Holland

Strange Dutch Celebrations: Seeing Abraham & Sarah

Irene Van Dam made a comment on a recent post that she’d love to hear my stories about ‘special events’ which Dutch people celebrate – like birthdays, anniversaries and newborns. Great idea – thanks, Irene. Your wish is my command!

I’ve already written about Dutch circle parties, which are weird in themselves! But imagine if it’s a special birthday, say you turn 50… believe me, it’s about to get a whole lot freakier!

50th Birthdays –  Or “Seeing” Abraham / Sarah

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So, you’re turning 50. Maybe you want to keep it quiet, have a small meal with the family, something like that. Live in the Netherlands? NO SUCH LUCK!

Your home, garden or place of work (or all three!) will be decorated by your ‘loving’ friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and a life-sized doll of YOU.

Turning 50 in the Netherlands is a BIG BLOODY DEAL!

Apparently it means you are old enough and wise enough to have ‘seen Abraham’ or if you’re a woman – old enough to have ‘seen Sarah’ and your whole street will know about it! The names come from the biblical figures, Abraham and his wife Sarah. According to the bible, Abraham lived until he was 175 and Sarah until she was 127… so if you make it to 50 you’re deemed old enough to have ‘wisdom through experience’.

Traditionally there’s a big party with, you guessed it – cake!

Or, if your friends are jokers, you might get something like this…

Exhibit A:

Abraham

This was given to my brother-in-law on his 50th birthday party, rather than a traditional cake. Basically it’s just another excuse (much like the Sinterklaas poems) to take the piss out of your friends and loved ones.

His office was decorated like so… (smiley used to cover his handsome face – sorry, bro!)

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(The thing on the right is a dummy, looks pretty realistic huh?)

In addition to the hullabaloo at work… he also had a party at home to celebrate. At his birthday BBQ he was given a zimmer frame while we – his friends and family – sang a song to him about how past it and ‘over the hill’ he is. Nice, huh!?

But don’t get mad… get even! Just save up your cruel ideas for when your friends and colleagues turn 50. Or if that’s passed already: 60, 70, 80… they’re all celebrated. Along with 1/2 Abraham or Sarah for when you’re 25!! Then you get half a cake. Crazy Dutchies!

Other ‘kroonjaren’ (translates to crown years) are celebrated as follows:

25 Half Abraham (or Sara / Sarah)
50 Abraham (or Sara / Sarah)
60 Isaac / Isaak (or Elisabeth / Elizabeth / Rebekka / Rebecca)
70 Jacob  (or Anna / Rachel / Lea)
80 Joseph (or Deborah / Asnath)
90 Anthony / Antonius / Efraïm (or Ruth)
100 Methusalem (or Judith)

Names seem to vary (possibly according to region? Help me out here please…) but it’s every 10 years anyway.

Here’s how it’s done the traditional way… the cake my schoonmoeder  was given for her 70th birthday, or ‘Lea’. Accompanied by a big circle party, natuurlijk! 

Lea cake - 70

Looking forward to your birthday now??

Hayley x

Ps – coming up next in this ‘Strange Dutch Celebrations’ mini-series: Having a baby & Celebrating 12.5 years of marriage. If there are any other weird celebrations you can think of that you’d like me to explore… please let me know!

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It’s all about you: An interview with The Dutchie

In his natural habitat

In his natural habitat

Maybe it’s just me (and I suspect it isn’t) but when I’m reading a blog – and I read a few – I’m always curious about the author’s partner. You could politely just say I’m a curious person, but like a lot of people, let’s be honest: we’re just nosey!

Bloggers partners usually get mentioned in their blog (a lot) but you rarely get any more information than that. One of my favourite ever posts on a blog was a post her husband had written about her. It was just so refreshing to see his take on things and I’m pretty sure it made me cry, it was that beautifully written.

My husband, aka The Dutchie, isn’t that guy though. That’s not his thing. He doesn’t do slushy or soppy and that’s fine too… so instead, I did a mini-interview with him to celebrate my 100th blog post! As my number 1 fan, he deserves a bit of appreciation! 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

Where were you born? And where did you grow up?
I was born in Amsterdam. I lived in Bovenkarspel for the first 6 years of my life and then we moved to Huizen in ‘t Gooi. After that I lived in Amsterdam for a few years before moving to Hilversum. From there I went to England for 3 years and now we’re back in Hilversum.

What do you do all day? 
I’m an SEA Consultant. So if you see paid adverts at the top of Google results, that could be me. And if you’ve visited a website and are (annoyingly) followed around with banners… that’s what I do as well.

Favourite Dutch food(s)?
Vlammetjes. Preferably on a platter along with bitterballen.

What Dutch dish do you think everyone should try while here?
We’re not known for our great food, but I think everyone should go to a Febo or a different ‘eten uit de muur’ (eating from the wall) place and get some kroketten and other random stuff that’s in it. Make sure you’re not that tourist who opens an empty slot though!

What is the one thing you recommend someone does on their trip to Holland?
If you’re in Amsterdam on New Year’s eve – find a rooftop to party on. The 360 degree fireworks at midnight are absolutely unbelievable (don’t even try to imagine). I’ve seen many English friends literally get tears in their eyes when they’ve been there.

