Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jeaulous of Your Cigarette

Dear Dutchness Dutchless,

I hope you are fine wherever you are.
As for me, something has changed.
Space rather than time.
But I will be back soon.
Just give me a couple of days to put on screen proper thoughts.
Yours as usually,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Shroom of One's Own

(I am sorry, Miss Virginia Woolf)

A foreign correspondent par excellence has to camouflage himself trying habits and customs of the place where he momentarily lives. A professional conversationalist as well as a great connoisseur of journalistic techniques, the brilliant modern reporter can cheat in many languages.

As Ryszard Kapuscinski puts it on his book Imperium talking about his dangerous mission in Nagorno Karabach dressed like an Aeroflot pilot:
"If a Russian patrol starts to talk me, it's not a big deal: I pretend to be Armenian and I answer in Russian with an Armenian accent. If an Armenian patrol starts to talk me, it's also not a big deal: I answer in Russian but with a Lithuanian or Latvian accent".

That's exactly what I did in these five Dutch months. No, I did not learn Russian. Or Latvian.


I cycled a lot, pedaling backwards to stop.
I ate cumin cheese, pindasaus, bitterbal, frikandel, vla, hagelslag and stroopwafels.
I went to the National Cheese Museum (in Alkmaar).
I also went to the National Bicycle Museum (in Nijmegen)

I made pannenkoeken (in Utrecht).
I did the Herring Ritual (in Den Haag).
I survived to a Febo's kipburger (in Amsterdam).
I drank Grolsch, Bavaria and Jupiler.
I joked on the Belgians and dated a girl from Friesland.
I gave money to local celebrities Albert Heijn and Super De Boer.
I got tired of chipknips, strippenkaart and welpies.
I wore in orange more often than necessary.
I blew in a plastic horn cheering up for Holland.
I read the most intellectual free press.
I pretended to be one of the tallest person in the world.

Thus I can say that except for carrying a local blond lady on the back of my bike I behaved in a typical Dutch way. What? Wat? Are you telling me there is something else I forgot to try?

Excuse me, did you say drugs?
Well, it's not my style, you know.
I am not Norman Mailer or Truman Capote.
But you have a point.

I tried mushrooms days ago.
Those mushrooms.
Together with three colleagues from Munich, Vienna and Toronto we made a focus group.

As we crossed the threshold of the closest smart shop we were immediately asked
"Where do you wanna go?
"I mean, what kind of trip do you wanna try guys?" said the shop owner (we will call him Leopold).
A travel agency, we assumed.

Silence. Embarrassment. Two steps forward. Six steps back.

"Wait! - Leopold yelled- "Aren't you looking for mushrooms?"
"Well, so you are in the right place!" Smiled the shop owner moving his long ponytail.
Lesson number 1: speak the lingo.

"May I suggest you these Thai? They give you an excellent ticket to ride".
"Oh, do you really import them from Thailand?"
, actually we cultivate them here."
Lesson number 2: do not get fascinated by exoticism.

"Have a nice trip!"
"Thank you, Leopold".
"And don't forget to tell me what you will see!"
"Sure. Doeg!".

But we did not send him a postcard.

We had the Thai mushrooms in my room and then spent hours laughing at the Oog in Al (Bambi Park for insiders). We shared a childish happiness and a bowler hat while three generations of Dutches were staring at us from the benches around. What a perfect disguise we had!

All that I can say by my side is that when I am under mushrooms I can see every detail and feel every smell in a clearer way. The colours of flowers. The perfume of sun tanned skin. The stripes of a t-shirt. The aroma of Euroshop hazelnut chocolate.

Someone in our focus group saw a lot of action happening in the sky among the puffy white clouds. Someone else stared for a long time to a pair of jeans trying to convince us that there were blue dots moving in waves and circles. I tried to get the same show on a pair of socks but it did not work. Perhaps I looked there during an intermission.

Once an important poet (T.S. Eliot?) wrote that anticipation of pleasure is better than its fulfillment. That's utterly true. And not only about love.
I was not expecting that much from our Leopold's Shroom Day, but
as a reporter I am quite disappointed. I guess I chose a wrong angle.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Introducing The Black Goose

Yes, she is the one.
Isn't she lovely?

The Black Goose is the only Dutch I love.
I swear.

We understand each other in a perfect way. There's no need of many words between us. And something like this doesn't happen that often.

Wherever I go, she comes with me. Wherever she wants to go, I take her. We rode among sandy dunes and in the Dutch woods. We walked hand in handle staring at the North Sea getting closer.

It was not love at a first sight like for Bianca the fiancée I have left in Bologna, but soon she became as important as her.

It is true that I used to date Ravenna Banger for a couple of months here in Utrecht, but we broke up. Well, actually she broke up. Stress happens.

And then I found her, The Black Goose.
She has everything I desire.
She is elegant but modest. Faithful but with a strong personality. Calm but adventurous.
In other words, The Black Goose is fascinating and desirable.

What is going to happen to our relationship in the very next weeks?
I don't know.
She will not follow me back home.

I would like to believe in a world in which mutual love and precious feelings can cross mountains or even oceans lasting for a long time, but lately my romanticism rhymes with scepticism.

Let's ride.
Typical Dutch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Going to Go-Gouda

Goin' to a go go
Goin' to a go go
Na-na-na-na, yeah-hey

Well there's a brand new place I found-a
Where people goin' from miles around-a
They come from everywhere
And if you'll drop in there
You might see anyone in town-a

Be prepared for a picturesque and picaresque travel to Gouda.
It will not take that long.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I am cycling through the streets of Utrecht when my glance is caught by a second hand store. It is the first time after the Queen's Night that I come back to Hopakker, the road where my dealing with the Dutches began and finished in a hour.

The shop sells old clothes, creased books, cumbersome ornaments, deluxe coffee machines and any sort of odds and ends.
The owner of the second hand store is a gracious woman in her fifties. She moves fleetly among the stacks of stuff that fill every corner of her small shop.
When a customer forgets a plastic bag on a wood wormed chair, the woman runs after her on the sidewalk gently yelling "Missen! Missen!"

Then she puts a vinyl record on a dusty gramophone. It's Kilo by The Nits. And it's the first time I listen to what I assumed to be the most famous Dutch band since I have come in these Lowlands. I smile. She smiles.
I am going to pay a couple of two € priced books. Cosmopolis by Don De Lillo and a selection of short stories called Worst Journeys edited by the Picador Book of Travel. The woman notices they are both English written and asks me.

