Discover Benelux, Issue 25, January 2016

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I S S U E 25 | JA N UA R Y 2016


















Passage du Nord 1 | Brussels | Belgium Amerikalei 153 | Antwerp | Belgium Rechtstraat 25 | Maastricht | The Netherlands Merestraat 80 | Groningen | The Netherlands

Discover Benelux | Contents

Contents JANUARY 2016




Thanks to his can-do mind set and tonnes of talent, Dutch DJ Afrojack is unstoppable. At 28, he already has a remarkable list of hits and collaborations, but remains level headed about his success.

THEMES 10 Belgian Chocolate: Loved all over the World

Find out about the love affair between Belgium and its chocolates in this indulging special, highlighting some of the country’s best chocolatiers.

20 Utrecht: The Netherlands’ Beating Heart


Located in the very centre of the Netherlands, Utrecht has it all to become your new favourite city destination; culture, canals, shopping, heritage and a very lively nightlife.

40 Bruges: Venice of the North

Thanks to its picturesque canals and historical role as a trading hub, Bruges is often compared to the Italian city. Read all about Bruges and its best sights and attractions.

47 The Hague: The Cosmopolitan City

This seaside city is an international political centre with a relaxed coastal vibe. This special features our favourite attractions and eat, drink and sleep spots.

66 Belgian Festival Guide 2016

In Belgium they know how to celebrate. From music festivals to cultural events and gastronomic gatherings, it is brimming with exciting festivals held throughout the year.

FEATURES 16 Travel Feature: Belgian Beer Adventure

We criss-crossed the country to locate Belgium’s most exciting brews and discovered why it is world renowned for its beers, including in Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen.

76 Hotel of the Month

This month we give a special mention to Novotel Suites Luxembourg. Offering suites instead of rooms, this hotel is ideal for multi-day stays in Luxembourg City.

78 Event of the Month

Rotterdam is hot and happening this year. While it is known as the architectural capital of the Netherlands, it also punches well above its weight for cultural events.

BUSINESS 58 Company profiles, regulars and more

Do you want to get to know Luxembourg better? Our business features can help you. Also in this section are our regular columnists discussing national icons and how to celebrate success. PLUS: Business calendar, page 61


6 Fashion Picks | 8 Desirable Designs 79 Out & About | 82 Columns Issue 25 | January 2016 | 3

Discover Benelux | Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Print Liquid Graphic Ltd

Janine Sterenborg Josiah Fisk Lidija Liegis Liz Wenger Martin Pilkington Matt Antoniak Mirjam van Biemen Mirre Oost Paola Westbeek Sonja Irani Steve Flinders

Executive Editor Thomas Winther

Stuart Forster Toyah Marondel Xandra Boersma

Creative Director Mads E. Peterson

Cover Photo Starstock,

Editor Myriam Gwynned Dijck

Sales & Key Account Managers Mette Tonnessen Micha Cornelisse Kirsten Schoon Katia Sfihi Sophie Blecha

Discover Benelux Issue 25, January 2016 Published 01.2016 ISSN 2054-7218 Published by Scan Group

Copy-editor Isa Hemphrey Graphic Designer Lauren Glading Contributors Aurora Peters Berthe van den Hurk Bettina Guirkinger Caroline D’hont Cathy van Klaveren Ella Put Els Du Mont

Publisher: Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3YT United Kingdom Phone: +44 (0)870 933 0423 Fax: +44 (0)870 933 0421 Email:

This month I am pleased to present a mini-special on one of Belgium’s most beautiful cities: Bruges (from page 40). The romantic canals, winding streets and medieval houses make it one of the Benelux’s most popular tourist destinations. It certainly is a magical place, no matter what the season. Bruges is so attractive due to history’s curious course of events. As with many trading hubs, the city’s success went hand in hand with access to trading routes and in the Middle Ages – Bruges’ heydays – trade invariably went by boat. By the ninth century Bruges had been growing gradually, but it was 1134 that really cemented its future. That year a terrible storm wreaked havoc on the southern coast of the Low Countries. It left the seaside unrecognisable and a wide estuary was created stretching from the North Sea straight to Bruges. This inlet, Het Zwin, became Bruges’ ticket to greatness. As ships loaded with goods and traders from all over Europe flooded into Bruges, the city transformed into a major commercial metropolis. For hundreds of years, Bruges flourished. With the riches that the booming economy brought with it, the citizens of Bruges built the most beautiful houses. However, this all rapidly changed after the 15th century. Over the years, Het Zwin had slowly silted shut and it became impossible for ships to sail through. Amidst political unrest in the area, Bruges lost its status as a centre of trade and the population declined. No new houses were needed and money for renovation was sparse, so the picturesque centre became locked in a medieval time capsule. Trade moved to Antwerp and even the industrial revolution left Bruges largely untouched. But thanks to this remarkable course of history, we can still marvel at the wondrous architecture of the past and imagine ourselves in a different time in the stunning city of Bruges.

Myriam Gwynned Dijck, Editor

© All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group – a trading name of Scan Magazine Ltd. This magazine contains advertorials/promotional articles.

4 | Issue 25 | January 2016

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Sweden • Norway • Denmark • Finland • Luxembourg • Switzerland • United Kingdom • Singapore • Estonia • Latvia • Lithuania

Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks


Girls just want to have fun During these cold days, it might be difficult to dress up in a floating and colourful short skirt. But just because the weather is limiting a woman’s choice of clothes, does not mean girls should have less fun in January. Cuddle up in pink pyjamas, a bright sweater, or light up the dark days with rosy accessories. Bring out your inner girl with these items. TEXT: ELLA PUT | PRESS PHOTOS

2. Bag it up 1. Fluffy times With this eye-catching chain you will never ever lose your key again. It can also be used as a cute accessory to update your bag. Chain: €18

3. Pyjama party Chilly weather is the ideal moment to cosy up in your pyjamas and have a nice evening in. This pyjama set by Hunkemöller will offer you great comfort. Next to that, the pink home wear set has a fancy all-over print, turning your pyjamas into a fashionable outfit. Set: €33

6 | Issue 25 | January 2016

This bag can be used for multiple purposes for example as a party bag, a glamorous toilet bag or as a home accessory to define your love for shoes. Grab it, style it and you are ready to go. Bag: €10

Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks

5. Pop of colour Pink is the new black, especially in winter time when dark colours seem to overrule. Brighten up the day and be the pop of colour in the street with this coat. Next to its colour, the coat’s straight and elegant lines make this piece a perfect statement addition to your wardrobe. Coat: €120

4. Pink power Flamingos are not just popular as plastic lawn ornaments. The pink birds have become a fashion gimmick. Dutch designer Anita de Groot combined comfort with these colourful animals and created a cosy jumper. Sweatshirt: €45

6. June in January Edgy yet feminine, that is what Belgian brand Julia June is all about. The brand knows how to make a woman look elegant yet girly. Their latest collection is filled with soft colours and graceful patterns. Wear this coat to bring a little bit of that sparkling, pink spring feeling into the winter months. Coat: €539

Discover Benelux | Design | Desirable Designs


Comfortable and cosy January, being the coldest month of the year, is the perfect time to get cosy. As we are forced to create a nice and warm place indoors, we have selected some designs to help you through this time in a comfortable and calm fashion. TEXT: ELLA PUT | PRESS PHOTOS

1. Heat me up This stove is a fast and comfortable heater. Because of its simple and compact design, it fits in almost every household or workplace. It is a modern approach to a good old classic fireplace, and will become the new living room centre piece. €3,500


2. 2. The everlasting blossom This perpetual flower branch, ‘Heracleum Endless’, designed by Bertjan Pot, multiplies by the metre until it might even grow out of reach! This lamp will light up the room, but most of all it is the creative branch design that will be a wonderful addition to your home. €2,091

3. Shine a light

3. 4. Comfortable cover

5. Sheep chair

Give your interior a luxurious update with this bull-skin carpet designed by Pols Potten. Made out of leather, this floor cover will bring an edgy touch to your living room and make your floor a comfortable alternative to the couch. €554

Not long ago, people kept themselves warm by wearing sheepskins. With the sheep theme in mind, designer Jolanda van Goor used the woolly mammals as inspiration, but in a more animalfriendly way. She created a chair modeled after the shape of a sheep, made out of sustainable ash wood and roving. Its shape creates a different dimension of sitting. €1,095


Who says tea lights are only for the holidays? They can brighten up the darkest room in the house or be used as table decorations during dinner parties. Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek has created a luxurious version of the all-time favourite winter decoration. It is a nice lavish touch to warm you up during the many hours spent inside this season. From €95


Discover Benelux | Design | Flagbag


There are plenty of raw materials nowadays to make accessories from and it is with this increase in variety that Flagbag set up shop. For a number of years now, owner Erwin Hermans and a motivated team make everyday items out of flags and canvas. Based in Hasselt, Belgium, the company works together with the local municipality to turn flags into bags and covers for tablets, computers and telephones, as well as wallets and bags specifically for your bike. “Hasselt is a community that makes note of an upcoming event by the use of flags. It’s always been this way. But what to do with them when the event is over and the flags no longer have a purpose? That’s why the local municipal asked us to use that material and make it into some-

thing new,” says Hermans. It is a smooth collaboration between the two: the city of Hasselt can use the flags and Flagbag has an updated collection of canvas to use for new items.

project. “We have asked designers for feedback on our items, so that we can learn from it. Other than that, we work with people who have a lot of knowledge of sewing and manufacturing.”

Aside from using old promotional material from the city, Flagbag is regularly occupied by requests from companies who want to give their clients an original gift. “When a Japanese garden was opened, and many guests from Japan were invited, the host company had asked us to make toiletry bags out of the canvas they had used. It turned out to be a special gift. People recognised the flags and could now take a little of it home with them.”

The types of canvas used are very durable and all items are of course handmade. Hermans: “No item is the same. But that doesn’t mean they are expensive, fair prices are very important for us and we can offer this because of the re-usage and the local production.” Flagbag also gives people, who have a hard time finding a job, an opportunity to work.

Hermans, being in the business for some time now, still improves his skill with every

Flagbag has selling points in Hasselt and Antwerp. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 9


Loved all over the world There are few love affairs that go as deep as the one of Belgium and its chocolate. This month, we have selected some of the best chocolatiers from Belgium to showcase their passion and knowledge on the subject. It is time to indulge in the rich and delicious world of Belgian chocolate. TEXT: SALON DU CHOCOLAT | PHOTOS: NICOLAS RODET

Discover Benelux | Belgian Chocolate | Introduction

It will be held at Palais 1 of Brussels Expo for an especially flavoursome 2016 edition that will bring over 80 participants together. Top chocolatiers, patissiers and confectioners will showcase their new creations and share their passion with the public next to chefs, pastry chefs, designers and cocoa experts who will treat visitors with many chocolatey activities.

ture outfits made out of chocolate created by the finest fashion designers and the most talented chocolatiers. – Live recipe demonstrations by the greatest chefs, pastry chefs and master chocolatiers. – Conferences and tastings hosted by chocolate experts and aficionados on major topical issues to do with cocoa and chocolate. – Workshops and master classes for all pastry lovers. – Educational and playful activities specially designed for younger visitors (six to 12 years old). – Book signings in partnership with the famous Brussels bookshop Filigranes. – Exhibitions and happenings such as chocolate sculptures and exhibitions.

Visitors can expect a continuing show accessible to all including: – The Chocolate Fashion Show with cou-

And many other surprises! Find out all details and book your tickets on the website.

Aside from the chocolatiers that are located throughout Belgium, there is one top event that no chocoholic should miss. Held in Brussels, discover all things chocolate at the Salon du Chocolat. For the third year running, following the success of previous editions, Brussels is hosting the Salon du Chocolat from 5 to 7 February, for another celebration of Belgian chocolate.

SALON DU CHOCOLAT Dates and hours: Friday 5 to Sunday 7 February Opening: 10am to 7pm on Friday and Saturday / 10am to 6pm on Sunday Venue: Brussels Expo – Hall 1, Belgieplein 1 – 1020 Brussel Entrance fees: Adult: €8.50 on Friday / €10 on Saturday and Sunday Children from 3 to 12 years old: €5 Free for children under 3

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 11

Discover Benelux | Belgian Chocolate | Top Chocolatiers & Shops

A feast for the eyes and a sensation for the mouth TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: LENNEN DESCAMPS

When you say ‘Belgium’, people immediately think ‘chocolate’. Sweettoothed tourists from all over the world come to Belgium to taste and experience the very best cocoa products. One of its top chocolatiers is located in the exceptionally beautiful city of Ghent. Chocolatier Van Hoorebeke is a true family business and has been one of the best chocolatiers of the country. Luc and Christine started the business in 1982 and a few years ago their son Cédric opened another shop in the city. They are repeatedly voted one of the ten best chocolatiers in the country. Visitors come to the alluring shop to marvel at the stunning creations and, of course, to purchase the most delicious chocolates. Even the Belgian Royal Family has thanked them for their delicious sweets. The store in itself is already worth a visit. The shop window is always a real 12 | Issue 25 | January 2016

sight to behold but, when inside, customers can see a part of the production which takes place in the basement of the building. Van Hoorebeke produces 50 to 60 kilos of chocolates per day. Each piece is handmade and a true piece of art. Van Hoorebeke even provides personalised chocolates, for example with company logos.

Van Hoorebeke continues to evolve constantly; it stays on top of trends, they attend courses and take all kinds of allergies into account. The family is also present at major events such as the World Exhibitions in Shanghai (2010) and Milan (2015). “In Shanghai, we needed extra protection because of the large influx of people,” says Christine.

The cacao beans come from countries such as Peru, Ecuador and Vietnam, but the composition of the chocolate is processed in Belgium by Van Hoorebeke. Recently Van Hoorebeke started importing cacao beans from Vanuatu, a small group of islands in the east of Australia.These cacao beans are fabulous, but not many people know it yet.

For the true ‘chocaholics’ there is good news: chocolate is rich in antioxidants (stronger than in red wine), it contains good cholesterol, vitamins and minerals. Even though happiness cannot be bought, buying chocolate comes very close.

Christine: “The grinding of the cocoa beans is very important, a fine grind ensures that the chocolate does not crumble in your mouth, but of course we also want the very best cocoa beans provided.”

Discover Benelux | Belgian Chocolate | Top Chocolatiers & Shops

The magic of the cocoa bean TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PHOTOS: GALLER

Galler’s story began 40 years ago. Founder Jean Galler left school at age 16 to begin an apprenticeship in a bakery. Five years later, he opened his first chocolate shop. Galler is a Belgian family company through and through, with everything made and distributed locally. It is best known for its multi-flavoured batons as well as its iconic collaboration with Belgian cartoonist Philippe Geluck on the chocolate cats’ tongues. This home-grown brand is now recognised internationally, with outlets as far as South Korea and the Middle East. Its appeal is its accessibility to high-quality chocolate, and its unusual flavour pairings, such as the recently launched lavender and lime praline.

Founder Galler’s favourite chocolate depends on the time of day: “I begin with raspberry in the morning, then a white or hazelnut praline at noon and dark chocolate in the evening.” Galler is a revolutionary amongst chocolatiers. In 1993 he launched the first chocolate range with over 70 per cent cocoa in it, when the average cocoa content was 58 per cent. His success may be attributed to his ethos of using natural, high-quality products and “never doing anything just for the money”, he adds. He also looks after his staff, many of whom have worked with him since the beginning. The business continues to expand both in Belgium and France, and Galler counts the Belgian Royal F amily amongst its fans. In the

Artist Philippe Geluck and founder Jean Galler proudly present Le Chat chocolates.

meantime, Galler continues to develop delectable flavours for his customers and remains inventive in the field of chocolate making.