What is it like being in a relationship with someone from a different country?
Fun and sometimes difficult. Fun as in I love the English culture and I’m in the middle of it. Hard because apparently the Dutch come over very rude and sometimes (for me) I’m acting normal and am being accused of being very rude. <Editor: He is rude. But he doesn’t mean to be. We’re still working on that one…>

What do you most miss about England?
The pub culture. And more specifically, being able to chose from different types of cider from draft and bottle in any random pub. Every pub I went to in England has a selection of cider. Here you’re lucky if they have one brand, and then it’s Strongbow!

Favourite place in Holland?
Out on the water in Vinkeveen. My best friend has a boat.

Favourite country you’ve visited?
Thailand.

What is your favourite trip we have taken together?
Mojacar, Spain. As a country I’d say the trip to Thailand – but so many crazy things happened in Mojacar and it’s the first and most likely the last time I’ve had success with karaoke. (I’m not known for my beautiful singing voice!) I sang Pulp – Common People.

How about your least favourite trip we have taken together?
Hmmm… I guess Brugge <Editor: He’s Dutch, he means Bruges.> when all the bars and restaurants we wanted to visit were closed. And actually the whole city was dead for some holiday or something.

Best bands?
**Rubs his hands together** Mmmmm… Music, my favourite subject! 🙂 In no particular order… Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Sonic Youth, SLAYER, The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnyman, Roxy Music (with Brian Eno), Primus, The Clash, Sisters of Mercy, New Model Army, Rammstein, Television, Doe Maar.

Best song ever made?
Roxy Music – If There is Something. <Editor: This song was played at our wedding.>

Best gig you’ve ever been to?
Sonic Youth. Pukkelpop 1990 or something. Gig doesn’t completely cover it, the whole festival was amazing: The Pogues, Ramones, Nirvana (before Nevermind), Frank Black, Ride, Dinosaur Jr.

First tape you ever bought?
**Laughs** Yeah yeah, I’m old! I’m too old to remember the first. The first I remember is Depeche Mode – Black Celebration, but there must be ones before that.

Favourite TV show?
Masterchef. (Or MotoGP if you can call that a TV show.)

Favourite film?
LA Confidential.

Proudest moment ever? <Editor: Puke fest coming up!!> 
Marrying Bitterballenbruid 🙂

What’s your special talent?
I guess I have to say pingpong. And I deliberately say pingpong as people who take it too seriously call it table tennis. <Editor butts in again: He’s being ridiculously modest here! He plays in the 2nd division in Holland and in the UK he played regionally. He’s good. Really bloody good.>

Anything else you’d like to know about The Dutchie?

Comment below and I’ll get him to answer any additional questions 🙂 Today is your chance to be as nosey as you like!!

Hayley x

That one time I went to Hoorn

Last week, on my day off, it was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to go out and DO SOMETHING FUN! Because why the heck not??

Back in January I asked for recommendations of the best places to go in the Netherlands on my Facebook page and I got loads of responses including: Haarlem (went on Saturday), Gouda (going next weekend), Maastricht, Leiden, Delft, Valkenburg, Harderwijk (been), Nijmegen (going in a few weeks), Den Bosch, The Hague, Texel, Rhenen, Groningen, Oostkappelle/Domburg, Naarden-Vesting (been – in fact, this is where our wedding party was held), Rotterdam (been – lots!), Middelburg, Amersfoort (been) and Hoorn.

It was already 12ish when I decided to go, so I wanted somewhere which was an hour or less on the train from Hilversum so I could be there and back in the same afternoon. After a quick bit of journey planning on good old NS.nl, I chose Hoorn… and I’m so glad I did!

Hoorn – pronounced somewhere between the English horn and the Dutch horen (to hear) is a town in North Holland, approx 35km north of Amsterdam. It’s a harbour town so in addition to the beautiful old buildings and canals you also get a gorgeous harbour thrown in!

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I must admit, it was tempting just to get off at Amsterdam Centraal, since we stopped there anyway… but no, Hoorn was the order of the day. When I arrived at the train station in Hoorn I didn’t really have a clear idea of where to go, so I just wandered around with my camera poised (knowing that if I got lost, I have Google Maps on my phone, so no biggie)… it was a good plan as I eventually ended up at the harbour without even really trying!

The harbour is proudly marked by (probably) Hoorn’s most recognisable landmark, de Hoofdtoren meaning ‘the head tower’. It was built in 1532 and is a registered rijksmonument (national heritage site). Today, it’s a restaurant.

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I had already been exploring for about an hour at this point, so I decided to stop at a pub on the waterfront. I looked for the most traditional one I could find, which happened to be Café ‘t Schippershuis, a traditional bruin café. Perfect!

If you don’t know what a ‘brown’ cafe is, they’re a bit like old-fashioned British pubs. The ‘brown’ title coming from the (often) tobacco stained ceilings, walls and the wooden panelling and floorboards. They’re old and often a bit tatty, but that’s all part of the charm! Oh… and carpet on the table – check!

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The beautiful old bar is shaped like a ship, the friendly waitress was stood behind the bar cleaning glasses and three locals were happily chatting away. As I walked in, the locals stopped briefly to greet me, looked pleased when I returned their greetings (in Dutch) and then went back to their flamboyant conversation and foamy beer.

The Dutch are a friendly bunch – and on the whole – they’re happy to speak English to you. BUT now I’m speaking more and more Dutch, I’m totally noticing that people are even friendlier  in Dutch! They love that you’re making the effort to speak their native language and will reward you accordingly. (This is making me tear up a little bit thinking of the old guy I met in Amsterdam a couple of weeks back – I was in a bar near Centraal Station with my English friend and he offered us a seat, in English. When I replied in Dutch, his face literally lit up like a Christmas tree!)

