Eight influential Dutch thinkers

Okay, we have to admit we are struggling with this one. We started out with the best of intentions to produce a riveting list of bright Dutch minds… but we think we have given ourselves an impossible job. So we’d really, really appreciate your suggestions!

1 Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus
As a priest, theologist, teacher, social critic, and translator of the Bible’s New Testament into Greek, Erasmus (1466-1536) is a most influential scholar who defined the humanist movement in Northern Europe. He was a moderate line player during the religious Reformation, condemning Luther and the new Radicalists while supporting Protestant ideals. His wise words include ‘In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’.

2 Hugo Grotius
Hugo de Groot was born in 1583 as is regarded as the founding father of international law, based on natural law. He was also highly regarded as a philosopher, theologian, poet, playwright, diplomat, statesman and historian. Not bad for someone who died at the age of 62.

3 Baruch Spinoza
Born in a Jewish family in Amsterdam in 1632, Spinoza is considered one of the great rationalists in 17th century philosophy. In his magnum opus Ethica, Spinoza argued that God and Nature are two names for the same reality.


Basically he believed in free thought and free speech. This belief had him excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Talmud Torah Jewish community in 1656 at the age of 23 and his books were placed on the Catholic Church’s list of forbidden reads. He died at the age of 44.

4 Adriaan Koerbagh
Born in 1633 in Amsterdam, Koerbagh prioritised reason over the teachings of the Church and the decrees of the government – making him one of the first true free thinkers. He was arrested on charges of blasphemy and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in 1668 and died in prison a year later

5 Balthazar Bekker
Bekker (1634-1698) wrote books on theology and philosophy including the controversial 1691 book De Betoverde Weereld  (the world bewitched) that attacked popular belief in witchcraft, sorcery and the existence of the devil.


This book really annoyed the Church who stripped Bekker of his ministry and had him tried for blasphemy.

6 Eduard Douwes Dekker
Dekker (1820-1887) adopted the pen name Multatuli when he wrote his groundbreaking novel Max Havelaar (see 10 great Dutch reads in translation). His novel is based on his personal experiences as a Dutch civil servant working in the then Dutch East Indies.


Crucially Dekker exposes the many abuses apparent in the VOC colonial system. Although attempts were made to suppress this book, it became a bestseller and read throughout Europe. Max Havelaar today is the name for a fair trade organisation founded in the Netherlands.

7 Bernard Delfgaauw
Delfgaauw was a controversial professor of philosophy at the University of Groningen. He gained notoriety for his 1967 comments in which he referred to US President Johnson and his staff members as war criminals for their involvement in the Vietnam War. At the time, it was illegal to make such comments about a friendly head of state.

8 William B Drees
Born in 1954, Dress is the grandson of the Dutch prime minister with the same name and has gained fame in a career that has coupled the seemingly incompatible fields of science and religion. Drees is a professor of philosophy of the humanities in Tilburg, has published eight books including Beyond the Big Bang: Quantum Cosmologies and God (1990), numerous essays and journal articles and is the current editor-in-chief of Zygon, Journal of Religion and Science.

 As we said earlier, please send us your suggestions…

10 Dutch rolls you won’t want to avoid at lunch

The Netherlands these days is full of cafes where you can get an organic wholewheat roll with rocket, locally-sourced goats’ cheese, roasted vegetables and a tomato salsa. However, this is all about the classic Dutch ‘broodjes’.

The classic is a soft, white stick-to-the teeth bun, filled with anything that can be tucked more or less securely between the two halves, only one of which is usually smothered in margarine pretending to be butter.

A broodje, possibly accompanied by a glass of milk, is the traditional lunch fare in the Netherlands, as many a foreign business person has found out to their dismay. Here are some of the most popular.

1 Broodje bal: A bun with a meatball filling. Use both hands.

2 Broodje warm vlees: A bun filled with warm meat which can be anything from ham to a complete mystery.

This is meat, people

This is meat, people

3 Broodje kroket: one of the triumphs of Dutch cuisine. Leave to cool off for five minutes, cover in mustard and enjoy. It just doesn’t work using organic sourdough.

4 Broodje kaas: a lunch classic. It is usually filled with a ridiculous amount of young cheese, far too much for one bun to cope with. You will be eating cheese long after the bun is gone.

This one is made with old cheese

This one is made with old cheese

5 Broodje haring: to ask for this combo is like uttering a profanity in church (vloeken in de kerk) to some people who, while edging away from you, will tell you a herring should be savoured on its own, without even the frippery of onions and gherkins.

6 Broodje gezond: filled with cheese, a couple of lettuce leaves and tomato slices this must be one of the most annoying broodjes in existence. The tomato slices invariably slide out from between the mayonnaise coated lettuce leaves onto your new trousers. There is nothing ‘gezond’ about this broodje. It is bad for your blood pressure and full of calories.

The green stuff is the healthy bit

The green stuff is the healthy bit

7 Broodje Hemaworst: Another two-hander. Let the juice from the smoked sausage seep into the bun and enjoy. You will feel terrible afterwards.

8 Broodje halfom:. Orginally a broodje half om half, or half and half, which, ironically, lost half its name. This broodje is typical for Amsterdam and is said to have its roots in Jewish culture. The filling is half liver slices and half salt beef. Yum.

Don't forget lots of pepper

Don’t forget lots of pepper

9 Broodje ros: Bun filled with cold roast beef slices.

10 Saucijzenbroodje: Not a bun but a warm sausage roll, oozing grease and filled with a grey paste which might once have looked at an animal. We love ’em.

10 things you need to know about Vincent van Gogh

This year it is 125 years since Vincent van Gogh shot himself in France. Here’s a list of facts about Van Gogh which you can drop into the conversation and become an instant expert.

1 Van Gogh was a post impressionist
Van Gogh is ranked among the post impressionists. Typical of the period, roughly between 1885 and 1905, were a bold use of colour and dark contour lines, both of which are evident in his work, especially in his French paintings. Other post impressionists include Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne and George Seurat.

2 He did sell a painting
Contrary to popular belief Van Gogh did sell work in his lifetime. It was ‘La Vigne Rouge’ (1888) which was shown in an exhibition of Les XX in Brussels and sold for 400 francs to Belgian artist Anna Boch (of Villeroy & Boch fame). The painting, of a vineyard near Arles, ended up in a collection in Russia which was seized by Stalin in 1918. It is now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The red and yellow leaves of the vines led experts to believe that the phylloxera that had plagued French vineyards for decades had reached epidemic proportions.

the-red-vineyard-van gogh

3 He was close to his brother
Vincent’s younger brother Theo was his mainstay and protector. The two were very close as their voluminous correspondence shows. When Vincent died Theo suffered a complete breakdown. His body and mind were being destroyed by syphilis, a disease that also affected Vincent, and he deteriorated quickly. He spent the rest of his life in an asylum and died in 1891, aged 33. Theo’s wife Jo Van Gogh-Bongerd later buried him next to his brother. ‘They rest together in the small cemetery between the corn fields in Auvers’, she wrote.

