The Van Gogh Museum is an internationally renowned museum with over 200 paintings by the famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, the largest collection in the world. It is situated at the Museumplein in Amsterdam, where you can also find the Stedelijk Museum (modern art) and the Rijksmuseum. In one of our largest nature parks, de Hoge Veluwe, you can also find a large collection of Van Gogh paintings. Read more about the Van Goghmuseum.
Following ISHS2014 there is a wonderful jazz festival with great music. Celebreties from jazz and other styles present themselves from 11-13 July in Ahoy Rotterdam. Read more about this event.
The conference organisation would in no way promote the (excessive) consumption of soft drugs. Nevertheless, we do believe that it is important to know some basic facts and legislation about how things work in the Netherlands. Contrary to some other countries it is possible to use soft drugs in The Netherlands. They are considered relatively harmless when used in limited quantities and frequencies – some even say alcohol is much more dangerous because of its adverse effects. However, dealing and producing soft drugs is strictly prohibited. Soft drugs can only be obtained in so-called coffee shops (you’d better drink coffee in other restaurants – we also have Starbucks ;.). Dutch soft drugs can be pretty strong, compared to other countries. If you as a foreiger would want to use these drugs, please take care about these issues and ask around in the coffeshops. For an explanation of Dutch legislation, please click on this link.
During this week’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague many world leaders visited The Netherlands. One of them was Barack Obama, the president of the United States. Together with Wim Pijbes (Museum director) and prime minister Mark Rutte (see picture on the left) he visited the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, including the Nightwatch by Rembrandt van Rijn. If you come to our conference, please follow Barack. The Rijksmuseum has a huge collection of fine art worth while seeing. After the conference we will try and create an opportunity for ISHS2014 participants to visit Amsterdam.
The complexities of the Dutch state and its organisation are expressed well and witty in this YouTube item. Courtesy of Joost Raessens.
Dutch mayonnaise is in one of the dialogues of Pulp Fiction (1994). In the scene Vincent (left) and Jules (right) drive in their car and have the following dialogue:
“Vincent: You know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
Vincent: I’ve seen ’em do it, man. They fuckin’ drown ’em in that shit.”
Vincent is right. We and the Belgians use mayonnaise on our French fries. And we are loving it. Give it a try when you are here.
Living in The Netherlands is probably quite different from living in the United States or Australia. Many of our homes are built in brick, whereas in the US the main construction material is wood. One reason for this is the fierce climate there, with tornados and winter storms. Wood makes it easy to rebuild your home. The much milder sea climate of The Netherlands makes it more feasible to build homes from sturdier materials. Using the abundance of water, Utrecht also has a high number of water homes. Recently, floating homes (see picture on left) have been created in The Netherlands. These houses float and are thus able to follow the tides in Dutch waters.
Yesterday evening, December 5th, it was Saint Nicholas Eve, in Dutch: Sinterklaasavond. This is a typically Dutch tradition. Saint Nicholas and his black servants (on right) give presents to children. The celebration is also honoured by adults, though. In this case, presents are given to other adults and older kids, usually in a funny form, with poems written with a mildly critical or funny tone. It is a big thing in The Netherlands, but other northern European countries have comparable traditions. Christmas is also celebrated by the Dutch, but it is not as big a thing as in the Anglosaxon countries (Sint en Pieten van Sint op zijn Best, also see www.sintopzijnbest.nl, Copyright Sint op zijn Best). Read more about Sinterklaas.
The Dutch have a complex political system. Usually, single political parties do not have the absolute majority. This means that – like in Germany – governments are formed that are supported by different political parties from different backgrounds, like socialist, liberal, liberal democrat or christian. Currently our goverment consists of ministers from the liberal party and the socialist party. The prime minister, Mark Rutte, is from the liberals. Traditionally, each of the coalition parties serves the interests of different groups in society. The socialists are known to be in support of workers and the poor, whereas the liberals are in support of entrepreneurs. Although there have been tensions all the time, this government still holds. Since The Netherlands is a democracy, the government makes laws, which have to be approved by the parliament. These two basic powers are completed with the third power, the administration of justice. they apply the laws and do justice in the case of crime and conflicts. The role of the recently appointed king, Willem-Alexander (left, on the coin), is a special one. He is not a member of government and has a mainly ceremonial role. However, he is sometimes asked to play a mediating role (when he was in Russia, he probably talked to president Poetin about the release of the crew of the Arctic Sunrise). Also, he supports Dutch companies during trade missions that he has with his originally Argentinian queen, Maxima.
The name of the Netherlands and of Holland both refer to the fact that a lot of land mass in The Netherlands is below sea level. This means that the Dutch have a complicated relationship towards water. On the one hand, water from both the sea and the big rivers passing our country threatens the Dutch and their society. This also has a positive side, because Dutch water engineering and water management is currently considered one of the best in the world. Dutch water engineering can be seen in some famous waterworks, for example the Oosterscheldekering in Zeeland (see picture on left). This is a nine-kilometer water barrier which can be opened and closed. In quiet conditions the barrier is open, allowing sea life to travel to and from the sea. When the sea is wild and high the barrier is closed, to protect the country behind it. The other danger the Dutch have to protect themselves against, is river water. Big rivers like the Rhine can overflow, requiring high dykes. Another solution that is currently experimented with, is to give way to excess water by letting land flood in a controlled way. The Netherlands is full of water: not only rivers and the sea, but also inlets, canals and lakes. If you want to explore Utrecht, a canal cruise is very entertaining and interesting to learn more about our beautiful city. A similar thing one can do in Amsterdam or Rotterdam (especially its harbour area).