And the same thing happened in Hoorn. Once I collected my drink and took a seat, the patrons (knowing I could speak Dutch) started chatting away to me and made me feel really welcome. I honestly don’t think that would have happened if I’d ordered my drink in English. Proost! 

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When I first moved here ten months ago, I would have never been brave enough to just get on a train and go somewhere brand new ON MY OWN. It just shows how far I’ve come!

I wouldn’t say I’m fluent yet, but I can do all the basics. Understanding what people say to you is important, and undoubtedly the first step, but now I can not only understand what they’re saying to me… I can reply. My understanding was always pretty good (after visiting here regularly when we lived in England) but gone are the days when I completely freak out when people speak Dutch at me. That whole day, I didn’t speak a word of English.

Initially, a lot of my problem was having the confidence to speak Dutch (this is especially intimidating because Dutch people speak such good English)… but one day I just said to myself: “Fuck it”.

I will make mistakes, but it’s the only way I’m going to learn. And with that, I somehow just got over my fear. This makes me VERY happy as it’s opened up a whole new world of adventures! I love visiting new places with my husband or my friends, but I now I don’t HAVE to wait for them. If I have a day off and want to go somewhere on my own, I damn well can.

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So, like any good tourist, I took a whole bunch of photos. I can’t post them all here as you might lose the will to live… but I’m going to add my favourites at least. (That’s a lot, still. It’s Hoorn’s fault for being so damn gorgeous!!)

As you may have noticed, especially if you follow me on Instagram, I have a bit of an obsession with Street Art.

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And churches. (This particular beauty is Grote Kerk.)

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And skulls. (This one is Noorderkerk.)

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I visited the central square in Hoorn too, called de Roode Steen (The Red Stone) to check out the Westfries Museum. An amazingly impressive building, I’m afraid my photo just doesn’t do it justice though… as I was fighting with the sun the whole time (not that I’m complaining!) so you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!

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After more walking, admiring and photo taking I fancied a bite to eat and stumbled across Bagels & Beans on my way back to the train station. I remembered that the one in Hilversum had good reviews, so decided to give it a go. Turns out, it was a day of good choices. (Unfortunately it was a one-day-only special. I went to Haarlem the next day with the Dutchie and all of my good fortune had run out. It wasn’t a bad trip… but it was nowhere as good as mijn dagje uit in Hoorn!)

The hot chocolate comes – not as a hot chocolate – but as a mug of hot milk and a shot glass of chocolate buttons to make it yourself! Very novel! I also loved the ‘heaven & hell’ saucer!

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To accompany the best hot chocolate ever… I had a delicious Paddoburger van champignons (mushroom burger in a bagel) but I can’t post that picture now or I might chew my arm off.

Think I’d better go and make some lunch…

So, have you been to Hoorn? What did you think?

Hayley x

Ps – and now for a shitload of photos that didn’t fit into the post… but I don’t know what else to do with them. (I didn’t Photoshop any of these btw, so no idea what’s going on with the crazy variation in sky colours!)

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22 Dutch Foods You Must Try

Get your taste buds ready to sample some traditional Dutch food! In order to experience the Netherlands in an authentic way, you just HAVE to try traditional Dutch cuisines and specialties. So, here are the Top 22 Dutch foods you must try:

1. Haring (Hollandse Nieuwe) 

Ok, so herring isn’t that weird. But the Dutch like to eat it raw. To eat it the traditional way: tip your head back, grab the fish by the tail and bite upwards! Completely unglamorous, but fun! If this doesn’t appeal, it can be eaten in a bun, with or without optional extras: finely chopped onion and/or sliced gherkins. Eaten this way, it’s called a broodje haring.

Herring is available all year round, but if caught between May and July, it is referred to as Hollandse Nieuwe. The herring season starts every year with the traditional auction of the first tub of Nieuwe Haring. After that, herring may be sold everywhere and ‘herring feasts’ are organised in many towns and cities.

© Alix Guillard / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© Alix Guillard / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

2. Stroopwafels

Stroop = syrup/treacle and I’ll let you guess what wafel is 😉 This is Holland’s most famous pastry dish – quite rightly! A stroopwafel is made of two thin layers of baked dough/batter/waffley stuff with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. LEKKER! 

Stroopwafels

3. Drop

Dutch people love liquorice. So much so, they eat on average 2kg per person, per year! That’s (unsurprisingly) more than any other country in the world.

A word of warning: they also think it’s a funny game to try and feed it to unsuspecting foreigners! Kijk uit! (Watch out!)

Liquorice choices

© Autopilot / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

4. Friet / Frieten / Patat / Patatje 

Chips. These are all names for the same thing, depending on where in the Netherlands you live. There are also disagreements about what they’re called with different combinations of toppings, but it goes a little something like this:

  • Friet of patat met mayo: chips with mayonnaise
  • Patat met satésaus: chips with peanut sauce
  • Patatje oorlog: chips with a combination of peanut saté sauce, mayo and onions
  • Patat speciaal: chips with curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onion
  • I’ve given up caring… just give me some chips.

5. Frikandel

My nemesis. They do however belong on this list, because they are VERY popular in the Netherlands… and you should try everything once!

