December 22, 2014

Amsterdam Light Festival brightens up the winter

Filed under: Art,Event by Orangemaster @ 12:57 pm


In its third year, the Amsterdam Light Festival runs until 18 January 2015 and makes any winter night on the town that much more fun. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, a boat ride will give you a great view of some of the installations. I went on a running and walking tour where installations could be found in gardens (bike wheel dome shown here) and streets.

At 0:37 in the video, you’ll see coloured tulips coming out of a canal, the Herengracht, which have to be pumped up by passers-by using bicycle pumps. Other installations had their colours controlled by sound, motion and even Wi-Fi, making it interactive.

Amsterdam light festival 2014/15 from Jack Fisher on Vimeo.


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March 17, 2014

Fuzzy Egyptian goose chicks during winter

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 8:35 am


I saw this Egyptian goose with its chicks yesterday near my home in Amsterdam.

As a Dutch proverb has it, in mei legt elke vogel een ei (‘every bird will lay an egg in May’), but apparently the proverb is getting further and further from the truth these days. An ever warming climate seems to have caused many birds to lay eggs earlier in the year—Vroege Vogels says the average day a songbird lays an egg has moved 14 days forward between 1986 and 2011. The site also points out that songbirds need insects to feed their young and insects have started to become active earlier in the year.

Like the parakeets I mentioned a couple of months ago, Egyptian geese are intruders from much warmer climes, but a quick web search didn’t reveal any info on wintry egg-laying habits. Do any of our readers know if these birds always hatch their young in late February or early March?


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December 24, 2012

Elfstedentocht fever explained

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:32 am

It is dreary and wet and not that cold, and this year the weather report even predicted the dreariness and not-coldness to last beyond the apocalypse, the perfect time to read about the mad panic that would sweep the country if winter were coming:

And then abruptly and over the protestations of our doubts it becomes apparent that the fate of our very society is placed into the hands of a tall, blond, probably very sober and severe man most likely called Siebe or Wiebe or Hidde or Fedde.


And our Siebe will look very sternly into the camera and solemnly proclaim ‘no’, because that’s his favourite word, further tests need to be performed, the thickness of the ice will be continuously monitored, and same time tomorrow. And the next day will be the same, the press conference live on every network, a solemn ‘no’, and DAY TWELVE OF THE PANIC CRISIS.


And all the nation’s eyes will have turned North, to a province so obsessed with ice they just went ahead and called the place Freezeland, like a theme park for masochists, and our man Siebe will appear again, with all the journalists in the land having run out of questions to ask him, and it’s just as well, because he makes a face as if he is about to be forced to eat something disgusting, and says,

and says, and says … you will have to read the rest of Paul G. Hunt’s wonderful explanation of how Dutch Elfstedentocht fever works to find out.

(Photo by Paul van Eijden, some rights reserved)

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December 7, 2012

Biking in the snow safely, Dutch style

Filed under: Bicycles,Design by Orangemaster @ 10:35 am

When snow starts falling in the Netherlands, the Dutch often continue to use their bikes to commute even when there’s ice on the ground. It’s dangerous and there are accidents. It can be done more safely, although this blogger lives in a small town that cannot compare to an Utrecht or Amsterdam as far as bike traffic is concerned, but it’s definitely a good primer.

Cesar van Rongen may have found a quick, easy and cheap solution for stubborn Dutch cyclists.

With Cesar van Rongen’s Bike Spikes wintry slips and slides are a thing of the past, without having to change tyres. A rubber casing with iron spikes to cover the bicycle tyre gives you grip on icy stretches, and on ordinary asphalt they will still be comfortable. The special winter bike tyre can easily be fixed to any city bike with the little key that comes with it. And when it thaws, the Bike Spikes can be taken off in an instant and folded into a compact little package.

Bike Spikes By Cesar van Rongen from Design Academy Eindhoven on Vimeo.

(Links:,, Photo: Cesar van Rongen)

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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 9, 2011

Dutch Winter

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:03 am

Dutch Winter from Kasper Bak on Vimeo.

A couple of months ago Kasper Bak acquired a Canon EOS 550D photo camera, which apparently possesses some great video features. He used its slo-mo setting to shoot this short film about people skating in Lemmer, Friesland. It’s been doing the rounds on them there Internets.

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December 25, 2010

Winter hunting ban; porn and clown voices; secretary most wanted job; and more

Filed under: Animals,Automobiles,General,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:20 pm

* Several provinces have instated hunting bans for a variety of animals because of the cold weather. Zeeland, Drenthe, Noord Holland and Limburg have ordered a general hunting ban, while others have limited their bans to a selection of animals. The Party for the Animals (PvdD) has called for a nationwide ban, Trouw reports.

* Car navigation software voiced by porn actress Kim Holland was the most popular of the stable in 2010, Blik op Persbericht reports. Her voice was also the most popular in 2009. The winner of 2008, Clown Bassie, came second this year. Unrelated: recently Holland’s demand that Internet provider Ziggo release the personal data of a customer suspected of infringing her copyrights was rejected on appeal.

