Tag Archives: Amsterdam

Amsterdam between 1600 and 1700

This is an amazing animation from the Amsterdam City Archives showing the growth of Amsterdam during the Golden Age from 1600 until 1700.

It’s the time when the Grachtengordel – the canal belt – was formed. Watch how the city took its actual shape.

 

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What I like about living in the Netherlands (part 2)

In this second post about “What I like about living in the Netherlands” I will list up the things I like in everyday life, with my Dutch friends etc.

1) First of all, I love my Dutch friends. This is probably the main reason I feel at home here and why I feel very uncomfortable when others complain about anything Dutch.

BURENDAG2) Another thing I like here is the tolerance.

I mentioned the tolerance before (in part 1) and the fact that in the Netherlands people need to be tolerant because of the population density. In my experience, neighbours tend to be more tolerant here than in the other countries I’ve lived in. During the yearly burendag, initiated by Douwe Egberts in 2006 and since 2008 joined by the Oranje Fonds, neighbours get together in order to get to know each other. In our neighbourhood we celebrate this with a big BBQ and games for the children.

3) Related to 1) and 2) is this feeling of gezelligheid and the freedom that I really like. In an interview I once said that I consider the Dutch mentality as refreshing: “Dutch people are happy people, they enjoy their lives and value the life outside of their career.” Some may not agree, but having lived in Switzerland and Italy before coming here, I must say that the way to live here and to enjoy the free-time is much relaxter and people are much more easy-going.

4) They know how to party! Yes, in the Netherlands people know how to party, how to have fun! At Birthdayparties it is custom not only to congratulate the birthdayboy/girl, but also everyone else in the family! “Gefeliciteerd met de verjaardag van je zoon/dochter/man/moeder/vader…” And generally speaking about parties, I have to say that I’ve never felt uncomfortable or bored at a party here. There’s always something going on and people know how to make you feel comfortable. – I know that at this point some of my British or non-European friends would mention the greeting with three kisses because they feel very uncomfortable with kissing and shaking hands with people they barely know (and sometimes even friends), but for me it’s nothing special. I’m used to kiss and shake hands, hug. – I’ll write a post about the different greetings in Europe soon.

DSC024825) I like that I can take my bike to go almost everywhere here. We all have bikes, my children since a very early age. With my bakfiets I used to do my groceries with all three children in it (I can load up to 100 kg). Not anymore, as they all can ride their own bikes now, but I still prefer doing my shopping with my “favourite car”. The fact that everything is so close makes this aspect of the daily life very easy. What I really appreciate here is that people rides the bikes in a different way: In Switzerland or Germany, people usually have road bikes  (or mountain bikes) and they ride in a bent position, face down, whereas people here sit up straight on their bikes.

6) The Netherlands is not such a big country. Everything is relatively close. In The Hague area, if you’re interested in culture, you can visit musea in Rijswijk, The Hague (Mauritshuis, Gemeentemuseum, Meermanno, Kinderboekenmuseum, Museon, Fotomuseum, Escher in het Paleis, Beelden an Zee, Gevangenenpoort, Letterkundig Museum, Haag Historisch Museum etc.), Leiden (Botanical Garden, Naturalis, Museum Volkenkunde, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden etc.) and of course Amsterdam and Rotterdam etc. The Museumkaart enables you to have free or reduced access to about 400 musea in the Netherlands and even in some places in Germany.

In The Hague you can visit Madurodam. You can visit the Zoo: Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam or Sealife in Scheveningen.. If you visit the Netherlands in May-June, the Keukenhof is a must. The Haagse Markt is an incredible market! You can find fresh fish, spices, nuts, grains, and loads of items from Asia and Middle East. For children there are plenty of in- and outdoor playgrounds, but the best “playground” is the beach. The coast is beautiful. You can have long walks and bikerides in the Dunes. Also the Veluwe (in Gelderland) is worth a visit! You can find precious informations about what to do with kids here  and here.

cropped-beach2013.jpg7) If I should ever have to leave the Netherlands, I would terribly miss the closeness to the sea! Probably because I grew up next to the Alps (I could see the Monte Rosa from my room window) but going to the beach always feels like holidays to me. And the beach is huge! We have great strandtenten on the beach where you can spend a whole day, the children can play and you can have a coffee or a meal. You are free to walk for miles and in the winter months people are even allowed to walk their dogs.

8) And the vast sky… I like the vast sky. Every time we come back from Switzerland, we take a deep breath and enjoy this Dutch sky! I know that some people complain about the weather, but honestly, I’ve never lived in any country here in Europe where people were happy about the weather. What I like here is the generally milde climate. Generally because we just had a few very cold and long winters. – You can see the sky almost every day. While I lived in Zurich I remember that in the winter I barely saw the sky for months. We had to go up in the mountains to find some sun in the weekends, but in the valleys etc. it was quite sombre.