A frikandel is a long, thin, skinless, dark-coloured meat sausage. Usually eaten warm. They are often served with curry ketchup or mayonnaise, though some eat it with tomato ketchup, mustard or even apple sauce (!)

6. Oliebollen

(Literally: oil spheres) I got in a lot of trouble on a previous post for saying that they’re “basically doughnuts”! Dutch people are clearly very passionate about oliebollen and will defend them to within an inch of their life. So ok, I will amend my statement: they are similar to doughnuts…

The history of the origin of doughnuts is disputed, but one theory (the preferred theory for Dutch people) is that Dutch immigrants introduced them to the States, so if it’s true then it’s actually their fault that Americans have such high cholesterol. 😉

The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas or raisins. They’re then sprinkled with icing sugar. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten at New Year but there are oliebollen stands around for the whole festive period (so basically the whole of December).

Oliebollen

© Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

7. Kibbeling

Deep fried pieces of fish, I guess it’s Holland’s answer to fish and chips (if ordered with een portie patat). Originally cod cheeks were used – but due to high prices of cod, today you might be served off-cuts of cod or possibly even hake, pollock or whiting.

8. Poffertjes

These sweet little treats are popular in winter and you will often see dedicated Poffertje stalls and stands. Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes, served with powdered sugar and butter (yup, you read that right – butter!) and sometimes syrup.

9. Stamppot

Meaning “mash pot”. Stamppot consists of (lumpy) mashed potato with vegetables of your choice thrown in. Popular vegetable choices include sauerkraut, spinach, swede, carrot, onion and kale (with kale it is known as boerenkool). Stamppot is often served with rookworst (smoked sausage) and/or bacon lardons.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also get gravy: make a small hole in mash and fill it with gravy, known in Dutch as a kuiltje jus (little gravy pit).

Stamppot

10. Erwtensoep (of Snert)

Pea soup. Typically made from dried peas, such as the split pea. A bit like English pea soup… but better!

11. Speculaas

Spiced shortcrust biscuit, served around Sinterklaas time. Dutch people go wild for it. You can also get spreadable versions, with a peanut butter kind of consistency. Niet mijn ding. (Not my thing) but each to their own and all that.

12. Hagelslag

… or sprinkles as we call them in England. Not that weird, on top of your ice cream, but the Dutch eat this on bread, with butter, for breakfast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you really want to fit in, give it a go!

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13. Filet Americain

This has a bit of a Marmite reputation: you either love it or hate it (probably more do to with the associated health risks than the taste!) Personally, I bloody love the stuff!

It’s like a steak tartare, but in spread form. A sandwich spread, if you will. Normally served raw on bread with onion, and if you’re feeling a bit fancy – add mayonnaise and a hard boiled egg.

14. Appeltaart

Apple pie is an English thing, dating back hundreds of years but it’s also popular with the Dutch, Swedes and of course the Americans. Dutch appeltaart (apple tart) is hugely popular and a different variation of what you’ve had a home, so worth giving a go!

15. Vlammetjes

One of The Dutchie’s absolute favourites – he missed these loads when we lived in England. Vlammetjes translates as ‘little flames’.  Spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried, normally served with sweet chilli sauce. (The things sandwiched between the bitterballen!)

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16. Ossenworst

Originally made of ox meat, hence the name, this raw beef sausage originated in Amsterdam and is often served with Amsterdamse uitjes (Amsterdam onions) which are onions pickled with turmeric or saffron to give them the yellow colouring.

17. Pannenkoeken

Dutch pancakes are much larger and thinner than American or Scotch pancakes. They can come sweet or savoury and are offered with a gazillion topping options.

Pannenkoeken are so popular here that there are tons of dedicated pancake restaurants throughout the Netherlands. The only choice you need to make is what to put on it!

18. Kapsalon 

Try this after the pub, when you’ve had a belly full of beer.

Kapsalon: chips, kebab meat or shawarma with cheese – normally Gouda. It is often served with a dressed salad, garlic sauce and a hot sauce or sambal. In my opinion… the yummiest kebab possible. Kapsalon also means hairdresser or hairdressing salon, after the creator – a hairdresser from Rotterdam!

19. Kroketten

Similar to bitterballen but cylindrical in shape. (Bitterballen are better.) They come in a variety of fillings: beef, pork, satay sauce (peanut sauce), vegetable, potato, shrimp/prawn… make sure you know what you’re getting as they all look the same! Sold almost anywhere, in supermarkets, restaurants, snack bars and even in McDonald’s.

20. Kaas

The Dutch are famous for their cheese. Obviously – it’s amazing! The best known is Gouda, followed by Edam and Leerdammer (the trademarked name, thought it is often just called Maasdam).

You’ll struggle not to try cheese in the Netherlands… it’s everywhere! The best places to sample different cheeses are specialist cheese shops, or alternatively, most pubs will have cheese on their bar snack menu. Go for the oude kaas (literally: old cheese).

© kaasmisdrijf / Creative Commons / CC-BY-2.5

© kaasmisdrijf / Creative Commons / CC-BY-2.5

21. Smeerkaas sambal

I can’t let the occasion pass without mentioning my personal favourite spreadable substance… ok I lied, that’s Marmite. My second favourite then. Spread cheese with sambal (a hot sauce made from chilli peppers). It’s amaaaaaaazing.

22. Bitterballen

And last but certainly not least… I can’t miss off my precious deep-fried balls of heaven!