4 The mystery of the ear
It is not quite clear how Vincent lost part of his ear. He may have lopped it off himself in a fit of madness but it could also have been his friend Paul Gauguin’s doing: the two had a stormy relationship. The story goes that when Van Gogh prevented Gauguin from leaving the house in Arles Gauguin drew his sabre and caught Van Gogh’s ear. The two then decided not to say anything about it. There’s a letter to Gauguin in which Van Gogh writes: ‘You remain quiet, I shall too’.

5 Was it suicide?
In July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself and died a few days later on July 29. In 2011 American scholars came up with the theory that Van Gogh had been shot by one of two teenagers who had been harassing him for some time. The artist had supposedly kept quiet about it. Stories about the shooting had been doing the rounds in Auvers, they claimed, and the wound was too messy for a suicide. Moreover, Vincent didn’t leave a suicide note. The theory was dismissed by experts who said the wound showed powder marks which meant the gun was fired from up close, presumably by Vincent himself.

6 The most expensive painting
The highest amount of money ever paid for a Van Gogh (up to now) is $82.5 million (€65.8 million). Portrait of Dr Gachet (1890) was sold in 1990 to Ryoei Saito, a Japanese paper manufacturer who snapped it up within three minutes of the auction kicking off. In 2014 Van Gogh’s Vase with red Poppies (1886) was sold to an unknown buyer by Sotheby’s for $61.8 million dollars. The latest painting to change hands is L’Allée des Alyscamps which went for $66.3 million (almost €60 million) in May 2015.

The most expensive Van Gogh so far

The most expensive Van Gogh so far

7 Lost Van Goghs
Six Van Goghs were destroyed by fire, 85 are lost, and three were stolen and haven’t been recovered among which Poppy Flowers (1878) which was stolen twice from the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt. It was stolen for first time in June 1997, recovered 10 years later in Kuwait and stolen again in 2010. It hasn’t been seen since. All in all there are over 2,000 known works by Van Gogh but the number grows: in 2013 curators in Amsterdam authenticated a ‘new’ Van Gogh Sunset at Montmajour (1888).

8 Vincent in love
Vincent never married but as far as we know he did fall in love a couple of times. His first love was Caroline Haanebeek who was a friend of the family. Nothing came of it and she married someone else. In London, Vincent fell head over heels in love with the 19 year-old daughter of his landlord, Eugenie Loyer, who didn’t want him either.

In 1881 he found himself once more and living at his parents’ house, in Etten. During this time he fell in love with his cousin Kee Vos. His parents disapproved as he wrote in a letter to Theo: ‘Mother and father say She will tell you no, never, so don’t say a word.’ He asked Theo to put in a good word with his parents and explain that ‘to work and become an artist one needs love’. His parents were right, however: Kee wouldn’t have him.

In The Hague Vincent met prostitute Sien Hoornik and the two lived together for eighteen months. The relationship shocked his relatives and as numerous fights cooled his initial zeal to redeem a lost soul the affair quickly ran its course. In 1883 Vincent met Margot Begeman who lived next door to his parents in Nuenen and who was twelve years his senior. They fell in love but once again his parents conspired against the match. Begeman tried to commit suicide in 1884 when the relationship came to an end.

9 Absinthe
Absinthe, also known as the Green Fairy, is supposed to give the drinker a heightened sense of colour and is said to account for some of the vivid yellow in Van Gogh’s paintings. This is by no means the only – or most fanciful – report on the effects of his health on his painting: he is also rumoured to have suffered from lead poisoning which may have caused him to see the kind of halos he painted in The Starry Night.

starry night van gogh

10 Fading colours
In 2014 Dr Ella Hendricks, head of conservation at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, found that the colours in a number of Van Gogh’s paintings are fading because of too much UV light. The amount of light at the museum has now been brought down. Restorers are now looking to the vivid descriptions of colours in his letters to help them decide what they originally looked like.

10 of the best Dutch actresses still making waves

The Netherlands has a host of great actresses, many of whom have parlayed their success at home into an international career. And with the current bonanza of Dutch tv drama, a new, young generation is emerging. Here is our pick of ten of the best already established actresses.

The one who always cries
Sylvia Hoeks (1983), who started out as a model, always looks as if she’s about to burst into tears. No wonder then that some of her biggest roles have involved a lot of crying. For instance, as the adulterous wife in two seasons of the tv series Overspel (Adultery) and in the film De Storm as a young woman searching for her baby during the Zeeland flood disaster of 1953.

sylvia hoeks by siebbi

At the Berlin Film Festival. Photo: Siebbi

In 2007 she won the Golden Calf film award as best actress for her role in the film Duska.

The one with the bouncing curls
Eva van Weideven (1985) made her debut at the age of 17 in the tv series Dunya & Desie in the role of Desie and later reprised the role in the film Dunya & Desie in Morocco. She was in the Dutch theatre production of Paris, Texas, the 12-part tv series Vuurzee (sea of flames) and had a role in one season of the gangster series Penoza.

In a still from Prisoner Cell Block H

In a still from Prisoner Cell Block H

Most recently she starred in two seasons of the tv series A’dam-EVA. But whatever her dramatic roles throw at her, those bouncing curls usually guarantee she’ll be okay in the end.

The one who can’t keep her clothes on
Halina Reijn (1975) is one of the Netherlands’ top stage actresses although she has also appeared in films and on tv. On stage she has played Shakespeare and Chekhov and won the prestigious Colombina prize for her role in Shopping and Fucking.


Keeping some clothes on

But whatever she’s playing, she can usually be relied upon to get some or all of her kit off at the drop of a hat.

The one who starred with Tom Cruise
Carice van Houten (1976) played Tom Cruise’s wife in the film Valkyrie, having made her international breakthrough in Paul Verhoeven’s World War II drama Zwartboek (black book) in 2006. She won the Colombina in 2003 for her role as Macha in Chekhov’s The Seagull and has five Golden Calfs to her name.

Carice in Game of Thrones - with her clothes on

Carice in Game of Thrones – with her clothes on

She played South African poet Ingrid Jonker in the international film Black Butterflies in 2011. She currently has a continuing role in Game of Thrones.

The one who sings
Hadewych Minis (1977) is a member of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, one of the Netherlands’ top theatre companies. She has also appeared in films and tv series, winning a Golden Calf for her role in Alex van Warmerdam’s horror film Borgman.

In Borgman

In Borgman

Most recently she played Rachel Hazes, wife of the late singer and national treasure André, in the biographical musical and film of his life. She also has one of the country’s most extraordinary singing voices and has recently released her first album.

