November Light Festival Utrecht

It's a tradition of my own. When heavy grey clouds make autumn days gloomy I turn to the magic of light. Christmas lights in Holland city centres are little crisps, they make me feel at home. But, what really ignites the fire within me are the different light festivals. The November Light Festival Utrecht is like entering a feelgood fairytale.

november-11-saint-martin-celebration-utrecht

(updated 2 November 2019)

During the November Light Festival Utrecht the city celebrates its patron saint Sint Maarten, in English known as Saint Martin.  The celebration of previous years was a big success, which is why  the city organises different activities for the entire family again this year. All week long.

sint-maarten-lantern-parade-utrecht

I was completely enchanted. A giant lantern in the shape of Saint Martin himself led a long lantern parade. Children, their parents and members of different organisations followed with unique lanterns in all sizes and shapes. They didn't just walked through the streets: they sang, danced and their enthusiasm was so contagious that many joined the festivities. By seeing, hearing and living this November Light Festival Utrecht my inner happiness manifested in an all giving radiant smile. All of Saint Martin's friends and fans united in the small courtyard of the St Catharijne convent. Here  they sang songs about being together, being merciful and sharing with those in need, the exact same virtues connected with Saint Martin. In 2019 this light parade takes place on Saturday evening 9 November.

The November Light Festival Utrecht or Saint Martin's celebrations takes place from 3 till 11 November 2019

More information on all activities can be found on http://sintmaartenutrecht.nl/sint-maartensviering/programma

 

 

 

 

 

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How a small café by the harbour became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Challenge

It wasn't supposed to get all the attention, but somehow it did. A small café by the harbour became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Challenge. This is how it happened.

Flags Flag Day Scheveningen-veritasvisit

Celebration of the Dutch New Herring

The new herring catch of the season calls for a typical Dutch celebration. A typical Dutch celebration calls for a challenge by Verita's Visit. So there we were, me and a bunch of international minded people, at the harbour of Scheveningen with just one mission: find out what Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen was all about and if it was more than Dutch new herring.

King William and Madonna at Vlaggetjesdag

The participants had no idea what to expect, there were question marks all over their faces when we met at the Scheveningen library. As there was some drizzle outside that was expected to turn into heavy rainfall, we headed inside for a short introduction. The given information could be used during the challenge.  King William, Madonna, the painter Mesdag and of course the Dutch herring, also known as Hollandse Nieuwe  all dropped by in this introduction.

 

the go with the flow festival challenge

Exactly at the moment the rain stopped, the participants, now divided in teams, were off to the first location in the Scheveningen harbour where they had to answer a question and complete a creative challenge. Now, finding your way in a local festival is quite a challenge by itself, so at first all teams were a bit lost.  By the time they had done two or three challenges they got the hang of it. They somehow realized the best thing to do was to just go with the flow, dive into the festivities and have fun.

Enjoy the local atmosphere and get social with a local

The best thing on local festivals like Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen is the atmosphere, everyone is relaxed and it's easy to make contact with locals or visitors.  Just like in the Leidens Ontzet Treasure Hunt  the participants of the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Challenge had to step out of their comfort zone and get social with a local.

Sharing Experiences during Herring & Corenwijn tasting

At the end of the Scheveningen Vlaggetjesdag challenge we all gathered at Restaurant de Dagvisser. In this small café by the harbour we tasted 4 exquisite herring dishes with 4 types of Corenwijn. All teams shared their experiences there. When I asked them why they all had chosen the song 'Het kleine café aan de haven' for one of the challenges they all responded in unison: "Because it was the shortest!"

Tasting Dutch Herring & Corenwijn
Tasting Dutch Herring & Corenwijn in a small café in the harbour ( actually a restaurant ;) )

Small cafe by the harbour of Scheveningen

Athough they were all enjoyed, it was not the Hollandse Nieuwe,  the fishers' boats, the stands demonstrating the local crafts or the men and women in traditional clothing, it was a small café by the harbour that became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Challenge edition 2016.

Female net repairer Scheveningen-veritasvisit


Tips for a Day Out in the Tulip Fields

A day out in the tulip fields is the best way to enjoy your visit to the Netherlands in spring. When you have friends coming over, a company outing, family visiting, head towards the Keukenhof and you soon feel your smile growing by the sight of the multicoloured tulip fields....And don't forget the scent of the hyacinth fields. It's all one dreamlike package. Here are some tips to get the most out of your daytrip Amsterdam - Keukenhof.