"Where do you come from?
"Italy - I have to admit.
"Oh, poor you! - she says as patting sympathetically on my shoulder.
"Don't worry! I'm not really into football and I had a great time on that night.
"Yes, but...
"And now I am a supporter of the Dutch team. Don't you see? I am wearing an orange t-shirt!
"I see, but...
"It's so amazing the way in which you celebrate the victories here! You, crazy people.
"Hup Holland Hup!
"Ehm, actually I was referring to your political situation. Why don't you sack that Berlusconi?

Hit and sunk. What a fool I am.
Three days after the 3-0 another humiliating defeat for Italy while facing the Netherlands.

And it is going to be worse and worse.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jeux Sans Frontières

One of my recent favourite hobbies has become crossing borders.
Living in Europe, I am lucky enough to have the possibility of doing it with no passport and without bribing the customs officers or digging a tunnel under barbed wire.
Saint Schengen may you be blessed.

Listen, I am not only crossing borders.
I am crossing borders by bike.
Pretty stupid to say, but quite interesting to do.

At the moment my best feat is going from France to Spain through the hostile Pyrenees.
Second comes a bike trip from Vienna to Bratislava in which I managed to get lost losing sight of that narrow stream called Danube. On that glorious August day I firstly reached the Hungarian border by mistake and then spent forty minutes convincing the zealous Slovakian policemen that I did not want to import any drug in Bratislava.

It took one year to fill the third step of the podium, but now I have another crossing experience to tell to unimpressed women in gallant conversations.

Ladies and Gentleman, I went from Holland to Germany.
Ja. Ja. (caught the difference?)

Well, honestly I just wanted to cross the river Waal by bike on the huge car bridge which overtops Nijmegen. But, you know, I have this tendency on complicating things.
Anyway, when it became clear that I was actually passing under the bridge I decided to go with the flow of cyclists ahead me. It turned out to be a good choice.

The Nijmegen countryside is in fact relaxing enough and the weather was perfect to enjoy a pleasant jaunt with no destination and a train return ticket to Utrecht safe in my pocket.
Cycling on the river bank I soon began to hum pastoral melodies solaced by the signs which informed me I was on the Ooij Fietsroute. Where (or what) is Ooij? I had no idea, but all those people on their familiar Batavus and Gazelle bikes pointing on my same direction were reassuring enough.

Now picture the following performers, please.

Straw hatted Dutches selling homemade honey along the way.
Mustard coloured horses pasturing on the sandy riverside.
Herons hidden by canes in ponds and marshes.
Human beings hiking, bathing, picnicking, viciously licking homemade honey from their fingers.
Passing barges carrying coal from a point A to a point B.

Done it? Thank you very much. That's easier for me.
Let's go further.

Next stop that town. Millingen aan de Rijn. A nice place built under the river bank. No more than a church, a couple of pubs, a butcher shop, a chemist, a kindergarten.
Hey, wait a moment! Aan de Rijn? Rijn, Rhine, Rhein, Reno. Whatever you call it.

What happened to my Waal?
Dazed and confused I opted for a rescue mission resolving to make a u-turn at the end of Millingen, the kidnapper of rivers.

But exactly when the town ends Germany begins.
And in a very low profile, I should say.
No flags. No billboards. No checkpoints of course.
I appreciate it. It's simple. It's practical. It's definitely European.
Just a street sign informs the neighboring Dutches on the speed limits of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

Before and after Millingen on a plane trees coasted road everything is identical. Except for a couple of interesting details.
a) as soon as Germany comes the fields are cultivated (corn, I guess)
b) there are cyclist friendly public fountains in the towns (at least in the first one I met, Kleve).

I am not going to judge Dutches, but I cannot resist to blame them for being tight relating to point b). I do not understand why with all the water they have in these Lowlands there are no public fountains as far as I can remember. (actually a deep throat told me there is a fountain in Amsterdam's Rembrandtplein, but I need to check this information).

Anyway, to cut a long story short. I went to Kleve. I drank German public water while eating Albert Hejn's bought stroopwafels. And then I came back to Nijmegen completely satisfied with my crossing borders hobby.

Once again, it is not my ambition to criticize Dutches, but why do they not have a single street sign informing that you are entering in the Netherlands? Does it cost too much?
Nevermind. Neverland.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tour de Nijmegen

While in Nijmegen it's hard to find a well-located bench.

Yet there are plenty of panoramic spots in this town and you can have many spectacular views on river Waal.

Nijmegen lies on the southern shore of this large gray branch of river Rhine and offers more than expected. A former Roman settlement, the city claims to be the oldest in Holland, although people in Maastricht have a differ
ent story to tell.

Whether the oldest or simply old, Nijmegen does not have much to share with
most of the Dutch cities. You will not see any canal here. In compensation, a surprising number of scooters, motorcycles and even electric bicycles (!) crowd the streets.
This might have something to do with the conformation of the town, which is pretty hill-marked. I am not saying that people in Nijmegen are lazy even if looking at them walking and dragging their bikes instead of cycling on painless cobblestoned uphills more than a suspect may rise.

The town is often referred as the warmest in the Netherlands and local legends say that once the temperature reached a Mediterranean top of 39°. Today there might be 20 Celsius or something and yet I can confirm how the sun here hits the skin with a power unknown elsewhere in these Lowlands. But no decent sun-bathed bench may be found.

It's a charming Sunday early afternoon. Along Waalkade, the river promenade, young and old couples are strolling hand in hand while lapping ice creams or picking at French fries from their mutual vlaamse friten gigantic cornucopias. They walk straight from the rail bridge to the impressive car bridge that alternatively mark the beginning and the end of Nijmegen.
Above the riverside stand a couple of hills punctuated by old brownish stones, half burned towers, ancient walls, ruins of churches and a Michelin starred restaurant. Add lawns, trees, a bunch of Nordic walking teenagers and many poorly located benches and you will have a picture of Hunnerpark.

Although many of its inhabitants prefer to put a motor under their seat, Nijmegen houses the Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama, the only Bike Museum of the Netherlands.
Open your ears folks: this is the best thing I saw in Holland so far.

And this even if, oddly enough:
- there are no bike racks outside the museum and I had to tie my Batavus to a utility pole;
- the custodian does not speak any English
(Waar ga je naartoe? Wij hebben een tweede etage boven!);
- as usually, there is no discount for students.

Yet, believe me, this museum is a gem. Here you can find the weirdest kind of bikes, mono cycles, tricycles and even roller skaters from the late 18th century on in a clever arrangement.
There are bikes of all shapes named, say, Boneshaker,
The Swift Safety, The Matchless, Xtraordinary Challenge or Diamond Rambler No 2, (my favourite one).
For those of you who are Orange fetishists there is even a section dedicated to the bikes rode by the Dutch royal family. The tandem of princes Bernhard and Juliana still radiates a majestic aura. Definitely entertaining the Velorama is also didactic being its signs Dutch written only.