He does not make chocolate, but the pralines that derive from it. Geert Vercruysse, is a master in refinement. He makes French, traditional confectionaries that are not jampacked with exotic and unexpected flavours. Instead, he finds a way to make the most delicate flavours come to life.

with small artisan chocolate brands such as Pacari, Original Beans, Chocolate Hunters, Menakao and Marou. The majority of these are unknown in Belgium. He sells various, nonindustrial chocolate bars that come from around the world, which are only available in a few shops in Europe.

And it seems that this approach works well for the chocolatier, as he has been mentioned in The Reference Standard Chocolate Book 2015 by Georg Bernardini as one of the best chocolate makers in Belgium. His creations are little treats, made with lots of detail and formed to chocolate perfection. This idea takes on a bigger form when you know that Vercruysse only selects fair-trade, direct trade and organic chocolate, to give small-scale farmers a fair price.

“I think it’s nice to discover new flavours and combining them in a way that they become even better. I also want to contribute, by helping spreading the taste of exceptional chocolate unknown to the public. It helps farmers do their job better if they know their cocoa beans were appreciated in a country such as Belgium,” he explains.

But these terms do nothing short of the chocolate Vercruysse uses. He mostly works

Patisserie Vercruysse has a shop in Kortrijk, where he also sells pastries. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 13

Discover Benelux | Belgian Chocolate | Top Chocolatiers & Shops

The Belgian chocolate designer TEXT: CAROLINE D’HONT | PHOTOS: STEFANIE GEERTS

Meet David Maenhout, Chocolatier M. He used to be in the beer brewing business but, as a real Belgian, he turned to another passion: chocolate. He sold his business to become a full-time artisan chocolate manufacturer and, together with his wife Isabelle, he opened his own store in 2005 in the upmarket coastal village of Knokke. His trademark? Single origin chocolate crafted into the finest ‘pralines’ (chocolate bonbons) with gastronomic fillings. His basic product, the chocolate, is always single origin, which means the cocoa beans come from one single plantation or region, and not the usual blends. You could compare it to single malt whisky. He combines this unique chocolate with the finest of fillings, made from fresh fruits, herbs and exotic ingredients. Some of his signature pralines are with the sea buckhorn berry, to be found along the Belgian coastline, and his famous ‘umami praline’, a delicate

chocolate with a fine artisan Japanese soy sauce and sesame seeds. Maenhout’s talent to combine high-end chocolate with exotic and surprising fillings has paid off: he is now working together with no less than 12 Michelin-starred chefs to create unique chocolates for their restaurants. This has not only earned him international recognition, but also a wide range of awards. In 2013, Chocolatier M was given the title as the first ever ‘Chocolatier of the Year’ by Gault&Millau gastronomy guide. In early 2015 at the Salon du Chocolat, Maenhout presented seven of his creations in seven different categories and, to his own surprise, winning awards in each of those categories! Maenhout is a true chocolate ambassador for Belgium, and therefore represented his country on both World Exhibitions of Shanghai and Milan. This also earned him a stronghold on the worldwide market, as his chocolate is now sold in Japan and Canada.

Chocolatier M’s famous signature Umami Chocolate, with a fine artisan Japanese soy sauce and sesame seed filling.

However, with his international reputation as a first-class chocolate designer, Maenhout and his team can still be found crafting new food pairings in his artisan workshop on a daily basis, which you can look into from the beautiful minimalistic chocolate shop in Knokke. Sylvain Dupuisstraat 38 8300 Knokke, Belgium

Beer and chocolate: a match ‘made in Belgium’ TEXT: CAROLINE D’HONT | PHOTOS: KRIS JACOBS

duction and the ingredients. Werner has found that you can perfectly pair artisan beers and fine chocolate pralines (bonbons), providing a delicate flavour harmony. Or even more interesting: find contrasting flavours in beer and chocolate to strengthen both their subtleties. It is hard to encounter a truer Belgian than Werner Callebaut. He has two passions: chocolate and beer. And what is better is that he has found a way to combine Belgium’s most important export products into interesting chocolate and beer pairing tastings. Maybe it sounds weird, but beer and chocolate have a lot more in common than you may realise. If you think of beers like porter and stout, they both have that chocolate aroma, from the combination of malt, yeast and hops. The similarity of beer and chocolate lies within their complexity, in their flavours but also in pro14 | Issue 25 | January 2016

After undergoing a great deal of research, Werner Callebaut now organises interesting beer and chocolate tastings all over Belgium. His knowledge and expertise in beer and chocolate is impressive, as he followed both courses as a chocolate processor and beer connoisseur. Besides that, he also offers guided culinary walks through Belgian cities, focusing on either beer or chocolate, visiting authentic pubs and artisan chocolate crafters. To organise a beer and/ or chocolate tasting or a guided walk, you can contact Werner through his website.

Discover Benelux | Belgian Chocolate | Top Chocolatiers & Shops

Bruges’ finest chocolate TEXT: ELS DU MONT | PHOTOS: DEPLA

For many people around the world, the word ‘Belgium’ goes hand in hand with the world’s finest chocolate. For the people of Bruges, chocolate is somewhat of an obsession. Pol Depla is the second generation running the eponymous family chocolate-making business. He says: “It is my intense love affair with chocolate and the knowledge passed on through my father that has driven me to go on a chocolate odyssey for most of my life.” His father started applying his knowledge, together with his passion for great chocolate and in 1958 he founded a premium, artisan chocolate company called Confectioner Depla. The company has consistently worked hard and has risen to become the oldest artisanal confectioner in Bruges.

Quality and professionalism are the foremost values that Depla is founded upon. “The most important thing is the taste and the quality. I use some of the best chocolate I can get my hands on and try to keep a balance between the flavour of the chocolate and the other flavours that we incorporate into the pralines,” says Depla. In 2002 Depla decided to innovate and expanded his growing collection. He incorporates fresh flowers into his creations and even patented that procedure. The company has grown into an established name within Bruges and has been awarded numerous times. Pol Depla is a member of the Guild of the Bruges Chocolatiers and in addition he is also the official connoisseur of ‘het Brugs Swaentje’, the Swan of Bruges. It is an almond praline enriched with gruut spices

and finished with a typical Bruges biscuit named ‘Kletskop’. Pol Depla is occasionally also asked to represent Belgium on different world exhibitions, such as the one in Shangai in 2010. Depla’s aim is to share his passion for quality chocolate not only through creating and selling his outstanding pralines, but also by organising demonstrations and tastings events. “We thrive on the aspect of giving our clients an enriching experience of chocolate. We hope our clients can walk away from our tasting and use their knowledge and try to recreate that same praline.”

Mariastraat 20, 8000 Bruges +32 (0)50 34 74 12 Issue 25 | January 2016 | 15

Boon Oude Geuze at Amuse-Gueuze Photo: Kris Jacobs


A tour of top breweries in Flanders At the end of last year, Discover Benelux headed to Belgium to taste the country’s best loved drink: beer. Travelling all around Flanders we discovered their incredible breadth of flavours, from sour lambic-style beers to sweet, cherry-flavoured Krieks and chocolatey stouts. While visiting several breweries we also found out that, despite the stereotype that beer (especially the darker kind) is more of a man’s drink, it is actually women who laid the foundation of brewing. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK

Bottling beers at the brewery De Ryck

Devlaux at the Brussels Beer Challenge 2014

Photo: De Ryck

Photo: Bart Van Der Perren

Discover Benelux | Travel Feature | Belgian Beer Adventure

After getting off the Eurostar in Brussels, our first place to visit was Ghent. The student city is just a half hour train ride from the capital. Before starting our beer adventure, we stop for some muchneeded fuel at Balls & Glory. As the tongue-and-cheek name suggests, this trendy lunch place serves nothing but meatballs with a modern twist. Stuffed with ingredients such as leek and cheese or sundried tomatoes, one giant meatball is served with either mash or salad and certainly provides a tasty and filling meal.

Gastronomy tour of Ghent To learn more about Ghent, and discover some of its delicacies, we embarked on a ‘Nibbling tour’ hosted by VIZIT Ghent. While telling compelling (and sometimes rather gruesome) tales of the city’s past, the guide takes us to chocolatier Daskalidès for a taster. Next, we enter the striking Groot Vleeshuis where we try cured Ganda Ham which is wonderfully paired with locally produced Tierenteyn mustard. After walking past the ancient Castle of the Counts, just outside the centre, we also get to try the city’s specialty blackberry sweets, de Gentse Neuzen from Temmerman, a beautifully 19thcentury-styled sweetshop.

seem lighter to drink, despite their alcohol percentage of five to eight per cent. The different herbs create a wonderful bouquet of flavours, especially for the seasonal beer. Although we spent most of our day eating and drinking, the city walk has made us hungry again and after a quick stop at the hotel we head out to restaurant Pakhuis. Located in a former warehouse, the restaurant with a green-painted wrought iron structure, wooden bar and brass detailing is a great setting to end our day. And during our meal, we cannot resist ordering Boon Oude Geuze from their extensive beer menu, a typical Belgian lambic with that characteristic acidic taste.

Beers with a cause The next day we jump on the bus to Brewery De Ryck. Starting early, we taste our first beer of the day well before noon. Host and fourth-generation head brewer An de Ryck tells us about the history of the brewery as she pours us a selection their brews. This included the blonde, top fermented and award-winning beer Arend Tripel, which has a delicate, well-rounded flavour and a fine balance of bitterness and fruitiness.

During our tour of the microbrewery in Herzele, which was founded in 1886, we also learn about one of their newest beers called Steenuilke. This herby beer is brewed in support of a regional project to protect the disappearing habitat of the little owl, or ‘steenuil’ in Dutch. Back on the bus we head to our next stop: C-Jules, located in the quaint Flemish town of Zottegem. We are pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s forward-thinking menu. Our meal comprised of an appetiser including calve brain, a deliciously rich cauliflower soup with edible flowers and a main of veal stew with velvety celeriac pureé – all of which of course are paired with Belgian beers. Restaurant co-owner is chef Julie Baekelandt, who is part of the Flanders Kitchen Rebels. With their credo to put Flanders firmly on the map within the Belgian food scene, restaurant CJules is certainly doing things right.

Ascending Mechelen’s church tower Refuelled we are ready for today’s main challenge: walking up 538 steps of the 97-metre high St. Rumbold’s tower in Mechelen. While climbing from level to level, our guide tells us more about the history of the construction, as it was

As we say goodbye to the guide, we wander down the picturesque waterways to arrive at the city brewery Gruut. Here we get to have our first Belgian beer, and it is without a doubt a special one. Annick de Spenter, the owner of the brewery and master brewer, explains that her beers are not made with hops, but with herbs. This method was very popular in the Middle Ages, but as the use of hops became more wide-spread in Europe, the ancient herb-beer recipes all but vanished.

Finding a lost recipe While stood on a bar stool, De Spenter tells us it took her a degree in beermaking, two whole years and the help of one of the country’s most knowledgeable zythologists (a beer expert) to recreate the forgotten recipe. But she certainly was successful, as we get to try three of her five unfiltered beers; blonde, brown and a seasonal dark beer with spices. The lack of hops makes for fresh-tasting beers that

Brewery Het Anker, Mechelen Photo:

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 17

Discover Benelux | Travel Feature | Belgian Beer Adventure

Grote Markt, Mechelen

Ganda Ham hanging from the ceiling at the Groot Vleeshuis, Ghent.

Photo: Milo Profi


originally meant to be 160 metres high and why the tower has two carillons (one old and one new) and she ensures us the view from the top is worth the journey.

‘smoke’ was merely a low-hanging cloud. Ever since, the people of Mechelen have been nicknamed Maneblussers, or Moon Extinguishers.

She was certainly right and with the sun slowly sinking below the horizon, we look out over the beautiful Flemish landscape. Aside from the view, we are rewarded with a drink, the locally brewed ‘Maneblusser’ beer and a salmon tartare bite, as we walk around the open, glass-viewing platform at the top.

Women in beer

Before the end of the visit, we also learn what ‘Maneblusser’ signifies. According to legend, on a clear evening an over-concerned (and perhaps slightly intoxicated) citizen of Mechelen called the alarm: the St. Rumbold’s tower was on fire. He rounded up some strong men and together they ran up the spiral staircase with buckets of water. Once at the top, it turned out the red glow had been caused by a play of light, and the 18 | Issue 25 | January 2016

Our last stop for the day is the brewery responsible for this beer, Het Anker. It is also where the well-known Gouden Carolus is produced. During our tour, we learn that the brewery has recently entered into another craft: whiskey making. As we walk through the storage areas where the barrels are laid to age, we can almost taste the whiskey in the air. This is the ‘angels’ share’, as whiskey loses up to eight per cent of its volume before it is ready. For dinner we do not have to go far, as Het Anker has a warm and cosy restaurant next to the brewery. Before indulging into our food, we get a presentation by beer expert Sofie Van Raphelghem. With conviction she tells us not only why

brewing beer is originally a craft developed by women in the middle ages, she also explains that stouts and ales are as much a ladies’ drink as they are men’s. It is just the stereotyping that often prevents women from trying these kinds of beers. To prove her point, we are served a dark Belgian stout with our dessert. The rich flavours of chocolate and caramel beautifully compliment the sweet chocolate dish with fresh fruit and is highly enjoyable to all of us, regardless of gender. Before heading back to the hotel, we cannot resist trying their whiskey. The strong, and remarkably smooth liquor is the ideal nightcap to finish off our busy day. The next morning we head out to Mechelen once more for a walking tour. Away from the centre, the streets are quiet, but as we enter the market square we are met by a bustling mass of people, food and produce stalls and a busy crowd of Saturday shoppers. Alongside

Discover Benelux | Travel Feature | Belgian Beer Adventure

the market, we head into the cheese shop Schockaeart where we try two cheeses that were both soaked in Gouden Carolus ale, of which the flavour comes through quite well.

Meeting a true beer connoisseur After lunch we travelled to microbrewery De Kroon in Neerijse. Our tour is hosted by its owner, professor Freddy Delvaux, one of Belgium’s top zythologists. As we sample the brewery’s Kroon Super pale ale and the fruity Job beer, we can see that his vast knowledge of beer is matched by his enormous enthusiasm for its taste, and he cheerfully has a drink with us. The old part of the brewery includes open coolships where the wort used to be left overnight to induce spontaneous fermentation, a process which the microclimate around Brussels is perfectly suitable for. Aside from that, we see how the wort used to be boiled in massive, coal-fired cookers. However, Delvaux tells us that with only the bottom of the cookers being heated, it is hard to keep a consistent temperature, so this is no longer used. As we finish our glasses, we take a quick glimpse in the operational part of the brewery, where it is all chrome and stateof-the-art equipment.

rested. The next morning we walk over to Antoine, a chocolate and patisserie shop owned by Patrick Aubrion. Here we delve further into unusual taste combinations for a beer and chocolate pairing. An enthusiastic Aubrion tells us how he has developed a type of filled chocolate truffle that also has a flavoured coating on the outside. For our tasting session we try four beers and four chocolates. Especially ‘Bubbles’, a champagne truffle with a strawberry coating, paired with De Vlier Brut, a tart, sparkling aperitif beer, is a complementing combination. The chocolate beautifully tones down the sourness of the beer while enhancing its other flavours. Aubrion’s truffles are certainly also enjoyable on their own, and we cannot resist taking a small bag with us before we leave.

five-course taster menu, where each course is paired with a different beer that is also used in the dish. The side of turkey ham, apple and chicory gets a dash of Zure van Tildonk, the salmon appetiser is enhanced with Celis White, and even the cheese is drenched in Alpaïde dark ale. On the train home, we look back on an exciting beer discovery tour of Flanders. It was an adventure of unusual and rich flavours, which has given us a much better appreciation for the wealth of tastes that are out there when it comes to beer. And, in the future, we would encourage everyone to pick a fine ale for a change, whether you are male or female.

