Off the beaten track
Holland offers plenty of ‘Off the beaten track’ opportunities. Cycle through forests and dune landscapes or get yourself pampered in a wonderful spa. Go on a city safari and meet the city’s exotic animals. Be inspired!
DOMunder exhibition in UtrechtUlrike Grafberger, Tuesday, August 12, 2014
If you come to Utrecht, just look up: at 112 metres high, the Dom Tower, the cathedral’s imposing tower, is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and the city’s major landmark. Wherever you are in Utrecht’s city centre, you’ll always be able to see the Dom Tower.
But have you looked under the Dom yet? And by “under”, I don’t mean the cobbled streets of Domplein, the cathedral square, but even deeper: the world beneath Utrecht. This opens to the public in June 2014. And there’s a lot to discover. Nowhere else in the Netherlands are there quite so many testimonies from so many periods as there are under the Domplein. So I decided to go on a guided tour, entitled "Dom under" (Under the Dom).
But before going beneath the earth’s surface, the tour begins with a film about this historic site. Here on the Domplein in AD 45 stood a Roman fort, the remains of which can still be seen today directly below in the underground cinema.
After the Romans, the Christians built smaller church buildings to begin with on this site, followed later by a mighty house of worship, the nave of which collapsed in 1674 after a devastating storm. The Dom Tower and the remains of the church building are therefore separated today. In between is the cathedral square, under which are hidden not only the ruins of the cathedral, but many other secrets... if you want to find out about them, you should visit DOMunder.
It’s dark under the earth. Only the walkway through the centuries-old stone walls, debris and archaeological finds is illuminated. A "smart pocket torch" creates bright spots. A specific spot is then illuminated and it begins to tell a story about the archaeological finds. And so my journey underground takes me past the huge pillar foundations of the cathedral, between which Roman bricks are piled up. On one of these bricks, I discover dog tracks. Did Roman dogs look just like our four-legged friends today? And there’s more to discover: early mediaeval coins, Roman fibulae, remains of a Roman road and even a perfectly preserved skeleton.
But maybe there are even more secrets hidden here under the earth, under the ruins of the collapsed cathedral? We shall find out. Because while we examine Utrecht’s 2000-year history with our state-of-the-art, interactive flashlight, the archaeologists continue busily digging next to us. The future will reveal everything the past has yet to offer up to us.
DOMunder, Domplein 4, Utrecht, guided tours, Tuesdays to Sundays between 11 am and 4 pm. Journey of discovery takes 75 minutes.
Suitcases, App, Ready, Explore!Heather Tucker, Friday, February 14, 2014
Have you ever used the plane ride to your holiday destination to cram in some last minute planning? While attempting not to spill your drink all over the seatback tray were you busy skimming guidebook entries and folding pages in an attempt to remember the things you wanted to see? Well, what if you didn't need to do that anymore? What if there was an easier way?
Do as the Romans doDenise Mosbach, Monday, January 6, 2014
I started off by visiting a spa in the Beemster municipality. Beemster is a typically Dutch landscape, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for a good reason, along with the spectacular century-old fortress located here. But it gets better - last year this fortress was converted into a stunning spa: the Fort Resort Beemster. The resort has the knack of blending the old with the new. I relaxed in the outdoor Jacuzzi, safely tucked away behind the old fortress walls, and paid a visit to the atmospheric bat sauna, formerly a cave in which the little critters used to sleep. It’s a small spa, but everything you could want is here. You can also sleep in the former guards’ quarters, which have now been transformed into comfortable suites.
Happy New Years dive!Denise Mosbach, Monday, December 23, 2013
Imagine the scene: hung over from all the champagne consumed the night before, you get up and open your curtains on 1 January. You look outside. It looks really cold and you worry about how cold the North Sea water will be. You really really don’t want to find out in person, but you made a deal: in a couple of hours you will be joining the New Year’s dive for the first time in your life...