9) They love children. I’ve experienced having a child in Italy and thought that there can’t be another country where children are as much loved as there, but I was wrong. Here in the Netherlands I found the same kindness towards children that I was used to in Italy. I always got help to lift the stroller in a bus or tram (where is always space to leave a stroller) and children are welcome in all the restaurants and public places.

10) Dutch people are very friendly. I rarely encountered people with a grumpy face on the street and usually, when I smile at people, they smile back. I tried to do the same at people in other countries and was frustrated because nobody did even notice my smile… I know that some people complain about the Dutch rudeness, but I would rather call it straightforwardness. To someone like me (who doesn’t like to pussyfood around), this directness seems actually refreshing.

11) I’m happy to see so many old and/or disabled people in the street! They can go really everywhere with their rollators and they do!

Do you live in the Netherlands and would like to add some positive things you like in this country? Please feel free to add them by leaving a reply!

Dankjewel!

This post has been republished on Expatica.nl on November the 26th 2013

Het Koningslied or the “King’s song”

Since this song had been accepted to become the Koningslied, the song for the new king of the Netherlands, it caused litterally a storm of public criticism, due to his poor grammar and mix of styles. The songwriter John Ewbank did write the lyrics (and the refrain), whereas the text and the couplets are based on suggestions from citizens. Guus Meeuwis, Alain Clark, Daphne Deckers and Jack Poels did write the rhymes and 51 “top Dutch artists” sing this song.

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-26 um 11.53.06

(© Clare Fraser Née Rolph; a collection of ideas like “my dream for the Netherlands” from children of the BSN)

After all this criticism, John Ewbank wanted to withdraw the song, but last Monday a committee announced that it would continue to endorse it.

I suppose that if they would have commissioned a very classical piece, people wouldn’t have had opinions on it (agreeing with Paul Power, a producer who owns one of Amsterdam’s top recording studios, in this article).

Anyway, this is the King’s song: whether you like it or not.

KONINGSLIED

Daar sta je dan / There you are

Je zag dit moment al zo vaak in je dromen / You saw this moment so many times in your dreams

Daar is het dan / And ther is it then

De dag die je wist dat zou komen is eindelijk hier / The day that you knew would come is finally here

Ben je er klaar voor? / Are you ready for it?

Kun je dat ooit echt zijn? / Can you ever really be (ready)?

Daar sta je dan / There you are

Ieder mens heeft een taak in dit leven / Every person has a task in his/her life

Alles gedaan om je voor te bereiden / Everything done to prepare for

Daar is het dan / There it is then

Je belooft dat je alles zult geven / You promise that you will give everything

Iedere stap die je zette die leidde naar hier / Every step you took led you here

En kijk om je heen / And look around you

Wij lopen met je mee / We walk with you

Door de regen en de wind / Through the rain and the wind

Zal ik naast je blijven staan / I will stand beside you

Ik bescherm je tegen alles wat komt / I’ll protect you against anything that comes

Ik zal waken als jij slaapt / I will watch over as you sleep

Ik behoed je voor de storm / I will shelter you from the storm

Ik hou je veilig zo lang als ik leef / I keep you safe as long as I live

Een strijd, twee levens / One battle, two lives

We staan voor elkaar, niet te breken / We face each other, not to break

Een vlag, twee leeuwen / One flag, two lions

Met elkaar in de zon en de regen / With each other in the sun and the rain

Zij aan zij, borst vooruit / Side by side, chest out

Trots als een pauw, dit is ons geluid / Pride as a peacock, this is our sound

En hoe klein we ook zijn / And how small we are

Onze daden zijn groot / Our deeds are great

Gaan niet onderuit / We’re not going to fail

Voor jou, mijn kind / For you, my child

Voor m’n pa, voor m’n ma / For my dad, for my mom

Loop voor jou door de wind en regen / Walk for you through the wind and the rain

En zal achter je blijven staan /And will stand behind you

Ik draag een vaandel met jouw naam /I carry a banner with your name

Geloof in jou zolang we bestaan / Believe in you as long as we exist

Ik bouw een dijk met m’n blote handen / I will build a dike with my bare hands

En hou het water bij jou vandaan / And keep the water away from you

Laat me weten wat je droomt / Let me know what you dream

Waar je hart zo naar verlangt / What your heart does long for

Ik zal niet rusten tot het waar geworden is / I will not rest until it has become true

En als je ooit je weg verliest / And if you ever loose your way

Ben ik je baken in de nacht /I’ll be your beacon in the night

Ik wijs je de haven in de duisternis / To show the harbour in the darkness

Ik zal strijden als een leeuw / I will fight like a lion

Tot het jou aan niets ontbreekt / To you for nothing lacking

Hou je veilig zo lang als ik leef / Keep you safe as long as I live

De W van Willem / The W of Willem

Drie vingers in de lucht, kom op, /Three fingers in the air, come on,

De W van Willem /The W of WIllem

Drie vingers in de lucht, kom op, kom op, / Three fingers in the air, come on, come on,

