November 15, 2018

Kinderdijk is overrun by tourists and it’s getting worse

Filed under: General,History by Orangemaster @ 12:15 pm

Some years ago, my family was visiting from Québec and one of the places they insisted on visiting was the Kinderdijk, a Dutch UNESCO heritage listed place that attracts people from all around the world. At the time, we found it touristy, but not too busy or crowded. However, today if we believe the media, it’s now a lot busier to the point where the people who live there are ‘totally done with it’.

Mass tourism is getting a lot of press in Europe because it messes up local people’s living environment. In the Netherlands, places like Amsterdam and Volendam have issues with tourists, and the very small Kinderdijk is now on the list of places that are vocal about the problems it faces, as tourists don’t seem to realise people actually live there.

Only 60 people live there, and they have to deal with some 600,000 tourists a year, according to the Volkskrant newspaper. Tourists visit the windmills and learn about water drainage, and when they leave, they are given a picture of the windmills that says ‘Thanks for visiting’, which if you turn the card over says ‘600,000 visitors a year. Sixty residents. #overtourism’.

The stories range from residents being told to move out of the way, so that people can take a better picture (I’ve had that happen to me in Volendam while I was on a sailboat that was docked, and the tone of the man who told me to move didn’t make me move) to waking up to tourists eating at their picnic table and being yelled at by a photographer because the windmill wasn’t turning.

In 2010 the plan was to cap tourism at 400,000 according to a regional business plan, but now it’s 600,000 visitors and plans to grow to 850,000, which means the Kinderdijk could lose its current character.

I guess I’m glad I visited it when I did.

(Link:, Photo of Kinderdijk by Travelinho, some rights reserved)

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November 1, 2017

Utrecht, first Dutch Unesco City of Literature

Filed under: Dutch first,Literature by Orangemaster @ 10:18 am


Yesterday, Utrecht was named Unesco City of Literature by the cultural branch of the United Nations in Paris, and has the honour of being the first ever Dutch city to receive this title.

Utrecht, along with many other cities around the world, is being praised for its impressive literature history, as well as its literature festivals, writers, bookshops, libraries, studies and publishers. As well, the wonderful title can be used until the end of time, which is great for city marketing.

As of 2019, the former post office on De Neude will also be the face of the new City of Literature, a ‘cathedral’, for books and a meeting place for all things literary. “The Netherlands is a small language area and it’s not easy to get international recognition for our authors”, explains Michaël Stoker, director of Utrecht’s Het Literatuurhuis (Literature House). Stocker says this title will break the ice, so that worldwide people will be able to see that the Dutch have good writers and poets.


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October 10, 2016

Tourists school the Dutch on Dutch World Heritage sites

Filed under: History by Orangemaster @ 9:30 pm

Yes, the quiz is in Dutch, but feel free to try and guess which sites are actually Dutch World Heritage sites (Wikipedia cheat sheet) by clicking on this link. I got 9 out of 15.

And if it makes you feel any better, the Dutch world heritage people have gone so far as to have a video campaign that says “Our world heritage is world-famous, soon to be famous in the Netherlands”, which is passive-aggressive speak for ‘how embarrassing, we don’t even know our own heritage’.

The underlying gripe in the Dutch media is that World Heritage sites in foreign countries are way cooler because the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and all that. I’m a foreigner who thinks there’s some great stuff to see here that even my family pushed me to visit years ago, which helped my score.

(Link: rtlnieuws, Photo:

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August 27, 2013

Essay: who cares about Unesco?

Filed under: Architecture by Branko Collin @ 7:00 am

When I wrote Unesco pulls trigger on Amsterdam in 2010 I was unaware that a day later urbanist Michiel van Iersel would tackle the same subject a day later in NRC.

At the time Unesco had added Amsterdam’s historic city centre to its famous World Heritage List. Critics feared that Amsterdam would fare the same way as Bruges, a city in Belgium that has a lot mediaeval architecture still intact, but that also has the reputation to be staid and boring. They were afraid that the municipal government would turn the city into a museum in which nothing could be changed.

In an essay called Who cares about Unesco? Van Iersel counters these criticisms by saying that “in fairness it should be pointed out that the Belgian town was well on its way to being a museum exhibit before it was included on the list in the year 2000”. He adds that a Unesco listing is unlikely to act as a Trojan horse because if anything, Unesco’s rules are vague and ambiguous.

So, should Amsterdam embrace its Unesco listing? Van Iersel doesn’t seem to care either way. He feels the great number of sites on the World Heritage List has made it the Starbucks of distinctions. He proposes that Amsterdam should “pretend that UNESCO does not exist.” It doesn’t seem to matter much if you’re on it, because everybody else is, too. In fact, when Unesco dropped Dresden from its list for building a bridge, the joke was on Unesco: “in opting for innovation Dresden gave up its place on the list, while UNESCO lost one of its sites and also the support of some of its partisans.”

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August 1, 2010

Unesco pulls trigger on Amsterdam

Filed under: Architecture,General,History by Branko Collin @ 1:35 pm

Amsterdam’s city hall scored a major victory in the War on Fun today when Unesco added the city’s historical centre to its World Heritage list.

The appointment fits right into the city government’s fantasies of turning the city into Anton Pieck‘s wet dream. A group critical of—and therefore silenced by—the municipality, pointed to the damning example of staid Bruges in Belgium earlier.

Publicist Rogier van Kralingen told Radio Netherlands: “People don’t visit Amsterdam just because it gives them a flavour of the past, but because it has a strong spirit of freedom. The city has an open-hearted, liberal feel to it. If a city wants to create a good environment for its residents and international businesses – which, let’s face it, will have to provide most of our income – you need to maintain a healthy balance between tourism, recreation and people’s freedom to do what they want.”

It’s not like the city and borough councils needed more ammunition: here’s a list of things they have already outlawed. And what’s keeping the Robert-Jasper Grootveld statue?

The Unesco decision makes downtown Amsterdam the seventh World Heritage site in the kingdom.

(Photo by Colleen Taugher, some rights reserved)

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January 2, 2009

2009 International Year of Astronomy

Filed under: Science by Eric @ 2:13 pm

IYA2009 official logo

Yesterday, the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) started. Launched by UNESCO and IAU, 135 countries are participating in this initiative to bring the universe and astronomy closer to the people, using the slogan the Universe: Yours to discover. The official opening event will take place in Paris, on 15-16 January. The Dutch opening ceremony is scheduled for 21 January. Throughout the year, you can expect symposiums, exhibitions and other cultural events related to astronomy taking place in a universe near you! More information on what will take place when and where can be found on the Dutch IYA2009 site.

Hang on, you’re waiting for the Dutch angle on this international news? To be honest, there is none in particular, apart from my hope that the Dutch will again do some remarkable astronomical discoveries this year, like Hanny’s Voorwerp or the giant exo-planet (Dutch).

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