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Blamsterdam – A Blog About Amsterdam

Why tell history stories?

Mezrab Elyzabeth

I’ve always liked the idea that art holds a mirror to humanity. The other night at Mezrab House of Stories, I was shown how profoundly those images can connect strangers. I told a crowd of about 200 about the worst moment of my life, when I was a teenager expelled family and friends. I felt…

Yeah, Pride Still Matters

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Every year, the same question becomes a drumbeat leading up to Pride: does it still matter? Some say it’s become a corporate parade of rainbow decorations and a chance for straight, cis people to get ally cred by partying instead of doing the hard work of showing up to rallies or confronting homophobic family members….

The Evening of the Old Year

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In Dutch, December 31 is Old Year’s Day. Its night is not New Year’s Eve, but Old Year’s Eve. It’s not until 12:01 a.m. on January 1 that you wish people a happy/lucky new year. Before then, you hope that they have a good changing of the year. I didn’t notice that distinction during my…

1001 Stories to See

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I’ve never seen anything like “1001 Women in the Twentieth Century”, the exhibit currently running at the Amsterdam Museum. I’ve been researching and writing about women’s history for years. I’ve sought out exhibits about women’s history wherever I’ve traveled, obsessively checked sites like Rejected Princesses, and practically wore a path to “The Dinner Party” when…

The Most Beautiful City

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Take good care of our city and of each other.  This entreaty ended the letter Eberhard van der Laan wrote last September to tell Amsterdammers that he was reaching the end of his battle with terminal cancer. He said it had been a privilege to be mayor of the most beautiful and beloved city in…

Today in Dutch History: The Dutch East India Company

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Today in 1602 the Dutch East India Company was founded. It was a new venture in a couple of different ways. Previously, merchants would form a company for the sake of a single expedition. The profits of the voyage would be distributed according to initial investment and the company would disband. The VOC, as it…

Rembrandt Discovered Canoodling

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One of my favorite things about history is that our knowledge is constantly evolving. Take this etching, for example. Unearthed during the Rijksmuseum’s preparations for their recently-opened “High Society” exhibition, it is now believed to be a drawing of Rembrandt with his beloved wife Saskia. Given the sad story of Rembrandt’s old age without her, it’s…

Meet Me at the Crossroads

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Everyone knows that after the fall of Rome, people lived in poverty and ignorance, never moving from the place they were born. That’s why it’s called the Dark Ages. The Allard Pierson museum’s recent Crossroads exhibit used multimedia alongside artifacts to completely dismantle this idea. They trace but both the waves of migration and individual’s…

Today in Dutch History: An Example of Faith

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Today in 1944, the Gestapo arrested the ten Boom family for hiding Jews and members of the Resistance in their Haarlem home. The ten Booms were devout members of the Dutch Reformed Church and their faith guided them to care for their fellow man. Before the war, the ten Booms cared for the poor, including…

Guteneberg Is Such an Also-Ran

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Today in 1455, a printed bible was published by Gutenberg. Or, as the Dutch call him, the German guy who was beat out by a Haarlemmer. Laurens Janszoon Coster was a sexton and assessor who lived in Haarlem from about 1370 to about 1440. He is reported to have invented a printing system in the mid…

Badass Amsterdam Favorites

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There’s a lot happening in Amsterdam. Here are some of the businesses getting us through the cold, dark winter. Carré d’artistes Mezrab Monks Coffee Roasters Sticks and Stones Bourgondisch Lifestyle BADASS ART PROWL: CARRÉ D’ARTISTES Carré d’artistes is a network of galleries founded on the radical idea that everyone should be able to afford a…

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

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Today in Google Translate: an unusual ending for a business email. The Dutch word for friend is the same as boyfriend. Traditionally “friend of mine” (vriend van mij) is a friend and “my friend” (mijn vriend) is a boyfriend. Language is dynamic though, so you’ll hear people use “mijn vriend” to refer to a friend and…

Amsterdam Is the Safest City in Europe!

We are unsurprised to hear that Amsterdam was judged the safest city in Europe based on personal security, infrastructure security, digital security, and health security. 6th safest in the world was a bit of a surprise, but we’ll take it! https://nltimes.nl/2017/10/17/amsterdam-safest-city-eu-6th-world-safe-cities-index

Today in Dutch History: A Philosopher Was Born

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Today in 1623, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam. It is hard to overstate the effect he had on philosophy and science. Spinoza was a member of the Jewish community that had established in Amsterdam after a declaration of religious tolerance in Union of Utrecht – the foundational document of the new Dutch…

Today, Dutch History Was Lost in Translation

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Look, Dutch is a tough language for non-natives. The grammar is complicated and whimsical. The past participle All About Eve’s every other verb form and quite a few adjectives. There are unlikely homonyms differentiated only by context. (Did I lend or borrow? Important distinction left entirely to the listener’s contextual understanding.) It’s an expressive language,…

Today in Dutch History: A Sad Day

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Today in 1421, the St. Elisabeth’s day floods killed 2,000-10,000 people and wiped up to 72 villages off the map. The wall of dikes that protected the reclaimed land from the sea had already been weakened by previous flooding. A storm in the North Sea caused a storm surge that broke through the banks in…

Today in Dutch History: 3D Chess

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Today in 1715 marks the last of the Barrier Treaties, which ended the Wars of Spanish Succession. The three Barrier Treaties were driven in large part by British maneuvering in continental politics, often with the Dutch Republic and the Austrian Netherlands as both a buffer and proxy warzone for the stronger powers. The Dutch Republic…

Today in Dutch History: the Edison of the Golden Age

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Today in 1633, Cornelis Drebbel, the Edison of the Dutch Golden Age passed away after a lifetime of invention. He created the first working submarine, the first working mercury thermometer, bow dye, a perpetual motion clock, a new water supply method, a lens grinding machine for compound lens microscopes… and weaponry for the British who…

Today in Dutch History: A Journalist, Fighter, and Poet

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Today in 1909, HM van Randwijk was born in Gorinchem. Van Randwijk was a poet, journalist, and Resistance fighter who founded Vrij Nederland, a liberal paper that is still being published today. A teacher before the war, he joined the resistance to German occupation and founded an underground paper at great risk, as it gave…