April 13, 2021

Zwolle liberator to get motorway named after him

Filed under: History by Orangemaster @ 4:38 pm

On this day in 1945, Léo Major, the French Canadian soldier who single-handedly freed freed Zwolle, Overijssel, will have a 3.5 kilometre large section of motorway 371 in Québec named after him, starting at the entrance of the Valcartier military base Northwest of Québec City, Québec, Canada.

Léo Major was given his first medal, the Distinguished Conduct Medal of the British Army, the only Canadian and one of only three soldiers in the British Commonwealth to ever receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal twice in separate wars. Major went on to pull some more great moves in the Korean War. His friend Wilfrid Arseneault was given a Bronze Lion posthumously in 1970 by Dutch Queen Juliana.

(Link: lapresse.ca, Photo: Wikipedia)

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July 28, 2019

Swimmer Marcel Schouten wins big lake crossing

Filed under: Sports by Orangemaster @ 1:12 pm

On 27 July Dutch swimmer Marcel Schouten took first place at the 65th ‘Traversé internationale du lac Saint-Jean’ (‘International crossing of Lake St. Jean’), a big lake and area of the Province of Quebec in Canada. It’s where a lot of wild blueberries come from and a lot of classic Quebec recipes as well.

The Christopher Deegan of Australia took second place, and third place was nabbed by Matias Diaz Hernandez of Argentina. On his Twitter feed, Schouten was congratulated for ‘rocking at the 5th stage of the FINA/HOSA Marathon Swim Series in Lac St. Jean’ by FINA, the Fédération internationale de natation (‘International Swimming Federation’). Last year’s winner, Edoardo Stochino of Italy, came in fourth.

My family saw this news go by and thought it would be good for us, so here it is.

(Link: ici.radio-canada.ca, Photo looking across the nearby Wolderwijd from Harderwijk to Zeewolde, Flevoland, by Sjaak Kempe, some rights reserved)

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January 7, 2019

‘Roundabout with pizza cutter needs pineapples’

Filed under: Art,Automobiles,Food & Drink,Weird by Orangemaster @ 1:37 pm

Dutch journalist Lex Boon has just published a book called ‘Ananas’ (‘Pineapple’) about his love of pineapples. In his hometown of Beverwijk, North Holland, there’s a roundabout with a pizza cutter as art.

Boon figured the roundabout could conveniently use a new name and a new look: “My dream is to rename this pizza roundabout’ the ‘Pizza Hawaï Rotonde’ (‘Hawaiian Pizza Roundabout’) as a tribute to the pineapple.”

Putting pineapple on a pizza was a Canadian ‘invention’, thanks to Greek-born Canadian, Sam Panopoulos from Ontario, Canada. Follow the Wikipedia link and read the recent story about Canadian Prime Minister and the President of Iceland ‘debating’ the issue of whether pineapple belongs on pizza.

Boon also interviewed Panopoulos for his book, surely before the summer of 2017 when the latter passed away. The pizza cutter is not an officially commissioned art work, it’s advertisement for a local pizza parlour. Boon would love to see that thing full with piece of pineapple at some point.

I’m off for lunch.

(Link: nhnieuws.nl, Photo of Pizza pie without pineapple by Adam Kuban, some rights reserved)

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November 11, 2018

First World War in the Netherlands: neutrality and sweets

Filed under: History by Orangemaster @ 11:22 am

While Dutch children celebrate Sint-Maarten, knocking door to door at night, carrying hand-made lanterns and singing songs for sweets (sounds familiar?), a Canadian like me sees 11 November as Remembrance Day, the day we commemorate the millions of fallen during the First World War.

The Dutch were neutral during the First World War. When brought up in casual conversation, most people politely shrug and move the conversation to the Second World War, as if the first didn’t concern them, when it fact, they know very little about it. As well, the War of 1914-1918 wasn’t called the first until the second came because having a first meant a second was coming.

Available online for free under the Creative Commons license, why not read a Dutch take on the First World War, this one entitled “The Art of Staying Neutral: The Netherlands in the First World War, 1914-1918” by Maartje M. Abbenhuis. Abbenhuis explains that even though the Netherlands’ neutrality was maintained, they still feared an invasion, they still sent men to the front, they still had to watch the destruction in Belgium and France, they had to deal with rations and become a fertile breeding ground for spies, including figures like their very own Mata Hari.

Today, it’s been 100 years since the First World War. Sorry kids, I won’t be home to give you sweets, I’ll be reading.