Besides, at the ground floor you can choose among a large selection of funny old-aged posters and postcards. You just have to mime your choice to the inscrutable custodian who is not only Dutch speaking, but also half deaf.

Even if you are not a bicycle nerd like me, Nijmegen definitely worths a visit.

The second and final stage of this Tour will be decisive to convince you. Trespassing Germany.

(on the left side one of the nice posters I bought)

Persepolis, Utrecht

The black and white cat sits on the counter.
She is quietly licking her right foot. Then she passes it on her snout.
From right to left. From left to right. Up and down.

A customer places a couple of yellow plastic bags on the conveyor belt.

The small golden bell around the cat's neck jingles as she jumps on the floor.
She is smooth and well-mannered, but cannot be of any help.

A man approaches behind the counter. He weighs
the two bags on a scales while whistling.
Coins pass from one hand to another one.
"Dank je wel.
"Tot straks.
"Tot ziens.

Welcome to Persepolis, my favourite grocery store in Utrecht.

We are in Kanalstraat, the main street of the Lombok neighborhood.
A place which I use to call "my own Ha(a)rlem", meaning not the Dutch, but the New Yorker one. An area of red-bricked working class buildings between a wooden windmill and a bell tower.
On both sides of the road you can find a large potpourri of Turkish butcheries, Moroccan grills,
Surinamese confectioneries, Lebanese bakeries and Iranian-owned hardware stores.

It just takes five minutes to get here from my place walking along the orange festooned Borneostraat. Hup! Holland Hup! Hundreds of triangle shaped banners exclaim.

Once I used to buy my fruit and vegetables on the other side of Kanalstraat in a no named store known for its juicy mangoes, but lately I put faith in Persepolis for Marjane Satrapi's sake.
It's only here that I can find my beloved hummus and full moons of feta cheese sunk in milky pools. And every time I come here it's hard to don't fill a plastic tray with olives of all sort, tzatziki, mysterious but colourful sauces.

Making your grocery shopping at Persepolis you can feel as a fellow member of Utrecht's microcosm. While waiting for your turn to pay it's nice to catch a quick glance of that cute blond girl ahead of you in the line who took just one green pepper and a single zucchini. And then looking backwards you have a tall old man in his beige caftan who carries a 5 kilos bag of basmati rice and a handful of cassava roots.

Despite the long queue of customers, the Persepolis owner looks relaxed. He is never in a hurry. He stands on the threshold of his store talking nicely with passing people, suppliers, yobs and acquaintances before deciding of coming back to the counter with slow steps.
But as he gives you the yellow plastic bags back adding a bigger stronger white one with a smile, I am sure you will forgive him proclaming Persepolis your favourite grocery shop in Utrecht.

And there is no such thing as customer satisfaction.
If you don't mind the cat, obviously.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Anna Paulowna

It's going to be our first date. Just me and her.
We decided to meet in a small train station between Alkmaar and Den Helder. Although we are not supposed to know so much about each other, I’ve heard many things about her.
Anna Paulowna. The famous Anna Paulowna. My Anna Paulowna, I hope.

I think about her constantly.
I wonder what took her to this remote corner of the Netherlands.
Rural Noord Holland does not look like a worldly place.
Yet she moved here a long time ago.

From my window I can see a milky veil of fog covering a flat, dull countryside. Former wet land. Black spotted Frisian cows stand peacefully along the railway line, flapping their ears and their tails as waving the passing train.

I left Alkmaar a half an hour ago. If I am not wrong just a few minutes separate me from Anna Paulowna. She should be near. She might be near. She must be near. I have to be patient.

According to geography, we are getting closer to the sea. Yet, the landscape does not have anything to do with a marine one. Where are the seagulls? Where are the wrecked boats? Where are the fishermen? Just green fields for miles. And a blanket of haze.
Apparently there used to be tulips here. But now their colours are gone. And all that remains are a few purple and yellow spots of sick-looking irises.

Anna Paulowna! Why did not I meet you in Saint Petersburg, Jalta or even in Roulettenburg when I know you were flirting with that gambler named Fyodor?
Well, it doesn't matter.

I remember having a similar date with Maria Ellend, a petite Austrian I met between Vienna and Bratislava. We attended to a party hosted by local firemen in the courtyard of a picturesque inn. There were liters of radler beer, spicy sausages and a band was playing while we were sitting under the grapevine. Needless to say that I fell in love with Maria Ellend.

That story is over.

Now my feelings are all for Anna Paulowna, the one I am going to meet.
Here we are. The train is reaching the tiny station. Just a few meters between us...
Finally I can see her waiting for me.
She is standing on the platform wearing an amazing blue dress.


The station placard cries.
Once. Twice.
Once. Twice.

But the train does not stop.
And she fades away.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Texel Goes Pixel

Well, it will happen pretty soon.

Sooner or later.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Of Mice and Women

I called him Bart.

Actually I just suppose he is a he, but I have no clue. For sure he is a mouse.
I have never seen him, yet sometimes I can hear Bart.
He uses to chew plastic bags, but in a very silent way.

Bart is my housemate.
I live on the attic, he lives just below the floor.

Two days ago Bart decided to remind me that we share a room somehow.
I was trying to sleep in my bed, while my visiting friend Giacomo was trying to do the same on his mattress on the floor.
It was around midnight and perhaps the house was too silent.
I turned on the light. And Giacomo told me. "Yes, it's a mouse!"
Bart cried twice. Embarrassed and confused, I turned off the light again.

I wondered why he decided to disturb my guest so much. He should be scared by people after all.
Bart never came out from his hidden hole when I am listening to the Field Mice, Modest Mouse or Boomtown Rats.
Perhaps he cannot accept having illegal people in his room.
Who knows?
I felt bad after we saw the chewed Aldi bag on the carpet. I never had problems with my housemates. Bart is the first exception.
Now I am meditating on revenge. Should I kill him? Should I make a trap to glue him on a plastic box while he tries to eat a piece of Gouda?

I think I have a problem with this mouse.


I called her Callas.
Actually I just suppose she is a woman, but I have no clue. For sure she is an opera singer.
I have never seen her, yet sometimes I can hear Callas.
She uses to sing famous arias while a piano plays.

Callas is my neighbour.
I live on Vleutenseweg 155, she lives at number 157

Yesterday Callas knocked on the wooden wall which separates my bedroom and hers.
I was listening Shostakovich. An allegretto for piano, cello and violin. One of my favourite pieces of classical music.
It was around midnight and perhaps the volume was too loud.
I turned down the speakers. But just a little bit. It was Shostakovich!
Callas knocked twice. Embarrassed and confused, I turned down the volume again.