Looking for the new RembrandtDenise Mosbach, Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Every year in November, the PAN takes place in Amsterdam: the most important Dutch fair for art and antiques. Its status in the art world is comparable to that of prestigious fairs such as the FIAC in Paris, Art Basel and Art Brussels. Visitors really do travel through time. Stunning sculptures from Ancient Greece stand alongside hypermodern works from avant-garde Studio Job. Not to be missed.
Looking for a Unique Museum in HaarlemHeather Tucker, Friday, September 13, 2013
Haarlem is known for its historic buildings, great shopping opportunities and its ample supply of cafes. Starting out the day enjoying a drink at one of the cafes that lines the main square is without a doubt, a great idea. But I was on the search for something different, something more unusual in the city during my last visit there.
Into the wildDenise Mosbach, Friday, August 30, 2013
Amsterdam boasts an incredible biodiversity and it is plain to see why: the city is surrounded by a number of nature reserves that all have their own character. There’s forest (Amsterdamse Bos), grassland (Waterland), swampland (IJburg) and lots of water, from ponds and lakes to the Amsterdam IJ, which is saline. All these areas have their own wildlife. “If you want to see many different plants and animals, Amsterdam is the place to be”, Remco Daalder enthusiastically explains. Until 1999, Daalder was the forest keeper of the Amsterdamse Bos, but nowadays he acts as a city ecologist. “The city is home to 30 different kinds of mammal, 60 breeds of fish and 150 bird species.”
The Amsterdam Royal Palace: Where History and Royalty Come TogetherHeather Tucker, Friday, August 2, 2013
“Oh my goodness.”
It was a version of those three words that ran through my head as I reached the top of the stairs and looked into the Citizens’ Hall of the Amsterdam Royal Palace.
Island-hoppingDenise Mosbach, Friday, July 26, 2013
When the Dutch talk about the Wadden islands, we mean Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. These islands to the north of our country seem a lot alike but while island hopping, I found out that each island is quite unique.
Beemster Polder: A UNESCO Site in the CountrysideHeather Tucker, Monday, July 1, 2013
In 1999 Beemster polder was placed on the UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. But until my visit to the area, I didn’t really understand why. What I was to learn was that the Beemster area is an area of land that was reclaimed from the water primarily by windmills. The reclaimed land was divided up into a geometric layout using a symmetrical grid of roads and canals and was used not only for farming but also as a location for rich merchants from Amsterdam to build their grand country homes.
Sail awayDenise Mosbach, Thursday, June 6, 2013
I started my quest close to home, in Amsterdam. I must have taken a tour through the canals a hundred times before, but it’s always a blast. There’s the friendly atmosphere on board, the impressive canal-side houses, and with a glass of wine and a few Dutch and French cheeses, my day could not get any better.
Rembrandt Reproduced in AmsterdamHeather Tucker, Monday, June 3, 2013
“What kind of response has there been to the exhibition?”
“Quite a positive one. Many people are coming back for a second visit, especially since there is so much to see.”
I was standing in the first room of Re:mbrandt All His Paintings, an exhibition located in the basement of Amsterdam’s Magna Plaza. The mention of needing a second visit to take in all the images inside made me chuckle slightly and think that these second timers must be museum light-weights. Little did I know...
Let’s go outside!Denise Mosbach, Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Just to warm up, I pick something with low impact: jeu de boules. Every big city has a charming little court somewhere, but my favourite is the court on Museumplein square in Amsterdam. This is the large green square surrounded by three of our most well-known museums: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh and Stedelijk Museum. If you feel like having a game but didn’t bring the metal balls along in your suitcase, go to local café Cobra and ask for their set of jeu de boules balls!
Fix it!Denise Mosbach, Sunday, May 12, 2013
They’re cool, lean and super hip with fixed gears, which is why the in crowd call them ‘fixies’. However, what few people know is that fixies are really quite ‘old school’. ‘The first bike was invented 100 years ago and also didn’t have a back-pedal brake, gears or other technical novelties’, says Sammy Dirksz, owner of Pristine, the first Dutch ‘fixie-store’. For those who have no idea what a fixie is: fixie is short for ‘fixed gear’, in other words, the cog is directly attached to the rear hub. It’s a bit of a modern version of an indoor track bike.