The one who’s always sweet
Noortje Herlaag (1985) sprang to fame in 2010 when she won the tv audition series Op zoek naar Mary Poppins (looking for Mary Poppins) and went on to play the role in the stage musical.


Just a spoonful of sugar

She was a perfect Mary Poppins and went on to star in the tv series Moeder, ik wil bij de revue (mum, I want to join the revue) in which she played the sweet-natured girlfriend of the main character. Since then, this sunny actress has appeared on stage in productions which include Agnes of God.

The one who starred with George Clooney
Thekla Reuten (1975) played a hired assassin who provides George Clooney with a high-powered rifle in Anton Corbijn’s The American.

As a hired gun

As a hired gun

Two years earlier, in 2008, she had appeared in a small role in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Alongside work in Dutch films and tv series, she was in the fourth season of hit American tv series Lost and in the four-part BBC1 political thriller Hidden.

The one with an Oscar
Willeke van Ammelrooy (1944) starred in the 1995 Oscar-winning film Antonia’s Line, in which she played the leader of a matriarchal community.

A surprise guest role in GTST

A surprise guest role in GTST

However, she began her film career in 1971 as the eponymous Mira, becoming the first Dutch actress to play a full frontal nude scene. She is one of the Netherlands’ most important film stars.

The one who survived death
Monic Hendrickx (1966) was a highly regarded actress in films and on tv and stage when she became a real star in the tv series Penoza, in which she plays a gangster boss who was gunned down at the end of the third series.

Did she survive death?

Did she survive death?

With a fourth series due later in 2014, it seems she has cheated death. International audiences know her from the film The Polish Bride (1998).

The one in a solo film
Johanna ter Steege (1961) beat Tom Hardy and his 2013 solo role in Lock to the post when she climbed into a car to deliver a 75-minute monologue, playing the role of a woman who phones her ex-lover for the last time in one long take in Last Conversation.


Multifacted Johanna

Ter Steege has a long international career which began in 1987 with a role in George Sluizer’s Spoorloos, which the director remade with an American cast as The Vanishing. She won global acclaim and the Felix Award in Berlin for best supporting actress for this role. Since then she has worked with directors such as Robert Altman, István Szabó and Bruce Beresford and appeared on stage in London and Washington.

(with acknowledgement to Friends)


Bike spotting in the Netherlands: 10 types to look out for

You thought a bike was just a bike. No, not at all. Here in the Netherlands your bike says everything about your job, your family and social status and your finances. Here’s a brief guide.

1 The omafiets (the granny or sit-up-and-beg bike) has a distinctive shape with its high handlebars and is much beloved by cycle thieves. The vintage bike model was deemed old-fashioned at one point hence the name but is now particularly popular with expats, who like to take them with them when they go back home.

sit up and beg bike.jpg

2  The electric bike. Today’s omas (and opas) are more often spotted zooming along on an electric bike than a boring old granny bike. In fact, government cycling experts are recommending the introduction of a 25 kph speed limit on Dutch bike lanes to curb the impact of electric ‘super’ bikes which can reach speeds of 40 kph.

3 The vouwfiets, or folding bike has evolved from its 1970s incarnation which was the epitome of uncool at the time.

The folding bike may even have hipster appeal

The folding bike may even have hipster appeal

Today’s folding bike is a snazzy little number favoured by businessmen who park their Audis just outside the city centre to avoid getting stuck in traffic. You see them whizzing past, ties awhirl, in their immaculate suits looking smug.

4 An oud wrak is a bike you pick up for next to nothing or inherit from a friend of a friend. It doesn’t have any distinguishing features.

Needs a little work doing

Needs a little work doing

Try to keep it in an immaculately crappy condition and it won’t get stolen, or at least not in the first three weeks. Put a dinky cap on the saddle to distinguish it from all the other crappy looking bikes or you will take hours finding it again. Believe us, we know.

5 The bakfiets or cargo bike was once used by people who had no money to transport their paltry belongings from one squat to another. They are now used to transport children, particularly by people who live in posh parts of town.

cargo bike

The bakfiets is an irritating thing in bike parks because they take up enough room for five ordinary bikes. Almost as annoying as the bakfiets is the kratfiets, the bike with the large black plastic crate attached to the front which makes them just too big to fit into any bike parking bay.

6 The people carrier. A  variation on the bakfiets, the people carrier allows you to transport several children, your dog, your shopping and a pushchair by adding hundreds of euros worth of accessories to an ordinary bike.

7 There are two sorts of company bike. One is the bike with the advertising on it, as in hip and trendy start-ups.

Forget the company car

Forget the company car

The other is the company bike which you get from your employer – now declining in popularity because the government has stopped the tax break. Incidently, if you ride your own bike to work, you can claim mileage of 19 cents a kilometre. See 10 questions about the Dutch and their bikes.

8 The eco bike. Dutch designer Jan Gunneman will make you a wooden bike (well, almost) from sustainable wood. The only question is how to keep it safe in a world full of people with chain saws.

eco bike

9 The recumbent bike. We’ve never quite understood the appeal of a recumbent bike (liegfiets) especially in traffic when you are at perfect exhaust fume height.

The recumbent bike has been around since at least 1934

The recumbent bike has been around since at least 1934

10 Bierfiets. It’s a bicycle made for ten, plus a big vat of beer. Locomotion is achieved by increasingly slow and erratic pedaling. Everyone hates the bierfiets except their owners, the stag nighters who rent them and Amsterdam city council who seem to think they contribute to the city’s tourist facilities.


Almost as bad as the bierfiets are the yellow bikes used by large groups of wobbly tourists on cycle tours. See 10 things which drive us mad about tourists in Amsterdam.


10 reasons why French people are glad they live in the Netherlands

Foreigners who move to the Netherlands often moan about how much better things are back home. We beg to differ. Here’s a Frenchman’s list of 10 reasons why French people are glad they live in Les Pays-Bas.

france netherlands

1 There is less red tape
It might be hard to believe but in France getting anything official done is usually really complicated. Even the French president François Hollande recognizes this and is demanding simpler procedures at all levels. But it is still a mess ! For instance, starting your own company takes 30 minutes in the Netherlands and days in France. And the worst thing ? Communicating with French council workers. It’s hard to get them on the phone, they are not always polite, they don’t have much patience… The Netherlands is a breeze compared with France.

2 School bags are lighter
Imagine a six-year-old pupil going to school in France  – the average school bag weighs in at  8.5 kilos per kid! Sometime school bags are 20% of your body weight but doctors say they should be less than 10%. According to the French national PTA, 64% of the French school pupils complain about their back. In the Netherlands, kids do not get so much homework, they don’t get any at primary school and you have schools where everything is done by iPad.

