I hope everyone has a nice pakjesavond tonight, although I suspect most people celebrated over the weekend. Still, today is the official celebration, so stock up on pepernoten, truffel kruidnoten and chocolate letters while they’re still available! I hope Sinterklaas is good to you. Pippo suspects he’ll end up in a sack and sent to Spain before the night is through. He figures he must have been bad to deserve this kind of embarrassment.
Every year, on the Derde Dinsdag in September (third Tuesday in September), the Queen goes before Parliament to discuss the budgetary goals for the coming year. Today was that day. It’s known as Prinsjesdag, when the Queen drives to Parliament in the Golden Carriage to deliver the speech from the throne.
Den Haag (The Hague) is where the Eerste Kamer en Tweede Kamer (First Room and Second Room, literally, but essentially the Senate and House) meet, although technically Amsterdam is the nation’s capital. It’s all a bit confusing. To add to the confusion, although the Queen presents the budget, the speech is actually written by the cabinet. Her role is purely ceremonial, although the money allotted to the royal family certainly isn’t ceremonial. As the announcement of cuts of 18 billion Euros was made today, it’s hard to see the value of a monarchy.
The speech was given at the Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall) pictured above. It was built in the 13th century for Floris V, Count of Holland. Eventually, the other buildings that make up Parliament were built up around Ridderzaal, and now the area is known as the Binnenhof (inner court).
The following are just a few other photos I’ve taken in the Binnenhof of some of the various Parliament buildings that essentially encircle the Ridderzaal.
As I mentioned last week, Saturday was Open Monument Day here in Utrecht. We did end up visiting the Academiegebouw over in the Domplein and had a really great experience. It’s a beautiful building and I’ll post more about it this week once I get the photos sorted and uploaded. For now, here’s a photo of one of the staircases.
As I stood there looking down, I couldn’t help but think of the artist M.C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist known for his mind-bending, maze-like designs. His piece titled Relativity is the work that the staircase reminded me of specifically. It’s not the first time I’ve taken a photo here and had thoughts of Escher. Sometimes the different planes and angles of rooftops and balconies can create some disorienting images.
It’s time for the Xpat Blog Hop again, and this one kind of amused me, so I thought I’d see what I could come up with. The prompt is: list 5 things your country doesn’t have and you wish they did, and 5 things they do have and you wish they didn’t.
Things The Netherlands Doesn’t Have:
- Air conditioning. It’s not really been necessary in our house this summer, but it still gets warm enough and humid enough that when you have to walk everywhere, you can get a bit warm and sweaty. Sadly, most shops and restaurants don’t have AC, so you can’t even get any relief when you arrive at your destination.
- Biscuitville. Admittedly, most places in the US don’t even have Biscuitville, but there’s nothing better for a hangover or just an easy Southern breakfast.
- Mega grocery stores. I miss the variety of products available, including the convenience of buying makeup, contact lens solution, sewing basics, and more in one store.
- Sunday shopping and 24-hour shopping. Occasionally, I miss the convenience of life in the US.
- Antihistamines. When you’ve got a cold, sometimes you want the kind of drugs that will dry out every inch of your body. Sure, you feel kind of parched when taking them sometimes, but at least you have a chance of breathing through your nose. Nose sprays are decent, but there are times when you want more. Or at least something that will knock you out during the worst of the misery.
Things the Netherlands Does Have (But You Don’t Want)
- The wettest summer since 1906. I like the rain, but this year has been insane. It’s raining right now.
- Geert Wilders
- Drop, aka licorice. It’s pretty popular here — supposedly the highest per capita consumption of licorice in the world — but it’s just not for me.
- Tax offices that legally can only speak to you in Dutch.
- I really can’t think of anything at the moment. I had to stretch for that last one.
I like Amy‘s idea of listing five things I’m glad the Netherlands does have, so here goes:
- Outdoor cafés and terraces. If it’s remotely possible, even just a table or two, most restaurants, bars and cafés will have outdoor seating.
