Amsterdam canals were build in less than 100 years

This beautiful animation from Stadsarchief Amsterdam shows how the canals of Amsterdam were build in just about 90 years.
They were not just some random 90 years though, it was the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. During the Dutch Golden Age the Netherlands were world leaders in trade, art, military and science. With Amsterdam being one of the main cities in the Netherlands , the city was rich and powerfull enough to acomplish a project like the canals in such a short time.

beer-for-work projects in Amsterdam

blaka watra veegploegThey clean parks, streets and playgrounds and get paid in beer. Not only beer, they get some money and a hot meal too, but the beer is what makes them tick (and come to work).

We’re talking about a group of hard core alcoholics that’s living in the streets of Amsterdam. They used to cause nuisance, trouble and petty crimes in the neighbourhood. Now they’re cleaning up the parks, streets and playgrounds three times a week as part of a project named De Regenboog (The Rainbow).

It’s a win-win situation. The project participants have a job, get paid, get more structure in their lives and as a result of that they sometimes even drink less and feel better. The residents have less problems with nuisance and their neighbourhood is cleaner and feels safer. They appreciate the work of the participants and thank them for it, which has of course a positive effect on the self esteem of the participants.

Giving beer to alcoholics – it sounds wrong, but this way it does work out well.
It’s the Amsterdam way.

light in the darkness

This video gives an impression of the Amsterdam Light Festival last year. This year the Festival is even better, with more participants and locations.
The two highlights of the festival are:
Water colours, the boat route and Illuminade, the walking route.
And there is much more: concerts, events, extra light art and exhibitions in museums and galleries, check the Programm for details.

The Amsterdam Light Festival takes place in the historical centre of Amsterdam, along the canals and the Amstel River. It’s adding a special touch to the experience of Amsterdam in the dark winter months.
Amsterdam Light Festival, Friday 6 December 2013 to Sunday 19 January 2014

Zwarte Piet needs a makeover

black-pete-netherlands-racism-afp-261013_350_402_100Sinterklaas arrived in Amsterdam this week, with his hundreds of Zwarte Pieten (his helpers, all named Black Pete) like he traditionally does every year in mid November. He has been doing so for at least 75 years now, but it might have been the last time the festivities looked like they did all these years. Something is about to change, not so much about Sinterklaas himself, as well as about the Zwarte Pieten.

The Zwarte Pieten traditionally wear pageboy uniforms, black make-up with large painted on red lips, curly wigs and golden earrings. Protesters say the Zwarte Pieten are racist caricatures and should be banned. They do have a point here. The tradition’s defenders say there is no racial insult intended by the way Zwarte Piet looks. That is true of course, but it doesn’t change the racist impression it makes. This debate has gone on for years, but it is now intensifying because anti-Zwarte Piet activists have tried to stop the traditional annual festivities in Amsterdam around the arrival of Sinterklaas, because of the racism aspect. And even the UN jumped in with a panel that will examin whether the tradition is racist.

Some anti-Zwarte Pieten activists have suggested his blackface should be replaced with black smudges, since children are usually told his face has become black from going down chimneys. Well, that’s not too much to ask, is it? It fits in the tradition perfectly.
We could even add some white faced, rainbow faced and other colours of make up for the Pieten to it.

The Zwarte Pieten have already changed a lot. They used to act foolish, like a jester, but nowadays they are smarter than Sinterklaas in many ways. And they have many different roles and responsibilities like way-finding, managing, making music, the ten thousands of gifts, etc. which changed their name from all being ‘Black Pete’ into Way-finding Pete, Managing Pete, etc.

Traditions change all the time, so why not change the way the Pieten look? I hope next year the arriving of Sinterklaas and his Pieten will be nicely traditional but with different looking Pieten.