One last beer and food pairing Our final part of the trip is a beer cookery workshop hosted by Chameleon Events. Divided into groups we make our own

Pepper-flavoured stout and chocolates A short bus ride later, we arrive in Leuven. As the evening falls, we get a walking tour of the city and see the stunningly intricate gothic façade of the 15th century Town Hall. Also on our route is the M Museum Leuven bar, which we are told is popular with the city’s many students. At this modern yet cosy bar, countless beers are served and the chalkboards above the bar attest to the fact they pride themselves on their specialty brews. One of which we get to taste is a new, darkbrown stout by brewery Caulier that has the contrasting flavours of chocolate and pepper. Admittedly it is a rather strange combination, but not an unpleasant one. We have dinner at Kokoon in the centre of Leuven and afterwards we head back to our hotel to start our final day well-

Busy restaurants in the centre of Leuven

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 19


The Netherlands’ beating heart Utrecht was the starting point of the latest Tour de France for a reason. In this thriving university town there is always something to do. You can go shopping in one of the many boutiques; have a barbecue on a boat in the canal or visit one of the castles close to the city. TEXT: MIRRE OOST | PHOTOS: WILLEM MES

Utrecht is located in the centre of the Netherlands and is therefore easily accessible from big cities like Amsterdam and The Hague. From the train station you can take a walk through shopping mall ‘Hoog Catharijne’ and move directly into the beautiful historic city centre of Utrecht. The first inhabitants of Utrecht were the Romans. Utrecht is therefore a Roman name which means ‘ford on the Rhine’. 20 | Issue 25 | January 2016

It has always been an significant place and even briefly became the capital of the Kingdom of Holland. The Roman Catholic archbishop was seated here and he had immense power. In the Dutch Golden Age, the function of capital city was taken over by the even richer city of Amsterdam, since it had a larger population and it had access to sea trade routes. This does not mean that Utrecht lost its status. With 330,000 inhabitants, Utrecht is the fourth

largest city in Netherlands and the fastest growing economic centre of the country. The Dom Tower is often the starting point for a visit of Utrecht and the city has been dubbed the ‘Cathedral City’ because of it. The tower is 112 metres high and has 465 steps, but climbing it is very worthwhile. From the top of Utrecht’s highest tower, on a clear day you can even see Amsterdam. Imagine what an amazing view you

Discover Benelux | Utrecht: The Netherlands’ Beating Heart | Introduction

Photo: Martijn Kleimeer

Photo: Ramon Mosterd

get when you can see as far as 40 kilometres! On the horizon there are numerous fortifications and castles which were built during the Middle Ages. From the city’s waterways you can see that Utrecht was a fortified city. Tour boats zigzag through the canals and from there you have a view of the ramparts and city gardens. The adjoining lawns are now used by students as picnic spots. Utrecht has three universities and three colleges and the amount of young minds who dwell within the city show the impact this has had. After they finish their day, students go out to shop and have a drink in the centre, taking advantage of the city’s social as well as educational facets. There are many terraces besides the canals, inviting you for a refreshing drink, a snack or dinner. Enjoy the afternoon sun while a barbecue boat, a high-tea boat and a pair of canoes sail by. In the evening there are a myriad of places to go out. It is

even possible to drink a beer in a church, in ‘beerchurch’ Olivier. Shopping is best done in the centre or in Hoog Catharijne shopping mall, which contains major stores such as De Bijenkorf and C&A. An alternative is to go to one of the alleys with small specialty shops. On both sides of the river Vecht there are funky boutiques in stately old buildings, where they sell anything from one-of-a-kind clothes to special interior features and comic books. To learn more about the history, you can take a tour with Visit Utrecht, who will also show you the hidden courtyards. Afterwards you can go to the Museum Catharijneconvent, which showcases the history of Christianity in the Netherlands. The museum is housed in a medieval monastery. Other museums are the Dick Bruna House, which tells you all about the creator of the world famous Miffy (‘Nijntje’, as we call him in the Netherlands) and if

you are interested in music, head to Museum De Speelklok which shows a motley collection of self-playing instruments from former times. For those who want leave town for a day, there is much to do in the nearby area. Around Utrecht there are many castles and fortifications, that can be explored with an (e-)bike. The routes are varied and lead through forests, meadows and moorlands in the National Park Utrecht Ridge. The heaths are in bloom in September, giving you breathtaking views of brilliant purple flare and, in the winter sun the scenery is also stunning. Whether you are looking for a boat trip, want to go shopping, or if you would like to know more about the history of the city, Utrecht has it all. There is an endless supply of cafés, restaurants and bars in beautiful old buildings, so whenever you go to Utrecht, it is the perfect place for a city break at any time of the year. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 21

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Best Art, Culture & Events

Photo: Wolter Lommerde

Connecting international music events to local needs TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK | PHOTOS: MAARTEN STARRENBURG

With over 26 years of experience organising projects and events, ZIMIHC was born out of the need for places where amateur artists and musicians can perform and rehearse. Today the organisation, founded in Utrecht, boasts three theatres and a broad professional network giving amateur artists the opportunity and room necessary for their talents to evolve and flourish. In the next few years, ZIMIHC will present several international music events in the city. Being a musician himself, ZIMIHC founder Appie Alferink sensed the demand for 22 | Issue 25 | January 2016

artistic podiums in Utrecht and thus started the organisation. To this day, ZIMIHC’s core activities remain the same: to cater to the needs of amateur artists with theatres and repetition facilities as well as with the organisation of projects and events both on a local and international level. A broad range of artistic fields are covered including everything from music to the visual arts and from dance to literature. ZIMIHC’s three theatres, all situated in buildings that are cultural breeding grounds, offer a wide variety of facilities that suit a broad scope of artistic ambitions. “We want artists to take initiative

and come to us to see which podium fits them best,” says coordinator Martine Spanjers. “By offering them a podium early on, they have a bigger chance to further develop their talents,” she continues.

International events ahead The organisation’s projects and events are quite diverse: whether that be facilitating small performances in city parks such as A Lazy Sunday Afternoon (consisting of free mini-festivals during the summer months), or operating on a more international scale, as ZIMIHC already did in 2009 with the Europa Cantat Festival. Ultimately, in the upcoming years, more of

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Best Art, Culture & Events

Photo: Aviva Bing

a focus will be placed on wind music and choral arts with most of the scheduled international events being held at either the TivoliVredenburg Concert Hall or one of their own theatres. In May, the ECWO (European Championship for Wind Orchestras), to be hosted at TivoliVredenburg, will feature a fringe programme aimed to turn the city’s parks, squares, streets and even boats on the Oude Gracht into lively stages. With this spectacular event, it will become clear just how much the city has to offer in terms of wind music. In November, the General Assembly of the European Choral Association will be organised by ZIMIHC in Utrecht. July 2017 will see ZIMIHC presenting the WASBE Conference (World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles), a biennial international conference that mainly focuses on harmonies and is dedicated to enhancing the quality of wind music throughout the world. Spanjers: “In the Netherlands we have a tradition that not only involves harmonies, but also brass bands and fanfare. These traditions are very present in Utrecht. Therefore, it is equally important for us to see how we can best showcase this at the WASBE. That way, we can add a Utrecht flavour to the conference.” Just

as with the ECWO, the organisation will be responsible for a fringe programme set to take place throughout the city. In July 2017, the EuroChoir, a project choir with about 60 young singers from all over Europe will also be organised by ZIMIHC in Utrecht. Another important event scheduled for the coming years is the European Brass Band Championships. In 2018, it will be held in Utrecht for the first time and will form yet another opportunity for the city to highlight its rich wind music tradition and fill its streets with sounds once again. Also, ZIMIHC is already opting for the Europa Cantat Festival in 2021 because of the great success in 2009.

al experience to experience of local wind bands and choirs can help them to continue to grow and develop. Unlike other organisations in the country that offer both a podium and education, ZIMIHC is exclusively dedicated to offering amateur artists a podium and a firm network – and that is something unique in the Netherlands.

A key element during such international events is their presence and effect on a local level: “These international events should become a matrix for other activities taking place in the city. It is possible for us to make that connection because our theatres are firmly rooted locally and because we have a very clear picture of what is happening around us in the areas of choir and brass music,” says Spanjers.

International and local experience Aside from offering a podium, ZIMIHC is also eager to learn from international examples, for instance, when it comes to music education. Connecting internation-

Photo: Marcel van den Berg

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 23

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

A theatre for the future TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS: DONKERUTRECHT.NL

It is show time once again for the Stadsschouwburg in Utrecht. After two years of renovating, the theatre will draw open its curtains this month and offer the public a renewed cultural experience, presenting a diverse programme in a modernised building that is ready for the future. Built in the early 1940s by the famous Dutch architect Willem Dudok, the Stadsschouwburg in Utrecht has always been one of the city’s highlights. Named a National Monument in 2009, the theatre is situated on the edge of the city centre. Whether you go there to admire its modern architecture, to see a show or to visit the annual Dutch Film Festival Gala, you will be guaranteed an exciting experience as the theatre has presented its 200,000 annual visitors with a varied cultural programme ever since it opened 75 years ago. 24 | Issue 25 | January 2016

With performances in two halls, the theatre has something for everyone, from family musicals, dramas, music gigs and opera, and it has a special focus on youth theatre and cabaret. “But to keep serving our broad audience, the necessary changes had to be made. The theatre needed to become future-proof,” says manager of the theatre’s information and sales department, Ab Hooijer. “From changing the seats in the big theatre hall, the Douwe Egbertszaal, to bringing in more light in the foyer, we started to renovate everything step-by-step.” For more than two years, the largest theatre in the centre of Holland underwent a major makeover. During those years visitors could still enjoy the delights of a night out at the Schouwburg, because the redecoration was done in sections. Now, shows can be enjoyed in the refurbished

theatre halls. The Douwe Egbertszaal currently has more comfortable chairs and extra leg room and in the Blauwe Zaal, the theatre’s smaller hall, the stage was turned by a quarter to the left for more play room and better contact with the audience. On 4 January the renovated Stadsschouwburg will officially open its doors to the public. With a restyled restaurant overlooking the city’s urban canals, visitors can enjoy the eatery’s extensive opening hours, large menu and speedy Wi-Fi. With these renovation works completed, the theatre is back on track and ready for the future. Hooijer: “We want to give our public a nice night out, offering great hospitality in a renewed and welcoming atmosphere.”

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

An A to Z of the armed forces of the Netherlands TEXT: XANDRA BOERSMA | PHOTOS: NATIONAAL MILITAIR MUSEUM

Having received half a million visitors just a year after opening, this collection must be something special. And it is. The Nationaal Militair Museum (NMM) shows everything regarding the armed forces of the Netherlands. From 3,000-year-old arrow heads up to today’s massive, real-scale F16 fighter planes. The road to the NMM looks abandoned. Which is logical as it is located on airbase Soesterberg, which used to be very important for the birth of Dutch aviation and during the Cold War. Where there used to be surveillance and strict controls, now there is an impressive, bright building, 250 metres wide, with a tough appearance. “We’re eating cake today,” says public history curator Dirk Staat. And why shouldn’t they? They have an amazing year to look

back on. “If you ask me about the highlight, I couldn’t tell you. The King visiting when we opened is one. But also the Night of Military Music, which we’re doing again this year, where people can enjoy the museum, have a drink and listen to music. Or the fact that we’ve won multiple awards.”

We have split the museum in two parts: there’s a thematic part where we tell everything about the armed forces: army, navy, air force and the military constabulary. And there is the part where you’ll find the weapons, big cannons, tanks and planes dating from thousands of years ago up until now.”

Staat explains where the success came from: “We tell stories. Tanks, cannons, war: it’s all very harsh. We like to look at it from a human point of view. Real people, real stories. Whether they’re young, old, high or low in rank.” Accessibility is very important, also for children. Which is why there are many activities too, like sitting in a tank, trying the horse-riding simulator or tackling the obstacle course.

So after such a good start, what’s next? “We have a themed year. The tank is exactly 100 years old so we will do a lot of activities featuring tanks. And in May we’re opening a big outdoor arena that seats over 3,000 people for big demonstrations and re-enactment shows. Also: we’re doing a military food festival in February. And there’s so much more. It’s going to be another great year!”

There is a great deal to do, that is clear. But what is there to see? “So much! Issue 25 | January 2016 | 25

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Eat, drink and dance at De Beurs TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: RUBEN MAY

For 20 years De Beurs has been one of Utrecht’s places to be, to enjoy specialty beers and good food in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. From travellers to students and locals, many come here to chat over a cup of coffee, enjoy quality food and dance the night away.

Starting out as the first multifunctional café-restaurant of its kind in Utrecht in the late ‘90s, De Beurs’ concept is still successful. Open from morning until after midnight, De Beurs offers breakfast, lunch, dinner (served on silver plates) and a wide range of drinks. The mouthwatering menu includes for instance a ‘Beurs sandwich’ with chicken and bacon, served with homemade mayonnaise and the ‘De Beurs burger’ is also something special. The owner, Theo Burger, says: “It’s made from superior beef from Australian Angus and is complimented with onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and De Beurs’ popular secret recipe sauce.” For those who love to add a luxurious touch, freshly prepared lobster can be

26 | Issue 25 | January 2016

served with any meal. The food is not only delicious, but also perfect fuel for a party, like every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night when De Beurs’ furniture is stored away and the once peaceful dining venue becomes a dancefloor. When you arrive at Utrecht’s most famous square, De Neude, De Beurs is hard to miss. The four, merged, bright-red, characteristic historical buildings in which De Beurs is located, tower gently over the square and seemingly guard over its neighbouring cafés. Dating from the 18th century, De Beurs, like most buildings in the centre, has many features reminiscent of the old days. Burger: “This building housed for instance a sail manufacturer, of which two tiles in the façade are proof.”

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Initially, the middle building was built as a home to the De Leeuw family (meaning ‘the lion’ in Dutch). “Unfortunately, this home burned down in the late 19th century.” Replaced by a warehouse, of which the hoist is still visible, you would think all memories of the De Leeuws are forever vanished. Yet recently, the family’s façade plaque was found, dating from 1630, called ‘the black lion’. It is now being restored and will be placed back this year and it will be a beautiful detail that will remind us of all that has occurred here over the centuries. Burger focusses on the future though and this year certainly brings some exciting changes for De Beurs. Partnering with their main supplier Heineken, Burger and his hospitality team are now planning a comprehensive reconstruction. While De Beurs is superb the way it is, Burger says: “An updated indoor infrastructure will allow us to be much better equipped

to serve the growing amount of visitors. We will be offering more delicious specialty draft beers and a more varied menu on our large terrace on De Neude in summer.” The interior will get a complete makeover. And when Burger says “complete”, he is serious about it: “We’ll strip down a large part of the venue, create a restaurant on the second floor and offices and meeting spaces on the third and fourth floor. At the same time we’ll create lofts at many levels, resulting in transparent views throughout De Beurs. And, of course, the monumental aspects will be preserved. The plans are still in progress.” This makeover will turn De Beurs into an even more attractive place to eat, drink and dance in the Stadhuiskwartier, a creative quarter in the heart of the city. This lively area harbours small, local shops and cafés and stretches all the way from De Neude to Utrecht’s landmark Dom tower.

Throughout the year, many events take place on De Neude and De Beurs is involved in many of them. “We provide the catering for instance for the crowded annual introduction for new students in August, and in the month of December we host the new, but already popular, winter experience Winterplaza, bringing the otherwise empty square to life with an ice skating rink, hot drinks and typical Dutch winter food.” The atmosphere at Winterplaza (until 3 January) is warm and relaxed, an atmosphere that characterises De Beurs throughout the year, both inside and out. Burger: “In the summer we serve up to 400 people on our terrace, yet in wintertime you can enjoy food and drinks not only at our indoor tables, but on the comfortably heated terrace as well.” Issue 25 | January 2016 | 27

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

For a tastebud teasing food and drink experience, American Steakhouse Broadway is the place to go. It has all the ingredients for a night to remember.