I wondered why she dislikes Shostakovich so hard. She should appreciate this kind of music after all.
Callas never knocked the wall when I am listening primitive forms of rock, distorted wall of guitars or sudden post rock explosions.
Perhaps she prefers The Sonics, My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai and Slint.
Who knows?
I felt bad after she knocked on the wall. I never had problems with my neighbours. Callas is the first who complains.
Now I am meditating on revenge. Should I take it? Should I knock on the wall while she tries to perform decently a work by Rossini?

I think I have a problem with this woman.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Clash of Civilizations

I went to Sweden for a few days. While there I wrote a lot instead of toying with the idea of a cultural exchange which never really happened (you know what I mean).

I would like to annoy you with my reflections on the meaning of existence jotted down at the Skogskyrkogården Cemetery in Stockholm, but this weblog is dedicated to the Lowlands. So I decided for a compromise. Here it is. Don't fall asleep.

A spannende match in one single set.

> Culture
While in Amsterdam, don't miss the Sex Museum, the Torture Museum and the Beer Museum, but remember that the most visited cultural attraction is Madame Tussaud's on Dam Square with its wax stars. Stockholm offers an Historical Museum of Wines and Spirits, a Tobacco Museum and a Custom Museum (!) where you can pretend to be a drug trafficker assaulted by smuggling detector dogs. Isn't that amazing?
One point for each one.

> Drinks
Dutches are proud of their beers. Heineken and Amstel conquered the international markets, while Grolsch and Bavaria reign on the national one. When asked, Swedes are not able to mention a decent local beer.
Point for Holland.

> Fashion
Swedes girls and women in late May use to wear skirts on pantyhose and summer dresses on jeans. At first it seems ridiculous, but then you have to admit there is a logic behind that. Pippi Langstrump rules (ok, ok let's avoid stereotypes). Dutch ladies don't care that much about covering their legs in stockings and as for skirts they have a strange taste in choosing colours. But they can cycle wearing stiletto heels and that's impressive.
One point for each one.

> Food
They both go crazy for herrings. But Dutches eat those fishes in a more glamorous way.
Point for Holland.

> Freedom I
On a regular two hours train trip Dutches control your ticket twice. Swedes investigate over you four times inquiring your ID to be sure you are under 26 to deserve your ungdom discount.
Point for Holland.

> Freedom II
In Stockholm you can drink in the streets by night. In Amsterdam it's not allowed.
Point for Sweden.

> Habits & Social Behaviors I
In Sweden is pretty common seeing or listening people spitting in the streets. In Holland, as far as I know, it's not. See part II below for a plausible explanation.
Point for Holland.

> Habits & Social Behaviors II
Things are going to change pretty soon, but still in Holland you can find friendly coffee shops around selling shisha (as they call it) and other interesting herbs. And yet Dutches don't smoke that much and they're generally polite while doing it. Swedes don't smoke so much as well, but they suck snus "a moist powder tobacco product that is consumed by placing it under the upper lip for extended periods of time" (Wikipedia). Disgusting black teeth and black tongues as well as an insane wish to spit on the sidewalks are a logical consequence. Luckily enough the feminine population of Stockholm keeps away from snus.
Point for Holland.

> Health Care
They both go to the toilet (thanks God). But the Swedes remember to close the door.
Point for Sweden.

> Language
The pronunciation of letter "g" resembles letter "y" in Swedish. For example Blackeberg sounds like "blakkebery" while Göteborg is "yohteboor". Dutches pronounce "g" like having a stomach spasm followed by the impulse to strangle themselves. Try with Groningen at home.
Point for Sweden.

> Public Transportation
With a two zones tram ticket in Göteborg you can go to the southern archipelago and take all the ferries you want within a hour and a half. Utrecht doesn't have any archipelago and just one tram line. The far you can get with a two strippen ticket is from the central station to the university.
Point for Sweden.

> Final Result
7-6 for Holland which wins at the tie-break.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Eindhoven Conversations

The Eindhoven cab driver doesn't like his hometown. I am the lucky one staying in Utrecht, he says in a melancholic way as if he were living in a shantytown.

Can I see? Eindhoven is all like this. Tiny skyscrapers. Large avenues. Lines of trees. Coffee addicted commuters. Neon lighted offices. A city of dead souls. A boring place branded Philips.

- Well, it's a modern place. - I reckon.
- Yes, a modern one - confirms the cab driver.
And he looks quite disgusted by this kind of modernity.

I wonder if the local tourist office knows about this man promoting Eindhoven in such a way.
They might care.

I don't like cabs and I tend to don't take them. But there is a two days strike of public transport in Holland and no bus were waiting at the central station. I didn't know anything about that.
- Good for me. - says the man in his taxi.

And for a moment or two he looks optimist, forgetting how much he dislikes his hometown.
We are waiting at a red light.
On our right side two symmetric bell towers emerge from the rooftops shining in the sun. A six seated tandem crosses the street with six cute girls cycling on it. Eindhoven tries to be nice.

But then comes the green light.
- I really can't stand Eindhoven. I should move to Utrecht - mumbles the cab driver.
- Oh yes, you should - I sympathize with him.

I am sharing this cab to the airport with a forty something Spanish woman. She carries a backpack taller than her. Apparently she doesn't know any English.

- Are you a tourist? - asks her our driver.
- Si, tourist! - she nods vigorously.
- Where have you been in the Netherlands?
The woman shakes her head.
- It was not a yes or no question. - Mr. Cab Driver says
The Spaniard looks lost.

Yet, the man at the steering wheel insists. I am surprised. He is definitely the most talkative fellow I've met in Holland so far.
- I mean, where have you been? Amsterdam?
The woman smiles. She is clearly relieved.
- Si, Amsterdam! - she announces.

Meanwhile, we are getting closer to the airport.
The radio plays a hit from the eighties. Lionel Ritchie, I suppose.
Me and the Spaniard keep silent. The Eindhoven cab driver coughs a couple of times as to suggest an intermission in our lack of conversation.

I would like to talk, but the magnificent suburbs along the motorway are taking my attention span. It's unbelievable how everywhere you go in the Netherlands the public housing architecture is more or less the same. Red bricked buildings of two floors with a small garden at the entrance, no curtains at the windows and "Te Koop" or "Te Huur" panels here and there.
We might be in Breda, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Sittard instead of in Eindhoven. And Utrechtland, I am sorry for the dreamy cab driver, makes no exception.

Then we reach the airport which looks like a bus station in an industrial area.
The cab driver takes the money and helps us with our backpacks.