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The Staphorster Bike & the Dutch Dressguard

How I saw a picture of women cycling in folk costume and went to Staphorst in search of a bike showing the cultural diversity in the Netherlands

Like many curious travellers/ entrepreneurs I love absorbing a good deal of information. Information that I can later pass on to you, my dear participant and reader. In a few weeks I am to give my festive workshop about Dutch traditions and celebrations again. To prepare myself I take out this book called Typisch Nederlands: tradities en trends in Nederland . On page 36 a black-and-white picture of three women on bicycles catches my attention. The middle one is casually dressed, whereas the two women on her side are in full folk costumes.  In the caption, freely translated, it reads:

 

Picture taken from the book 'Typisch Nederland: tradities en trends'
Picture taken from the book 'Typisch Nederlands: tradities en trends in Nederland'

In a small country like the Netherlands there's a large regional cultural diversity. Even the manufacturer of an everyday object such as the bicycle has to take this in account. A version of the classical lady's bike with holes in the mudgear/ fender to attach the handmade coloured 'cyclenets' (dress guards) existed for a long time in Staphorst.

 

A bicycle that was adjusted to the local needs! Of course I wanted to see this bike with my own eyes, but first I was curious which manufacturer made this Staphorster bike. Google being a good friend, I searched for 'Staphorster fiets' and 'Staphorster variant', 'Staphorst model' in combination with the words 'origin', 'history'.  What I found was lots of information on the dress guards. Those dress guards...well, they are works of art.

 

How to Prevent clothes from getting into your bike's wheel

Cycling in Staphorst is and has always been done on a black omafiets or granny's bike.  It was easy for the women with their long skirts to get on the bike thanks to the step-through frame. The only problem was that their skirts got ruined because they kept getting into the spokes. Inventive as the women were they found a solution to this: dress guards. If you see dress guards on a bicycle nowadays they're usually made of plastic. The Staphorster women made and still make their dress guards themselves. They crochet different creations in all colours and patterns. If you know a bit of Dutch you can find an original pattern here.  Is your Dutch not that good and still want to get an idea on how to crochet your own dress guard? Find an English crochet pattern here. For the non-crochetters: you can also order them on Simeli.

How the crochetted dress guard led me to Staphorst

An employee at Velorama, the bicycle museum in Nijmegen, told me that a local dealer would make little holes in the omafiets to attach these crochetted creations. Blue-red ones were for daily use, green-black ones for mourning periods.

After all this reading about the Staphorster bike I still hadn't found what I was looking for: the manufacturer of this version of the classical lady's bike. So, it was time to visit Staphorst, the small town in Overijssel where time has stood still. The town with the low straw-roofed farmhouses with traditional green doors and green wooden window shutters. The town where women still ride their black omafiets in traditional folk costume.

The typical granny's bike -omafiets- with Staphorster dress guards - fietsnetten-.
The traditional granny's bike -omafiets- with Staphorster dress guards - fietsnetten-.

What happened when I finally saw a lady in traditional costume on a  staphorster bike

When I came in Staphorst, I could only see fast cycling kids wearing the latest fashion. We then stopped at a cycle shop where the most beautiful example of the Staphorster fiets stood waiting to be repaired. I asked the shop owner the manufacturer's name, but he didn't know and wondered if there had ever been a manufacturer specialised in the Staphorster bike. He said there was still a high demand in Staphorst for the mud gears with holes in them and he now ordered them especially for the Staphorster women. A little while after our conversation a women passed by. In folk costume. On a black omafiets with crochetted dress guards. I was too surprised to even think about taking a picture...

Did you go to Staphorst and managed to take a picture of a Staphorster lady in folk costume riding her bike? Please share it here, I would love to see it!

 

 


7 favourite spring events in the Netherlands Verita's Visit King's Day

My 7 favourite spring events in the Netherlands

A fresh start of spring in Holland. Outside it's still rather cold and...where's the sun?  When it comes to the temperature spring really has to warm up, but nature is ready for it. Just take a look outside and see the new born lambs curiously looking at the young tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. The start of the season brings excitement, some people even get a bit stressed when they see spring has come. Here are my 7 favourite spring events in the Netherlands.

Note: In case the Corona measures still apply, please use this post as a source of information for a future trip.