American Steakhouse Broadway is living the restaurant dream. Serving fresh meat straight from Australia and New Zealand and surprising even the most veteran meat lovers, it’s no wonder they are fully booked night after night. Moreover, they are located in a gorgeous 700-year-old vaulted cellar at the Oudegracht. Everything that American Steakhouse Broadway offers, from food and drinks to service and ambience, is imbued with a high level of quality. With a top rating on TripAdvisor, it is safe to say that this steakhouse is one of Utrecht’s most popular restaurants. Broadway in Manhattan is of course what the restaurant is named after and it is hard to miss the nods to the famous street. Re28 | Issue 25 | January 2016

cently renovated, American Steakhouse Broadway now has a fresh, modern twist, uncovering the building’s history. Owners Onno Zwart and Chris Faassen created an industrial and modern look with beautiful and comfortable soft leather chairs, eye catchers such as old industrial theatre lights, large black and white photographs and minimalistic lamps with steel frames. This makes the restaurant a perfect place to enjoy an authentic steak or rib. The high-quality steaks at American Steakhouse Broadway come straight from pastured cows from Australia and New Zealand. “These cows live a highquality life. They graze in regions close to the ocean, giving the meat its subtle salty taste,” explains Zwart. Shipped while

chilled at minus one degree Celsius, the meat matures during the eight weeks at sea, making the beef deliciously tender. The steaks are of famous American quality: a unique taste experience in Utrecht. While these steaks are one of a kind, the ribs offer something special as well. These too are prepared with a secretrecipe marinade a day before they are served. Then they are yarned at a low temperature and fiished at the grill when guests arrive: a unique specialty, not found at many other locations. Desserts also get a prominent place at American Steakhouse Broadway’s menu. On the menu you will find different flavours of ice cream made by the

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

American cult brand Y3K. Zwart: “They create rich, intense and additive-free ice creams. We’ve brought in a selection of their best flavours.” The ‘Oreo cookie bash’ is the restaurant’s most popular dessert, described as ‘an Oreo universe with white and milk chocolate cream, covered in a meteoric shower of Oreo pieces’. Zwart: “One of our regulars actually dropped by one evening after dinner, hoping he could have just this dessert. We couldn’t say no to that!” When indulging in great food, a matching drink is of course essential. American Steakhouse Broadway’s helpful team has extensive knowledge of all that is served and are more than happy to help you choose a wine, beer or other drink that pairs perfectly with your food. What you definitely should not miss is tasting one of the six cocktails that are custom designed for American Steakhouse Broadway by the Amsterdam-based cocktail bureau ‘Cocktail professor’. Order for instance the eye-catching ‘Popcorn time’, which is served with actual popcorn on top. “The popcorn reinforces the taste of the rum, cherry and fruit juice, just like a good choice of wine reinforces the taste of the food it’s served with,” explains Zwart. Another great example of

this, is the surprising ‘Shaken bacon old fashioned’, a mix of bourbon, syrup and homemade bacon bitters, complimented with an actual slice of bacon. Knowing you are enjoying all of these delicious foods in a centuries-old building where countless conversations, gettogethers and struggles from many generations must have taken place, makes you feel tiny. However, the complete history of the 700-year-old cellar is unknown. “We know these vaulted cellars were used as a storage room for rich tradesmen who lived at the Oudegracht,” tells Faassen. “And this one might have been used by a goldsmith, since a few rocks in the ceiling are black from a fire. But there’s no way to know for sure.” The monumental building is in the middle of the lively centre of Utrecht, making American Steakhouse Broadway the perfect place to start your Utrecht experience, or to escape the busy city life. Also, when you travel by yourself, as many solo travellers have connected with each other over a beer at the bar.

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 29

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

High-quality pizza made with dedication TEXT: AURORA PETERS | PHOTO: BART VAN AALDEREN

Photo: Sarah Jane Fotografie

The word ‘bastacosi’ has many different uses. In Italian it means ‘that’s enough’, but in the case of pizzeria Bastacosi it can be explained as: what else could you want? With good reason, its unique concept makes Bastacosi the pizza specialist of Utrecht. “Our menu only contains wood oven pizza and nothing else,” explains Bart van Aalderen, one of the restaurant’s owners. “Specialising in one product makes it possible to put all your attention and love in it, which is the best way to refine every single aspect.”

The thin, crunchy pizza base has been entirely developed by Van Aalderen and his business partner Onno Roberts. “As opposed to other Italian restaurants, we don’t work with fixed recipes,” Roberts says. “Our guests can immediately taste the quality and love that has been put into our formula.” The open kitchen and the crackling fire of the wood oven give the restaurant a warm and comfy ambiance. Roberts and Van Aalderen want everyone to feel at home: “We want to radiate accessibility. No haute cuisine, but great quality in a living room setting.” Bastacosi is a semi self-service restaurant. “Our guests can place their order at the counter and get their own drinks out of the fridge,” says Van Aalderen. “This gives an open dynamic to the place.” After opening, the concept of Bastacosi became well known in Utrecht, thanks to wordof-mouth marketing. “People don’t mind walking a little extra to eat here,” says Roberts. Within five years Bastacosi opened a second establishment and are now located at the Jan van

Utrecht’s cosiest pub TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS: FLORIN

Their homemade Jack Daniel’s spare ribs are a locally renowned delicacy, their pub quiz was the first of its kind in Utrecht and they host one of the Netherlands’ most famous Saturday morning radio shows, VARA’s Spijkers met Koppen. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes Florin special. Eighteen years ago Florin was established when Englishman Simon Griffiths came to Holland and set up the pub in an old bank building in the centre of Utrecht. This is where Florin gets its name from, the gold florin, or ‘florijn’ in Dutch, which was another name for the guilder, the former currency in the Netherlands. The pub offers more than 50 different beers, of which 12 are on tap including their own house beer, Florin Pale Ale, brewed exclusively in Utrecht. Griffiths and his team want to exceed the customer’s expectations time after time. Offering sharp prices (due to a 30 | Issue 25 | January 2016

partnership with Meijer Beheer in Etten-Leur) and activities, such as an authentic English pub quiz with host Mr Balls, a kids’ club and occasional stand-up comedy nights, are part of that mission. “It is about creating Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ (cosiness) in an English-style pub,” Griffiths says. Next to the entertainment, the pub has become the dining room for locals as well as Utrecht’s students - they love the extensive six-euro student menu every Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week visitors can enjoy specialities like English fish and chips (served in a newspaper), some of the finest burgers in Utrecht and of course the unique Florin Jack Daniels dishes. Like Griffiths says: “Good portions for very affordable prices – value for money!”

Scorelstraat and the Biltstraat. “And recently we built a mobile wood oven kitchen to cook on location,” Van Aalderen proudly says. “This way, more people get to taste our lovely pizza.”

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As if you never left your own bedroom TEXT: CATHY VAN KLAVEREN | PHOTOS: UTRECHT CITY HOTELS

Sober rooms with only a made up bed and a bedside table is something Utrecht City Hotels is unfamiliar with. “Our top goal was to make the rooms feel they could fit in your own house, as if it were your bedroom,” says Marleen Sala, Utrecht City Hotels’ manager. While Utrecht has always been quite the game changer when it comes to events, the city has never been more popular than now. “We still notice that even today, months after the Tour de France has passed, more tourists than ever visit Utrecht,” explains Sala. It is an excellent development for the company, which has three hotels, to pamper and care for even more guests. All three hotels have their own identity, which is embedded in every detail, including the hotel’s names, like the

Mother Goose Hotel on the Ganzenmarkt (Goose Market). Sala says the rooms in this hotel are spaciously decorated: “It’s that caring element with lots of fluff and lots of towels, that makes guests feel right at home, like moms would do.” The theme comes back in all floors, as every storey has its own ‘colour’. And the higher you get, the more beautiful the view of the Dom Tower. With the Eye Hotel, the name refers to the building’s former use as a medical eye surgery centre. Remember the letter boards at the optician’s? Those decorate the walls of the rooms. And lastly, the Court Hotel, named as such because the building used to be a courthouse, is the most neutral of the three, but this location offers a restaurant: De Rechtbank. All hotels are at the heart of Utrecht’s hustling and bustling centre.

Each building owned by Utrecht City Hotels that has been transformed into a welcoming hotel, are listed historic buildings. This makes them unique and pivotal to the development of the hospitality concepts of Utrecht City Hotels. They carefully restored the buildings to maintain their monumental glory. Mother Goose and Eye, the two youngest assets, partially originated from the simple notion of having a great bed. “When we were looking for beds, I told my supplier, Morpheus, that I needed a design team who could deliver my vision, because up until then no one had been able to. And Morpheus happens to have their own bed designers. One thing led to another, and eventually Mother Goose was their first hotel project, followed by Eye Hotel,” she says. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 31

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Homely ambience and metropolitan vibes TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: ORLOFF CAFÉ & ORLOFF AAN DE KADE

Located at two prominent locations in Utrecht, Café Orloff serves quality food and drinks in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The homely café under the Dom Tower offers a typical local Utrecht experience, while Orloff aan de Kade radiates an industrial, metropolitan vibe and acquaints you with an upcoming creative area. In the heart of Utrecht, at a stone’s throw away from Dom Tower and in the middle of the hustle and bustle of local cyclists, shoppers and bar hoppers, you will find Orloff. Here you are welcomed with a big smile while the comfortable warmth wraps around you like a fleece blanket. Open from early in the morning until late at night, Orloff is an ideal place to start the day with a cup of coffee while classical music is gently played, or to end the 32 | Issue 25 | January 2016

day toasting with one of the six taste bud-teasing house wines combined with a snack or dinner. For a typical Utrecht beer experience, surprise your senses and order a beer from one of Utrecht’s microbreweries: Orloff always has one on tap. The small pub is located at the corner of three gorgeous, small and car-free streets. “This was the view of Miffy’s creator Dick Bruna for years,” tells owner Martijn Cools, “he spent many mornings at one of the window tables.” On warm summer evenings, the crossing is crowded with guests of Orloff and its neighbouring cafés, who enjoy drinks and conversation. And in winter time you can also comfortably enjoy the outdoor view of city life from underneath the terrace heaters. Watch locals saunter and

cycle by with monumental buildings as a backdrop, just like a fairytale sight, especially when it is snowing. At Orloff you get to experience Utrecht life as it is. Cools: “It’s a place where people come together. You can easily drop by when you’re by yourself and chat the hours away with other guests and personnel. Orloff is a place for everyone.” Orloff’s food adds to this local experience: all of the meat served comes from Lindenhoff, a farm from a village between Utrecht and Amsterdam. These selfproclaimed ‘ambassadors of authentic taste’ have been delivering sustainable, high-quality local produce to renowned restaurants since 1989. “Their meat is absolutely delicious,” adds Cools, who is happy to spoil his guests with the great tasting foods.

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

After 30 years of running Orloff in the centre, Cools opened a second location: Orloff aan de Kade (Orloff on the Quayside), away from the hectic city life, yet at a walkable distance from the centre. “We transformed a former garage into a restaurant, in a quarter which might be Utrecht’s best kept secret: the upcoming and creative Watervogelbuurt. On clear summer days our terrace is in the sun all day”. In this relaxed and modern industrial-style hotspot you can have breakfast, lunch and drinks, but the one thing you should absolutely do if you only have one chance to visit: order a pizza. In a worldly restaurant like Orloff aan de Kade this may sound like an odd choice, but the contrary is true: the pizza experience is exquisite. Cools: “In the middle of the restaurant we placed a large kiln where our trained baker prepares the piz-

za’s right in front of you.” Not a big fan of the Italian classic? There is much more deliciousness to be found on the menu, such as burgers, salads and curries.

and high-quality foods and drinks. What more do you need?

The luxurious, robust interior of Orloff aan de Kade is jaw dropping – yet in a subtle way. Surreal sculptures by Dutch artist Ron Moret adorn the place. Cools: “Moret combines parts of animal skeletons with cast-iron constructions. In the restaurant, an enormous whale guards over the guests.” The beer kegs are real eye-catchers too: instead of hiding them under the bar, the large copper kegs are prominently in sight and its uncovered lines go straight to the tap. A perfect fit in the modern and minimalistic interior. Both locations of Orloff might seem quite different from each other, but both offer a warm, local atmosphere, great service

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 33

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Making visitors feel welcome at the Grand Hotel Karel V TEXT: CATHY VAN KLAVEREN | PHOTOS: GRAND HOTEL KAREL V

The Grand Departure of last year’s Tour de France in Utrecht’s charming centre put the city on the map as a sight you cannot miss out on. But the success of these kinds of events generally goes hand in hand with the facilities that make visitors feel welcome. Leo Hollman, manager of Grand Hotel Karel V, gives an introduction to this boutique hotel in the heart of Utrecht.

Karel V is one of the best kept secrets of Utrecht. This is thanks to the look and feel of the hotel, with its classic but modern twist and its paramount importance on the attention for, and interaction with, arriving guests. Hollman: “We want to make sure everyone feels welcome.” It is the service, among others aspects, that is well received, seeing as Karel V is the only five-star hotel in the city.

With a history dating back to its construction as a monastery in 1346, Karel V offers a luxury experience in a historic building. As well as its beautiful gardens in the city centre and delightful terraces, Karel V is only a stone’s throw away from Utrecht Centraal train station, major sights and entertainment venues.

The 121 individually decorated rooms blend history and modernity and the 13 conference and meeting rooms are each named with reference to important guests from the past. “Traces of the past can be found throughout the hotel in archaeological finds, exhibitions, archive photographs and historical drawings.”

34 | Issue 25 | January 2016

The hotel’s two restaurants have an historic ambience, both with a subtle wink to what it used to be. In Grand Restaurant Karel V you can enjoy a high standard of gastronomy with inventive flavour combinations by chef Vito Reekers and maître d’hôtel Johan Kragtwijk. And in the convivial monastery kitchen of Brasserie Goeie Louisa, guests can enjoy live cooking in a relaxed atmosphere. On top of all that, the hotel contributes to society by using local products. “That is not something we want to enforce on our guests, but it’s something for us to keep an eye on,” Hollman concludes. Book a room today via the website; Karel V is expecting you.

Discover Benelux | Bustling Utrecht | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots


On a business trip to Utrecht and looking for a nice place to eat and mingle? Brasserie Plato, a new hotspot located in the middle of the lively business district Rijnsweerd Noord, is perfectly equipped for business lunches, afternoon drinks and dinners and is available for custom private gatherings as well. Brasserie Plato, part of facility service provider Facilicom, is surrounded by offices and small businesses. Facility manager Tessa van der Laan sees many local business people drop by for lunch or a drink after work.“The bar and lounge is perfect to enjoy coffee and drinks, while the stylish lunch room is ideal for a regular 45-minute lunch,” she says. And in the back you will find a luxurious dining room with comfortable bucket chairs and round tables, suitable for an extensive three-course business lunch. “But above all, Brasserie Plato is a

place to visit if you want a change of scenery during a busy work day.” It is no surprise the brasserie’s motto is ‘variety pleases’. This was a quote by the great philosopher and the brasserie’s name giver Plato. This also shows in the menu as Van der Laan explains: “We change it on a regular basis and work with a selection of local products, such as vegetables and fruit from estate Heerlijkheid Mariënwaardt south of Utrecht and beers from local breweries such as De Leckere.” Many of these foods are also available for purchase at the brasserie. Brasserie Plato is located in the office building of insurance company a.s.r, only a few minutes from the highway and the city centre.