3 The television news has news in it.
Interested in news about what is going on in the world? Do not watch the French national news. We call it  la Grande Messe  (the big mass). On both the private channel TF1 and public channel France 2, you’ll get local news and magazine reports. And after a measily 10 minutes of what really happened in the world today, you have to undergo 20 minutes of reports on traditions, the habits of the French population and an awful lot of weather. In Holland the weather is pretty much the same all year round and the country is so small nothing much happens, so you get heaps of foreign affairs on the telly instead.

4 Hardly anyone goes on strike
Going on strike is a national sport in France. Striking is a legal and a necessary way to protest against government policy, pay offers, jobs, Brussels… everyone does it. The Dutch hardly ever strike and if they do, they take care not to inconvenience people. Take last year’s industrial action at Air France/KLM – only the French pilots actually stopped working .

5 Flowers are cheap
Living in the Netherlands makes you happy when you love buying flowers. In France, flowers are a luxury. €7 might buy you 10 tulips in Paris but in the Netherlands, you can pick up a gorgeous bunch for €2.50.

6 Cyclists are cherished
Hosting the most famous cycle race in Le Tour de France does not mean the French actually want you to cycle.  And if you do risk your life trying to cross la Place de la Concorde, remember, unlike in the Netherlands, bikes are not allowed to ride everywhere they like. And should you go down a one-way street the wrong way, which is second nature to all Dutchies, you could be fined up to €750.

7 The Dutch are optimists
Pessimism is actually a French way of life. According to a poll in 2009, 60% of the French worry about becoming homeless and only 43% claim to be happy. France is by far one of the most depressed country of the world. The Dutch, by contrast, constantly top world happiness polls.

8 People clean up after their dogs
Around 20 tons of dog mess is collected in Paris each year – that is one kilo every five seconds! Many towns have taken steps to improve this and introduced fines but it is still a big issue.  In the Netherlands, there are special places where dogs can go and do their business and in some towns you get free plastic bags. Amazing.

9 No-cash shops
Try to buy your pain au chocolat with plastic and the baker will look at you like you are mad. No cash, no croissant. He might suggest you add a few more items to the bill and then they’ll accept your credit card but pin? Forget it. In the Netherlands, by contrast, no-one turns a hair if you pay by pin for a cheese roll.

10 No endless family meals
Those long French family meals might be the stuff of Boursin adverts on the Dutch telly, but to those who have to suffer them, they can be a nightmare. French families can spend hours and hours eating, drinking, telling stories, talking politics… apéritif, three courses, cheese, dessert, digestif, it never ends… An ovenschotel or stamppot at 6pm sharp never seemed more attractive.

For more on the French in the Netherlands, check out website CanalDutch.com


10 notorious Dutch murders

The Dutch murder rate is pretty low in global terms and although Amsterdam has been the centre of a spate of gangland killings in recent months, the Netherlands is a safe place to be. That is not say we have not had our share of nasty murders. Here’s 10 of the headline makers.

Elsje Christians kills her landlady and is hung for the murder
Elsje Christians came to Amsterdam from Denmark in 1664 to look for a job as a maid and rented a room in a hostel. When two weeks had gone by Elsje still hadn’t found a job and her landlady wanted some money, or failing that, Elsje’s belongings. A shouting match ensued. When the woman started hitting her with a broom the girl snapped, grabbed the first thing to hand – which unfortunately for the landlady happened to be an axe – and killed her tormentor. She jumped into the Damrak – which was a canal in those days – and was promptly fished out to stand trial. She was strangled to death and her body hung from a pole in a field, the axe next to her head, as a warning to others.


When Rembrandt heard of the events he went to the field and drew her twice: a young girl, a child almost, come to a miserable end in the big city.

Prolific poisoner Maria Catharina Swanenburg
It’s not exactly a proud boast but a Dutch woman by the name of Maria Catharina Swanenburg is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific poison murderer of all time. It is thought that between 1880 and 1883 ‘Goeie Mie’ (Good Mie) – she earned the name for her readiness to help people out – poisoned over 100 people, mostly neighbours and members of her family. Arsenic was Swanenburg’s poison of choice. 27 people died and 45 became seriously ill. Swanenburg, a washerwoman who lived in one of the poorest areas in Leiden, was after the insurance money and even took out insurances behind the victims’ backs.


In 1883 three people of the same family died raising suspicions. The trail quickly led to Swanenburg and her rapidly diminishing store of friends and family. A number of bodies were exhumed and found to contain arsenic. Swanenburg confessed and was sentenced to life. Her motives never did become clear. Although she pocketed the insurance money she never spent it. It is thought she enjoyed the sense of power it gave her to decide who lived or died. Swanenburg died in prison in 1915.

The Baarn murder
Youth, privilege and class justice were some of the powerful ingredients that made up the Baarn murder case. In 1961 the bones of a 14 year-old boy were found in a pit covered in lime next to a villa in Baarn, home to the well-heeled Henny family. They belonged to Theo Mastwijk, a petty criminal who had earlier implicated Hennie Werkhoven (15) a student at the Baarns Lyceum in the theft of a motor bike.

Hennie was also good friends with millionaire’s sons Ewout (16) and Boudewijn (17) and it is likely that all four boys had something to do with a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood. Theo, for some unknown reason, stayed, unseen, at the huge 42-room villa of the Henny’s where either Hennie or Boudewijn delivered the fatal blow to Theo’s head. The reason for the murder is a mystery. Perhaps Theo blackmailed the boys. Some have said the sheer arrogance of these rich boys made them think they could get away with murder.


During the court case the brothers were allowed several outings – among which a sailing holiday – amid cries of class justice. Boudewijn and Hennie were condemned to 9 years, while Ewout got 6. The brothers were allowed to continue their studies in prison. On being released they took over their father’s life insurance business at the villa and are presently in 178th place in the Quote 500 list with a fortune of €147m.

Wednesday is minced meat day
Woensdag, gehaktdag (Wednesday, minced meat day) is a Dutch saying that takes on very sinister meaning in the case of Richard Klinkhamer. After a checkered career – Klinkhamer went into the Foreign Legion at 19, worked as a butcher and then turned novelist – and several failed marriages Klinkhamer married Hannie Gofiron and moved to the hamlet of Hongerige Wolf (Hungry Wolf) in Groningen. Klinkhamer played the stockmarket but lost everything in the crash of 1987, including his wife’s money.

The marriage deteriorated and in 1991 Klinkhamer hit his wife over the head with a crowbar during an argument and killed her. He then buried her underneath a shed under a layer of concrete. Klinkhamer was a suspect in her disappearance but it wasn’t until 2000, when the new owner of the house in Hongerige Wolf discovered Gofiron’s remains, that Klinkhamer was caught. He confessed immediately, claiming his wife went for him first with the crowbar. He was given six years for manslaughter.

