Saturday Market; Spring Flowers

Spring flowers are in the market this week, they’re planted in baskets or boxes and partially sprouted ready for home display. I couldn’t resist and got a small tête-à-tête (Narcissus) it’s got two open flowers on it already, nice reminder that winter is almost over.

Dining with the Tsars


Dining with the Tsars is the current exhibition at the Hermitage Amsterdam, it’s a small exhibition of some of the beautiful dining sets used at the Russian court, with a lot of information about court practices, etiquette and menus. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon visit.

The dish shown above is from the “Cameo Service“, which was commissioned by Catherine the Great and presented to her lover Prince Grigory Potemkin. It’s beautiful, the astonishing turquoise colour is created by using multiple firings with a copper glaze. To make the set Sèvres had to find new manufacturing techniques.

Dining with the Tsars main hallThe museum has, as usual, done a magnificent job creating the exhibition. The main hall has a series of tables set as if for dinner, each setting is slightly different, and you are able to get very close to the tables. The smaller rooms upstairs have information about the manufacturing, the dress, dining protocols and history. There are also a couple of additional services, including one given by Hungary to Stalin. Contrary to my expectations of a communist leader, Stalin entertained lavishly and used the service.

The exhibition is open until 1 March 2015, and it’s 15 euro entrance fee (or free if you use your Museumkaart).

The Light Fantastic; Amsterdam Light Festival

Looking for something spectacular to do on a cold dark night? Take a canal trip through the Amsterdam Light Festival, the creations are amazing, some expressing social commentary and some just for fun. It’s a bit of an obstacle course for the boats as well which adds to it. Here’s a highlight video produced for the festival.

I went last week with some colleagues. We managed to pick the worst night to do it, there had been a day of high wind and some of the exhibits had become a little unplugged. However it was still great fun. My photos from the night are below – taken from a rain soaked moving boat so not the best.

My favourites were the ghost ship, which is constructed from lights projecting on panels of water and changes as you move around it, and Tulip Mania, which has submerged tulips that rise up when people on the shore pump bicycle pumps. A special mention for the interactivity of the 178 Bottles 1 Message exhibit, which picks up the nationality of nearby visitors and projects their national flag (it’s based on the “nationality” of their phone).

Amsterdam light festival is on until 18 January, and you can view the exhibits by boat (for about 20 euro) or for free by walking through the city.

I liked it so much I am planning to go again!

Suddenly it’s Chirstmas

Sinterklaas, which happens on the 5 December, is bigger than Christmas here. There’s the added advantage that the Christmas stuff doen’t really start until after that. So suddenly there are lights up all over town and the market is full of Christmas trees.

Drug Warning

A serious post; 3 tourists have died and more than a dozen have been hospitalised following taking cocaine that is actually “white heroin”. The city council as put these warnings up around the centre of the city, deliberately in English to target tourists who will not have seen items on the Dutch news. It’s a very Dutch approach to an issue – focusing on the welfare of the individuals rather than the criminality.

I had an early morning start this week and saw one of the billboards of lights; this one is at the top of Singel, but I’ve seen others on Leidseplein and near Weteringschans.

On the train again

I nearly missed the train this morning, but there was a guy even later than me. He was running and jumped on board just as the doors closed.

Running Man

Does this train go to Utrecht?

Train Guy

So first you jump on the train and then you check the destination?

Running Man

Er, yes.

Train Guy

Today you’re in luck – this train goes to Utrecht.

Test of Friendship

I was wondering along Haarlemmerdijk (the dodgy end) behind two old tramps when one of them spotted a half-smoked joint lying on the ground.

Tramp 1

Aaaw, look, look here

Tramp 2

Thanks, don’t wanna lose that. (picks it up)

Tramp 1

Just looking out for you, bro.