Tip 1: Easter on the Beach

Easter is one of these spring events in the Netherlands I wouldn't want to miss out on. There are lots of activities being organised. When I'm not on a bike showing you and your friends how amazing the Dutch countryside is, I enjoy my Easter brunch on the beach. The real tourist season starts in the Easter weekend. Weeks before Easter the beach is inspected and levelled. The beach boulevards are full of trucks offloading material. Right after the beach is prepared, the beach restaurant owners can set up their restaurants. In the Netherlands cafes and restaurants can only be found on the beach between March and October. This means that every year before Easter the owners have to set up their beach restaurants again. Just to be able to welcome me & you for an Easter brunch. Isn't that great?

witte bloesem -veritasvisit
Beautiful blossom of fruit trees in spring


Tip 2: Blossoming Fruit Trees, Asparagus and Bike Races

Another part of the food sector depends on good weather. Every year the fruit and vegetable farmers anxiously wait for the results of the season. Apple-, cherry-, peartrees are not only useful for their fruits, but also for their blossom. Walking trails take you through picturesque fields full of fresh, scented flowers. But, besides walking there is another option. Known all over the world, a typical Dutch activity is cycling. As spring is also the start of the cycling season, many regions in the Netherlands offer arrangements, excursions or routes for the cyclist. Cycling routes go through areas full of blossoming trees, or later in the season through fields of fruit, where farmers give you the opportunity to pick your own fruit or make an arrangement so you can take a picknickbasket and have a picknick in the garden.

Strawberries and cherries in Holland-veritasvisit
Strawberries and cherries are sold in spring in Holland

Next to the fruit farmers I mentioned the vegetable farmers. Which vegetable am I talking about? The asparagus! Strawberries, the delicious fruit of the season are often linked with the "white gold". Asparagus are mainly cultivated in the region Limburg, the region in the south of the Netherlands. Here they can also prepare these tasty vegetables in many different ways and a meal doesn't even have to cost much. And, while you're at it, try some of the Limburgian wine ( yes, Limburg also cultivates its own grapes).

For the cycling fanatics, it is also the season in which bike races start. Limburg, with its Dutch mountains is also the ideal place for bike races such as the Amstel Gold Race. It is nice to see the cyclist pass by, with the thousand of spectator standing at the sidelines yelling and admiring. Of course,  right after the race you can create your own track and set a new record.

Amazing tulips Keukenhof-veritasvisit
Keukenhof displays a beautiful range of tulips from mid March till mid May

Tip 3: Keukenhof and Flower Parade

When you think of spring in Holland, you think of mesmerizing tulip fields, enchanting daffodil fields and hyacinth fields filling the air with their spring perfume.  Keukenhof is a must see when you are in the Netherlands around Easter. The park is dedicated to the tulip and other spring flowers.  It is a beautiful park where you even get to shoot some good pictures of all that the Netherlands has to offer: a field of tulips in front of a windmill where a girl dressed in Dutch folklore clothes  sells cheese.

A very popular spring festival is the flower parade, in Dutch we call it Bloemencorso. These parades are in the bulb flower region, that means in the area of Leiden, Lisse en Haarlem. It's a great parade to see the beautiful spring flowers and the creativity of the locals, who work on the floats for months.

Both Keukenhof and the Flower Parade are big attractions and they welcome thousands of visitors from every part of the world. If you don't want to be in a traffic jam of tourist buses for hours or are curious about the many other festivals & activities in the area, just take a look at Flower Festival Lisse for some original ideas. Cycling through the spring flower fields is -of course- one of my favourite ways to pass time and I would definitely recommend you to add it to your visit to the Netherlands in spring.

Gouda cheese market group tour groepsreis Verita's Visit

Tip 4: Cheese Markets

Enough about flowers, let's talk about cheese. The cheese market season also starts in April. It's one of those spectacular spring events in the Netherlands that is not to be missed when you come and visit. There are markets in Gouda, Alkmaar, Edam, Hoorn and Woerden. Cheese farmers and traders meet on the market square to negotiate the price of the cheese, Dutch cheese girls offer tastings of different cheeses and there are many special activities. It's a great outing for the whole family.

Flea Market King's Day-veritasvisit
A flea market on King's Day. These can be found everywhere, but those in the smaller districts of cities or in villages are the best.

To see where and how the Dutch -Gouda- cheese is made, I would really recommend you to add a visit to a cheese farm and a historical cheese warehouse.

Tip 5: King's Day

King's day is on the 27th of April and Dutch love to celebrate this on the streets. Amsterdam is an orange heaven and should be visited on this dat, but be aware: on the 27th itself everything is fully packed, trains are full, roads are full, streets in Amsterdam are full. If you really want to be in Amsterdam on the 27th go to the city a couple of days before and make sure you have your accomodation booked long before, because Amsterdam will be crowded.

I have been in Amsterdam once on King's Day and I have to say I didn't really like it. To get there it takes a lot of patience and walking around in the city is a real pain: it's just too busy for my liking. I prefer other cities such as Utrecht or The Hague, where every neighbourhood has their own flea market and you can play old Dutch games. Nevertheless, if you want to have an authentic King's Day experience try celebrating it in a small city or even a village. It's much easier to get connected with the locals and the celebration is much more intense as it's much smaller and intimate.