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Afrojack


Mind over matter At the cusp of the new millennium, a teenage boy of just 14 graced the Rotterdam club scene, making his bones as a DJ. Now, still only age 28, Afrojack is unstoppable. A remarkable list of hits and collaborations make up his portfolio, having worked with a powerhouse of names such as Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Sting and Chris Brown and also producing and composing for Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, David Guetta and Sia. Discover Benelux caught up with this Dutch dynasty of music and got inspired by his can-do mind set and level-headed approach to his success. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: AFROJACK

Aside from releasing club records and remixes, Afrojack’s his first studio album Forget the World in May 2014. Originally from Spijkenisse, Afrojack (real name Nick van de Wall) says: “For me as a producer, there was nothing better than releasing records and having them available in the shops. That was like a seal [of approval] that said: look I am a real artist because my music is for sale.”

Giving his all Yet Afrojack’s mainstream success began much earlier than his first album, with the release of Take Over Control in 2010 and Give Me Everything (featuring Ne-Yo), which came a year later. The first, a house track with electro influences and vocals by Dutch singer Eva Simons that charted in several countries and the other, a Pitbull party hit from 2011, were the addictive sounds that really launched his career. “It was a coincidence,” he recalls. “I was already in contact with Pitbull to go to the studio together in Miami, but then when I played him Give Me Everything, he was totally crazy about it. He immediately recorded his raps and called Ne-Yo to write the hook. The entire record was pretty much finished in one day.” Give Me Everything became a global chart-topping track, reaching number one

in the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands. “This collaboration really got the ball rolling, I got lots of calls from famous artists and managers,” he says.

is just one thing in the world’. But then again, my shows are generally just dance. But as a producer, or musician, I think it is a shame not to try as many things as possible.”

Show time

This is also clear from his album Forget the World, which fuses power ballads, house, dance and electro. But what really connects the songs is their vocal-lead quality, strong party vibe and high dancability, often with pumping drops. “For example making a house record with Wiz Khalifa for my previous album, which was very interesting,” he says on combining different genres and artists. “Or putting Sting on an EDM track. Those things are less obvious, and to accomplish them, that is the challenge. There are always things where I questioned myself, should I really be doing this? But in the end I have always thought, why not? Try, and see what happens.”

When he is not producing a new hit record, Afrojack is jet-setting all over the globe to play at the biggest dance events. When it comes to preparation for a show, he likes to go with the flow of the night. “I usually prepare very little up to the day itself,” he says. “I always have a selection of 300 to 400 records, and eventually I will pick around 20 tracks while I am playing. That’s what I love about DJ-ing, and it keeps it interesting for the audience.” He lets the vibe of the evening and energy of the audience decide what music to play. “If they have lots of energy then you can destroy them. If they are a little tired, then you can slowly ease them back into it, and then destroy them. It is about building and releasing energy. It’s like live directing a movie, it needs to have enough tension, but also enough party and a bit of depth here and there.”

Cross-genre collaborations Known in the club scene for his live dance shows, Afrojack is not afraid to break away from this genre. “I am very anti ‘there

Doing new things Wanting to try new things also applies to Afrojack’s wider activities, such as joining forces with fashion brand G-Star to create a clothing and sunglasses collection and recently also creating a new version of his single Unstoppable as the soundtrack for the video game Call of Duty Black Ops 3. He says it is the challenge that moves him Issue 25 | January 2016 | 37

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Afrojack

to enter these new fields. “For example what we did with Black Ops, the new Call of Duty,” he says. “Pulling the record apart that I made, and using it as a score for a video game. I find those things very interesting challenges.” Combining audio with visuals to achieve a certain goal also sparks his interest. With the emotional power of music, Afrojack believes you can get people to pay more attention to an airline safety video for example. “If you play classical music during the video, then you can count on it 1,000 per cent that every child on the plane will not be paying attention,” he says, and adds: “It is like a new hobby of mine, I will always continue to make music, and I will never let these things get in the way of making my own music, but if you can do it on the side then that is really great.”

Always up for a challenge Of course, branching out into new genres or even crossing into other industries can put you out of your comfort zone, but Afrojack has no problem with this. “The harder it is, the more fun the challenge. Nothing is impossible. The only thing that is impossible, is if that’s what you tell yourself and you just don’t start it, but I usually think that kind of behaviour is just lazy.” This can-do mind set is very noticeable in Afrojack when we ask him how he keeps up with the insane lifestyle as a DJ; the late nights, long flights, working 16 hours a day and running his own label Wall Recordings. “You can always complain about everything, but in the end it is a choice if you want to deal with it or not, do it or don’t do it. I chose to do it,” he says. “Don’t forget, my work is also my hobby, my passion.” Describing how he sometimes even forgets to eat as he is busy working, he says: “It doesn’t matter what time you need to be up the next day, because you feel the fire inside of you. That is the human feeling of passion, you can’t get around that.”

Being part of a better world Afrojack certainly enjoys being able to see the world while travelling, but for him the 38 | Issue 25 | January 2016

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Afrojack

AFROJACK’S EXPERT TIPS FOR FLYING With 200 to 250 flights a year, it is safe to say that Afrojack is an expert when it comes to flying. He gave us a few pro tips on how to make the most of your time in the air. 1. BRING YOUR OWN ENTERTAINMENT “You never know if the entertainment on board works so make sure you have something to do,” he says. “Bring a miniature version of your hobby with you.” 2. DO NOT SLEEP BEFORE A LONG FLIGHT “Then if you have a long-haul flight, you can sleep on the plane. That’s always what I do, so a 12-hour flight will only feel like three hours.” 3. BE NICE TO THE CABIN CREW “I used to be very anti-authority […] but I learned my lesson well,” he says. “They have to be your best friends; the more you keep friendly with these people, the better your flight will be.”

best part of the DJ lifestyle goes deeper. “Within the dance scene there is a sort of separate society,” he explains. “The interaction of different cultures, without racism, without aggression, just joy – celebrating life basically – it’s always been my dream to constantly live in this. And now, to always be part of that, is just incredible.” His aim while making music also feeds into this. He finds it very important that different kinds of people appreciate his tracks, from the people he works with in the studio, to his mother and even his grandmother: “Bringing people together by a little piece of music, people that normally don’t understand each other’s music, and then creating a record that translates to both generations, that is pretty much my goal.”

DJ Magazine chart and ranking number six in the Forbes ‘World’s highest paid DJs’ in 2014, Afrojack still admits that he is “never really ‘okay’”, never entirely satisfied. As an example, he recalls having simultaneous number one hits all over the globe last summer. Hey Mama (featuring Nicki Minaj), which he created with David Guetta, was in the top five in the American pop listing, his song SummerThing! featuring Mike Taylor was number one in the Dutch pop listing and the dance charts in Japan and America. On top of that, Summer Madness, which he made with the Japanese group J Soul Brothers, was number one in the pop charts in Japan. “This was all at the same time,” he says.

Success as motivation While having conquered a place among the best DJs in the world, regularly featuring in the top ten of the renowned

“And the only thing I had on my mind was, well, then the next record will have to be even better to exceed this. Every success

inspires me to get more success. You’re never at the top.”

What the new year will bring Yet another achievement Afrojack is hoping to attain this year is to release a new album. “I already have a lot of music ready, but I am looking at how I want to release them, with which label and which artists,” he says. What will be new is that he has started writing lyrics for the first time. “It is very interesting to hear your own lyrics, but in a good way. I have always composed my own music, composed and produced it, but never written it.” As with his first studio album, we can expect to see many curious collaborations, but he does not want to reveal any names yet. “I can’t sing for the life of me, so I leave that to the professional singers of this world, and I gladly work with them to create a nice project.” Issue 25 | January 2016 | 39


Bruges’ winter delights Bruges is not Belgium’s best-kept secret anymore. This beautiful medieval town has been on the tourist track for years, attracting travellers from all over the world to visit and photograph its romantic canals, historical buildings and cathedrals, magical parks with graceful white swans in the ponds and stunning beguinage. While tourism may stagnate in the winter, this could actually be one of the most magical moments to visit the ‘Venice of the North’. TEXT: CAROLINE D’HONT | PHOTOS: VISITFLANDERS

Discover Benelux | Bruges: Venice of the North | Introduction

With its canals criss-crossing the centre and its idyllic small bridges, Bruges’ unofficial nickname ‘Venice of the North’ makes the comparison seems obvious. However, the connection is far deeper. Bruges became a bustling trading hub, with its river de Reie connecting the city directly to the port town of Zeebrugge. In the 14th century, the duke of Burgundy took court in Bruges, attracting numerous artists, bankers and architects, catapulting Bruges into the Golden Age in the 15th century. At the time, it was a real economic rival to the thriving Venice.

The Flemish Primitives vs. the lace ladies It was in this Golden Age that the most characteristic buildings and churches were built. Still standing in all their majesty to this day, the entire centre is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Furthermore, the many artists that settled in Bruges have added to this beauty. When visiting Bruges’ landmarks, you will discover beautiful art by Flemish Primitives hanging on the walls, such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. Many of the masterpieces can be admired at the Groeninge Museum, St John’s Hospital Museum, St. Saviour’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady which also features Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. Aside from the famous painters, Bruges and the fine art of making lace are closely interwoven throughout history. In the heydays, it is said that one in four women living in Bruges made lace. You can discover its history, intricate designs and live demonstrations at the Lace Centre, or even book a lace-inspired guided walk through the city.

beautiful park with an idyllic lake, called ‘Minnewater’ or Lake of Love, is lined with cobblestone paths. It is beautiful in every season of the year, but gets an extra mystical vibe covered in a layer of snow. Another enchanting spot is Bruges’ beguinage, with its beautifully restored iconic white abodes and tranquil convent garden. To this day, it still houses the sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict. For the most stunning views of the city, or the ultimate selfie, take a stroll by the Rozenhoedkaai, capturing Bruges’ highlights in one picture-perfect image.

Bruges’ culinary indulgences After a culturally rich day, you can indulge in Bruges’ other badly kept secret: its culinary delights. It is a city of world famous chocolatiers, beer brewers and gastronomic ambassadors. Chocolate lovers will not be let down at the ‘Choco Story’ chocolate museum, where you can discover why Belgians gained such a

Swan and beguine spotting Whether you go on a guided walk through the city or go exploring by yourself, there are a few highlights that should not be missed. The best place to spot Bruges’ iconic white swans is the canal behind St John’s Hospital Museum. More romantic scenery can be found at the Minnewaterpark, in the southern part of Bruges. This Issue 25 | January 2016 | 41

Discover Benelux | Bruges: Venice of the North | Introduction

global reputation as masters of chocolate making. You can see chocolate crafting demonstrations at the museum (or even have a go at it yourself) and have a tasting session, or visit one of the many expert chocolate shops in Bruges. And if all that chocolate makes you thirsty, do try one of Bruges’ iconic beers, either after a guided visit to the last town brewery ‘De Halve Maan’, or in one of the many bars found throughout the city. For the gastronomic aficionados, top culinary delights can be found in Bruges, as it is packed with high-end restaurants, renowned by culinary guides such as Gault&Millau and Michelin. Make sure you

book ahead, especially at De Karmeliet, Bruges’ three Michelin star restaurant, as it has announced it will be closing by the end of 2016.

Getting around the cobblestones The inner city of Bruges is small and oval shaped, and can therefore easily be visited on foot or, in a more romantic and iconic way, by horse-drawn carriage. Extra blankets are provided in wintertime. The train station lies at the border of the city centre, and is also within walking distance of all the cities’ highlights. Frequent daytime trains can also take you from Brussels to Bruges within an hour and a half.

BRUGES’ WINTER HIGHLIGHTS Seasonal sales 2 – 31 January A month of seasonal sales at Bruges’ main shopping streets Zuidzandstraat, Steenstraat, Geldmuntstraat and Noordzandstraat, which are traffic free on Saturdays in January. Winter walk until 31 March A guided walk through the city, highlighting the most beautiful winter scenery in Bruges. To be booked through the Bruges tourist info centre. ‘Wintervonken’ Festival 6 - 8 February A warm and cosy festival centred around the iconic Burg, featuring street theatre acts, intimate concerts and heart-warming fire installations. Visit by horse-drawn carriage: Discover the medieval town centre of Bruges while snug and cosy under a warm blanket in a horse-drawn carriage, accompanied by the sound of clacking horse shoes on the cobblestone streets.

42 | Issue 25 | January 2016

Discover Benelux | Bruges | Best Places to Visit

Walking through history TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS: ADORNES ESTATE

After six centuries and 16 generations, the aristocratic Adornes family has opened the doors of their home and medieval estate the Adornesdomein. Inhabitants and visitors of the town of Bruges await a warm welcome with tea, cookies and an incredible history told by the Adornes family in their beautiful estate.

became a part of the Bruges aristocracy and many of its members played an important part in the administrative and economic life of the city. In the 15th century the family built the Adornes estate, the quaint estate, situated in the heart of Bruges, containing a mansion, several almshouses and the 1429 consecrated Jerusalem Chapel.

It is difficult to imagine Bruges without the enchanting Adornes estate. The domain and the family have been playing an important part in the city and in the life of its inhabitants for more than 600 years. It is one of the few estates in Europe still owned by the original family, showing the strong bond between the city and the family.

Inspired by the well-known Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, this chapel, with its medieval architecture, interior and exclusive relics, shows its visitors the exceptional story of the relationship between the Adornes family and Jerusalem. Furthermore it also shows the story of their adventurous pilgrimage to the city in 1470.

Originating from the Italian city of Genoa, the Adornes family moved to Flanders in the 13th century, where Anselm Adornes started a new branch of the family tree. Through the years the Adornes family

Besides the chapel, the estate contains charming almshouses. These sacred, small, charitable houses are the forerunner of social housing, where the Adornes family provided housing for those who were unable to work.

Nowadays the small almshouses function as a museum where you can watch a movie and visit an exhibition to learn more about the life of the knight, businessman and builder of the medieval estate of Anselm Adornes, by far the most famous family member. In the mansion, which is still inhabited by the Adornes family, a warm encounter awaits its visitors in their Scottish Lounge living room. Here you can enjoy a nice cup of tea with cake. The visitor helps himself and will pay the price in a so-called piggy bag. It all contributes to the warm and welcoming atmosphere the Adornes family wants to create. Keeping the old heritage alive while welcoming a new public to their exquisite estate. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 43

Discover Benelux | Bruges | Best Places to Visit


For Bram Thienpondt and his wife Desireé, the desire of a late-night pub in Bruges was a dream that became a reality. It resulted in Comptoir Des Arts; a meeting point for artists, a stage for Belgium’s most famous jam sessions and the best place to spend your late nights in Bruges. It all started when Bram and Desirée were both working as waiters and could not find a place to go for a drink and a latenight chat after their work shifts finished: “Late at night, everywhere we went the music was so loud and there was no personal contact between the bar’s staff and their customers.” To create a place more suited to the laid-back night owls, the couple founded Comptoir Des Arts, an art café in the centre of Bruges where the music varies between blues and soul with a bit of jazz. 44 | Issue 25 | January 2016

The mellow music allows customers to have a good heart-to-heart until the early morning hours. Thienpondt: “It’s important to remember that music sets the mood and the mood sets the music, so the music is always very present but never too loud.” At first, the café’s name might sound confusing. Comptoir means ‘bar’ or ‘counter’ in French, but in the local dialect of Bruges it also refers to the beating heart of a café or restaurant: “It’s a place where the regular visitors gather, locals meet tourists and where friendships grow and relationships blossom. We’re happy to have created an atmosphere like that,” Thienpondt says. Furthermore, the bar is also an art café, which resulted in the second part of the name, ‘des arts’. Thienpondt: “Comptoir Des Arts is a meeting point for artists of

all trades. Here, they can exchange ideas and get inspired. It’s combining art in its most versatile way.” On the bar’s stage, they host gig nights on a regular basis. Furthermore, famous Belgian comedians hold their try-outs in the café. Comptoir Des Arts is best known for their monthly blues jam evenings, with 30 to 50 artists performing on a single night, making it one of the biggest blues jam sessions in the country. “We regard service and personal contact very highly. We don’t have any staff; it’s my wife Désirée and me. How many cafés have their proprietors serving drinks behind the bar these days? We are open until three o’clock every night. Because late at night the talks are a little bit more loose and interesting,” Thienpondt jokingly says.

