World Press Photos 2016

World Press Photo 2016It’s that time of the year – the World Press Photo Exhibition is on. This year’s “Photo of the Year” is, unsurprisingly, related to the refugee crisis. It shows a man passing a baby under a razor fence towards safety. So was it taken in a war zone? No. It was taken in Europe, on the border between Hungary and Serbia after Hungary closed the border to refugees. The image has been titled “Hope for a New Life”, but the image is imbued with desperation and doubt.

The World Press Photo Exhibition is always a review of the year’s tragedies and struggles, and the winning photo wasn’t the only one related to the crisis. There’s an emotional portrayal of the after effects of an airstrike in Douma, taken by Abd Doumany, one of the most heavily bombarded cities in Syria. They are images every politician should see, they are a reminder of the reality of the war in Syria, the real reason people are fleeing, the frightening reality behind those “migrants” in the flimsy boats.

The image that struck me the most of the Syrian images was this one, from Sameer Al-Doumy, who won for his series in the Spot News category. The people in the image are trying to carry family or friends to get medical attention following an airstrike. In a city that has been been bombed unrelentingly for 3 years, and has limited medical and hospital services. Something about their ghost-like appearance sticks with me.

Syrian GhostsNot every image is as searing as this, there were definitely some lighter moments.

In a long series about North Korea, David Guttenfelder chronicles a bleak, grey landscape, high regimentation, and some rather endearing ingenuity including this driving simulator to help new drivers.

driving simulationI’ve visited the exhibition almost every year since moving to the Netherlands and this is the first time that I’ve seen photos in the sports category that appealed to me. Vladimir Pesnya‘s award-winning series on the amateur ice hockey team in the small town of Vetluga is a charming glimpse of a local tradition – they play on a fenced off bit of natural ice. But the series that I really loved was Tara Todras-Whitehill’s third-prize Sports story on the Ebola survivors football team from Sierra Leone. So much joy found despite the sadness and loss the players have gone through.

Ebola Survivor's Football Team

The exhibition is on at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam until the 10 July, and then on tour around the world through to January 2017.

Festival des Métiers – Hermès Comes to Amsterdam

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Festival des Métiers at the Amsterdam Manege. It’s a display of the craftsmanship that goes into Hermès products, by the artisans themselves. You’ll see how a saddle is stitched, the fine porcelain painting, see what goes into printing a scarf, and the minute hand-stitching used create the famous rolled edges. At each station there is an interpreter translating the explanations in French for Dutch audiences. Even if you don’t speak either of these languages you can still watch and be amazed at the skill, and I’m sure if you had a real question in English the interpreter could help.

I’ll never be able to afford one of their products, but I still felt privileged to see inside the factory as it were, I was in awe of the skill.

It’s open until Monday, and you can see more info online, or on facebook.




Overheard in Amsterdam #654

I was on a train at Amsterdam Centraal, heading east to Bijlmer. There had been some train delays and we were waiting to depart, there were a lot of “runners”, desperate to catch the train after the conductor had already blown his whistle.

Passenger 1

Does this train stop in Utrecht?


Yes, come aboard.

Passenger 2

Does this train go to Eindhoven?


Yes, jump on.

Passenger 3

Den Bosch?


Yes, yes, move down the carriage please.

(He then closed the doors and the train began to move).

Welcome aboard the 11.40 train to Zandvoort!

*For those not up on Dutch geography, Zandvoort is in the opposite direction.

Pimp My Bike #28

The Marilyn edition, spotted in the weekend on Nieuwezijdskolk. pimpbike28

Setting Christmas on Fire

2016-01-03 17.06.25 (1)I went off to enjoy another Dutch tradition yesterday afternoon with a friend and her young son. De kerstboomverbranding, literally the Christmas tree burning, is the annual immolation of Christmas trees. In Amsterdam it’s held on Museumplein on the first Sunday of the new year and people bring their un-ornamented trees to the square, often by bike, and the fire brigade sets fire to them.

There’s something deeply fascinating about flames so there were hundreds of people waiting to watch the bonfire. There’s also something really dangerous about fires and soon the flying embers were falling all around us, smoldering on winter coats and resting on the “to burn” pile of trees. We retreated, but you could see the fire from right across the square.

It’s a Dutch tradition I’ve known about for years, but where did it come from?

Once upon a time… OK in the 1950s burning the Christmas trees was much more of a free for all, this 1951 shows the burning of trees happening on New Year’s Eve and being done across Amsterdam in the streets (commentary in Dutch, but you’ll get the idea from the images). Various parts of Amsterdam started to centralise tree burnings to reduce the risk of injury and fires.

The concept got a further boost in the 1960s, with a campaign in Haarlem where children could bring in the trees in exchange for a ticket to the movies for use during the school holidays. The trees were then burnt publicly under the supervision of the police and the firebrigade on New Year’s Eve.

It was fun to see, but I’m sticking with my tiny fake, re-usable tree.

Saturday Market: Sausages

Maybe it’s the autumn weather, but this week I got inspired by the flavoured sausages on sale at the market. I bought the dried tomato version, it’s delicious sliced thinly or paired with pecorino. I also used some to flavour a lentil soup.

Pimp My Bike #27

bikepimpoct2015A home paint job gives this bike some snazzy stripes. You can see the advantage of pimping your bike when see the “usual” black bikes surrounding this one.