- Always getting a cookie or chocolate with your coffee.
- Pataat met (aka french fries with mayo)
- Cultural Sundays here in Utrecht
- Dutch light (and a hint of a rainbow)
There are specific rules and specific dates when you’re allowed to fly the Dutch flag. It’s not like America, where you’ll see the flag flying yearlong in front of houses, offices, restaurants and just about anywhere else you could imagine. The Dutch flag is only brought out for special occasions. That said, it’s been prevalent this past week, between Queen’s Day, Remembrance Day and Liberation Day. Fortunately, the beautiful weather has led to some beautiful shots of the flag glowing in the sunshine. This photo was taken on Queen’s Day. I loved the light filtering through the tree and its blossoms and the flag providing a splash of color against the more neutral background. Both approaches to flying the flag have their benefits; I wouldn’t say that one is better than another. Perhaps the infrequent appearances of the Dutch flag make it stand out more when it does appear. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Just a few words … Dodenherdenking (Remembrance Day) takes place each year on 4 May. It honors civilians and military personnel who have given their lives in service to the Netherlands since the outbreak of World War II. The flags fly at half-mast, as this one was doing today in Den Haag (The Hague). More about my visit tomorrow.
So it looks like I’m going to have two free spots for The Phoenix Foundation gig tomorrow night at Paradiso in Amsterdam. If you’re interested, leave me a comment here or e-mail me and we’ll see what we can sort out. Of course, tickets are only €8.50, so you should still go anyway, even if not through me.
If you want to hear their latest album, Buffalo, you can check them out on 3VOOR12!
In the meantime, here are a couple more videos of some of their songs. And don’t forget that their new album, Buffalo, is now available in Europe. You should buy it. It’s good stuff!
I saw this article the other day about comparing the GDPs of various countries with American states. Imagine my amusement when I realized that Florida, my home state, matched up with the Netherlands. It’s not just the flatness and humidity that’s similar!
Source: The Economist
In the US, the name was lost in translation, so to speak. We had to explain it, if people asked. In fact, the vet put a little notation about it on Pippo’s file! However, here in the Netherlands, the name actually translates from Italian to Dutch, in a general way. You see, this is also Pipo.
Here, there’s a famous Pipo the Clown. He was featured in a tv series and a musical and made a number of records and such. I was first introduced to the concept of Pipo the Clown via Pipoos, a chain of craft stores here in the Netherlands. I eventually learned about the clown himself.
The Discovery channel recently aired an episode about the Rotterdam port on the show called Extreme Engineering (Build It Big is the title in the US, I believe). The program discussed the ways in which Dutch engineers were building new land to expand the port, which is one of the busiest in the world. By taking sand from the sea bed, they’re able to build new, stable land to add about three square miles to the port. They’re expanding the Netherlands without having to invade any other countries! Impressive!
The Dutch are experts at land/water management, not surprising considering many parts of the country are built below sea level. In fact, while we were out driving around last week, we noticed a few times that the water in the canals next to the road was actually higher than the road. It felt like I was back in New Orleans. The Dutch are such experts, that they helped build the Palm Islands in Dubai (hopefully they got paid first) and helped expand Singapore, and are world leaders in dredging and land expansion.
We got our own little close-up view of the behind-the-scenes workings of Dutch management of land and water a couple of weeks ago. As we were trying to find Prins Hendriklaan to make our way to the Rietveld-Schröder House, we soon came across a dead end. Prins Hendriklaan was under some construction. In fact, the road was missing for about a block.
It may not look quite so impressive, other than just a big hole in the ground, until you realize that the road intersects a canal. If you look closely to the left of the following photo, just behind the red machine, runs the canal.
The street doesn’t form a bridge over the canal. It completely blocks the canal at that point. The canal then starts up again to the right.
It’s interesting to see the physical structures that go into maintaining a balance between land and water. It’s even more interesting to know that there’s a long history and tradition behind these structures. If you get a chance to see the Science/Discovery Channel program, I recommend it. It’s truly impressive on multiple levels.