cream schnitte.
Viennetta was actually a possibility last week for celebrating my birthday, but we went for cheesecake instead. I will always consider Viennetta a luxury, since that is how I viewed it as a kid. With the commercial where the group would enjoy the ice cream in clear, tall glasses (obligatory YouTube link)…
On Monday I wrote about a cheese hack that was disrupting deliveries of cheese to the Albert Heijn grocery stores. The hack was resolved and deliveries could resume again. Most of the cheeses had been replaced, although there are still some gaps here and there. But I had to laugh when I saw this pile of shredded cheese:
Note: this was actually the overflow area for the extra shredded cheese they had in stock. They put it in the “weekly sale area”. The normal place for shredded cheese was also overflowing with bags and bags… and bags. It looks like two or three deliveries worth.
In other news… did you hear about the world’s first fish doorbell in Utrecht? It has been pressed 32,000 times so far in the first two weeks (nltimes.nl in English). Utrecht had a problem. At this time of year there is less boat traffic in the canals so fish would frequently find themselves stuck at a locked gate without any way to get to the other side. To solve this, viewers can watch a special webcam at visdeurbel.nl to see if they see fish in view. If you do spot one, you press the red doorbell on the right. If enough people press the doorbell, a human will manually check and if needed open the gate. Note that when you first access the page you might need to refresh it see the webcam properly.
The camera also takes a screenshot and shares the photo with you. Since there are limited moments when you might see fish (the best time of day is in the early evening or evening), the website also has a page with the best photos taken by viewers. Note that the webcam is temporary as it is only needed during the fish migration season.
Earlier this morning I was walking through the Albert Heijn when I noticed a sign near the cheese section, apologizing for the less than spectacular stock. Indeed, there were a lot of gaps and not much cheese to speak of. I didn’t think much of it since cheese wasn’t on my grocery list today.
In public transportation news: Amsterdam’s metro lines 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54 have been stopped since about 17:30 today due to a technical failure in one of their new systems (nos.nl in Dutch). The issue is in the new traffic control system that they only started using yesterday.
In corona news: Ministers ‘consider coronavirus vaccine rethink’ after AstraZeneca chaos from dutchnews.nl. There is a lot of controversy around AstraZeneca right now in the Netherlands (and Europe in general). First it was not allowed to be given to 65+, then there were rare cases of rare blood clots mostly see in women under the age of 60 across Europe, and now the vaccine can’t be given to anyone under 60 but can be given to anyone older than that. The same national health council who said “don’t give it to people under 60” last week is now considering advising the government that people under 60 should be allowed to choose whether they want AstraZeneca or not.
Oh, and just to show you how weird the weather has been lately: we had more snow and hail this morning. It started coming down right just as I ducked inside Albert Heijn, but unfortunately I was not met with blue skies and white clouds when I left 15 minutes later. Boo. Who expects weather like this in mid-April?
I took this photo for a certain someone I know who works at a grocery store (we were just talking last week about things being dumped in the wrong grocery store aisle):
While looking for some potato chips I spotted a sad looking bag of bread rolls and a chocolate bar. The bread can’t be resold (it’s a bag a customer puts together themselves) so it will need to be thrown out. The bread section is also near the beginning of the store, and this is at the end. Of course.
Oh, and I went for the bag of Albert Heijn black pepper and sea salt chips, by the way. That’s the gray bag to the left.