Discover Benelux | Bruges | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Wine and rock ‘n’ roll TEXT: XANDRA BOERSMA | PHOTOS: BAR JUS

A year ago, Bar Jus opened in the historical city centre of Bruges. But this is not your typical wine bar. It has many special wines, yes, but it also has music, excitement and people who do not take life too seriously. But, of course, they take the wine very seriously. Four friends with a long history in the wine business teamed up to open Bar Jus. The wine collections they built up over the years allows them a selection of exquisite tastes by the glass and offers an extensive wine list to those looking for a special bottle. It has the ambiance of a small cosy place where guests can sit back, relax and enjoy their wine. And in terms of food; they offer a myriad of small dishes that combine perfectly with the wine. Among the hundreds of varieties available, the Bourgognes are particularly good and so are the top Italian wines, just a taste of the choice

Bar Jus possesses from the best regions. But their specialty is the Portuguese selection. They have been trading Portuguese wines for over 15 years so they have a great number of fine old ones stacked up. It sounds expensive, but experience in the wine business makes it easier for Bar Jus to offer fair prices. The more expensive the bottles, the less the margins are, since they like to keep wine accessible for everyone. Accessibility is also created by the atmosphere. Rock ‘n’ roll, is what they call it. There is always music and it is heard throughout the bar, though not so loud that you will not be able to hear each other speak. They just like to keep it relaxed.

Bhavani: the true taste of India TEXT: XANDRA BOERSMA | PHOTOS: BHAVANI

Long dinners, real food and a romantic atmosphere. If that is what you are looking for during your stay in Bruges, you simply cannot skip a dinner at Bhavani. Rushing is not an option either, as these Indian dishes must be experienced and enjoyed. “It’s hard to eat Indian in Europe,” owner of Bhavani Guy Acharya says. This sounds like a strange statement with Indian restaurants practically on every street corner. He explains: “In India they have a very specific taste, a specific flavour. I visited India quite a lot so I can imitate just that. I still go every year to discover new things and get inspired.”

Being half Indian and half Belgian himself, Acharya was very motivated to bring that form of dining back to his home town of Bruges. And it is not just a matter of taste too, it is the way of eating. “People are in such a rush these days. If they come to eat here I want to offer them something special. Tell them the story behind each dish, give them a comfortable evening.” That, and its location on the small square of Simon Stevinplein in the city centre, makes this restaurant the perfect place for a romantic evening. For vegetarians too, by the way. “Definitely! In India, being vegetarian is a very popular lifestyle. So we offer complete vegetarian meals, you will not be disappointed.” This is confirmed by the large amount of locals who visit the restaurant on a regular basis. “Some people drive over 200 kilometres to eat here,” he concludes. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 45

Discover Benelux | Bruges | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

A fusion of cuisines in Bruges TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: HET VISOEN

In the outskirts of the centre of Bruges, is the exceptional brasserie Het Visoen. Owners Yehudi van Meckeren and Nofiandri Suat are using their travel and life experiences to create a truly unique mix of French-Belgian, Asian and Asianfusion cuisine. Het Visioen has a straightforward but pleasant interior, as one would expect at an exceptional brasserie. The showpiece of the interior is the ‘Berkel-machine’; an old-fashioned cutting machine, which is used every day to slice the finest Spanish Iberico hams. The old-fashioned-styled bar offers a range of delicious cocktails and specialises in gin and tonics. But overall, friendliness and quality is their credo. “We have been open since March 2015 after a thorough makeover,” says Van Meckeren. “We wanted to create a

46 | Issue 25 | January 2016

place for everyone, with good service and a smile.” The combination may seem a remarkable mix for a cuisine but, after hearing a little bit more about Van Meckeren’s life and cooking experiences, it starts to make perfect sense. Van Meckeren: “My studies were in Belgium, but I have also lived in Bali for eight years, where I worked in several five-star hotels and boutique restaurants. Unlike Belgium, street food is very common in Bali and can be found everywhere. I decided to take these recipes to Belgium and to mix them with the French-Belgian cuisine.” “Every day I create a new lunch and every month there is a new menu, this is a travel through all of my experiences that I want the guest to experience.” The current menu features gently grilled North Sea

scallops on a bed of a Belgian endive salad seasoned with a soft Thai dressing on a mango base. The second course is deer fillet slowly cooked with a local beer, ‘Tongerlo Christmas’, with celery root pureé and winter veggies. The dessert is a true fusion dish, with Spanish saffron, Madagascar vanilla and Japanese Kalamansi mandarin all with a beautiful seasonal fruit salad and homemade vanilla ice cream. All dishes are also ‘á la carte’. The Visioen goes all the way to make the guest comfortable in any way and any request will be taken care of. Together with his Indonesian wife, Van Meckeren offers a superb cuisine with exotic spices, and Asian tapas. After a day walking in the gorgeous city of Bruges, this is the perfect ending to a beautiful day.

Discover Benelux | The Hague: The Cosmopolitan City | Introduction


The cosmopolitan city by the sea The Hague is a city that brings out the best of two worlds: it has the buzz of being an international and political hub and the relaxed vibe of a seaside city. The city is famous for providing cultural activities, plenty of shopping opportunities and impressive sights with the pleasures of having the sea and the beach nearby. TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS: GEMEENTEDENHAAG

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 47

Discover Benelux | The Hague: The Cosmopolitan City | Introduction

A day in The Hague is a day filled with the sounds of seagulls and traditional Dutch street organs, the smell of fresh herring, and the atmosphere of a lively city. With The Hague being the Dutch seat of power and the working residence of the monarch, you might even walk into the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The heart of politics Located in the west part of the Netherlands, The Hague, also known under the Dutch archaic name of ‘s Gravenhage, is the capital of the province of South Holland. It has 516,000 inhabitants, and thereby is the third-largest city in the country. The city is close to both Delft and Leiden, and it is just a 45-minute train ride away from Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam. Home to the Dutch parliament as well as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, the city plays an important role in politics both on a national and international scale. With these two institutions, The Hague is, along with New York and Geneva, one of the world’s 48 | Issue 25 | January 2016

most important cities for the United Nations organisation. Aside from that, most foreign embassies in the Netherlands are based in The Hague.

A cultural treasure trove Next to the Dutch parliament, located in the exquisite and fairytale-like Binnenhof, you can find the Mauritshuis. It is an art museum known for its permanent collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age including the works of Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Steen. The museum houses one of the most captivating paintings in the world, Girl with the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. The painting is so famous that the story behind its creation was turned into a movie with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson in 2003. The Hague has many more of these oneof-a-kind art treasures. The city is also home to works by Piet Mondrian, which can be seen in the Gemeentemuseum and many geometrical artworks by M.C. Escher are displayed in one of the former royal palaces, now called Escher in het Paleis.

Shopping and sightseeing But the city offers more than just museums and international politics. In the centre you will find outlets for many well-known national and international high-street brands such as HEMA and Primark. For a more royal affair, head to the shopping district of Het Noordeinde. Here you will find many specialty boutiques with exquisite fashion, art and antiques and beautiful quaint cafés and restaurants. Walking through the many shopping areas, you are surrounded by impressive old and new architecture, varying from the old mediaeval town to the impressive 21st century skyline. Housing the Netherlands’ biggest Chinatown, The Hague is also the best city for enjoying delicious Asian dishes and Oriental spa treatments.

To the sea Probably the most famous neighbourhood of The Hague is Scheveningen, located on the North Sea coast. With its circus theatre and connection to the sea, the area has become an

Discover Benelux | The Hague: The Cosmopolitan City | Introduction

attraction on its own. Scheveningen is also home to the smallest city in the Netherlands: Madurodam. Built on a scale of one to 25, Madurodam is an exquisite miniature city where you can see little copies of important Dutch landmarks. Without having to criss-cross the country, you can see the Dutch Royal Palace and the Efteling in just one day. A visit is a joy for the whole family, as the park offers interactive activities, treasure hunts and by using new technologies many of the sights are in motion. For its miniature size, it certainly pulls in the big crowds, as Madurodam has around 600,000 visitors a year.

What’s on this year For The Hague, 2016 will be an exciting year. Host to the biggest New Year’s dive in the Netherlands on 1 January, the city certainly starts the new year with a splash. In mid-2016, The Hague will open the newly renovated pier in Scheveningen in full again. The pier will then include a trendy food boulevard with many cool restaurants and stylish cafés where you can enjoy a meal with a magnificent backdrop. There will also be a Ferris wheel for an even more wonderful view of the surrounding sea and The Hague behind it. With the sea nearby, and the lively cosmopolitan atmosphere, The Hague is a city that is not to be missed on your trip to the Netherlands.

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 49

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Complementing each other on multiple levels, an alluring hotel, meeting space and float centre operate hand in hand to provide the highest-quality stay in The Hague.


Everything you need for the ultimate experience at The Hague is to be found at Hampshire Hotel Babylon, New Babylon Float Center and New Babylon Meeting Center. Forming a winning combination, the services provided are perfect for business as well as leisure purposes, and can be found at the heart of The Hague’s uptown district. Joining forces, the hotel, float centre and meeting centre offer multiple arrangements, allowing visitors to combine a work trip with ultimate relaxation and wellbeing. After all, when is a better time to do business then when you are fully recharged and able to perform at peak level?

A luxurious stay Since its foundation almost 40 years ago, the striking Hampshire Hotel Baby50 | Issue 25 | January 2016

lon is growing into a landmark of the royal and cosmopolitan city of The Hague. The homely, full-service hotel oozes quality: the personal service immediately makes you feel at ease and the 143 stylishly decorated standard, junior and superior rooms are equipped with all the comforts you need. The executive suite is a real eye catcher: “Equipped with a separate living and dining room and a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, it’s perfect for a luxurious business stay, yet it’s very suitable for a family of four as well,” says hotel manager Rob Hemmes. On top of that, the suites’ location on the eighth floor provides a magnificent view over the city: “When the sky is clear, you can even see the Pier of Scheveningen, an icon on the Dutch coast.” There is enough to see and do close by as well: the centre being only a few minutes away. Hemmes recommends taking a

stroll to the Binnenhof. “This is where the Dutch parliament holds office. The history of our democracy is almost tangible in this 13th century building.” Looking to escape the hustle and bustle instead? “The green oasis Haagse Bos, a century-old forest, is perfect to go for a relaxing stroll and is only a short walk away.” The cherry on top of a real experience in The Hague is local food. In the hotel’s bar and restaurant The Livingroom, a ‘Haagsch kakker’ (Hague preppy) is served at the breakfast buffet: a sweet currant bread filled with chocolate and marzipan. “And for lunch and dinner, head chef Jos van den Berg creates rich-tasting dishes with a creative twist, made from ingredients he gets from the market in town and the fish market in Scheveningen.” Don’t forget to try the complementary Haagse Hopjes: a traditional sweet coffee bonbon, loved all over the country.

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Ultimate relaxation “Floating in salt water is the ultimate relaxing experience,” explains New Babylon Float Center owner Robert Luiten about this alluring facility. “It’s also good for muscle recovery and it’s a quick way to get rid of a jetlag too.” The salt water and the surrounding air are kept at body temperature, which will make you feel weightless. He continues: “You’ll feel so relaxed, your body produces the same amount of sleep hormones as it would during a five-hour nap.” Another outstanding, relaxing treatment is the Turkish hamam massage: “Instead of a traditional stone table, we use unique tables that are best described as a comfortable bed of warm gravel,” says Luiten, “it shapes after your body. It’s like lying at a private beach while you get pampered with the scrub and massage.“ As if these do not sound tempting enough: the Float Center’s Finnish sauna is available for private rentals. This suits the personal approach Luiten offers: you can visit as a couple or group, but all treatments

are given individually, so excellent and custom service is guaranteed.

Tailored meetings Feeling reborn and ready to do business? The New Babylon Meeting Center is right across from Hampshire Hotel Babylon and New Babylon Float Center. It is a perfect location for tailor-made meetings, conferences, workshops and other corporate events. The flexible meeting and conference rooms are fully equipped with new media facilities, offer a view over the Haagse Bos and the neighbouring park Malieveld and are able to host up to 350 guests in a conference setting. “And by combining reception rooms with meeting rooms, we can create a space for informal meetings for up to 500 people,” adds manager Ceciel van Hasselt-Bertels. Classified as one of the top meeting centres of the Netherlands by the Dutch congress association and praised for its excellent catering, interior and service, it is no surprise that the meeting centre is one of the 16 nominees for best congress location of 2015.

Set arrangements vary from ‘meet and sleep’ to extensive multi-day ‘business and relaxation experiences’. Custom packages can be requested at all three parties as well. Hemmes adds: “All of that at a less than 45-minute journey away from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport by train.” faciliteiten

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 51

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Best Places to See

A ProDemos tour of the Binnenhof, the Dutch centre of politics, is an excellent choice for visitors who would like to try something totally different.

Peeking into the heart of Dutch democracy TEXT: MIRJAM VAN BIEMEN | PHOTOS: BOB KARHOF& BART VAN VLIET

Up for something new? Visit the Binnenhof in The Hague. This vast square has been the heart of politics in the Netherlands for centuries. ProDemos, House for Democracy and the Rule of Law organises guided tours through the different buildings on the Binnenhof, providing you with all the knowledge you will need about how the Dutch run their small country. Managing director Eddy Habben Jansen explains why this is a fun excursion: “The Hague is the governmental city of the Netherlands. For 800 years now, we have had our civic centre on the same spot. It’s a very historical place because these buildings have been in use since the 13th century.” The main attraction is the medieval Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) where King Willem-Alexander declaims his speech 52 | Issue 25 | January 2016

every year at ‘Prinsjesdag’, a royal ceremony in September. According to Habben Jansen this is the most inspiring place for all visitors. “You might think it’s a church, but the basement houses a small museum with different exhibitions. We even have a small copy of the golden coach, used during Prinsjesdag.” A full tour takes visitors into the Ridderzaal, the Dutch Senate and the House of Representatives (Lower House). When visiting the Lower House on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, you can watch the parliament at work from the public gallery. Habben Jansen: “These tours are different from visiting a museum. You will visit an open parliament in operation and our passionate tour guides will teach you everything about democracy. I am sure this knowledge will stay with you longer

than when you read a book about this topic. And who knows, since the politicians are walking freely from one building to the other, you might have an encounter with the Prime Minister as well.” The guided tours are provided for all types of audiences; individuals, children and groups, and are all equally engaging. Private tours are possible as well. ProDemos often co-operates with the different embassies and international organisations situated in The Hague. Habben Jansen: “I have noticed that foreign people are really impressed with the way we run our country. Especially when the system in their own country is organised differently. What surprises them most is that we have so many different political parties and that we need a coalition to form a government.”