(Photo: Photo of Poppies by Eric Hill, some rights reserved)

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July 6, 2018

The French Canadian soldier who freed Zwolle

Filed under: History by Orangemaster @ 2:40 pm

At lunch, before stepping into a plane back to the Netherlands from Canada, I was told about the story of Léo Major, a French Canadian soldier of the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces who single-handedly freed the Dutch city of Zwolle, and other places, with some unbelievable tactics.

Léo Major of Longueuil, Québec was a corporal who refused to move up in rank despite his brilliant moves. He pulled off stuff without consulting his superiors and made bluffs work that nobody else would have come up with. He pretty much freelanced and the army just let him because he was brave and smart.

During WWII, Zwolle, Overijssel was surrounded by German troops and the 22nd Regiment that was trying to recapture it were failing miserably, losing dozens of soldiers every day. Léo Major and his best friend Wilfrid Arseneault volunteered to go and find out where the Germans were positioned to try and improve their situation.

At nightfall the pair went to the farm of the Van Gerner family who tried to explain in Dutch that the forest was full of Germans. Shortly after, Arseneault was shot, his stomach full of bullet holes, as explained by Major himself in the video below. Major, determined to complete the mission left his best friend behind and pressed on.

Major entered Zwolle and attacked German patrols and ran through the streets throwing grenades to convince the enemy that Canadian troops were marching in, and it worked. He captured entire troops of 8-10 Germans who let themselves be delivered to the 22nd Regiment outside the city, believing the city was under attack. Major kept going back to Zwolle to pull the same tactic over and over. He even set fire to Gestapo headquarters.

At dawn, he realised that the last German troops had left the city and that Zwolle was free. After making sure the city knew they were liberated, Major went to pick up the corpse of his friend that he brought to the Van Gerner farm for safe keeping until the burial. Later that morning, Canadian troops marched into the city and the residents of Zwolle finally saw that they were liberated.

Léo Major was given his first medal, the Distinguished Conduct Medal of the British Army, the only Canadian and one of only three soldiers in the British Commonwealth to ever receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal twice in separate wars. Major went on to pull some more great moves in the Korean War. His friend Wilfrid Arseneault was given a Bronze Lion posthumously in 1970 by Queen Juliana.

This YouTube video features Léo Major himself in English on Zwolle television, with parts translated into Dutch.

(Photos: Wikipedia)

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April 26, 2016

Tourists still missing King’s Day due to date change

Filed under: General,History by Orangemaster @ 11:06 am


Three years into the switch from Queen Beatrix to King Willem-Alexander and from 30 April to 27 April (26 April if it’s a Sunday), tourists are apparently still booking holidays for King’s Day three days too late based on crappy intel, and booking agencies aren’t exactly warning them. Why would tourists have any reason to think a national holiday has moved back three days?

I was talking to my best friend in Québec on the phone recently, telling her about how royally excited I get about the flea market that is the Netherlands on King’s Day. I explained the tourists mishaps that keep happening and she said “what kind of country changes the day of a national holiday?” A country that celebrates it on the birthday of their King or Queen, rather than a set date. Canada Day is celebrated on July 1 for the signing of the British North American act in 1867, so the only moving going on on that date is the Province of Québec (follow the link to get the joke, you’ll thank me).

As luck will have it, Wim-Lex just happens to have his birthday close to 30 April, on 27 April, so that was an easy move. However, the date did not move for Queen Beatrix because her birthday is in January, so we’re inconsistently consistent. According to Wikipedia, on Princess Wilhelmina’s accession to the throne in November 1890 the holiday became ‘Koninginnedag’ (‘Queen’s Day’), first celebrated on 31 August 1891. In September 1948, Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana ascended to the throne and the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana’s birthday, 30 April. The holiday was celebrated on this date from 1949 until 2013.

Moving the holiday wasn’t new, but it hadn’t been moved in a while and moves when it’s easier, a bit like in the Province of Québec.

(Link: www.waarmaarraar.nl)

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February 18, 2014

Canadian street names in Overvecht, Utrecht

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 9:41 am

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.48.41 AM

It hit me when I motored through the Overvecht neighbourhood of Utrecht that all the street names end in ‘dreef’ (roughly, ‘avenue’ or probably ‘drive’, [click on the image for a closer look], a bit of a 1970s trend someone once told me although I don’t know if that’s true.

Since I was heading to Manitobadreef and was curious as to why the street was named after a lesser known Canadian province, I wanted to know what other streets had Canadian names. Sure, there were tons more with American states (Texasdreef, Nevadadreef, Mississippidreef) and someone should check into those, but I couldn’t possibly imagine that Manitoba was the only Canadian one.