From Russia with loveDenise Mosbach, Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Of course, I have to start at the Hermitage in Amsterdam. If anything stands testament to the Russian influence, it’s this smaller version of one of the most famous museums in the world. The original Hermitage is the former Winter Palace of Tsar Peter the Great. He was the first Tsar to travel beyond the borders of his empire and, while doing so, he bought art. Lots of it. His ‘hobby’ got out of hand somewhat and his lovely wife joined in with abandon. The result? An art collection so large that only a fraction of it can be displayed in St. Petersburg. Because of this, parts of the collection were housed in smaller Hermitages, like that in Amsterdam.
Dutch Spa Relaxation in the Heart of the Hoge VeluweHeather Tucker, Thursday, April 18, 2013
“And this is your spa map.”
Where I come from, spas consist of one steam room, one sauna, a pool and the ability to book a massage. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to get a facial. So when I was handed a fourteen page booklet complete with eight pages of maps, it was pretty clear that I was no longer in Kansas (nor Indiana for that matter).
5 Reasons to Visit the City of LeidenHeather Tucker, Thursday, April 18, 2013
If you have ever wanted to visit the town that Rembrandt van Rijn was born in, then you need to head to Leiden.
Located a 45-minute drive away from Amsterdam (even less if you travel by train), the city of Leiden is famous for its university, multiple almshouses and having driven the Spanish troops out of the city on October 3rd 1574 - an event that is still celebrated each year.
Get your skates onDenise Mosbach, Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I’ve always been mad about skating, even as a child. Initially, I was only into ice hockey, but later on I started tour skating. The best way, of course, was on natural ice – miles of heavenly landscapes of white snow-topped forests and over endless ice plains. And to think that skating actually started out of necessity. In prehistoric times, our ancestors used cattle or deer bones to cross massive ice fields. These skating bones have been found in many European countries, including here in the Netherlands.
A walk through the royal city of The Hague, Part 1Ulrike Grafberger, Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Hague is not Holland’s capital city, but the seat of government and the Royal Family. The Hague is therefore designated as “hofstad”, the city of the royal court, and Amsterdam as “hoofdstad”, the capital city.
A walk through the royal city of The Hague, Part 2Ulrike Grafberger, Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Lange Voorhout – an L-shaped square lined with linden trees, is for me a jewel among Holland’s squares. It is surrounded by magnificent stately buildings such as the legendary 5-star Hotel Des Indes, in which heads of State and the aristocracy spend the night. Anyone who feels like High Tea or a having a drink should make a short detour into the Hotel Des Indes. You’ll feel like a little king yourself on the thick Persian carpets, under the sparkling chandeliers and in the grandiose atmosphere.
3 Unusual Places to Visit in Amsterdam’s Canal RingHeather Tucker, Thursday, April 11, 2013
Most people visiting Amsterdam become aware of the canals in the city during their visit. It’s pretty hard not to. Those canals that you use to keep your bearings as you navigate the city or that feature as a backdrop to your “wish you were here” photo are marking their 400th anniversary this year.
A Birthday Party That Has Gone to the AnimalsHeather Tucker, Monday, April 8, 2013
“Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
When it comes to animals, I have two confessions. The first is that my favourite animal is the hippopotamus. The second is that I am a bit of a zoo addict. So when I learned that Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam was celebrating its 175th birthday, it only made sense that I would pay them a visit.
What the Scots don’t want you to knowDenise Mosbach, Thursday, April 4, 2013
Imagine the following: you’re having a few beers in the local pub and someone challenges you to play a round of ‘colf’. So you collect your club, which looks a lot like a heavy duty version of the hockey stick. You and your opponent agree on a target: the church door in the next village, some 10 miles down the road. The aim is to get to that door in as few hits as possible. You manage to hit a passer-by and a few windows along the way, but you don’t let that spoil the fun. This extremely popular sport was in no doubt the predecessor of golf – although the Scots contest this but they are wrong of course.