- Have a nice travel - he says behind his Dutch sunglasses.
- Si, travel! - the Spaniard exclaims.

Our taxi disappears in a queue of others coming back to the fake city of Eindhoven.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Definitely Delft

The translation from Italian is taking more time than expected.
But I won't give up.

Delft deserves words.

Leiden in a Jar

Because I am not good in taking photographs, when I travel alone I use to write about places. I like to do it on a train, on a bus, on a ferry, sometimes on a plane. Writing on a bike might be uncomfortable, but I am gradually getting experienced to it. Parks, stations, cobblestoned squares, cemeteries are also good places to write while standing still.
Finally I decided to put some of this stuff on pixel. It is a kind of therapy and I am not going to change anything of what I wrote. It is all about spontaneous sensations, mistakes included.

On its road to Leiden the train from Utrecht does not have any hurry.
When I came to these Lowlands I knew I was going to live in one of the cities which stands on that densely urbanized ring called Randstad Holland. What I ignored is that the ring surrounds an area widely referred as "The Green Heart". This heart is shaped with everything you wish to see on a postcard from the Netherlands. Black spotted white cows. Sheep. Wooden windmills. Those tulip fields.
The tiny town of Gouda is supposed to be the core of the green heart having its own reputation for cheese as a precious extra ingredient. Gouda is fifteen minutes by train from Utrecht and, I guess, no more than a hour by bike. And yet I still have to decide when and if going there. My impression seeing Gouda's surroundings by the train window on my way to Rotterdam or Den Haag is never that good.
At the opposite the small towns and villages which appear along the railway line just before Leiden are amazing. Looking at the back door gardens with their flowered trees, their bunches of blond children jumping around while a couple of kayaks are drying in the sun on a hut rooftop you wish to get the same bourgeoisie once in your life.
The Dutchmen who live in places like these are wealthy, but not in a vulgar way. Apparently they have been able to fix up their lives in one of the best possible ways. Perhaps they are bored, but there are worse tragedies than that one. All around their detached houses the sun is shining, peaceful water is flowing and a gentle breathe of an upcoming summer is spreading.

Once in Leiden it's easy to get distracted. Here it's all about aestheticism. The whole town seems to have been built for giving pleasure to its inhabitants in their free time. You can hardly find an annoying detail while here. On the walls there are poems of Verlaine and Rembrandt silhouettes. Choreographic windmills still stand on the angles of the former bastions now converted into a green paradise for strollers. The people spend their time sitting outdoors drinking tea or beers at nice cafes or canoing in the canals being careful to don't hit the swans with their paddles.
And even the canals in Leiden are different from the ones of any other Dutch town I visited so far. Utrecht canals are mostly brown resembling the colour of rust. Amsterdam canals cover a wide spectrum of colours from green to indigo, passing through the same shade of a stout beer. In Leiden most of the canals are narrow water paths with nymphaea leaves and flowers on both sides. They really looks like countryside creeks and it's hard to imagine a busy golden age where they were essential for trading.

Being romantic and quiet, Leiden holds a kind of aristocratic appeal. Behind the perfectly restored facades of the city centre you can see shelves full of books, ancient maps, bronze modeled heads of well-read men. Latin written mottoes stand on the thresholds. This town was and is a good place for learning. Here culture rhymes with study and theories may turn into discoveries having an impact on everyday's life. The main spot of the city looks to be an old circle shaped fortress which crowns a hill just in front of an old orphanage. From the walls of the tower you can see Leiden on each direction. Inside the walls a gang of local kids is playing football trying to hit the accidental tourist now and then.

I wonder how should have been studying here for a short while. In Leiden there is no trace of Utrecht's struggle for a debaucherous nightlife. Perhaps I am not a good observer and I just have to blame the enchantment this town has given me for my lack of accuracy. I like so much what I see around me. Nice girls reading on the grass with white skirts and a first delicate sun tan on their naked shoulders. Young couples hugging each other half slept on the shores of a canal. In Leiden even my envy for them is forgotten. I just want to lie down on this lawn eating apricots and plums. My left hand almost refuses to hold this pen. I could stay here all day long if I haven't already bought my ticket to Delft. There, then.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Captain of Quarantine

I am facing a Sunday of physical illness in which all that I can do is drinking microwave warmed tea while inhaling cheap
frikandel bought at the closest Nettorama.
This is what I call necessary decadence also known as social debauchery. This might happen in the Lowlands, especially when you went to bed before 1 AM for the first time in months. And on a springlike Saturday night. That's something shameful, I know. I also reckon how missing parties when your body and soul are getting used to them is an unhealthy affair.
Moreover my sober head hurts since my Cameroonian flatmate downstairs is pumping up his music all over the Bhawanie Mansion we share. There is nothing strange in this. On weekends he usually delights us with insisting drums juxtaposed with hardly understandable hip hop lines from 11 in the morning till the 6 on the dawn after. The green carpet of my room is raising up in waves here and there, now and then following the unsustainable rhythm coming from below.

I am pissed off
and ready to write about something else.

Be prepared for a delightful Ying and Yang short trip into Noord Holland. Bring Your Own Bike.
(update: Alkmaar and Zandvoort postponed)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

That Night Has Opened My Eyes

“Night and day, day and night” Ella Fitzgerald sang from the Cole Porter's songbook. And even if the Queen of Jazz never wore the Dutch crown, she really caught the spirit of Holland once a year between April 29 and 30. Because there is no Koninginnedag without a Koninginnenacht. And if Amsterdam is the right place to celebrate the Queen’s Day, Utrecht might be the perfect location for spending the endless night before. In that occasion the whole Binnenstad becomes at the same time a stage for musicians and performers and a flea market where Dutchmen confirm their talent for trade selling and buying any sort of stuff. From old vinyl records to half broken armchairs passing through crinkled kitchen books and out-of-style leather jackets, everything finds its room on the pavements of Utrecht.
This 2008 made no exception. Little showers of rain during the early evening of April 29 have not stopped the local sellers. Equipped just with an orange umbrella and a box of Palm the brave Utrechter crowded the streets with their merchandises pouring beer in their throats and Euro cents in their tight pockets. As foreign journalists and curious observers in search of true Dutch experiences me and Vicky, my friend from KLM, decided to make the Queen’s night business ours. Having both no old clothes to sell we turned our attention to handmade finger food. That’s why we put a basket of shortbread cookies and a bowl of chocolate cake on a cupboard wrecked in the corner between Hopakker and Lijsterstraat.

