Art and film in Rotterdam, Netherlands

This winter, art and film take over Rotterdam in the Netherlands with two events you will not want to miss. Watch films by independent filmmakers, listen to enlightening debates, take in modern art, and drink up at fun after parties.

International Film Festival Rotterdam
January 25-February 5, 2012

The 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) will be offering twelve days of films, exhibitions, debates, and parties. Along with showcasing talented and enjoyable works, IFFR also aims to help support independent filmmaking from around the world as well discover new talent. Interested in submitting a film? Click here. To learn more about attending and buying tickets, click here.

Art Rotterdam
February 9-12, 2012

Art Rotterdam is an international art fair for contemporary modern art. This lively event holds high standards for their artists, and the attendance of many of the top art galleries in the world has ensured its success. Attend events, peruse exhibits, and attend after parties. To learn more about tickets and events, click here.

New Gadling travel series: the lowdown on the Low Countries

Today I’m starting a new travel series here on Gadling. While Alex explores Far Europe, I’m checking out Near Europe. I’m spending the next ten days seeing the sights and sampling the cuisine of the Low Countries. My first stop is Antwerp, Belgium, and from there I’ll head to Amsterdam and the Hague in The Netherlands.

There’s a lot to explore and I have a full schedule. I’ll be seeing castles, a German bunker from World War Two, beautiful historic buildings and cutting-edge modern architecture, and oddball attractions such as Amsterdam’s Tattoo Museum and its collection of preserved human skin. I’ll also be striking out into the Dutch countryside.

I won’t forget the culinary side to my journey, a mixture of fine Belgian cuisine and down-home Dutch cooking. Belgium is famous for its chocolate, and I’m under strict instructions from my chocoholic wife and mother-in-law to make a thorough investigation. In Amsterdam I’ll sample some of Holland’s excellent cheese.

Sadly this journey will include only two out of the three Low Countries. I won’t have time for Luxembourg. Gadling blogger Andrew Evans has already walked across the country so I’m not sure how I’d top that anyway!

I’m writing this from the Hotel Julien in the heart of the historic downtown. After my first few hours in Antwerp and I must say I have a good first impression. Winding little streets pass by lovely old houses that look similar to Amsterdam canal houses but with a bit of their own style. In one little square I found the beautiful 17th century church of Saint Carolus Borromeus with some elegant woodwork as you see here. After that I walked around the shopping district along and around Koepoort Straat, with an eclectic mix of antique shops, bookshops, metalhead music stores, and vintage clothing stores. Stay tuned tomorrow for a more detailed overview of the important and fascinating city.

This trip was partially funded by Tourism Antwerp and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.

Keukenhof 2011 season opens March 25

If you are visiting the Netherlands between March 25 and May 20, you may want to add the Keukenhof Gardens to your itinerary. The gardens are home the largest collection of tulips and other flowers in the world, and showcase the Dutch brilliance in horticulture.

The theme for this year is “Germany Land of Poets and Philosophers” and the opening will be performed by the wife of the German President, Mrs. Bettina Wulff.

The gardens are open daily from 8AM till 7:30PM and admission is EUR14.50 for adults and EUR7 for kids. For a small surcharge, you can order tickets online that include a bus ride from The Hague, Leiden or Schiphol.

[Photos courtesy]


The Netherlands’ worst holiday tradition, Black Peet

The history of Black Peet, or Zwarte Piet, is a subject of much disagreement. The explanation that makes the most sense to us (and seems the most likely) is that just as wealthy Dutch families once had black servants, so did Santa Claus. Rather than the elves we’re used to seeing in America, Santa’s helper in Holland and all over the Netherlands is a smiling, minstrel show-meets-Shakespeare-style, black-faced man, such as the chocolate rendition at right. That’s a traditional holiday gift.

Another story, apparently made up to quell the cries of “racism,” is that Black Peet is actually a white Dutch guy; he’s just covered in chimney soot. We think it’s safe to say that 1. That’s not supposed to be a white Dutch guy and 2. That’s pretty much equally as offensive and ignorant.

According to one of the guides we had in Holland, in recent years, the shops have tried coming out with Red Peets and Yellow Peets as well, to make the whole thing a little more “it’s just different colored guys” (could they have picked more offensive colors? WTF, Netherlands?), but the children didn’t care for it. Black Peet is their tradition, and when handed a Yellow Peet, they’d look at the adults with (perhaps appropriate) disapproval.

To this day, The Netherlands’ candy and toy shops are full of Black Peet merchandise around the holidays. The photos in our gallery were taken in early November in Amsterdam and The Hague (Den Haag). Black Peets are actually spotted all over Europe, though in fewer numbers. This certainly isn’t news; the tradition is ages old, but we were so struck by the variety of Black Peets available, we couldn’t help but photograph them.
For further study, here’s a video by some people who encountered Black Peet in a grocery store in Berlin, saying, “In America we have that too, but we call it ‘racism.'” Warning: none of the Peets you see there are actually black people (they’re wearing makeup), and also, after the grocery store portion, the audio becomes NSFW.

This trip was paid for by the Netherlands Board of Tourism, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.

Amsterdam says “we are all gay” – begs gays to visit them

The Dutch tourist bureau is reaching out to American gays by trying to convince them that “everyone is gay in Amsterdam”.

The bureau says that gays are one of the few remaining tourist groups with any disposable income left, and they are trying to paint Amsterdam as a very gay friendly city in the hope that they’ll make the trip and spend their cash in the Dutch capital.

To deliver their message, they’ll be inviting the gay community in the US to visit Amsterdam using TV commercials and magazine ads.

Gay TV channel “Here TV” is even planning to show a documentary about gay friendly Amsterdam.

Of course, the whole promotion could also have something to do with the fact that Amsterdam really isn’t as gay friendly as it used to be, and that many other European cities have bypassed them.