Richard Klinkhamer

In 2007 his book ‘Woensdag, gehaktdag’ was published. In it Klinkhamer describes various ways in which the killing of his wife may have occurred.

Miscarriage of justice: the Putten murder case
The Putten murder case is one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice ever recorded in the Netherlands. In 1994 two men were sentenced to ten years – of which they had already served seven when they were released – for the murder of Christel Ambrosius. In January 1994 stewardess Christel Ambrosius cycled over to her grandmother’s house on the edge of the small town of Putten on the Veluwe. Her grandmother turned out to be visiting a sick friend and Christel waited for her in the house. On her return the grandmother found Christel dead. She had been raped and her throat cut. On her leg traces of semen and two hairs were found.

Putten murder

Witnesses claimed to have seen an old green Mercedes driving around in woods near the house at the time of the murder and owners Wilco Viets and Herman Du Bois – who were known to take a green Mercedes for a spin at weekends – were quickly arrested. Neither the hair nor the semen belonged to either man but police were so convinced – ex-copper Jan Blaauw called it ‘tunnel vision’ – they had the killers they came up with a theory: Christel must have had sex earlier with a boyfriend and the subsequent rape ‘dragged’ out the semen.

The boyfriend never materialised but the judge in the case found the story compelling enough to sentence the men to ten years. Crime reporter Peter R. de Vries and Jan Blaauw remained unconvinced and pushed for a DNA test of the hairs which turned out to be a match with the semen. It was extremely unlikely the hairs would have remained on Christel’s leg until after her murder, the duo maintained and the case was reviewed. On their release the men were given almost a million euros each in compensation. In 2008 Ronald P., who was 19 years old and living in Putten at the time, was apprehended for the murder.

Kerwin Duinmeijer: A racist murder in Amsterdam
The murder of Kerwin Duinmeijer in 1982 marked turning point in Dutch society. Two months after the murder anti-racism bureau RADAR was founded in Rotterdam, the first of its kind. According to director Cyriel Triesscheijn ‘the image as the Netherlands as a tolerant society was no longer valid’.


Kerwin Duinmeijer, an Antillean boy adopted by white parents, was fifteen years old when he was fatally stabbed by 16 year-old skinhead Nico Bodemeijer in the Damstraat in Amsterdam. In spite of obviously racist remarks made by the perpetrator in the run up to the attack the judge in the case didn’t think racism was at the bottom of the crime. Bodemeijer suffered from ‘a developmental disorder’ and couldn’t be held completely responsible for his deeds.

Bodemeijer, who sported a ‘100% white’ tattoo, went to a psychiatric centre for minors until he was 21. Later he became active in the emerging anti-immigration party Centrum Democraten. Bodemeijer was in and out of prison and died in 2012. Kerwin Duinmeijer is remembered each year in a march from Dam square to the Vondelpark on August 20, the day of the killing.

The assassination of Pim Fortuyn
The murder of LPF leader Pim Fortuyn in the run up to the national elections in 2002 caused shock and outrage in the Netherlands. The press spoke of a ‘before’ and ‘after’: the Netherlands would never be the same again. On May 6 controversial and outspoken politician Fortuyn – who some said was sure to become the country’s next prime minister – was leaving the media park in Hilversum when he was shot at point blank range by militant animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf.

Pim Fortuyn

Van der Graaf was portrayed as an obsessive man with a black-and-white sense of right and wrong who enraged farmers by his meticulously prepared cases against any environmental wrong-doing. When asked what drove him to shoot Fortuyn he said he considered the politician to be ‘a growing menace to the most vulnerable people in society, such as asylum seekers, Muslims and people on benefits.’ Van der Graaf was sentenced to 18 years. He was released in 2014 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Cold case solved by DNA – the murder of Marianne Vaatstra
Another crime that kept the nation in suspense was the murder of 16 year-old Marianne Vaatstra from Friesland who was found raped and murdered in a field in 1999. It would take 13 years to solve the case. Meanwhile rumours stoked up public feeling against a local asylum seekers’ centre. The first round of DNA testing included two inhabitants of the centre who were exonerated but no match was found. The case continued to generate publicity – not in the least because of the tireless efforts of Vaatstra’s father – but it wasn’t until a second, large-scale DNA probe that the killer finally came into view.


Farmer Jasper S. and his family lived just a very few kilometres from the murder site. S. stated that he bumped into the girl, who was on her way home, and threatened her with a knife. He could not remember why he committed the crime except that he felt ‘stressed’. According to his lawyer S. took part in the DNA probe because he ‘felt the net was closing in and he wanted to get caught’. S. was described as a ‘hard-working family man’ – he maintained he’d kept silent in order to protect his family – and the community had a hard time believing he actually committed the crime. S. was sentenced to 18 years.

The girl from Nulde
The case that became known as the ‘girl from Nulde’ was solved when police, unable to identify the scattered remains of a small child, some of which were found at the beach at Nulde in 2001, decided to order a reconstruction of the head.

meisje van nulde

Teachers and family members subsequently recognised 4 year-old Rowena Rikkers. The little girl died after having been horrendously beaten by her stepfather who also punished the child by locking her up in a dog cage for two months prior to her death. The child’s mother and stepfather fled to Spain but were tracked down and sentenced to 12 and eight years respectively.

The murder of Theo van Gogh
On November 2004, controversial film maker and columnist Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutchman of Moroccan descent. Van Gogh was cycling to work when Bouyeri shot him eight times and then cut his throat. He then took a knife and pinned a note on Van Gogh‘s chest threatening former politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Theo van Gogh telegraaf

According to Bouyeri both Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali, who together made ‘Submission’, a film critical of the treatment of Muslim women, were enemies of Islam. A poll conducted two and a half years after the murder showed that 52% of respondents thought that freedom of expression in the Netherlands had been compromised. Bouyeri was sentenced to life in prison.

Dutch cabaret in 8 steps

Cabaret in the Netherlands is not the feathers and sequins of cabaret elsewhere in the world. Nor is it the same as stand-up comedy. It is a solo artist or group commenting on the state of the world in songs and dialogues, often by telling one long story with numerous asides. Here is the history of Dutch cabaret in eight steps.

1 The father of cabaret


Eduard Jacobs (1868-1914) was the first Dutch cabaret artist. He was also known as the ‘minstrel of the compost heap’ for the content of his songs. He moved to Paris around 1880 where he stayed for four years working as the pianist at the Moulin Rouge. It was here that Jacobs discovered a new form of entertainment: cabaret artistique with songs about the life of the poor. On his return to Amsterdam, he began appearing in cafes, singing about the prostitutes, pimps and other low lifes of the city and the problems faced by the working class. Although never a huge success, probably because audiences were not ready for his saucy songs, he paved the way for those who followed.