Shopping for designer vintageDenise Mosbach, Monday, March 18, 2013
Vintage fashion started becoming popular in the sixties. Following a dip in the eighties and nineties, vintage has now made a full recovery and we could argue that we currently find ourselves in what is best described as a neo-vintage phase. ‘It has become such a buzzword that anything second-hand is branded ‘vintage’ these days,’ says Caroline Brakel, Fashion Editor for Dutch fashion magazines JFK and Jackie. However, something can only officially be called vintage if it originates from the fifties, sixties and seventies (and eighties since we’ve entered the new millennium). ‘Like a sixties Yves Laurent handbag or an eighties Emporio Armani suit, for instance.’
Finding Something Good to Do with the VisitHolland AppHeather Tucker, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
I have a friend visiting from the UK soon. She has been to Holland several times before, which means we have already done the touristy things. She doesn’t want to eat cheese or buy tulips; she’d rather not wear wooden shoes or visit windmills and that’s why I’m on a mission to find something more interesting and unique that we can do while she is here.
Rotterdam Day and Night: An Itinerary for PhotographersHeather Tucker, Tuesday, March 5, 2013Cube Houses, the largest bascule bridge in the world and the tallest building in the Netherlands - there is a reason that Rotterdam was named the City of Architecture 2007. If you enjoy taking photos, then this is one Dutch city not to miss. Spend the day pounding the pavements, gazing at unique architecture and taking some dynamic photos of this modern city.
Did anyone ever tell you about M.C. Escher?Maeva Heux, Wednesday, March 6, 2013M.C. Escher (1898-1972) was the most famous Dutch graphic designer. Ten years ago, a museum in The Hague was dedicated to his work: Escher in het Paleis (Escher at the Palace).
I visited the museum when it opened and promised myself I would come back. And now, I have!
MuiderslotUlrike Grafberger, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
On the programme today is a trip to Muiderslot, a moated castle to the south-east of Amsterdam. And as befits a genuine moated castle, there’s a sizeable moat, a draw-bridge and high walls.
As you enter the castle grounds, not only does the old masonry remind you of the Middle Ages, but so does all the scenery around you: here peasant women in heavy linen garmentsare seated, preparing food; there you can see knights patrolling the grounds, armed with lances, swords and shields. What do they call it now: living history.
Flower fieldsUlrike Grafberger, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Keukenhof is an institution in Holland. And nearly 800,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong! However: these 800,000 visitors are spread over just eight weeks, which means 100,000 visitors a week. And this all adds up to quite a lot of tourists in one place: Dutch, Germans, Italians, Japanese, Americans. A glorious mix of nationalities hops out of the buses arriving at Keukenhof from mid-March to mid-May, taking oodles of photos among the tulips and daffodils.
It’s no wonder that Keukenhof is one of Holland’s most popular photo sites.
Celebrating the canalsDenise Mosbach, Thursday, February 21, 2013
Hitting the town on a Saturday night in Amsterdam is of course very tempting. But trust me when I tell you that you’ll soon forget what you’ve missed when you take out your bike early Sunday morning for a ride along the canals. With the city still sleeping and a watery sun lighting the canal houses, you truly feel the town is all yours.
Grooming is boomingDenise Mosbach, Thursday, February 14, 2013
It all started in the nineties and like many trends, this one also originated from the United States. Where men used to be the laughing stock if they cared too much about their appearance, from that moment on they became trendsetters. Grooming was booming and quickly caught on in Europe and became much more than just a trend. It evolved into a lifestyle and these days all self-respecting skin-care, perfume and beauty brands have their own product line for men. The best, most unique and special brands can all be found under one roof at Skins Cosmetics. Skins Cosmetics stores can be found in the chic Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam and in the luxury Bijenkorf department store in Rotterdam.