* The most wanted job title on in 2010 was secretary, just like last year. Visitors searched 500,000 times for the title. Manager and controller were other popular job titles, Blik op Nieuws writes.

* Almost 1 billion worth of guilder coins and bills are still hiding underneath mattresses and in other places, Z24 reports. Half of that money is in coins, and can no longer be exchanged for euro. Paper money can be exchanged at the central bank (DNB) until 2031. The amount of unclaimed banknotes seems to be the same as last year’s.

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November 5, 2010

Winter tires in the Netherlands: useful or marketing stunt?

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 10:22 am


The debate about winter tires is back in time for Christmas. In February when there was actual long-staying snow on the ground, I wrote a big posting about why winter tires are a good thing, but not always necessary.

The ANWB (Royal Dutch Automobile Association), Veilig Verkeer Nederland (Safe Traffic association) and others are highly recommending winter tires this year and guess what? We’re apparently facing a winter tire shortage, if we can believe the hype over at newspaper De Telegraaf (in Dutch).

It could easily be seen as a marketing stunt in a country where winter tires are not obligatory and are only useful maybe a few weeks out of the year if at all, depending on which part of the country you live in and if we actually get some snow and/or ice. Anyone who drives to Gemany or Austria to go skiing is obliged to switch tires, but many people go by bus that have winter tires or fly to their skiing destination.

“Winter tires are good when the road is covered with snow and is slippery. All-seasons are good in many conditions, but don’t have the grip of winter tires and braking takes longer. Ordinary tires are cheaper, but much more dangerous altogether in winter conditions.”

It’s still a toss up. The car I drove last winter had what the Dutch call ‘summer tires’. We drove down to France, but waited until the snow had melted on the highway here to drive down safely. Driving more carefully and more slowly in winter was part of my driving theory exam here in the Netherlands. I like the bit about driving off in second gear to get more grip when there’s snow on the ground.

(Link: depers)

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February 16, 2010

The winter tires debate rages on

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 1:13 pm

The snow keeps coming down in the Netherlands, something that has not happened for at least 15 years according to my Dutch neighbourg who uses winter tires on his car. In fact, anyone who drives to Germany, Italy and France is obliged by law to have them on their car.

Winter tires are not obligatory in the Netherlands. With serious snow falls once every decade or so, it seems logically. However, this year, with an increase in accidents, all kinds of organisations are realising that saving money has come first and safety comes second.

“Not enough buses use winter tires” claims newspaper De Gelderlander. The biggest bus company Connexxion has none and they believe it doesn’t make a difference. Arriva, a smaller bus company, uses ‘all-season’ tires, which are really good for three seasons — not snow fall or a slippery road.

All-season tires were designed for wet and dry driving, while snow tires were designed for slippery conditions and very cold temperatures. And yes, we have had both from one day to the next here.

Touring cars use winter tires because they drive to countries like Germany, and taxi and transport companies switch to winter tires as well. Both of them can’t afford accidents.

Mini-vans that transport handicapped and mentally challenged children to school in the region of Utrecht don’t use winter tires, as their bosses apparently can’t afford them and they aren’t obligatory anyways. The story on telly was that parents were upset, drivers felt bad and the municipalities said the van companies should pay for the tires and the van companies said the municipalities should subsidise them. The cheapest van company wins the transport contract, so including winter tires is a big no-no. And saving money comes before safety again.

Recap: winter tires are good when the road is covered with snow and is slippery. All-seasons are good in many conditions, but don’t have the grip of winter tires and braking takes longer, which is dangerous. Ordinary tires are cheaper, but much more dangerous altogether in winter conditions. Winter tires are rarely needed and aren’t obligatory, but it is risky.

For days on end, when the snow kept coming down, the Dutch automobile association and Dutch road safety association told people to stay home altogether, which gives you an indication of how dangerous they thought the road was no matter what tires you had on your car.


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February 11, 2010

Elfstedentocht stronger brand than Olympic Games

Filed under: Sports by Branko Collin @ 11:48 am

A recent study by HBB Consultancy revealed that the Elfstedentocht, a rare and gruelling outdoor skating race, is a better known and higher valued sports brand in the Netherlands than the Olympic Games, Algemeen Dagblad reported yesterday.

Both events are about as old, but the Elfstedentocht is held on average every seven years, when conditions in Friesland are harsh enough to freeze over 200 kilometres’ worth of canals. On the list of strong sports brands, the Olympics only get a peek in at three, after the Elfstedentocht and football goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

As for the athletes, Van der Sar is better liked among men, whereas women prefer speed skater Sven ‘Svencouver’ Kramer.

Although Ajax is rated the top brand among football teams, arch rivals Feyenoord take off with the best appreciated stadium (De Kuip).

(Photo by Remko van Dokkum, some rights reserved)

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