2 Cabaret takes root

The development of cabaret was carried forward by three main artists: Koos Speenhoff, Jean-Louis Pisuisse and Louis Davids.

Jacobus Hendrikus Speenhoff (1869-1945) was given the nickname Koos by his adoring public. This son of a Rotterdam businessman made his debut in 1902 singing self-penned songs about the lot of the working classes. His use of words such as ‘whore’ and ‘bum’ in his songs brought criticism, particularly from the Catholic church which considered him immoral and degenerate, no doubt adding to his popularity.

Jean-Louis Pisuisse (1880-1927) worked as a journalist in Amsterdam and took to the stage as a joke in 1907 with a colleague. The duo disguised themselves as Italian street singers and performed songs about the working classes. They were so successful they toured the world with their act until 1913. Pisuisse then left journalism to set up a cabaret group, basing his material on what he had seen in Paris and becoming very popular. He was shot dead on November 26 1927 on the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam by the former lover of his third wife. She too was killed and the lover then turned the gun on himself.

louis davids

Louis Davids (1883-1939) was the most versatile and populist of the three. He came from a poor Jewish family and his father was a comic and cafe owner. Louis sang at fairgrounds from the age of eight and later gained theatre experience as a magician’s assistant in revue shows in England. He scored considerable success with two duos but it was after he met the English artist Margie Morris that his career really took off. Margie moved to the Netherlands in 1913, smartened him up, accompanied him on the piano, composed the music to many of his songs – including those for the musicals he wrote – and charmed reviewers with her English accent. One of his most famous songs lists the way in which the ‘little’ man is always ground down by those above him. Louis died unexpectedly at the age of 55 from asthma but his influence lived on into the next generation of cabaret artists.

3 Cabaret begins to split

The next generation also had three major artists each with their own very distinctive style. There was a clown, an entertainer and a traditional cabaret artist and they are known as the ‘Big Three’.

Wim Kan (1911-1983) was the first cabaret artist to do more talking than singing. The son of a civil servant, he began with puppet theatre at the age of seven and was soon imitating the neighbours. He began his ABC cabaret with his wife Corrie Vonk in 1936. In 1939 Wim and Corrie began a tour of the Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) and were stuck there when World War II broke out. When the Japanese invaded, they were sent to separate concentration camps, something Kan used in his later programmes.


The couple finally returned to the Netherlands in 1946 and reformed ABC, a company that became a springboard for some of the biggest names in Dutch entertainment. Kan was the first cabaret artist to bring his New Year show first to radio in 1954 and later to television in 1973. In these shows, he reviewed the year in satirical form, keeping his toughest comments for the politicans of his day. The New Year show became a tradition for which most of the country stayed home and continues to this day, with cabaret artists vying for a slot on one of the many channels. There is a statue of Wim and Corrie in the seaside resort of Scheveningen. Sadly, it reduces this giant of the genre to the size of a gnome.

Toon Hermans (1916-2000) was the clown of the three. He was the first to develop a one-man show in the Netherlands – Kan, Sonneveld and later generations followed his example. The son of a bankrupt banker, he grew up in poverty in Sittard in Limburg province and began entertaining at carnivals. His first one-man show in 1958 was televised and he was an over-night success. During his shows he performed a huge range of funny characters and sang self-composed songs. One of the most important cabaret prizes in the Netherlands is named after a bird he invented: the Polifinario. Theatre directors said they always knew when Hermans had performed in their theatre because the seats were damp from the laughing. Although he never dealt with current affairs in his shows, he is still counted among the Big Three.’

Wim Sonneveld (1917-1974) was the entertainer. He was a hopeless student and had a series of unsuccessful jobs when he left school. In 1932 he began singing with an amateur group and two years later formed a duo which provided the entertainment for anniversary parties at companies and organisations.

Story presenteert Wim Sonneveld

In 1936 he became Louis David’s secretary and was also allowed a small part in the show. He was singing in French cabaret in Paris when World War II broke out and returned to the Netherlands where he took roles in several stage productions. During the war he began his own cabaret company with sketches and songs. In 1960 he began a three-year run as Professor Higgins in the first Dutch production of My Fair Lady. His first one-man show premiered in 1964. He was at the height of his fame when he was felled by a heart attack in 1974.

4 Arrival of the women

Soloists and groups led by one star name had been the order of the day, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s two things happened. Cabaret ensembles became popular and the women involved were not just there to play small roles or sing the occasional song. They were of equal importance to the men and some of them used the opportunity as a springboard to a solo career. And two young men turned the world of cabaret upside down.

adele bloemendaal

The first of the groups to be formed was Lurelei in 1958 with Adele Bloemendaal and later Jasperina de Jong. Both these women went on to solo careers in cabaret, becoming hugely successful with their one-woman shows. Next came Don Quishocking with Anke Groot. When she left in 1985 she was replaced by a series of women until, in 2007, the men, by now in their sixties, semi-retired and only appeared on special occasions. Cabaret Ivo de Wijs was the third of these sophisticated ensembles which tackled the state of the country and taboos such as euthanasia, single mothers and abortion. This one was formed in 1971 with Aggie Terlingen joining the three men, and disbanded in 1980.

The two young men were Bram Vermeulen, a multi-talented sportsman, graphic artist and musician, and Freek de Jonge, a gangly young man who wanted to be on the stage but did not know how to get there. When these two met, Bram suggested putting together a show under the title Neerlands Hoop in Bange Dagen (Netherlands hope in scary days). It was an almost immediate hit and the group, with Bram and a band doing the songs and Freek the monologues, became known as Neerlands Hoop. They were so anarchic and surreal that they wiped away the sophistication of other groups and paved the way for a new type of cabaret artist. Neerlands Hoop disbanded in 1979 when Freek decided to launch a solo career.

5 The women take over

The 1980s saw a shift away from groups to solo artists and three of the biggest names were women. Two of the women came out of Lurelei (see 4): Adele Bloemendaal and Jasperina de Jong. Both began life as actresses. Adele, who was with Lurelei from its beginning until 1960, began her career as an actress on tv and on stage and continued to act even after she began her one-woman shows in the early 1980s.

Jasperina de jong

Jasperina, with one of the best voices in the business, was turned down by Wim Sonneveld (see 3) because she was not a trained singer, but joined Lurelei in 1960, replacing Adele. After she left the group in 1968, she took to the stage in the title role of Sweet Charity and in Fien playing the Dutch actress Fien de la Mar, among other things. She gave her first one-woman show in 1986.

The other woman was Jenny Arean who acted in tv and stage musicals and in a cabaret programme with three men before launching a solo cabaret career in the mid-1980s. She is at the time of writing the only one of these women still occasionally performing.

All three women tackled contemporary problems in monologues and songs. Jasperina and Jenny in particular told one long story with a beginning and an end, peppered with asides covering everything from taboos to politics.