THE best borrelhapje (bar snack) imaginable.

(New here? Want to know what bitterballen are?)

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What’s YOUR favourite Dutch food? Anything missing from this list?

Hayley x

Vier Porties Bitterballen, Graag – A weekend of gluttony

Four portions of bitterballen, please – Een weekend vol vraatzucht

Last weekend, we had friends over from England, so despite my suggestions of a day in Utrecht or Gouda, they were fixed on Amsterdam. No surprises there. So when in Amsterdam… do as the Amsterdammers do. We took them for bitterballen… and they were perhaps the best bitterballen I’ve tasted thus far!!!

Saturday (Valentine’s Day) 

We went to the SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam (cor, that’s a mouthful!) because it’s close to the station and THE VIEW… oh, THE VIEW! Undoubtedly one of the best views in Amsterdam. My Dutch friend introduced me to this place last summer but told me I had to keep it a secret… however a) I asked her permission before posting this and b) if you Google ‘best views in Amsterdam’ it comes up anyway… so…

Yeah, the SkyLounge. (Other sky bars are available.)

This place is ultra-swanky, so when paying €8.50 for 6 bitterballen: they’d better be damn good! And that they were! Seriously posh bitterballen – they tasted homemade. So I’ll give them my highest score so far – 9.5/10 with half a point being deducted due to the price. (Ha! Look at me being all Dutch!)

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After devouring our borrelhapjes we set off towards Woo Brothers on Jodenbreestraat. We’ve been here once before for their Asian fusion food (with the same friend – her choice) and yet again, they didn’t disappoint. Here’s their sashimi platter, plus marinated oysters just to the right. Mmmmmmmmmm…

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I love that this place is full of locals and the tourists haven’t cottoned on yet. It’s quite young, hip and trendy (and I realise I sound completely old, unhip and untrendy just by saying that) and the prices reflect the outstanding quality of food. It’s not crazy-expensive, but it’s not cheap either. Here, you definitely get what you pay for.

We had to take an early dinner slot as it was Valentine’s day and they were fully booked after 7.15pm (unsurprisingly – so best to book in advance if you want to eat here). Food tips: the oysters, salt and pepper squid and the soft shelled crab are all finger-lickin’-good!

At the end of the evening – and I have no idea how they managed it – but my friends wanted to order a waffle, so we took them to Delicious on Nieuwmarkt square. Along with The Dutchie, they had a huge waffle, ice cream AND cream each. I didn’t take a photo as I might just have split my stomach in the process!!

Sunday (Tour d’amour)

We were back in the Dam again on Sunday for a Tour d’amour of the Rijksmuseum. A (Dutch) friend of ours is a tour guide, so this was her wedding gift to us. All together now: “ahhhhhhh”.

We went with the Dutchie’s family and some friends, 11 of us in total, and learnt about many of the lesser known paintings in the museum, all with the theme of love.

The tour ended with De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch). Not really about love, but you can’t go to the Rijksmuseum and not visit the most famous painting there, right?

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[Want to see more Rijksmuseum pics? Check out my Instagram account.]

Back to the food: we visited Cafe Loetje which is around a 5 min walk from the Rijksmuseum. (They have seven branches in total, the one we went to was on Johannes Vermeerstraat).

“Specialty steaks & classical Dutch dishes are served at this bustling cafe with a shaded terrace.” Right you are, Google.

So, what did we order? More bitterballen!!! 🙂 I feel full just looking at this picture…

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They look the same, but in fact: the bitterballen on the left are gewoon bitterballen (normal bitterballen) and the ones on the right are garnalen bitterballen (prawns!) In the middle you see vlammetjes! (Spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried.)

These bitterballen get 8/10. Love the flags, a really cute touch! But the colouring is too dark and they’re not round! 10/10 for taste though, especially the prawn bad boys!

After the sharing platter (which we shared with the whole table, not just us fatties), the Dutchie had a ‘Bali’ steak, served with a special hot sauce – this place is famous for its steaks, so it had to be done! I went for the slightly less adventurous Pastrami club sandwich. All in all: good grub, good service and the place had a really friendly atmosphere.

And, when the bill came? We went Dutch!! (Everyone paid their own bill.) What else? 😉

A weekend of pure gluttony. Oh… and this coming weekend I have another friend coming over from England! Eat, Sleep, Bitterballen, Repeat. Poor me, eh?

We’re probably going to try Brouwerij ‘t IJ but if you have any other ideas or inspiration, please let me know in the comments below! Thanks!

Hayley x

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5 Peculiar Things You May Find In A Dutch Bathroom

Don’t worry, no toilet humour here. I’m not going to let this get (too) gross… just pointing out five things that you may find in a Dutch toilet or bathroom that you’re not quite used to…

1. Old faithful, the Toilet Calendar

Toilet Calendar

Go into any Dutch person’s toilet and the thing you are most likely to see is a calendar hanging on the back of the door. This is not any ordinary calendar. It is the Dutch birthday calendar or verjaardagskalendar

Never forget a birthday again! What with the Dutch being so tight I mean, thrifty, this calendar is perpetual so it doesn’t have any days of the week or years. That way, they can use it year after year without the need to replace it. After all, people’s birthdays don’t change – so it’s very Dutch, very logical.

