March 24, 2016

Will the Dutch lose their favourite ice lolly?

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 7:07 pm

According to BN De Stem, food giant Unilever is pulling the plug on the longest running ice lolly in the Netherlands, the Raket (‘Rocket’).

BN De Stem suggests the Rocket is too Dutch for its own good. Unilever was only producing them for the Dutch market. The company, operating under the Ola brand in the Netherlands and Wall’s and Algida elsewhere, wants to streamline its production of ice cream flavours by reducing them from 450 to 90. As one observer said: “How much more streamlined than a rocket can you get?”

RTL Z claims that the story is an April Fools’ joke, citing “sources within Unilever”. Unlike any other April Fools’ joke I’ve seen, this one doesn’t refer to April however. The original source talks about May instead. Elle smells a rat, because why would a brand ditch a product that sells so well? So I decided to find out for myself, picked up the phone and called Unilever: turns out, their press department is conveniently unavailable for comment during the four-day Easter weekend.

Everybody agrees that if this really is an April Fool’s joke, it’s one of the lamest ever.

If Unilever is really abandoning the Rocket, then you’re in luck. Cheap knock-offs are still being made by competing brands as Z24 helpfully pointed out two years ago .

The news that Unilever is going to discontinue its traditional Dutch treat follows recent news that two major ‘bitterball’ manufacturers, Mora and Van Geloven, are now in foreign hands, and news from 2014 that aniseed cubes were discontinued by De Ruijter because the machine that made them could no longer be kept in repair.

See also:

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January 5, 2016

The North turns into one big skating rink

Filed under: Sports by Orangemaster @ 9:09 pm

Today’s weather called for black ice in the North of the country, as the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) issued a code red with many accidents happening on the roads, albeit nothing fatal so far.

To quote Dutch football legend Johan Cruijff, “every disadvantage has its advantage”, as many people in places like Leeuwarden, Assen and Groningen were gripped by ice fever and took to skating on the streets (see video) because ice must be skated on when it’s there, a sentiment echoed by former world champion Renate Groenewold who ‘couldn’t resist it’.

There was even a fake event on Facebook, joking that the Elfstedentocht was going to be a tour of the motorways.

I scored a pair of free Dutch speed skates recently that I have not tried yet. These puppies really want to go outside now.


(Links:,, Photo by Remko van Dokkum, some rights reserved)

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February 13, 2012

Gliding along Amsterdam’s frozen canals

Filed under: Film by Branko Collin @ 6:34 pm

Somebody called Typevideos posted this beautiful little film of the citizens of Amsterdam enjoying the frozen canals on their skates on YouTube:

See also: Dutch Winter (video).

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January 11, 2009

Thaw to set in

Filed under: General,Sports by Branko Collin @ 2:29 pm

No Elfstedentocht for now. National weather institute KNMI predicts that Monday a period of thaw will set in, with wind coming from the South and from the South West. That also means that the country will not have had an official cold wave, which in the Netherlands is defined as at least five consecutive days of frost of which three dip below -10 degrees.

Somebody who won’t be skating for a while anyway is Eimer van Middelkoop: the defense minister broke his wrist during a 30 kilometer skating tour between Bleiswijk and Zevenhuizen, according to (Dutch).

Skating madness held the country in its grip the past weeks, but with the temperature dipping the lowest in the South, the madness spilled over to Belgium. The spokesperson for Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden, the organizer of the Elfstedentocht, told BN/De Stem (Dutch) that most foreign journalistic attention stems from our Southern neighbours. One fanatic Belgian skater and past participant in the Elfstedentocht, Henri Jaecques, argues in Het Nieuwsblad (Dutch) that Flanders should have its own mythical skate race. “From Sluis to Ieper, 200 kilometer, and perfectly skateable.” The first part of that trajectory, a 16 kilometer strip from Sluis to Brugge, was declared officially open to skaters this weekend, according to De Telegraaf (Dutch).

Photo top: a chair in IJburg, Amsterdam awaiting the next novice skater or an ever grimmer fate.

Photo bottom: a frozen Noorderamsterkanaal.

Link: (Dutch).

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January 9, 2009

Elfsteden update: 25,000 litres of pea soup and 80,000 smoked sausages

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:07 am

Soup and sausage manufacturer Unox are busy producing 25,000 litres of pea soup and 80,000 smoked sausages in time for a possible Elfstedentocht, reports The company wants to have 25 stands with volunteers from among its own ranks during the classic 200-kilometer skating race. Should the race take place, the volunteers will hand out the soup, sausages and hats.

Jort Kelder, the country’s most famous documenter of the rich, and side-kick Harry Veenendaal don’t like Unox and its plans very much. In NRC they urge culture minister Plasterk to hurry and apply for a Unesco Intangible Heritage status for the Elfstedentocht (Dutch) to protect the race from commercial interests. Kelder and Veenendaal point to the New Year’s Dive (Dutch), where the sausage giant apparently even got the riot police to keep out the riff-raff that wasn’t going to pay 2 euro to enter a public beach and participate in a traditional event.

Are we going to have an Elfstedentocht? Many Frisians are fuming at the local waterboard (AD, Dutch) which decided to open the sluices in order to drain excess water, resulting in a partial destruction of the ice layer on the brooks, canals and rivers along the Elfsteden route. The waterboard defended its decision by pointing out that moving ice could damage quays and banks.

According to Dutchnews, it should freeze minus 10 degrees or better for at least two weeks before the ice is strong enough to support the 16,000 lucky skaters of the Elfstedentocht—which, by the way, rhymes with Van Gogh. Although it’s been freezing now for over a week, the frost has mainly stuck to the Southern half of the country, with Friesland even experiencing some thaw earlier this week.

Photo of the 1997 Elfstedentocht by Tjeerd van der Werk, used under the conditions of the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2.

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August 5, 2008

Longest running ice lolly: the Rocket

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 8:34 am

12 April 1961: the Soviet Union launched the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.

1962: Ola launched a new ice lolly, the Raket (Rocket), and it has never (crash) landed since, making it the longest running model. It’s a simple ice lolly, shaped like a rocket, each of the three stages a different(ish) flavour.

The UK factory will produce 35 million Rockets this year, according to an article in daily the Volkskrant (Dutch), presumably hoping each Dutchman will buy two on average. The writer repeats some of the folklore about its popularity that’s been woven around this frozen hit: that the quality is high, that it’s got three good flavours, and so on. I don’t believe in that. I think the main reasons the Rocket has always sold so well is because it barely has any competition, it’s cheap, and it’s sold almost everywhere.

I remember that when we were kids, during the summers my mother, my brothers and I would walk to my uncle’s home in the forest, almost 6 miles from our house. Half-way along our route two old guys had put a refrigerator in their front room from which they sold ice cream to passers-by, and of course we always went for the Rocket because it was right in our price range.

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