Now King's Day doesn't start on the 27th of April, but the evening before. On the 26th in the late afternoon I would suggest you to go to The Hague to celebrate the Life I Live festival. Bands are playing everywhere, special theatre shows are organised and there are lots of things to do and see. It is one of the few nights this very special atmosphere can be sensed in The Hague, people are just having fun and there's a common vibe everyone can feel.

Tip 6: Liberation Day

Shortly after King's Day Day the Dutch commemorate the people who died in World War II, during peace operations or in war situations. The day after, the 5th of May it is Liberation Day, the day that we celebrate the end of World War II and think about the meaning of freedom. For this we have special Liberation Festivals in different cities in the Netherlands, where bands and known Dutch artists perform. This website gives you more information about who is performing where and what other activities are planned.

Tip 7: Museumweekend

Spring in the Netherlands means being outdoors. But, if the weather is bad, you can always enjoy the musea. In april Dutch musea organise special activities in a weekend that is cleverly called Museumweekend. Entrance in the musea is for free or you pay very little.

Verita's Visit Special spring Events in the Netherlands

 


Dutch Winter Drink: From Alcohol to Hot Cocoa

Koek en zopie. These two typical Dutch products are lovers, they are meant for each other. Hold your thoughts!  Are you reading this on your smartphone? Great! That means your flexible! Now ask a Dutch person who is closest to you what koek en zopie is. Done? Ok,  now read on to see if he/ she got it right.

Where can you find koek en zopie?

You’ve seen them near an ice skating ring.  I’m talking about the stands or tents selling hot chocolate, pea soup, broodje worst and other food & drinks to warm up after or during your fun activities on the frozen water. In the 19th century paintings these tents were famous for selling koek en zopie.

Johannes Tavernaat (1809-1881) Ice scene with koek-en-zopie tent
Johannes Tavernaat (1809-1881) Ice scene with koek-en-zopie tent. In the Teyler Museum's temporary exhibition 'Real Winters'  in Haarlem.

What is zopie?

Koek en zopie is part of the Dutch ice-skating culture. As soon as it starts getting cold, people are warming up to the idea of frozen lakes and the Elfstedentocht. If you ask a Dutch person today what zopie is, then it's  synonym to hot chocolate. Back in the 16th century people knew better: zopie came from zuipen, meaning to drink heavily. So, originally zopie is an alcoholic drink. On the streets there were rules for drinking, but on the ice all limits were gone. The result: people  got completely drunk with zopie.

What's in a zopie?

Beer was available everywhere and the taste of warm beer made the people feel warm inside. To enrich the taste they added spices which had just been discovered by  the East Indies Company. Many varieties exist of the zopie, recipes differ per person, per region. Slemp, similar to the Indian chai latte is a mixture of warm milk with tea, spices and a good  amount of rum or cognac,  tastes delicious with a piece of koek. I always thought the koek or  cookie is ontbijtkoek, but traditionally the koek is a kniepertje. A kniepertje is a bit like the base of a stroopwafel only finer and thinner. In Groningen and Drenthe these are regional products and eaten especially around New Year.

How to make -a really alcoholic version of- zopie

Landinwaarts, a Dutch tv- program did an item on the koek and zopie. The culinary author Janny van der Heyden made a Haarlem version of zopie. It’s ideal for rainy and (extremely) cold days and makes you feel tipsy right after the first sip. Here’s the recipe.

  • 1 botttle of koytbier ( a strong & spicy Haarlem beer)
  • 1 bottle of  wheat beer,
  • 100 ml dark rum,
  • 100 gr sugar,
  • 50 gram bread,
  • 3 cloves
  • A bit of cardemom powder
  • Some cinnamon powder
  • Tiny bit of nutmeg
  • Piece of lemon or orange

Preheat the pan and slowly poor in the beer. Add the sugar, spices, lemon and bread. Scald, take the pan off the heat and stir in the rum. Serve the mixture directly without straining it.

 

Enjoy the Dutch winter!

koek zopie

Want to know more about Dutch culture, food, drinks and traditions? Celebrate the Dutch way of life and join a cycle tour or choose one of the examples for team building events in the Netherlands.


Story and History of Flag Day Scheveningen

Scheveningen logo herring-veritasvisitMy first visit to Flag Day Scheveningen  was out of curiousity. I heard that the whole festival around herring, and more precisely the new herring. But, if it was all about the herring, why wasn’t  it called Herring Day or Herring Festival? I decided it was time to unravel the mystery and look for the story and history of Flag Day Scheveningen...

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