And why in the bathroom (or toilet!) I hear you ask!? Well, without going into detail… it’s a place where you go every day and have some time and space… Kinda makes sense, don’t you think? Forget the hallway or kitchen – toilet calendars are the way forward!

2. A tiny sink with only cold water

Thriftiness strikes again. Dutch toilets are often separate from the bathroom, and they’re tiny. You have just enough space to squeeze in, spin around and plonk yourself down. No square metres are wasted here.

Do your business, then wash your hands… in the tiniest sink you’ve ever seen. Wanna kill bacteria? Get pumping on that handwash! You sure as shit aren’t going to kill any germs with the water… there’s no hot tap.

3. Inspection shelf toilet

Ok, this is a bit gross. But before you ask… I am sooooo not putting a picture of one of these on my blog. So if you wanna see a photo (you sicko) then just Google image ‘inspection shelf toilet’.

Otherwise, use your imagination. Think about the bowl of a toilet. There’s the ‘normal’ hole filled water but instead of being in the centre of the bowl, it’s at the front. At the back of the bowl, instead of sloping upwards gradually – there’s a porcelain shelf.

So you go to the loo, it lands on the shelf. Then when you’re done ‘inspecting’ – you flush it off the shelf. Apparently a German invention… and quite frankly, not one of their better ones!

4. Scheurkalender

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In addition to a birthday calendar, you might also find a scheurkalender  (literally meaning tear calendar) which comes in the form of block of single sheets, almost like a notepad, for you to read and then rip off every day.

These calendars are normally funny and entertaining… or at the very least educational 😉 The idea is that you learn something new every day… or at least get a laugh…

The Dutch obviously like to keep busy when they’re on the throne!

5. Washer and Dryer

I’ve seen this in Norway too and I’m sure other countries do it… but Dutch people often have their washing machine and tumble dryer in the bathroom.

Often they’re stacked on top of one another to save space. Typically, in England, you’d find this equipment in the kitchen, but I like the Dutch way much better! Means there’s more room in the kitchen for an oven and dishwasher!

So, anything missing from this list? Are there any other strange quirks you’ve noticed about Dutch bathrooms / toilets?

Hayley x

You Know You’re Becoming Dutch When…

© in pastel / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© in pastel / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

If you have lived in the Netherlands for a certain amount of time, you may find yourself exhibiting some strange new habits. Be warned: You are becoming Dutch! Here are some signs to watch out for:

1. Air raid sirens. At midday on the first Monday of the month, you no longer jump out of your skin when the emergency alarms are tested.

2. Chocolate for breakfast. Chocolate sprinkles on bread, with butter is an acceptable (and preferred) breakfast option!!

3. Advanced cycling. You are able to ride your bike whilst doing one or more of the following: texting on your phone, rolling a cigarette, holding an umbrella, carrying 23 bags of shopping, a case of beer, an item larger than yourself, 3 children.

4. Pro cycling. You are also perfectly capable of cycling whilst stoned, inebriated, or both.

5. Windmills. There are no excited yelps or screams in the car when passing a windmill.

6. Calcium-rich lunch. You consider bread, cheese and a glass of milk a satisfying and well-balanced lunch.

7. Oranjegekte. You not only love the colour orange, you possess a box dedicated to orange clothing and accessories, used once a year in April and during major sporting events.

8. Net curtains. You don’t own them.

9. The Guttural Dutch G. You can confidently pronounce Gefeliciteerd without it hurting your throat or spraying people with saliva.

10. Birthday parties. It’s your male friend’s birthday. You congratulate his partner, son, daughter, his mother and father, plus his brothers and sisters. Oh, and his neighbour.

11. Doe normaal! You have unintentionally uttered one or more of the following phrases: Doe normaal! Ja, hoor! Het was gezellig! Helaas Pindakaas! Wat jammer! Wat een kutweer!!!

12. Lekker. When eating something delicious, you wave frantically at your own face.

13. Love for camping. When asked about your holiday plans, “I’m going to a camping” (note the countable noun) is the most commonly adopted answer.

14. Stamppot. For dinner, you are particularly fond of lumpy mashed potato, mashed vegetables and a U-shaped boiled sausage.

15. Pepernoten. In December, you enjoy having nuts thrown at you.

How Dutch are you? Anything else to add to the list?

Hayley x

Kijk, Mam! Ik sta in de krant!

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If you live in Hilversum and receive the Hilversums Nieuws, today you will see me on page… 5!! (Ok, ok, the OnderOns feature is always on page 5, but I’m easily pleased.)

If you don’t… then here’s the full text:

OnderOns
Naam: Hayley alias Bitterballenbruid
Leeftijd: 32
Beroep: Marketing Manager
Hilversumse sinds: April 2014

Wat doe je in het dagelijks leven?
Ik werk thuis als Marketing Manager voor een Engels bedrijf. In mijn vrije tijd zwem ik, wandel ik op de (Hilversumse) hei en schrijf ik aan mijn blog.

Je blogt. Waar gaat Bitterballenbruid over?
Mijn blog gaat over een expat zijn in Nederland, Nederlands leren, jullie rare gewoontes en te veel bitterballen eten.

Grootste verschil tussen wonen in Southampton en Hilversum?
Mijn leven in een andere taal leven, hele kleine supermarkten (in Engeland zijn ze kolossaal), al die fietsen en veel mensen die parttime werken.

Fish or chips of bitterballen?
Dat is een heel moeilijk vraag, maar ik moet bitterballen zeggen natuurlijk!