The Overvecht wikipedia page (Dutch only) tells me that there are street names from ‘America’, which means they are probably erroneously assuming that ‘America’ also covers Canada. Then they’ll say ‘we mean North America’ and then I’d retort ‘but you’ve missed Mexico’ [still a shocker at Dutch parties, Mexico is part of North America], as Mexicodreef was bundled with the South American and Central American names’. The article has some glimmer of self-awareness by stating that Australia has been completely ignored, so it could always be worse.

Back to the Canadian names per province:

  • Manitobadreef
  • Winnipegdreef
  • That’s two for Manitoba, the province and the capital. Nicely done.

  • Ontariodreef
  • Ottawadreef
  • Torontodreef
  • Three for Ontario, the province, the nation’s capital and the province’s capital. Well done.

  • Edmontondreef
  • The capital of the province of Alberta is mentioned, but not Calgary, city of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Edmonton does have that huge mall.

  • Vancouverdreef
  • The province of British Columbia was probably too long, the metropolis gets a mention, but no Victoria, the capital, which most people have to look up. But OK, everybody knows Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

  • Quebecdreef
  • The province of Quebec gets a mention, but no Montréal though, home of the 1976 Summer Olympics. The capital is Quebec City, so this is good enough.

  • Labradordreef
  • Labrador is part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland. A very odd choice, you’d think they went for the breed of dog.

  • Sint Laurensdreef
  • I’m guessing it’s part of the river names they use in Overvecht for cross streets, so decent choice.

It’s still really hard to beat a neighbourhood named after Lord of the Rings characters.

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September 12, 2013

Canadian cities are adopting the Dutch woonerf

Filed under: Architecture,Automobiles,Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 9:37 am


Toronto was probably the first Canadian city back in 2010 to build a Dutch-style ‘woonerf’, streets where the boundaries between the areas for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have been removed, and now Montreal and Ottawa are adopting them as well. They’ve also adopted the word ‘woonerf’, a typical Dutch word and construct from 1934 to go with it.

When I was learning how to drive here I had to learn everything about these special residential zones where the driving speed is ‘at a foot’s pace’ (about 15 km/h, although it isn’t actually specified) and where a car must give right of way to all other drivers (including cyclists) upon entering and all other road users upon exiting. As well, any drivers coming at you from the right in a woonerf have right of way, and parking is only allowed where indicated.

(Link: www.bnr.nl, Photo by Payton Chung, some rights reserved)

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January 5, 2013

Son pays Canadian’s fine after 54 years

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 2:28 pm

A Canadian tourist tried to pay a 54-year-old fine at the police station in The Hague during Christmas, but the police forgave his debt.

In 1956 Augustinus “Guus” Johannes Maria Niesink travelled with his sister Jo and her husband from Terborg in the Achterhoek region of the Netherlands (the -ink in the last name is a dead give away) to Maastricht in the South, when between Nijmegen and Venlo they were stopped by a policeman. It turned out Guus had faulty brakes on his Kaptein Mobylette (a discontinued Dutch moped brand from after the war when manufacturing mopeds was cheaper than importing them) and a fine was quickly drawn up.

A month later Guus boarded a ship of the Holland America Line to emigrate to Canada. He never returned, but he always kept his paper fine. He started his new life in Ottawa, and that is where he died a couple of weeks ago. On his deathbed Guus asked his son Patrick (50) to grant him one last wish: if Patrick found himself in the Netherlands, he would finally pay the fine.

(Photo: the police. Click the image for a larger version. Link: Der Westen)

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March 29, 2010

Toronto adopts Dutch ‘woonerf’ street design

Filed under: Architecture,Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 8:27 am

woonerfWoonerfs are streets where the boundaries between the areas for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have been eradicated on purpose, making them true shared spaces; and Toronto wants one.

Says National Post:

Waterfront Toronto said yesterday that, thanks to CAN$ 5.3 million from Ottawa [federal government], it will turn the one-hectare stretch of city and provincially owned land [near the Don Valley Parkway on/off ramps ] into a park, complete with ball hockey and basketball courts, community gardens, ‘ribbon’ benches and climbing structures for children.

Waterfront Toronto also attempted yesterday to slip a Dutch word into the local vernacular, promising to build “woonerf” to bisect the new residential buildings north of Underpass Park. Designers say “woonerf” are streets, popular in Holland, that are cobbled in pavers. Woonerf do not have sidewalks or lines painted on them, and favour pedestrians and cyclists over cars.


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