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Best Places to See

The Mesdag Collection:

a hidden pearl in the city centre TEXT: MIRJAM VAN BIEMEN | PHOTOS: JAN KEES STEENMAN

You would not expect it, but behind the façade of Laan van Meerdervoort number 7F, you will find a big garden with a beautiful museum. It is home to The Mesdag Collection; a set of remarkable paintings collected by master painter and his wife Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915) and Sientje. Most tourists know Panorama Mesdag; the museum with Mesdags’ most famous seascape painting which surrounds visitors in all directions. The lesser known Mesdag Collection is just steps away from this panorama. Manager Wite de Savornin Lohman: “Mesdag wasn’t just a painter, but also a collector and an entrepreneur. This collection is composed with love and contains masterpieces of painters whom Mesdag admired very much. The collection feels like a unity. I think this is the result of the extensive period it took

him to build the collection: around 50 years.” The collection’s focal points are the French Barbizon School and The Hague School of which Mesdag was a leading artist himself. Indeed, this Barbizon collection is the largest and most important of its kind outside France. Mesdag also collected applied arts. He bought many ceramics from Dutch designer Theodoor Colenbrander, of whom he was a loyal admirer. De Savornin Lohman: “When Mesdag visited an exposition he would buy many paintings. Sientje, more business-minded, would return less interesting pieces afterwards. The couple lost their only child, and you could say this collection was like one to them.” It is not just the collection that is impressive, so is the museum and its beautiful, tranquil garden. De Savornin Lohman: “Some friends from The Hague told me this is a true pearl that they skipped for a long time. Once found, they thought it was a very rewarding experience.”

For tourists that love 19th century art and prefer some tranquility.


In many Asian cities, food stalls serving a plethora of delights line the streets at the night markets, drawing people out of their houses for dumplings, savoury noodle soups or some sweet nibbles after dinner at home. In particular, Hong Kong is revered as the culinary capital of Asia by many food lovers and this is the city that served as the main inspiration for the Netherlands’ first Asian fresh casual restaurant, Full Moon Express.

Located on the edge of The Hague’s Chinatown, Full Moon Express opened its doors in 2014 to serve a variety of Asian cuisines all prepared in the open kitchen where the senses of the guests are appealed to. “Guests can see how the ingredients come together during the cooking process, smell the flavours being released in the air and finally, of course, tasting the dish is the ultimate highlight,” says owner Raymond Kwok. The restaurant’s menu offers many Hong Kong-inspired dishes such as noodle soups and roasted meats, but also other Asian foods such as the famous Japanese yakitori and teppanyaki (grilled food). Kwok personally recommends the roasted duck, which comes with rice or noodles and costs just eight euros: “Our goal is to offer really good food for affordable prices, just like the night markets of Asia, and I think we’ve been successful at this.”

The restaurant’s interior is also inspired by the night markets of these Asian food cities where you find themed dining rooms such as the Chinese Courtyard, Japanese Tearoom, Red Dragon Rooms or the City Lounge. Guests can choose where they would like to sit and enjoy their meal or sip a cup of tea. “You can find a peaceful moment for lunch during a stressful day at the office, or just enjoy a nice evening with family and friends for dinner,” says Kwok. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 53

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots


Ask a local where to get great Surinamese food in The Hague, and they will promptly mention Warung Mini XL. The Surinamese-Javanese restaurant and take away in the centre of the city serves delicious food and throughout the years it has rightfully become a household name. Inspired from traditional recipes of the grandmothers of owners Winston and Annie, Warung Mini XL serves Surinamese dishes that connoisseurs praise for their authentic taste. One of these is the popular hearty saoto soup. “This is a real energy booster,“ says Winston, “it’s a chicken broth filled with potato strings, bean sprouts, pulled chicken and more, served with a bowl of rice on the side. It’s a typical dish to eat during rainy days, or 54 | Issue 25 | January 2016

in the morning after a rough night.” Since the filling soup comes in large portions, it makes for a perfect lunch or dinner as well. Besides the soup, Warung Mini XL makes well-known Surinamese-Javanese dishes such as roti, nasi and bami. All are made from fresh ingredients, prepared in the kitchen and served the same day. On the menu you will find halal meat as well as fish and vegetarian dishes, suiting many diets and demands. The recipes for all dishes come from an interesting background, their exact origin is hard to establish since Surinamese food has multicultural roots. “Over the years, diverse ethnic groups immigrated to Suriname, bringing recipes from, for instance,

Indonesia, China and African countries to the Surinamese kitchen,” Winston explains, “the result is the interesting mix of dishes the Surinamese kitchen has to offer.’” Warung started as a take away, but Winston and Annie decided to expand their business a few years ago. It was a successful move, judging from the daily line of people who patiently wait to be seated around dinner time. “You never have to wait long for a seat or your food though. On the busiest moments you will be seated within 30 minutes and get your food within half an hour of ordering, and no matter how busy it is, in our kitchen, quality is key.”

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots


‘No’ is not an answer for Corina Waaijer and her team at the Small Luxury Hotel Mozaic in The Hague. If there is something they cannot do, they will make it possible. This attitude towards good service makes it a satisfying and relaxing place to stay, for either tourists on a weekend visit or business travellers during the week. If you are looking for the perfect combination of shopping, fine dining, work-outs in the woods and walks on the beach that is perfectly reachable by car and public transport, Hotel Mozaic

is the ideal choice. Its location, Laan Copes van Cattenburch, is right in between the beach and the lively centre of The Hague. Furthermore, at the end of the street there is a forest and around the corner you will find Denneweg, which is filled with small boutiques. Of course, a good hotel needs much more, a nice interior for example. Back in 2007, when Waaijer bought the place, she renovated it completely. The result? Plenty of light and natural materials such as wood and leather. “We still change it regularly to keep it fresh,” Waaijer says “No big makeovers, it’s in the details. We

want this place to be a home away from home, where everybody feels comfortable.” Personal attention is extremely important for Waaijer and her team. “We want to go that extra mile. No is hardly an answer; we always try to make things work. People tell me sometimes how pleased I must be with my team and I am. They’re a real asset, they work as hard as possible for our guests. Getting a comment like that from one of our guests pleases me. It’s a true compliment.”


Whether you want to stay in their luxurious apartments for three days or six months, it is up to you. But with a warm and welcoming personal service, and an 8.8/10 rating on, the team of BizStay The Hague makes sure your business stay – no matter how long – is always unforgettable.

ny rents out 70 luxury apartments with modern interiors, smart-TVs, high-speed Wi-Fi and they are all situated at the best locations in town. Furthermore, BizStay works together with The Hague’s municipality and several international companies directly to take away their worries of finding a place to house their staff.

It all began when Dennis Kellner, founder of BizStay The Hague, realised that there was a big need for short-stay, furnished apartments in the Dutch city of courts. In his former work where he leased out properties, he realised that The Hague was the perfect place to start a company for short-stay apartments, as there are many employees from foreign embassies and big multinationals including Shell and Heineken coming to the city.

“BizStay The Hague is more than just an extended renting firm,” says Kellner. “With an office that’s open seven days a week, a personal airport pick-up service and a welcome package including Dutch delights such as stroopwafels, our team is determined to help you in any way we can to make your stay in The Hague enjoyable and carefree. The tenants’ priorities are our number one concern.”

Kellner founded BizStay in 2010 with three apartments. Now, five years later, the compa- Issue 25 | January 2016 | 55

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots

Combining Oriental flair with French romance TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS: MAISON INDOCHINE

Situated nearby The Hague’s city centre, the beautifully decorated bed and breakfast Maison Indochine is a fairytale on its own. With interiors influenced by 19th FrenchAsian colonialism, this romantic getaway will bring you the rest and cosiness of your own home with an Oriental touch. It all started in 2011. Chequita Eskak and her husband Alvin, owners of Maison Indochine, had just bought a new house in a lively street in The Hague: “I had worked in hospitality for many years,” Eskak says. “I was looking for something that could combine my passion for service and working from home. Moreover, I always loved meeting new people, so a bed and breakfast at home seemed the perfect opportunity.” It turned out to be the beginning of Maison Indochine, a name that always arouses curiosity from visitors. “We didn’t want to name the bed and breakfast after a street or a place,

it was too obvious. Just like our service, we wanted to put a personal touch to the name,” Eskak explains. “We love the romantic style of colonial Asia and decided to call our bed and breakfast: Maison Indochine. That became the design theme too.” The decorating style reminded Eskak of her husband’s Chinese ancestors and her own Indonesian background. “It is personal and picturesque. And it merges perfectly with the French countryside decoration I first had in mind. The stylish design is not something you see everywhere and it makes us stand out from the crowd.” For Eskak, the most important part is giving her clients that little bit extra: “Making them feel at home even if they are only staying for one night. I love going the extra mile, it makes Maison Indochine personal.”


Nestled in the lush Van Stolkpark, the Crowne Plaza – Promenade hotel is situated between the dynamic Scheveningen, the Embassy District and the centre of The Hague. Lodging at Crowne Plaza is an ideal heaven for exploring this charismatic city. After a long working week, there is no better way to unwind than through relaxing spa services, and fortunately Crowne Plaza boasts a wonderful spa and health club. Here you can relax in the sauna have a massage, work out in the fitness centre or take a dive in the swimming pool. Anniek Voesenek, revenue and reservation manager, says: “Our brand focuses on helping guests reach their personal and business goals, accelerating their journey to success by combining the best facilities with great service. Our rooms are modern and tastefully decorated with a strong emphasis on the ‘couleur locale’.” 56 | Issue 25 | January 2016

At Brasserie Brut, located in the hotel, you can enjoy one of their delicious dishes, such as black Angus beef or risotto with a glass of bubbly, from all corners of the world. Within walking distance of the hotel, you will find attractions such as the miniature city Madurodam, the Gemeentemuseum, Omniversum as well as World Forum convention centre and the International Court of Justice at the Peace Palace. If you want to relax in style you can enjoy the sunset with a cocktail in your hand at the beach of Scheveningen only a few minutes away. The Crowne Plaza hotel is the proud owner of a Green Key certificate, an eco-label that has been awarded for running exclusively on energy from renewable energy sources. Prices range from 119 euros for a standard room to 2,495 euros for a night at the Prominental Suite with boardroom.

Discover Benelux | The Hague | Top Eat, Drink & Sleep Spots


Novotel Suites The Hague City Centre is a fun, stylish hotel that can make an unmatchable base while you explore. The suites are meticulously designed to indulge the mind, body and soul, creating a retreat ideal for the fastpaced life of the urban traveller. Many of the best places in The Hague can be found in its stunning mansions.

Novotel Suites opened its doors in one of these beautiful buildings and converted it into a suite hotel on 1 October 2014. To counteract the stress of frequent travel, you can take elements of your home life with you so your hotel room does not feel so cold and lonely. Novotel Suites prides itself on offering that ‘coming home feeling’. “While being at home you mostly use the bedroom for sleeping and hang out in the living room and kitchen instead. Therefore we cleverly designed our lobby to feel like a comfy, inviting and homey living room,” says Barteld Oppers, innovative experience entrepreneur at Novotel. Novotel Suites The Hague does not have the feeling of a typical hotel, nor is it the kind of place that tries too hard to stand out

by being hip and trendy. It is simply relaxed, inviting and offers open spaces to share. Amenities include a ‘foodwall’ with 24-hour access and a charming bar and lounge with urban and woodsy-chic furnishings. Its suites combine luxury with a multifunctional surrounding; each 40-square-metre suite has its own kitchenette stocked with all the essentials. Featuring a silverpaneled façade, this stylish all-suite hotel is a minute’s walk from the nearest tram stop, a six-minute walk from the parliament buildings; and Madurodam is 2.6 kilometres from Novotel Suites, while the Binnenhof is a mere 300 metres away. Rooms are available from 99 euros a night. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 57

Discover Benelux | Business | City Savvy Luxembourg

The City Savvy Luxembourg website.


A website that brings the Grand Duchy to you TEXT: LIZ WENGER | PHOTOS: PIPPA HERBERT

“If you need something and you can’t find it, create it yourself”. This is the motto of Anneke Hudson, a former corporate banking lawyer in London, and Farrah Gillani, an English graduate and ex-marketing manager from Cambridge. They both made Luxembourg their permanent residence after many years of country hopping and together they founded City Savvy Luxembourg, an online magazine that provides information for people living in, or visiting, the world’s only Grand Duchy. The website publishes daily English articles covering expat essentials such as Luxembourg life and style, local events, family, wellbeing and much more. It can tell you how to greet someone in Luxembourgish, what to do when an expat friend moves away, how the Luxembour58 | Issue 25 | January 2016

gish school system works, where to get an authentic Thai meal and where to go in case of a medical emergency.

comes to the information we were missing when we first arrived,” the two entrepreneurs add.

Filling in the gap for expats

Factual and emotional support

“When we arrived in Luxembourg, there was not that much information available for English speakers. We wanted something that combined useful information with light entertainment all pertaining to this wonderful little country we call home. What we soon came to realise was that lots of other people wanted that, too.” It was a natural transition for the two expats to combine their experience in the business world with their passion for writing and their own newly acquired knowledge about moving to and living in Luxembourg. “We just love presenting accurate, relevant information in a clear and entertaining way, especially when it

It can be very lonely coming to a new country, especially when you do not speak any of the official languages, and Luxembourg has three of them (Luxembourgish, French and German). Hudson and Gillani have made it their mis-

Discover Benelux | Business |

City Savvy Luxembourg

sion to make people aware of the help and resources that do exist, from highly subsidised language lessons to Englishspeaking churches: “The aim is to make them feel at home both within the expat community and through integrating with the locals. We also have an expat counsellor for more specific issues, and who responds to our readers’ problems. Free advice is always welcome.”

Connecting readers with writers To stay informed about relevant subjects, Hudson and Gillani acquire help from over 20 contributors who are all experts in their own field: a director of a theatre company to provide insight into the performing arts, foodies who provide informative restaurant reviews, a Luxembourger who has written a book to help English speakers learn Luxembourgish, plus many more talented writers. “We couldn’t do anything without them,” states Gillani. They also garner information from their readers who give them tips on all the exciting events happening in Luxembourg. You may be surprised to know that the readers are not only expats, but basically anyone who understands English and has an interest in Luxembourg. Among the 10,000 monthly readers are also tourists who are interested in city sights, people living all over the world who are curious about the Duchy and want to read articles such as The History of Luxembourgish, and even some local Luxembourgers who want to find out about social events and top bars to go to after work.

Topics that matter The most popular articles are the most useful ones and include listicles like the top playgrounds or swimming pools in Luxembourg, or where to buy organic and gluten-free food, for example. These are popular with visitors to Luxembourg, peo-

ABOVE: Anneke and Farrah in front of the Statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte, a symbol of national unity, in Luxembourg City.

ple who live there and people who live in bordering Germany, France and Belgium. At the other end of the spectrum are more in-depth articles in the expat support section that focus on mental health issues and resonate hugely with readers. For example, an article on trailing spouses, who Hudson and Gillani like to call “trailblazing spouses”, paints a more realistic picture of the active role many expat spouses play during a move abroad. Other popular posts include in-

terviews with extraordinary expats, individuals doing something a little different in their travels, and inspiring stories from successful residents. “Oh, and we also do giveaways, which our readers love!” Hudson exclaims. “Giving away event tickets is a great way to get people interested in the local culture and encourage them to socialise.” Issue 25 | January 2016 | 59

Discover Benelux | Business | Columns


Are bicycles inherently Dutch?

China has over 500 million bicycles. India’s not far behind. In the US, there are about 100 million. And in the Netherlands? A mere 16.5 million. So how come bicycles are right up there with wooden shoes when it comes to ‘being Dutch’? It’s not sheer numbers, obviously. Strictly speaking, it isn’t even bicycles per capita. The Netherlands leads the world in that, but people do not check statistics when forming views of other cultures.

