It’s a fun, folkloric event, but they take it very seriously.
We happened to be visiting Schagen, a small town just over 60km north of Amsterdam, on the day of a parade.
It was a busy market day, but suddenly the crowd was asked to make way as a group in traditional Dutch costume passed, riding on horse-drawn carts, pushing wicker prams, riding bicycles with baskets of poultry and playing accordions.
Unexpected, and spectacular, it made for excellent photo ops…
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. Photo: Wikicommons.
The Netherlands’ favourite topic of dinner party/water cooler conversation around December 5th is “Is Zwarte Piet racisme?” (Is Black Pete racism?)
It took me some time to make up my mind on this one. Continue reading
The gable of the Zaandam Stadhuis (Town Hall) enters into the playful spirit of things.
Dutch architects have been hard at work in and around Amsterdam, inserting colourful humour into some very public buildings, and it’s remarkable that, in the Zaanstreek, local planning authorities have been happily going along with the joke. Continue reading
Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima on their way to watch the speedskating in Sochi.
Okay, the orange bikes are probably being provided by Dutch taxpayers, and the shot may be a strategically placed PR photo op.
But you have to like the idea that they thought it was a good idea. All it needs now is for the guys in the middle to be holding hands and discreetly waving rainbow flags…
Welkom, meneer! Our king is delighted you can join us.
We citizens of the world would like to be allowed to travel wherever we like and to live where we choose.
By filling in a form and forking out for a visa now and then, we’re able to do pretty much just that.
Others are not so fortunate. By accident of birth, many are condemned to live in places they would prefer to leave. Places which are dangerous to life, health and liberty. Places which condemn their families to generations of powerlessness and poverty.
Which is why a citizenship ceremony is an important, joyful and humbling occasion. Continue reading
The long and windy road, and nothing else between Emmen and Roswinkel.
We arranged a final (for this year) farewell family gathering in a village in Drenthe, and my brother-in-law Hans suggested riding the bikes would be the best way to get there. That suited me fine. Drenthe is a super cycling destination.
Drenthe, in the north of the Netherlands on the German border, does not offer a lot of organised entertainment. They make some fuss about Kabouterland (‘Gnome Land’) though those of us over five find it a bit childish. It’s in the village of Exloo, which English speakers think is an amusing place name, but that’s where the fun ends.
Yet Drenthe is a very popular holiday destination for Dutch people. The main reason is that the cycling is brilliant – thousands of kilometres of quiet, flat, well-surfaced country roads and bike paths, through fields and forests, past thatched farmhouses and pretty villages. Continue reading