De W van Willem is de W van wij / The W of Willem is the W from we

Heel Oranje staat zij aan zij / All of Oranje stands side by side

De W van water waar we niet voor wijken / The W of water where we do not yield

We leggen het droog en we bouwen dijken / We drain it and we build dikes

De W van welkom in ons midden / The W of welcome in our midst

Tot welke God je ook moge bidden / To which ever God you may pray

De W van Willem / The W of Willem

De W van Willem / The W of Willem

De W van wakker, stamppot eten / The W of awake, mashed food

Miljoenen coaches die beter weten / Millions of coaches who know better

De W van altijd willen winnen / The W of always want to win

Wat het ook is waar wij aan beginnen / Whatever it is that we begin

De W van wij zijn een met elkaar / The W from we are one with each other

Met de schouders naast elkaar / With our shoulders next to each other

En dus roepen we vandaag van / And so we call out today

Door de regen en de wind / Through the rain and the wind

Zal ik naast je blijven staan / I will stand beside you

Ik bescherm je tegen alles wat komt / I’ll protect you against anything that comes

Ik zal waken als jij slaapt / I will watch over as you sleep

Ik behoed je voor de storm / I will shelter you from the storm

Hou je veilig zo lang als ik leef / Keep you safe as long as I live

Laat me weten wat je droomt / Let me know what you dream

Waar je hart zo naar verlangt / What your heart does long for

Ik zal niet rusten tot het waar geworden is / I will not rest until it has become true

En als je ooit je weg verliest / And if you ever lose your way

Ben ik je baken in de nacht / I’ll be your beacon in the night

Wijs je de haven in de duisternis / To show the harbour in the darkness

Ik zal strijden als een leeuw / I will fight like a lion

Tot het jou aan niets ontbreekt / To you for nothing lacking

Ik hou je veilig zo lang als ik leef / Keep you safe as long as I live

Ik hou je veilig zo lang als ik leef /Keep you safe as lob as I live

Sinterklaas in the Netherlands: mid November til 5 December

In addition to general informations about Sinterklaas’ arrival to the Netherlands mid November, there is a very important period between his arrival and the 5th December, when Sinterklaasavond (or Pakjesavond) is celebrated.

Here in the Netherlands, these are actually very busy weeks for children, parents as well as for Sinterklaas and his helpers. Between his arrival mid November and 5 December, every evening children use to put their shoes next to the fireplace chimney or fireplace – or even in front of the main door or next to the central heating unit – before going to bed. This is called “Schoenen zetten“.

The shoe is left with a carrot or some hay and sometimes a bowl of water nearby. These are gifts for the horse of Sinterklaas, Amerigo. Then, the children usually sing a Sinterklaas song through the chimney pipe. The next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes. Not always, but most of the time.

The weeks preceding his birthday, Sinterklaas has a lot to do. At night he rides his horse over the roofs, accompanied by his servants. During the night, when the children are asleep, the Pieten come down the chimneypipe to take away the carrot and put some candy for the children in return. At daytime, Sinterklaas is invited to television programs, radio stations, and visits schools and institutions for the elderly.

The weeks before Sinterklaas’ birthday (the 6th December) are a prelude with candy and presents and they culminate on the night of December 5. During the day, on the 5 December, the activities of Sinterklaas and his helpers are intensified. They can be spotted everywhere (even on roofs!).

The evening of December 5, Sinterklaas rides with his horse as usual over the roofs of the houses (!), accompanied by his black Pietes, while the children sit cosy and warm next to the central heating or the fireplace, singing songs and drinking hot chocolate. A black valet puts a sack filled with presents at the frontdoor and rings the bell or knocks on the door … Of course, the youngest child of the family must go and fetch the sack.

In many families Sinterklaas and some Pieten bring a visit that evening. The children receive typical Sinterklaas treats, like a chocolate letter (it’s the first letter of the child’s name made out of chocolate) or a letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste. Sometimes they get mandarin oranges, pepernoten, kruidnoten or speculaas, chocolate coins and marzipan figures. Poems can still accompany bigger gifts as well. This evening is calles Pakjesavond (Evening of Presents) and used to be really important, as bigger – and more expensive! – presents are distributed.

Instead of such gifts being brought by Sinterklaas, family members sometimes draw names for an event comparable to Secret Santa. Gifts need to be creatively disguised – Dutch use the French word “surprise” for this – and they are usually accompanied by a humorous poem which often teases the recipient for well-known bad habits or other character deficiencies. By the way, everyone receives such humorous poems: children and adults. And this makes Sinterklaas an even more special event!

In the Netherlands, on his birthday, the 6 December, Sinterklaas is already heading back to Spain in his steamboat and servants and horse magically dissapear…

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