6 The big two

Alongside these three women were two men who began in the 1970s and are still going strong. Both Freek de Jonge and Youp van het Hek produce pure cabaret. They pace the stage alone. They talk about the state of the country in sharp and edgy terms. They sing the occasional song, although neither is a good singer. Both sell out the 1756 seats in theater Carré in Amsterdam for a month at a time. And both have done the main New Year monologue for the national tv channel.

freek de jonge

Freek came out of Neerlands Hoop (see 4) and began his solo career in 1979. He was in some sort of costume during his early shows but has latterly taken to wearing suits, albeit with something quirky about the outfit such as red accessories. He has also taken to singing a lot more than previously, which is not a good idea.

He is brilliant at nailing the hypocrisy, sentimentality and hysteria which surrounds us these days. As is Youp, who began with the cabaret group NAR in 1973 and went solo ten years later. A short, rotund figure in jeans or a suit, Youp loves the sort of words that got Eduard Jacobs (see 1) into trouble. One mention in his show of the dreadful types who drink Buckler beer and sales tumbled.

Youp also writes columns for the national newspaper NRC which you can read in English on DutchNews.nl.

7 Cabaret begins to split again

If the balance in what’s known as Dutch cabaret was on the side of political and societal satire in the previous generation, the next generation, born in the late 1950s and early 1960s, harked back to the big three (see 3), with true cabaret mixed with entertainment.

Staying with the tradition of Freek and Youp (see 6) is Theo Maassen who delights audiences with his tough jokes and criticism of society. Nothing is taboo and he excels at highlighting the hypocrisy of religions, directing his fire at Christians, Muslims and Jews alike.

Theo Maassen

Maassen’s 2008 show, Zonder pardon (Without excuse), was filmed and released into cinemas where every showing was sold out. He also did the New Year monologue in 2013 for the Dutch broadcasting company Vara. In 2000 he began acting, appearing in films and tv series and able to portray frightening baddies or sympathetic heroes.

Lenette van Dongen, who made her first one-woman show in 1993, is another who follows the traditional route, although her subject is women and their place in society. In monologues and songs she nails the often ridiculous way in which women are treated or takes pot shots at how women can be their own worst enemy. She trained as a dancer and began her career in musicals, something she is still doing.


Brigitte Kaandorp brought her absurd style to a wider audience after winning the Dutch cabaret competition Cameretten in 1983. While she does aim remarks at various societal foibles, she is more of an entertainer with material that consists of monologues which audiences can relate to and songs which range from hilarious to tender. She’s also a great yodeller. Only Brigitte could begin a show naked except for a towel and spend around five minutes talking about why she was caught naked while keeping herself covered.

If Kaandorp’s style tends towards entertainment, Hans Teeuwen takes absurdity to extremes. He began in a duo which won Cameretten in 1991. When his partner died in an accident, Hans went solo. He opened his first solo show in 1994 by acting a very nervous man who should not have been on the stage. Since then his stream-of-consciousness style has had audiences hooting with laughter and on the edge of their seats wondering how much ruder he will become. The answer is: very. He stopped in 2005 after five shows, but gave a series of shows in England in 2007 to critical acclaim. In the meantime, he has become a jazz singer and film-maker.

The last of the big names in this generation is Hans Liberg, a multi-instrumentalist and comedian who made the finals of Cameretten in 1983. His act is based on that of the famous Danish comedian Victor Borge. Liberg uses classical music, popular songs and themes from films and commercials to make strange and funny combinations which he links with amusing comments. He was sampling before the word was in common usage. He has done international tours and won an International Emmy in 1997 for his show Liberg Zaps Himself.

8 The new generation

The latest batch of cabaret artists are in their thirties or early forties and they are a very diverse bunch, with people from non-Dutch backgrounds joining in. This has led to monologues and songs dealing with countries ranging from Indonesia to Suriname, the problems of integration and the quirks of the Dutch.

It is probably this diversity which has made cabaret cool over the past few decades. It now attracts a huge audience of mainly young people. Even a debut show from a new name can fill a medium-sized theatre.

Najib Amhali is part of the new breed

Najib Amhali is part of the new breed

Leading the charge in traditional cabaret are the Spanish-Dutch Javier Guzman and his brother Emilio, the Moroccan-Dutch Najib Amhali, Roué Verveer from Suriname and the Dutch Sara Kroes and Pieter Derks, the youngest of this bunch at the age of 30. Both Amhali and Derks have done the New Year monologue.

Kroes and Derks are the only ones who sing, but they all share a sharp eye for the pressure points in society. And all of them are excellent examples of the liveliness of the Dutch cabaret scene.

The top 10 Dutch films at the box office

In time for the Oscars, here a list of the biggest Dutch films at the box office. Two you may recognise from our list of 10 Dutch films you must see.

1 Turks fruit (1973): 3,334,044 visitors

Rutger Hauer's a delight

Rutger Hauer’s a delight

One of three Paul Verhoeven films in the all time top 10, Turks fruit is based on the novel by Jan Wolkers. This story of how a young man finds the love of his life and then loses her made film stars of Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven, partly due to the uninhibited nude scenes. Camerman Jan de Bont, who often worked on Verhoeven’s Dutch films and later moved to Hollywood where he directed films such as Speed and Twister, made the most of the Amsterdam locations.

2 Fanfare (1958): 2,635,178 visitors
Bert Haanstra’s feature film debut, written by the director and the journalist Jan Blokker, is a gentle comedy about the battle between two local marching bands to win a national competition. It features a host of Dutch character actors, but the stars are the canal-lined village of Giethoorn and the music by Jan Mul. He wrote two melodies, one for each band, which eventually merge seamlessly together.

3 Ciske de Rat (1955): 2,432,500 visitors
The original version of the drama based on Piet Bakker’s trilogy was directed by the distinguished German Wolfgang Staudte. It’s the story of a young hooligan left to the not so tender mercies of his mother while his father is away at sea. When she begins destroying his favourite book, he stabs her to death in the ensuring struggle. His only support is his teacher, played by the excellent Kees Brusse. It won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, was remade in 1984 and turned into a successful musical in 2007.

4 Wat zien ik? (1971): 2,358,946 visitors

wat zie ik
This tough but finally sentimental tale of two Amsterdam prostitutes and their attempt to escape their bleak life caused uproar on its release because of its sex scenes. This was just one of the many controversies raised by the films of director Paul Verhoeven who in 1986 moved to Hollywood to escape the Dutch critics’ accusations of cynicism and pandering to the lowest common denominator of sex and violence. The cast is a who’s who of Dutch actors of the time.