Semel in anno licet insanire. Once a year it is possible to get crazy, a Latin motto says. It fits perfectly with Dutchmen mentality on Queen’s Day, but apparently not with their attitude in buying food baked by foreigners on Queen’s Night. In fact me and Vicky did not manage to sell anything for more than a half an hour. Despite all our efforts, nobody tried both the original Canadeese koekjes and the famous Italiaanse tart. All that we earned was doubtful glances and skeptical expressions from the passing people. The most educated Dutchmen said “Nei, dank” while the less mannered ones just turned their mouths into grimaces of disgust. We tried any kind of advertisement and special offer passing from 1 € for four shortbread cookies to the policy of one cookie for free and five more cookies for 1 € plus one slice of chocolate cake. No result. Orange dressed people kept on ignoring us. We wondered why, finding no logical explanations. In fact we were irresistible, as you may see above.*

As my colleague in bankruptcy wrote on her witty captain's diary "Most Dutch people tried as hard as possible to avoid eye contact and on the off-chance they had the misfortune of catching our eye, they wouldn’t slow down as they declined". Although me and Vicky were feeling exactly like Lucy Van Pelt behind her lemonade stand-looking psychiatric booth, we insisted in our trade. Finally a fluorescent post-adolescent guy decided that we did not want to poison him and tried our koekjes en tart verkoop. Our customer appreciated the finger food and gave us the first and last Euro of the night. “Good luck!” he waved us back with his mouth full of shortbread cookies and chocolate. I have the suspect that our only customer was American.

At least someone else appreciated our royal-minded bakery.
From left to right, the standard bearer of Germany, Spain and Austria (forget the ice-cream).

*My Dickensian Coal Miner Kid expression has not to be intended as sarcastic. I was simply coughing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Kapsalon Vleutenseweg

Grand Opening Today

(more news will follow)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm on Standby


Five good excuses to justify a long lack of posts.

The dog ate my laptop.
It's so cold I always wear gloves. And I'm unable to write with gloves.
Too many things to write to decide what comes first.
I'm joining Luddism.

Saturday, March 15, 2008



Breaking News. According to Harald Dornbos, a Dutch journalist based in Beirut, the release of Fitna on the net is imminent. We are talking about that movie against Islam sponsored by a controversial Dutch MP, Geert Wilders. Perhaps you've heard something about it. Well, those of you who don't live in Holland can't imagine how much the public opinion is debating on that topic here. Everything related to Mr. Wilders finds place on Dutch newspapers, websites, radios and televisions since I came here. This because of the worries connected to this movie. In the last two months, therefore, national medias have talked about this dangerous movie any given day. Even the Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende played a role in the debate on the narrow limit which separates freedom of expression and racism. International medias covered this news only marginally. In the meanwhile Italian newspapers were somewhere else, focusing their attention on a "Dutch law which allows people to have sex in public parks". Sigh. Sob. Needless to say that this fundamental topic didn't find a coverage on any newspaper here.

Anyway, let's come back to the main topic. In his blog, Harald Dornbos draws a worst case scenario made of Dutch embassies burnt down and riotings against Holland in several extremist Islamic countries. I don't know. I hope there has only been much ado about nothing. Yet, I'm not that optimist. Unfortunately the media already fueled the topic so much that is impossible to don't pay attention to it. At this point it doesn't matter anymore if Fitna will be awful, racist, silly or just a plain useless movie. That's not important. I remember how the stupid but innocuous Danish cartoons on Mohammad were ignored for a long time after being published by the Jyllands Posten. Sometimes medias are to blame and this case is a perfect example.

Yesterday my thoughts were different. Instead of ruminating on Mr Wilders' idiocy, I went to Rotterdam for the first time in my life. My Austrian classmate Lisa invited me to join a free dinner and a free concert somewhere in Coolhaven. She found this association called Dialoog Academie which promotes an interesting exchange between Turkish and Dutch culture. I confess I didn't know and never heard anything about DA before. Hence I spent a few hours asking to Lisa where we were going to go and who we were going to meet while walking up and down the Erasmusbrug in a desert and apparently hostile Rotterdam. The whole city looked like under a curfew, miles away from my enthusiastic expectations on architecture, social life, art. Perhaps we went to the wrong places. I will give R'dam a second chance.

The Dialoog Academie is in a modern and anonymous four storeys building in a large silent street. Yusuf, Lisa's contact, welcomed us at the ground floor. We shook hands and smiles.
"The dinner is ready" he told us.
"Dank u wel" we answered using the polite form.
Then we took a lift to the 3rd floor. There we entered in a large restaurant room with dozens and dozens of people sat on many tables. The tasty smell of well cooked food was everywhere. Everyone was chatting and laughing. Small children were running from lap to lap. Dutch looking women were eating Turkish looking food. The atmosphere was really relaxed, informal and friendly. Me and Lisa found a place on a corner and started to sip a soup with a very unusual sweet and sour taste. An excellent warm appetizer coming in from the cold. We also filled our dishes with unknown delicious food which could resemble the meat used for schoarma and kebab and the kind of yogurt mashed vegetables used for Greek salad. Suddenly someone told something in Dutch. Begging for a translation, we learned that we had to go downstairs where the concert was going to begin. We poured a strong and boiling Turkish tea in our glasses and then descended the stairs.
At the second floor we had the privilege to attend to a real and hidden cultural event. I guess we were almost the only non-Dutchmen there. After a short Dutch spoken introduction a choir started to sing some arias from the Johann Sebastian Bach's Johannes Passion.

to be continued

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Blues Are Still Blue

Die Blauwe Koorts
The Blue Fever

"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" is an old song by Paul Simon. "50 Ways to Call Each Other" could be the perfect slogan for the 50th (hey!) anniversary of Les Schtroumpfs / The Smurfs. Do you know what we are talking about?
Synopsis. In 1958 a weird bunch of blue white capped inhabitants of mushrooms makes its first appearance on a comic magazine. The "blue somethings" were a creation of the Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, widely known as Peyo. In a short while these little creatures became one of the most popular cartoon almost everywhere in the world.
While the term "Smurf" survives in Belgium, Holland, Norway, Russia, Bulgaria and Estonia, several countries chose to name the Blues in a different way. Sometimes it's just a small reinterpretation such as

Schlumpf (German), Smyrff (Welsh), Smurffi (Finnish), Smølf (Danish), Smerf (Polish) or Estrumpfe (Portuguese).

While other times the name has nothing to do with the original one. For instance we have

Pitufo (Spanish), Puffo (Italian), Hupikék Torpikék (Hungarian), Pottoki (Basque), Barrufet (Catalan), or Dardas (Hebrew). The Hungarian version is definitely my favorite one. For those who are interested 藍色小精靈 (pronounced lán sè xiǎo jīng líng) is the Smurf's Chinese name.