Thee of koffie?
Thee, met melk, maar alleen één kopje per dag! Ik drink bijna nooit koffie.

Mooiste plek van Hilversum?
Dat moet de Hilversumse Hei zijn. Ik vind het Beeld en Geluid gebouw ook supermooi!

Waar ga je heen in Hilversum als je uitgaat?
Eerst naar een Japans restaurant (Sumo of Aiuchi) en dan een paar drankjes in The Guardian, Felix II of Karroesel.

Wat pak je aan als je een dagje burgemeester van Hilversum bent?
Nationale Bitterballendag introduceren!

Wat kijk je graag op televisie?
Mijn guilty pleasure is Keeping Up With The Kardasians! Ik kijk ook graag naar Moto GP en Masterchef Holland, UK en Australië.

Naar welke muziek luister je?
Nou, dat is een vraag! Ik ben een enorme muziek fan, dus waar begin ik?! Heel veel bands met ‘The’: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, The Vaccines, The Savages, The Kooks, The Strokes en Arctic Monkeys. Jake Bugg is ook een superleuke tip! Oeh, en niet te vergeten de nationale parel: Anouk.

Waar mag je voor wakker gemaakt worden?
Bitterballen en nieuwe schoenen, graag!

*****

En nu, in het Engels (and now, in English).

What do you do in your daily life?
I work at home as a Marketing Manager for an English company. In my free time I swim, I walk in the Hilversumse Hei (Hilversum Heathland) and I write my blog.

You blog. What is your blog about?
My blog is about being an expat in the Netherlands, learning Dutch, your weird habits and eating way too many bitterballen!

Biggest difference between living in Southampton and Hilversum?
Living my life in a different language, small supermarkets (in England they’re HUGE) all the bikes and so many people working part time.

Fish and chips or bitterballen?
That’s a really hard question, but I have to say bitterballen of course!

Tea of coffee?
Tea, with milk, but only one cup per day. I hardly ever drink coffee.

Most beautiful place in Hilversum?
That has to be the Hilversumse Hei. I also think the Beeld and Geluid building is extremely beautiful.

Where do you go out in Hilversum?
First to a Japanese restaurant and then a few drinks in a bar. (The Guardian is an English pub, Felix II and Karroesel are Dutch bars.)

What would you do if you were the Mayor of Hilversum for the day?
Introduce National Bitterballen Day!

What do you like watching on TV?
My guilty pleasure is Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I also like watching Moto GP, and Masterchef UK, Holland and Australia.

What music do you listen to?
Now, that is a hard question! I’m a huge music fan, so where do I start?! A lot of bands with ‘The’: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, The Vaccines, The Savages, The Kooks, The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. Jake Bugg is also a good tip. Oh, and not forgetting your national treasure: Anouk.

What would you get out of bed for?
Bitterballen and new shoes, please!

I want to know more about YOU! Care to pick a question from the above and answer it about yourself?

Hayley x

Gezellig

Normally, I translate any Dutch words I use on the blog by putting the English translation in brackets directly afterwards. But with this particular word, that is an impossible task.

So much so, that it requires a whole blog post!

Gezellig

“Cosy” I hear you say…

Is it probably the closest translation? Yes. But (and it’s a big but!) gezellig is sooooo much more than that…

In addition to “cosy” just not cutting the mustard, an English speaker wouldn’t use the word cosy in the same context as Dutch people use gezellig. You would never hear an English person say, “That was a really cosy evening.” EVER.

“Comfortable”

That’s another close one. Close, but no cigar. Sure, in some instances, you could use comfortable… but “That was a really comfortable evening.” NOPE.

“Fun”

Again, close, but if it was ONLY fun, you’d say “het was leuk” (it was fun). Gezellig is on another level.

Gezellig is gewoon gezellig.

Here are some comments from the blog on this subject:

Rody de Groot: The word ‘Gezellig’ cannot be translated to any language in the world with the same meaning as ‘Gezellig’ means in Holland. It’s a typical Dutch word. Guess we invented ‘Gezelligheid’…

Sloeberjong: Lekker is used a lot, but I do keep wondering when your blog about “gezelligheid” will premier. It’ll be a challenge to explain that to non-Dutchies!

Tanja: No translation is proper for the word gezellig, it means that people are having a good time, but it can also mean that your house looks cosy, or comfortable. Or if people do not get along that is ongezellig.

Thomas Gresnich: What I miss is the word “gezellig”, meaning something like cosy. Everything is “gezellig”, like: come for a gezellig kopje koffie. Are you coming tonight? Ja, gezellig. How was the party? Very gezellig. Why don’t you stop smoking? I find it so gezelllig, een sigaretje (a cigarette).

Rockerriert: Cosy is only part of the meaning of gezellig. There’s no English word that covers the whole meaning.

So, just what does this word mean?

Replace gezellig with cosy, comfortable, fun or even convivial and you only have PART of the meaning. The only way I can find to explain it without having experienced yourself is with examples:

As Thomas says: People, places, buildings, parties and situations can be gezellig:

  • Utrecht is zo gezellig.” (In this context could mean quaint, enjoyable, pleasurable – or a combination!)
  • Pieter’s feestje was echt gezellig.” (Pieter’s party was really awesome, had a great atmosphere, was spent in great company.)
  • “Marcel is een gezellige man.” (Possible meanings: entertaining, friendly, pleasant.)