5 Blue movie (1971): 2,334,953 visitors
The first film to reach Dutch cinemas with sex scenes and shots of an erect penis, it was initially refused a certificate by the Dutch film board. The story takes place in one of the then new blocks of flats in the Amsterdam area of the Bijlmer. It’s here that a just-released child sex abuser is housed. He discovers the block is a hotbed of casual sex. Producer Wim Verstappen and director Pim de la Parra made millions from the film which they used to make a series of unsuccessful films.

6 Flodder (1986): 2,313,701 visitors

Not your typical Dutch family

Not your typical Dutch family

The family Flodder, with much-loved actress Nelly Frijda as Ma Flodder, managed to make disfuntionality funny and sympathetic. The Flodders are moved into a house in a wealthy area of town because their social worker wants to prove that a better environment will improve their behaviour. Needless to say, the experiment does not work. Director and writer Dick Maas had already made De lift, the first Dutch film to be bought by a Hollywood distributor for worldwide release. Flodder had two sequels and was also turned into a tv series.

7 Gooische vrouwen (2011): 1,914,419 visitors

gooische vrouwen
The Gooische women of the title (the nouveau riche who live in Het Gooi, an area just east of Amsterdam) first saw the light of day in a tv series devised by and starring Linda de Mol and reminiscent of the American series Desperate Housewives. The transfer to the big screen came after the fifth and final series. The film attracted so many visitors it entered the box office all-time top 10, knocking out the far superior Soldier of Orange.

8 Keetje Tippel (1975): 1,829,068 visitors
The third Paul Verhoeven film in this list is based on the memoirs of Neel Doff (1858-1942) and was the most expensive Dutch film produced up to that time. It features a strong-willed female character striving to improve her lot. Some of its popularity may be due to the reteaming of Monique van de Ven and Rutger Hauer.

9 Alleman (1963): 1,663,734 visitors
Another Bert Haanstra film, this time a candid camera documentary which observes people’s behaviour with humour and understanding. Perhaps the most famous scene is the one on a beach where people struggle to change into bathing suits with only a large towel to protect their modesty. The film, known in English as The Human Dutch and with narration by Peter Ustinov, was nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar.

10 Ciske de Rat (1984): 1,593,816 visitors

ciske de rat
Guido Peters directed this remake of the film at number three in this list. Ciske was played by the 14-year-old Danny de Munck who scored a number one hit with the song he sings in the film, and went on to have a successful career in musicals. The sympathetic teacher in this version was played by Dutch stage performer Herman van Veen.

Escape Albert, Dirk and Jumbo. Here’s 11 Amsterdam markets not to miss

Sick of endless H&Ms, Zaras and Blokkers? Fed up with Albert, Jumbo and Dirk? Amsterdam has a lot of markets as well. Here’s our list of 11. And no, we have not included the Bloemenmarkt because it mainly sells tourist tat.

The Albert Cuyp market in spring. Photo by Balou46 via wikimedia commons

The Albert Cuyp market in spring. Photo by Balou46 via wikimedia commons

1 The Albert Cuyp market in de Pijp (daily) is over a hundred years old. It’s probably Amsterdam’s best-known market. Vegetables, fish, clothes, bike locks, flowers, plants, stuff, stuff and more stuff is what its over 300 market stalls have on offer. If you’re partial to stroopwafels all you have to do is follow your nose. Don’t handle the fruit and veg though, the market holders are not partial to you testing the goods and can get pretty crochety.

2 Dappermarkt (daily, except Sundays). Refurbished a couple of years ago, the Dappermarkt fortunately hasn’t become prettified or too trendy. It’s still a good mix of excellent fruit and veg stalls, clothes and stuff. Kaas van Klaas is a must for any cheese lover of Dutch cheese and there’s bargains to be had flower-wise as well.

3 Ten Katemarkt (daily, except Sundays). This market can get quite crowded, wedged in as it is in  a narrow street off the busy Kinkerstraat. Good cheese and sausage stalls and of course very close to the now super trendy Hallen.

4 Plantenmarkt Amstelveld, off Utrechtsestraat (Mondays only) is a jolly little market on a very pretty square where you can stock up on bulbs and plants while enjoying the view of the canal on a quiet sunny Monday morning.

5 Every Monday morning, the Westerstraat is home to the Lapjesmarkt or fabric market. As the name suggests, you’ll find stall after stall filled with assorted fabrics sold by the metre plus buttons, bows, thread and all those sewing essentials it is impossible to find.

The Lapjesmarkt runs into the Noordermarkt just around the corner. Here you’ll find more fabric, plus some antiques and second-hand books. If you love antique knick-knacks and old furniture get there early and have a nice wander round before sampling the appeltaart at Café Winkel 43. Bill Clinton tried some and he thought it was ‘fabulous’. But don’t take Bill-I-did-NOT-have-whipped-cream-with-that-tart Clinton’s word for it, go there yourself.

6 Boerenmarkt. On Saturday the Noordermarkt is home to a farmers market. Lovely fresh produce, cheese, sausages, bread plus herbal remedies, oysters to eat on the spot and crepes for the kids. There are also a number of stalls selling second hand clothes, antiques and knick-knacks.

7 Haarlemmerplein farmers market (Wednesdays 10am – 5pm). Best not access this market from Haarlemmerstraat and its many tempting shops because you will need some serious money if you plan on doing your weekly shop here. Farmers sell their organic products here and they are happy to tell you all about them (it’s called slow shopping).

8 Oudemanhuispoort boekenmarkt. As you walk through Oudemanhuispoort antiquarian (and modern) books market, take a peek at the university building and its charming little square hidden behind the big door. The passage is a bit dark and gloomy but that won’t deter the true book lover. When you pop out at the other end and access nearby Staalstraat you are well on your way to the Waterlooplein market.

9 Waterlooplein market (daily, except Sundays) is on the Waterlooplein but it wasn’t always. In the seventies, with the controversial arrival of a metro system, people never knew where among the rubble the market might pop up and in the late seventies, when the town hall and opera building were built, it was moved to nearby Rapenburgerstraat for a long while. To NbN, it was a good sight jollier then and proper second hand bargains could be had, especially in the leather jacket department. The Waterlooplein has become a little scraggly and uninteresting although you can still find some bargain books.

10 Ah, Mercatorplein, once a sea of pink blooms in spring, now a not very inspiring square on top of an underground car par. That was in the nineties but the square has taken a long time to recuperate. The good news is that there is plenty of space for a market i.e. the MercatorMarkt (operative again from March, see www. mercatormarkt.nl for opening hours) with a capital M in the middle of the word to denote contemporary coolness. People who are clearing out their attics can apply for a stall as well. Hurry, they may not know it’s a Rembrandt they have there.

11 Westergasfabriek Sunday market. (once a month on Sundays, see website www.sundaymarket.nl) Get your art, design, ceramics, fashion, organic food here. Established artists and young talent present and sell their wares on this market which takes its inspiration from the London markets at Camden, Portobello Road and Spitalfields.