Ok, let's stop copying and pasting from Wikipedia, right now.
As you may see above, Dutchmen respected Smurfs leaving their name untouched even if Peyo was a French speaking man and not a Flemish. This is what I call tolerance. But that wasn't enough.
A few weeks ago I met some giant sized Smurfs in The Hague. In that occasion I wondered what may take a couple of adult men to wear a blue smurf costume spending a whole afternoon waving at children, being kidded by youngsters and shot by nostalgic parents in their forties. Perhaps the Smurf Solution is better than acting as a Santa Claus' elf in a shopping mall or as a Taco in the corner of a windy street, and yet I couldn't understand Them.
These Lowlands are still a rich and healthy country after all. Here finding a decent non-humiliating job is supposed to be easy. And yet those Dutchmen wore a smurf costume. There's only one possible explanation. They liked it. Quoting Roxette, it must have been love. And it's not over now. They haven't lost it somehow.

Am I wrong? I don't think so. Please have a look below.
AMSTERDAM, WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2008 The Smurf fever that has gripped the Netherlands since mid-February is finally burning itself out. The last 6 million of the 29 million blue plastic creatures that supermarket Albert Heijn has been doling out for every €15 spent will be delivered to stores Thursday. They will certainly be all gone before the end of the promotion on 24 March, said a spokesperson for Albert Heijn.
(courtesy of DutchNews.nl)

29 millions blue plastic creatures!
And 3 of them are currently in my kitchen marching on the microwave. Grote Smurf is the red capped Robespierre of these little apparently harmless Sans culottes! All this wasn't supposed to happen. It's just because of my talent for misunderstandings. In fact for a while I didn't understand the way it goes with Smurfs. I was therefore the perfect target for capitalist marketing. Paying my food I noticed that the cashier told me something like "Schmoorv?" but each time I guessed it was the Dutch word for bag.
"Ja! Ja! Ja!" I used to nod vigorously.
And each time They gave me a small packet the size of a plum. The camouflaged Smurf.
Such a shame I won't complete the collection, while hundreds of thousands of Dutchmen will.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Slam Dunk Dutch Funk

Dit is mijn (eerste) team
This is my (first) team

“Offense or defense?”
“Defense, please”.

It’s ten o’clock PM. Meerstroom College gymnastic hall. East of Utrecht, close to Galgenwaard Stadion. Ladies and gentlemen, fans and castaways may I introduce you to my first basketball training with a Dutch team? Please, before reading consider that it’s three years I don’t play basket anymore. No surprises that after less than one hour of running, shooting, passing I feel deadly tired. But I can’t give up. Oh, no. Never. I stretch my muscles and I dry the sweat from my face. I do my best defending on the ball handler. The amateurish team is called The Eagles and is formed by guys in their late twenties. I’m the only foreigner. “Where do you come from?” a tall guy asks me. “Ah, Italy. We had another Italian in the team, a few years ago. Mauro. Wonderful point guard. But unfortunately he left us moving to Groningen”.
Sander, Wilco, Neils, Roel, Thjis, Maarten and Wieger share the same passion for basketball, a sport which is anything but popular in the Lowlands. One thing surprises me. The Eagles have no official coach. The training exercises reminds me the ones I used to do when I was 15 years old playing for the glorious Polisportiva Lame (English native readers, please don't laugh too loud!) in Bologna. While we had this exotic Spanish coach named Santiago, here it’s Maarten who explains the offensive schemes and the right defensive movements to his teammates and me. He speaks in Dutch, summarizing to me the salient points. Tonight we have to practice on how to attack a zone defense. At the same time we need to improve our defensive skills. Zone 2-3. Zone 1-3-1. Zone 1-2-1-1. “Defend stronger. Don’t let him pass de bal, ehm the ball easily” says Maarten to me. “We prefer to play man to man, but our next opponents use zone press the 90% of times” as Roel explains me. The opponent is called Midland and stands on the bottom of 3de Klasse F Regio Championship where The Eagles keep the second place. “Nevertheless, we won’t underrate them” smiles Roel. He’s the funniest guy in team and has played basketball in Belgium and Finland while studying there. “Goed!” says Maarten.
After theory, it’s time to practice what we just learned playing a 4 vs 4 all around match. I steal a ball and fail a easy two point jumper. Gosh. I need a lot of training before being again the decent player I used to be. “Well done, Lorenzo. Lekker!”. Niels reassures me. He's the playmaker of the team and he’s the only Eagle who doesn’t speak English. And yet he still encourages me when my legs aren’t able to take me close to the basket and all I can do is serving creative assists and trying useless three pointers. Luckily it’s already 11 PM and the training ends. Under the shower Sander and Roel sing something in Dutch. I would like to reply with something by Reflexy, but I'm still not allowed to do that. Copyright is copyright. Dura lex, sed lex. In the meanwhile someone else is discussing about something else. Football? Women? Quantic Physics? I can only wonder the topic.

"So, see you next week, same day?" I tell in my Little Match Seller English (TM) before leaving.
"Sure" They answer.
"Perfect. See you next Monday guys"
"Actually today is not Monday."
"Oh! Ouch! It's just because, you know, I've to join this other club and I made confusion..." Shit.
"No problem. See you next Thursday, Lorenzo. Same time. Same place.
(Ja, op Donderdag. Why am I always so distracted?)
"Have a good match on Saturday, goodbye!
"Dank je wel. See ya. Tot ziens!

Unlocking my bicycle from a hippo shaped bench in the school courtyard I feel satisfied. My first approach with Dutch basketball has been good. The Eagles are friendly guys. The trainings look useful and not that complicated. I am optimist. Now the real problem is cycling back home avoiding cramps. And having no idea of the right direction to take.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nice Weather for Ducks

Een Namiddag in de Zon
An Afternoon in the Sun

Each time Miss Yellow Dwarf remembers to shine on the Lowlands I can't stay at home. I can't stand it. Usually I just spend some time cycling around amazed by the chance of being considered a real Dutch. Actually this possibility never occurred. Since today. Listen: things are gonna change. In fact on my way back home to the university campus a cyclist asked me something in Dutch and I understood he was looking for the central station. Applause! I managed to tell him how to reach the station. Ok, I used English, but I pronounced almost correctly difficult road names such as Platolaan, Prins Hendriklaan and Nachtegaalstraat.
The Asking Dutch told me something like "Heel goed" (Very good) and then cycled in the right direction. Standing ovation! I felt Invincible. I was one of Them. Other cyclists waved at me ringing the
Ode an die Freude with Their bells. The kids of Wilhelminapark invited me to play football with Them. Shop sellers along Nobelstraat offered me broodjes and haringen and bottles of Bock Grolsch. Beautiful tall girls blew me kisses from every tiny bridge of the Binnenstad. The Thoughtful Rabbit statue in De Neude (aka Bunny Square) shook my right hand with its left ear. The sky turned orange.