The atmosphere (at a pub, for example) can be gezellig.  That feeling of a pleasant, friendly ambience and having a good time.

It can also refer to the notion of belonging, time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long time apart, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling.

Hey, even smoking can be gezellig!

It encompasses such a broad range of descriptions, emotions and uses that it simply cannot be translated to any other language in one word.

And what’s this Gezelligheid you speak of?

Gezellig is the adjective form and Gezelligheid is an abstract noun. So adding -heid roughly translates to -ness: coziness, togetherness, gezelligness.

Dus, ik zei het nog een keer: gezellig is gewoon gezellig.

So, I’ll say it again: gezellig is just gezellig.

Come to the Netherlands and experience it for yourself! Lijkt me gezellig!

Hayley x

Things to do in Hilversum: Beeld en Geluid

At the weekend we visited the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid  (The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) in Media Park, Hilversum. The Institute collects, looks after, and provides access to over 70% of Dutch audio-visual heritage! It’s also a museum, offering an unprecedented amount of (Dutch) sound and screen history to its visitors. Lucky us!!

I’ve been wanting to visit since we first moved to Hilversum because 1. it’s where the Top 2000 cafe is stationed in December (!!) and 2. it has such great reviews on my beloved Trip Advisor!

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

But first of all, let’s just take a moment to appreciate HOW DAMN GORGEOUS this building is!! It was built in 2006, despite looking as if it was built in 2036, by Dutch artchitects Willem-Jan Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk. I’m not sure how exactly they came up with it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on some mind-bending drugs at the time! 😉

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When you enter the building, it just keeps on getting better and better. This seriously has to be one of the most beautiful modern buildings in the Netherlands, or even Europe.

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Interior view, Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum

Interior view, Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum

Once we’d finished oohing and aahing, it was time to collect our entry tickets – which turned out to be interactive rings! How very modern!

fh

Space age rings!!

As you enter the museum there are a number of interactive stations where you scan your ring and enter your name and email address. The idea is that you then scan your ring on each of the interactive exhibits and at the end of your visit you are sent a special personalised page of your visit including photos and video clips. You can also elect which ‘tour guide’ you would like to take you through your journey of the museum, from a number of options. I assume they are all Dutch celebrities, but being English, I didn’t recognise any of them (oops!) so I chose “Rembrandt” the only English-speaking guide.

My tour guide, Rembrandt

My tour guide, Rembrandt

By the way… it’s worth noting at this point that apart from the tour guide, all of the other attractions and exhibits are in Dutch. So if you don’t understand Dutch, it will be difficult for you to fully appreciate the museum. I would therefore only recommend it for Dutch-speakers.

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The magnificent building is split over four floors (yup, it’s kinda like a tardis!) with the majority of the exhibits on the top two floors. The top floor is known as ‘Experience’ and is made up of 16 different themes including Animal Crackers, Sterrenshow (Stars Show – about Dutch stars of sound and screen), POP studio, Macht en Media (Power and Media) and Dit is het nieuws (This is the news).

My favourite was Ben ik in beeld  (I’m in the picture) because you get to do stupid stuff! There’s a ceiling mounted camera pointing at the floor (which is decorated like a living room) so you just lie on the floor and strike a pose – to make it look like you’re upside down in the pictures. Leuk! 

If you were to visit every single exhibit and log in to every interactive station, you could seriously spend the whole day here. Luckily, it’s open from 10.00am – 5.30pm (from Tuesday – Sunday) so knock yourself out!

Maak het nieuws - Make the news

Maak het nieuws – Make the news

A large area of the museum is dedicated to Tijdelijke tentoonstelling (temporary exhibition(s). Currently, it is Voorbij het nieuws (Beyond the news) a special exhibition showing personal stories from journalists and editors talking about the choices they made in the reporting of particular stories. Unfortunately, most of it went over my head!

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Checking out Voorbij het nieuws

Checking out Voorbij het nieuws

In total, we spent a good couple of hours at the museum, but I think if you were with kids, you could spend soooo much longer. There are so many things to see and do, for grown ups too (you could spend a whole day just watching old archived TV shows if you had the time or the inclination!) but I think the interactivity works particularly well for children. They were into everything and didn’t want to miss a thing. A brilliant place to take ankle biters, especially on a rainy day.

And if you get hungry or thirsty during your trip? There’s an ultra modern cafe – what else!?

Cafe, Beeld en Geluid

Cafe, Beeld en Geluid

We’d already eaten, so we just grabbed a drink and sat on the terrace (yup, even in January!!)

We also couldn’t leave without a quick visit to the gift shop, where we bought, among other trinkets… TOP 2000 PHONE CASES!!! Reasonably priced too, at just €6 each. My life is now complete! 😉

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Want to visit for yourself?

THE LOWDOWN:
ADDRESS: Media Parkboulevard 1, 1217 WE Hilversum
OPENING TIMES: Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00am – 17.30pm. Closed Mondays.
PRICE: Adults: €15, Children 6 – 12: €8, Children 5 and younger: Free.
PARKING: Underground car park. €1,50 an hour with a maximum of € 7,50 a day. Limited disabled spaces.
MORE INFO: Beeld en Geluid website (Also available in English.)

If you’ve already been – what was your favourite bit?

Hayley x

PS – for loads more photos I took at Beeld en Geluid, see my Pinterest Board.

PPS – we were given two entry tickets rings to the museum, but all other costs were covered personally.