What to do in this year’s Carnival

Posted on 03. Feb, 2016 by in Culture, Travel

It’s that time of the year when the people from Limburg and Brabant get together to enjoy a time to drink, be jolly and be crazy…carnaval! If you are in the area or are interested in some of the events, here are just a few of the many events in cities and towns throughout the area.

  • Leechsjtoet Beek
Parade in Beek 2015 (personal photograph)

Parade in Beek 2015
(personal photograph)

Leechsjtoet is dialect for lichstoet or light parade. I put this first because it isn’t only my favorite, but it also takes place in the town I call home. The parade will take place this Sunday at 5pm with several opening events. According to the Lichstoet Beek website, the event attracts anywhere fro 20,000 to 30,000 people each year. It is quite fun, especially if you have children, because all the carts, wagons and people have some sort of light installation.

 

  • Grote Optocht van Mestreech

The big parade in Mestreech (dialect for Maastricht) is set to take place this coming Sunday at 1:33pm. It is considered one of the best carnival parades in the Netherlands because many families from Maastricht have continued the tradition of making very elaborate costumes. There are many other activities going around Maastricht throughout the weekend and the following week. It just depends on the type of atmosphere you most like. The Maastricht carnival website has more info.

For those who are interested in seeing what the Grote Optocht van Mestreech is all about, here is a video of last year’s. Let op: The commentator is speaking in Mestreech dialect. YouTube Preview Image

  • Brabant

Brabant, like Limburg, celebrates carnival. Although I have yet to visit Brabant during carnival, from the research I’ve been doing, there are very similar events: parties at markten, parties at bars and parades in different cities and towns. From the pictures and videos I saw, Den Bosch seems to be the funnest place to be, at least when it comes to the big cities in the region.

Carnaval Oeteldonk

Some people love carnival while others absolutely hate it. If you have never celebrated it, I highly recommend that you try it out, at least once! There are plenty of activities and events going on in the cities and towns of Brabant and Limburg.

What are your thoughts on carnival? Are there any particular events you like?

Koninklijk Muntenhuis – Will It Stay?

Posted on 01. Feb, 2016 by in Culture, History

Every country has a currency, and so every country needs a place where that money is made. In the Netherlands, coins are made by a company called Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (KNM) or the Koninklijk Muntenhuis. Paper bills are made elsewhere. Despite this important role, the KNM might become superfluous very soon… So let’s have a closer look. Where does KNM come from? And what does it do today? And why might it be superfluous?

What Is KNM? – A Short History

Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt in Utrecht. If you look closely on the Gevel (facade) on the left side of the building, you can still find the engraving of its name from 1814: ‘s Rijks Munt (Coin of the Realm) (click on the picture to enlarge it).

Napoleon established KNM when he reigned in the Netherlands. In the early 19th century, major Dutch cities had their own currency, and thus their own coin minter. This led to a terrible administrative fuzz, because every other city you would visit had another currency. In 1806, Napoleon decided to stop this practice and created KNM by royal decree: a national coin, that was to apply to the entire country. Nobody objected to that… Since the coin minter in Utrecht was the best equipped, which already existed since 1567, by the way, it became the seat of KNM.

After the downfall of Napoleon, the Netherlands became a Monarchy in 1814. KNM changed its name into ‘s Rijks Munt, which is still visible on the building today (see the picture).

All this time, the company stayed private. Only in 1902, it came under the control of the Ministerie van Financiën  (Ministry of Finances – the Dutch Treasury). In 1912, it was officially made a public company. In 1994, it became a private company again, however with the Dutch Government as the only shareholder. Its focus shifted now more on the coin minting market, instead of only on the production of Dutch coins.

What does KNM do?

The current Dutch 2 euro coin with the recently inaugurated King Willem Alexander.

KNM is responsible for the production of the Dutch euromunten (euro coins). Since the introduction of the euro, KNM made 2,8 billion euro – six times more than they did when producing the gulden, the former Dutch currency.

KNM also produces special coins, like those for special events or coin collectors.

Lastly, KNM is also involved in the production of other currencies. It is a private for-profit company, so it can take on orders from other countries, for example, that wish to have their coins produced. And that almost cost KNM its head…

 

Why KNM Is No Longer Needed – What’s Going On Today?

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First of all, the problem with producing coins is that they last for decades. So once sufficient coins are produced, the job is done for a long time. So there is not a lot of business in the coin minting industry.

On top of that, a few months ago, KNM had issues with an order from Chile. The South American country ordered 850 million pesos. Because of this huge amount of coins, KNM put a new machine to work. However, this machine did not work properly, and the employees of KNM ended up counting the coins by hand.

They sent out the order to Chile, but Chile was not happy with the result – the quality of the coins was insufficient. This led to a huge fine for KNM, which basically rendered the company bankrupt.

However, since it is factually a state-owned company, it will not go broke because of that. The Dutch State decided to keep it intact. This seems to be more related to history and tradition, rather than the importance of the company itself. The mould for the Dutch euro coins could easily be sent to another company like KNM that could produce the Dutch coins.

I think it is a good idea to keep a 450 years-old business intact, with a national history like the KNM. Maybe they should just change their business model?

3 Things The Dutch Do On Sundays

Posted on 01. Feb, 2016 by in Culture, Travel

For many people, Sunday is a lazy day on which they have a lot of time. However, a lot of people don’t know what to do on that day. Below I listed 3 things that you can do in the Netherlands on a Sunday, with posts that can help you with it! Of course, you can also just read and learn from these posts on a Sunday ;-). Enjoy!

1. Winkelen!

The beginning of the Kalverstraat as seen from the Dam. (Image by Franklin Heijnen at Flickr.com under CC BY-SA 2.0)

An often reoccurring event in the Netherlands are koopzondagen (“buy Sundays”), on which many shops are open. More and more stores are also normally open on Sundays, but it is mostly still a special thing. Sundays are still very much a day of rest. Koopzondagen are held more and more, though.

2. TV Kijken

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Even though watching things online is a rising habit of people, TV kijken (watching TV) is still very much a thing. This month, it is especially watching Wie Is De Mol?the Acht Uur Journaal (the 8 PM News), or the daily De Wereld Draait Door, of which you can see an excerpt in the video above.

You’d rather go outside? Then maybe the next point is more something for you…

3. Een Dagje Naar Het Strand

A stroll on the Dutch beach during a storm! (Image by FaceMePLS at Flickr.com under license CC BY 2.0)

Yes, a day to the beach! Sure, it is in the middle of the winter, and so super cold… No, you would not go to the Dutch beach to go swimming. But the duinen (dunes) are wonderful for strolls in the cold wind of the North Sea. Many Dutch people like to do this – so maybe something for you, too?

Too cold? There are winter activities that the Dutch like a lot, like skating the Alternatieve Elfstedentocht!

I hope you enjoyed this short list of things the Dutch, and you could do on a Sunday! Enjoy!