That's why while at home I decided for action. I put a couple of books and a bottle of water in my backpack and I came back outdoors. Then I chose a destination on my mental Utrecht map. Close to my place there is this nice park called Oog in Al. It takes just ten minutes to reach this quiet paradise from where I live, having a view of the most luxury houseboats of Utrecht. According to a poor Dutch-English dictionary, the literal translation of the park name is Eye in Eel. Isn't that poetic?.
Despite of the name you can find no eels there (perhaps they're shy), but moose, goats and plenty of ducks. Especially ducks. Ducks. Dutch Ducks. Quacking around. From green-brown small sized ducks to posh ivory well fed ducks. Oog in Al is a Duck Republic. Yet, all ducks are created equal, but some ducks are more equal than others. The ruling cast of Ivory Ducks allowed me to sit on a kind of deckchair in a quiet lawn looking at a nice pond where green-brown pariah ducks were navigating .

There I began to read "The Low Sky" by Han Van der Horst. Ah, what a pleasure! I was totally relaxed. My mind was peacefully absorbed by the gentle murmur of water. My eyes read through wonderful paragraphs named "It was never completely safe behind the dyke", "Rioters wreck car" or "If people are not satisfied, they blame it on beleid". I wasn't alone. On my left side Mr. Caulfield, an American tourist, was staring at the Dutch Ducks in a very melancholic way. Sat on the grass just behind me Mr. Spinoza from Amsterdam was whispering something about God, Men and Nature while reading the intellectual newspaper Nrc Handelsblad. Eventually they left me alone. I stretched my legs. I yawned and re-yawned. Then I let the Low Sky fall on the ground. I almost fell asleep.

But in the formerly peaceful Duck Republic something was going to happen. The time for loving. The season of courtships. The clash for reproduction. I was going to witness the noisiest (and nastiest) battle in Utrecht in the last four centuries. A real war fought in three dimensions: sky, land and water. Suddenly the Ivory Ducks started to yell, bark, cry or whatever. Then the Dominant Duck decided it was time for having heirs or perhaps he just wanted to take a multiple satisfaction. I don't know if contraception is tolerated among ducks, but I guess it is, considering they're from the Dutch branch. However, as a guest on the shore of the "Thalamus Pond" I couldn't escape. All around me excited and angry ducks were fighting for taking a part in that libertine party. They were using their immaculate wings to hit each other, furiously biting their donaldduckish tails with their sharp beaks. Or even worse. I prefer to censor some intimate details.
Soon the fightings reached my neutral deckchair forcing me to an inglorious withdrawal trying to reach my bike. Yet those fucking quarreling ducks had surrounded my wheeled noble steed. It's time to confess it. I kicked two of them. But gently. You have my word of honor. I love animals. It was the only possible way to leave Thalamus Pond behind. Please don't tell this story to
anyone at Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals). I feel remorse for what I did.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I'd Rather Dance With Them

Nederlandse Muziek
Music from the Lowlands

As I wrote in one of my first posts, I'm quite ignorant on the kind of music They play and enjoy here. I just knew that They had a nice though derivative period in the 60s thanks to band like The Outsiders, Q65 and Shocking Blue.
All those bands came from the Den Haag - 's Gravenhage area and for a short season tried to land in the young European ears with a bunch of decent songs. Those were the glorious years of Radio Veronica. Yet, the positive influence of this pirate radio which transmitted from an old ship anchored just outside the Dutch territorial waters, close to the beach of Scheveningen has finished many years ago. Going there I found no evidence or testimony of Veronica. What has happened in the meanwhile? How could They pass from a lovely local Merseybeat to Dj Tiesto?

I wanted to learn, listen, judge. That's why I invited here in my place a Dutch friend of mine with the excuse of a dinner. We were still licking from our fingers the delicious whip cream of a local dessert (I forgot its name), when I asked Merel to help me in a rediscovery of Their music. I couldn't wait. My questions were all very naive. Her answers were all very precise.
- Have you got any good and famous songwriter? I mean a kind of Dutch Bob Dylan, a Zeeland born Leonard Cohen, or perhaps a Groningen based Patti Smith? NO.
- Is there any fam
ous rock band here who use to sing in Dutch? NO. JUST IN ENGLISH.
- May we consider The Nits like the Dutch answer to The Beatles? WHO ARE THE NITS?

I didn't give up. I insisted on asking, asking, asking. Finally I learned something. Actually Merel taught me quite a lot. Here is a short list of the bands/artists we talked about.

Acda en De Munnik Their name comes from the sum of two surnames. They sing in Dutch. Folk-cabaret or something. It seems they have a wide audience. My friend Marjolijne suggested me this band as well.
Anouk Fifteen years after her international heydays, she's still quite famous (here). The aggressive poprock-singer she was has all but gone. Yet she looks particularly tired and eye-wrinkled in recent posters of her coming gigs.
Bettie Serveert Who knows them anymore? Are they disappeared? Perhaps they moved to Belgium? During the nineties their song Palomine had a massive airplay on some Italian radios.
Bløf Pop rock band with some ordinary but catchy guitar riffs. They performed the main song of the "Alles is Liefde" movie soundtrack. Apparently they sing in both English and Dutch.
De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig Weird combo of youngsters with a great and uprising popularity. They developed a personal way to hip hop, with funny lyrics, trash irony and self invented words.
Golden Earring They are still on stage after a long career. Once they were among the most famous bands from the Lowlands, now I don't know if they're still popular.
Kane Dutch young but average rock band with English written songs. I had heard their name before. I hope that with a name like this they know who Orson Welles was.
Le Le Once you listen to their hit "Skinny Jeans" you'll hate or love them. It's an infectious song. One guy from Le Le is also a member of De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig (see above)
Racoon Merel showed me a lot of duets on YouTube with this band performing elegant pop songs together with other ones. But they don't have Dutch lyrics so I need time to love them.
Room Eleven They're a very jazzy and sophisticated pop band with an excellent lead singer. I think I saw they will have a concert in Utrecht pretty soon. They are also English oriented.
Solex Well, actually we didn't talk about her. I tried to say her name a couple of times, but Merel never reacted. And yet she's the only Dutch artist I had an album of whom at home.
The Nits Old guys from the early 80s, but still in a good shape. They released a pile of albums. I guess their song "In the Dutch mountains" is a homage to Cees Nooteboom self titled book
Two Unlimited It seems they were very popular on the European dance floors a few years ago, in the wake of Ace of Base. I confess I never heard their name before. I am a nerd.