What people do look at is the difference between one place and another. For most people, to visit the Netherlands is to be struck by how many bicycles there are compared to where you live. The visitor also becomes aware of how the ubiquity of bicycles has prompted authorities to provide a level of accommodation that is rare in many other countries. And while the newcomer to the Netherlands may find mass bicycling novel, clearly nobody else there does. Nothing highlights a cultural difference like routine acceptance by the locals. But here’s a question: if bicycles are so characteristic of the Netherlands, why aren’t riders in other parts of the world seen as ‘being Dutch’? The answer is that it’s not bicycles per se that seem Dutch. It’s the fact that the Dutch, as a group, seem more predisposed to think about bicycling. While someone in New York naturally thinks in terms of subways and taxis when it comes to transportation, and someone

Let’s celebrate How do you celebrate success? Or maybe we should start with: do you celebrate success? In organisations where the absence of criticism has to be interpreted as praise, the celebration of success is seen as dangerously far from the buttoning-up of emotions that the old guard wants to maintain. In less inhibited workplaces, so-called celebrations can still sometimes be pretty painful, so here’s my fivepoint rough guide to doing it better. 1 GET THE BALANCE RIGHT. It’s terrible never to celebrate shared achievements with colleagues but it’s also terrible to do it too much. Don’t overdo it or people will get tired of it and of each other. 2 WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE. Europeans in general tend to be suspicious of the superlatives that Americans can use when talking about success and think that these are insincere. In fact, the intentions are sincere but the communication style is different and so perceived differently. We should be aware of the impact of how we 60 | Issue 25 | January 2016


in Los Angeles thinks of cars, in the Netherlands their minds naturally turn to bicycles. Everywhere in the world, the decision to ride a bike is almost always a personal decision, and in most places that’s all it is considered. In both New York and LA, it’s also taken as a sign of insanity, but that’s another story. In the Netherlands, however, riding a bike is seen as having a cultural meaning. It becomes not just a personal decision but an expression of nationality. As for wooden shoes? Those are just Dutch.

Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.


talk about the success of people from different backgrounds. 3 DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. My own happiest memories of celebrating success come from the start-up I once worked for in Paris. Reaching the monthly sales targets meant champagne and we went home feeling wonderful. At the end of the year the CEO took us all to the circus, which he loved. It was certainly different and we loved it too. 4 LEARN FROM OTHERS. Celebrating success is greatly influenced by culture. I have sat naked with Swedes drinking beer in a sauna. I have rolled in snow with Icelanders. The French go out for a meal. The Swiss go skiing and then go out for a meal. The British go to the pub. I trust these wild generalisations will provoke outraged correspondence. 5 DON’T FORCE PEOPLE TO JOIN IN. Introverts and extroverts celebrate in different ways but it’s extroverts who usually define the agenda for celebrating in

ways that may not attract introverts at all. Either be more attentive to their expectations or don’t force them to do what they won’t enjoy. When I recently asked a Maltese audience what they do, the answer came without hesitation: “Fireworks!” This is true: many Maltese summer nights suddenly explode with noise and colour. Just an idea for next time your team does a really great job.

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, now based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally:;

Discover Benelux | Business | Calendar

Business Calendar TEXT: ELLA PUT

Digital Winter Session Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 6 January During this second edition of the Digital sessions, eight speakers will share their experience on developments and possibilities within digital marketing. Questions such as what does the future of digital marketing look like? What are the trends and developments? And more important for those in the business: to which changes should you respond to as a digital entrepreneur? These and more will be discussed during the sessions, giving you a glimpse into the digital future.

speakers hope to inspire those who design our online world.

ELINET Conference Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 21 – 22 January The European Literacy Policy Network was established in 2014. With 78 partner associations from 28 European countries, the organisation unifies those who are engaged in literacy policy making and reading promotion in Europe. The great success of the first edition of the ELINET Conference with 80 organisations from more than 25 countries participating has led up to the now annual event. It will take place at the Amsterdam Beurs van Berlage this year.

Fosdem Brussels, Belgium, 30 – 31 January Fosdem is one of the free events where thousands of software developers from all over the world gather, meet and mingle. It is organised to promote the widespread use of free, open-source software. Next to meeting other developers, the two-day event will also give its visitors a chance to learn more about the world of software by offering workshops and presentations given by leaders of the industry.

Awwwards Conference Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 27 – 29 January Each year, digital architects, curators and pixel visionaries from all over the world come together in iconic cities to share and discuss their best-kept secrets and visions of the future. With the motto ‘always be creative, always be brave’, they hope to inspire others by giving lectures during this three-day event. This year it will be held in Amsterdam, where over 20

PHP Conference Antwerp, Belgium, 29 – 30 January The organisation PHP Benelux is known in the coding industry for organising group meetings, theme events and annual conferences to promote the use of PHP, an HTML scripting language. This year’s PHP conference will be held in Antwerp, offering lectures and tutorials to learn more about this subject.

Digital Winter Sessions Photo: Digital View

Digital Winter Sessions Photo: Digital View

Photo: Awwwards

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 61

Discover Benelux | Luxembourg | Best Castles to Visit in 2016

Going back in time at Vianden Castle TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: VIANDEN CASTLE

Standing imperiously over the town below, Vianden Castle never ceases to amaze its visitors with the richness of its history and its fairytale charm. Enter a world where poets came to look for inspiration among the shadows of unrivalled medieval architecture.

Hoffmann, vice-president of the Friends of Vianden Castle. “It is no surprise that Victor Hugo himself came to this land for several months during his exile… you just need to look at the grandiose structure of the castle to appreciate the multiple layers of developments it underwent.”

oversaw a complete restoration between 1978 and 1992. After a few minor changes in the past years, the dramatic allure of the castle has attracted major movie productions including George and the Dragon (2004) and some scenes of The Three Musketeers (2011) were shot here.

One of the largest and most beautiful feudal residences of the Romanesque and Gothic periods in Europe, Vianden Castle is an essential historical landmark to visit. Perched on a rocky hilltop, the imposing castle tells the story of the powerful counts of Vianden, who ruled over the surrounding land for generations.

Visitors to Luxembourg can access the castle in a 30-minute ride from Luxembourg City centre and admire its unique features. One of which is its doubleoratory chapel spread over two levels, which back in the day allowed the city’s inhabitants to hear the religious ceremonies from the lower level while the lords were seated upstairs.

Starting this year, the castle will host the painting exhibition Cuba Color from 9 January to 3 April, which will focus on the work of various Cuban artists from 1930 to 2015. Another highlight is the muchanticipated piano concert by the young talents of the Conservatoire de Musique du Nord.

“The large feudal manor is one of the most remarkable buildings dating from the Middle Ages and a real jewel of architecture, unparalleled in Luxembourg and in most of western Europe,” says Paul 62 | Issue 25 | January 2016

Today, the castle enjoys a new lease of life after the State of Luxembourg, together with the non-profit organisation of Les Amis du Château de Vianden,

For a memorable escape to Luxembourg’s most visited architectural and historical jewels, Vianden Castle is guaranteed to deliver.

Discover Benelux | Luxembourg | Best Castles to Visit in 2016


The Grand-Château d’Ansembourg is one of Luxembourg’s Neo-Renaissance and Baroque-style treasures. Located in the Eisch valley, or ‘Valley of the Seven Castles’, its construction began in the mid-17th century and was finished around a hundred years later. A pioneer of the iron industry, Thomas Bidart built the comfortable house surrounded by walls and towers, two of which still exist today. Bidart’s descendants expanded the terrain and building, so the château is now enclosed by a series of beautiful baroque gardens. Visitors can walk along the garden’s stunning pathways, get lost in its labyrinths, enjoy the water fountains and a variety of flowers and plants. A series of statues represent a golden age of peace and prosperity in Luxem-

bourgish history. These statues contain the clues to unlocking an enigma posed by the sphinx, which visitors encounter whilst walking towards a fountain of a two-headed eagle. The secret is to not let oneself be consumed by the problems life throws at us, but to keep one’s hopes and dreams alive. Christophe Déage, chairman of LH Europe, which oversees the château, says the best part of his job is working in a striking location: “It’s a delight to be able to work in such historic and green surroundings, and to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons.” So why visit the site? Everyone has their own reasons, he says: “For some, the château is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of a family of 17th century iron masters.” Others come simply to en-

joy the tranquillity that the gardens offer. The château and its gardens play host to a variety of activities throughout the year, including conferences, seminars, film screenings, as well as marriage and birthday celebrations. On 2 August the Festival of the Château will include music, regional specialities for tasting, and guided tours of the garden. There is also a variety of cultural and artistic events during the Heritage Days on the third weekend of September The gardens can be visited daily from 9am to sunset, apart from when the château is rented out. Entrance to the gardens is free, but it is advised that you check the website for availability before visiting. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 63

Discover Benelux | Luxembourg | Best Castles to Visit in 2016


With a medieval fortress, a Renaissance castle and a tranquil valley, the Châteaux de Beaufort, situated right in the heart of Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland, is the perfect place to escape for nature lovers, history buffs, rock music fans and families alike. “A huge fortress was constructed on this site from 1150 onwards,” Patrick Sanavia from Les Amis des Châteaux de Beaufort tells us. “In the 19th century, a lot of this original fortress fell into decline. However, up until today, a mighty ruin with lots of chambers and towers has been preserved and can be visited on a selfguided tour.” Also, thanks to the ‘scary torture chamber’, it is an exciting activity for kids. In 1648, an additional castle was built on the 64 | Issue 25 | January 2016

hill, this time in the Renaissance style, and used as a residence until 2012. “The interior of the castle has been kept completely intact and recounts the history of the last resident, Anne-Marie Linckels, who lived here for over 70 years,” says Sanavia.

last two years, Chris de Burgh, Status Quo, Amy Macdonald, James Blunt and many more have performed here in front of over 20,000 fans.” What’s in store for 2016 will be revealed in February when the new concert programme is published.

Guided tours lead visitors through the Renaissance castle and the elegant rose garden. Afterwards a tasting of the redcurrant liqueur is a must for all food and drink connoisseurs, which has been produced at the castle for a hundred years. In the summertime, music concerts, especially during the Rock Classics event, are the highlight at Châteaux de Beaufort.

“The premises at Châteaux de Beaufort are well looked after, but not overly restored,” says Sanavia. When asked what makes the grounds attractive to visitors, he replies: “Everything is authentic and cosy. Here, you can experience history first hand. Moreover, the castle and fortress are surrounded by beautiful hiking paths, forests and creeks. In the summer, when it can get quite hot, the creeks also offer a great way to cool down.”

“With the fortress ruin lighting up in all kinds of colours, our summer concerts take place in front of a breath-taking backdrop,” recounts Sanavia. “Within the

Discover Benelux | Luxembourg | Best Castles to Visit in 2016

See, feel and smell the Middle Ages TEXT: SONJA IRANI | PHOTOS: CHATEAU D’USELDANGE

If you are curious about what it was like to live in medieval Luxembourg, the free and remarkably original exhibitions at Château d’Useldange will do the trick. Two towers are what remain of the former fortress, which now host two fascinating exhibitions. One tells the history of the fortress itself, which roughly spans a time period from the ninth until the 19th century. The other displays all about daily life in the Middle Ages. The exhibition that the Castle of Useldange is most famous for, however, is its so-called culture trail. Comprising 16 stops, this trail has been specifically designed to meet the needs of visually impaired guests. With information boards that can be palpated as well as audio presentations at every stop, the culture trail was developed under the patronage of UNESCO.

“The first stop on the trail is an underground crypt which hosts a touchable model of the fortress,” explains castle representative Tom Lehnert. “Examples of other stops include wayside crosses from all over Luxembourg, a display of the local birds, an exhibition about a local witch trial as well as a vegetable, fruit and herb garden. Here, our visitors can even smell the Middle Ages.” The highlight of the time-travelling activities at Château d’Useldange is the weekend-long Medieval Festival at the beginning of June. In Useldange, nature is never far away either. The many local hiking and bicycle paths, as well as the river Attert, offer a great way to relax and recharge your batteries.

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Graspop Metal Meeting


Belgian festival guide 2016 From dragon slaying to metal meetings and colourful gay prides to throwing cats, in Belgium there is a festival for all. Including modern music gatherings as well as centuries’ old celebrations and everything in between, the diversity of the Belgian festival scene is impressive. In this special we have listed our top picks for 2016. TEXT: ELLA PUT

Brosella Folk & Jazz

Brussels Jazz Festival

Discover Benelux | Belgian Festival Guide 2016 | Introduction

Antwerp Pride

Balkan Trafik!

Hasseltse Jeneverfeesten

Andenne City

The huge and relatively new Rock Werchter and the world’s biggest electronic dance festival Tomorrowland might pull in the big crowds, but there are many more festivals held in Belgium that are also worth experiencing. In fact some see Belgium as the epicentre of Europe’s festival scene, with its long history of public gatherings, many of which include curious traditions and quirky local customs. Andrew Daines director of Visit Flanders England says: “The festival culture in Flanders has been there for hundreds of years. Some of the festivals emerged from the dark ages, such as the Cat Throwing in Ieper. Most festivals have been based on religious events or heathen festivals and they just evolved over the years to what we have now.” The lively cultural ancient festivals can still be seen in peculiar events today, such as the dragon slaying in Mons, Wallonia, or the eating of live fish in Geraardsbergen. These traditions have been kept alive for hundreds of years although they have been updated slightly over time.

But there is certainly also room for completely new traditions and modern festivals. With over 400,000 people attending, the annual Tomorrowland in Boom has become a global leader of dance festivals. Unfortunately though, major festivals such as these mostly come with a bigger price tag for entry. But luckily there are also many free events, including a myriad of summer street festivals. This includes the Gentse Feesten in June, during which the city turns into a true summer paradise. Daines: “The extraordinary thing about street festivals in Flanders, is that they evolve into different festivals. You’ll find world music outdoors and street theatre outdoors, but also music performances and several activities indoors. There will be something for everyone.” Not only the street festivals offer a large variety in music. The annual pop and rock festivals such as Pukkelpop and Graspop offer a wealth of musical genres too. With past headliners such as Alt-J and George Ezra and upcoming gigs by

Iron Maiden and Metallica during this year’s editions, these festivals attract a very diverse crowd. Next to music festivals are also gastronomic festivals for those who want to put their sense of taste to good use. The Jeneverfeesten in Hasselt, the Chocolate Week in Antwerp or the festival Zythos in Leuven, which offers more than 500 types of beer, are a perfect example of food and drink festivals, both for the connoisseurs and the leisure visitors. The Belgians certainly love their food, as chocolate and beer are at the top of the list of the country’s delicacies: “If you make something really well, why not organise a party around it?” Daines jokingly asks. “The same goes for Belgian music. There are a lot of good DJ’s and people really seem to dig that music. People in Flanders are always up for a party!”

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 67

Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016

A vibrant jazz festival in the heart of Brussels TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: BRUSSELS JAZZ FESTIVAL

This January, the Brussels Jazz Festival will open its doors for enthusiasts of all ages in the iconic Art-Deco building of Flagey to warm up the hearts of its audience with smooth vibes. Following the huge success of the first edition, with nine out of ten concerts sold out, Flagey is going even bigger and better for their second edition of a Brussels Jazz Festival. “This year the objective is to offer a very diverse programme, inviting young talents as well as established names of the jazz scene to perform their latest songs,” explains programme manager Maarten van Rousselt. “We are proud to have Lisa Simone opening the festival with a selection from her second album My World, performing for the very first time in Brussels. The world-renowned Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen will also be there to

present his new album to the Belgian audience with the young Afghan-German singer Simin Tander. We’ll also have the great Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and his Devil Quartet, and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra performing Celebrating Jacques Brel, in collaboration with David Linx, as some of the highlights of this edition.” An undoubtedly packed and exciting programme is complemented with a photography exhibition with pictures taken during last year’s edition, as well as a selection of films screened by Cinematek in the context of the festival, featuring films such as Just Friends by Wajnberg and Une heure de tranquillité by Leconte.

Brussels Jazz Festival is held in Brussels from 13 to 23 January.

Celebrating unity through diversity TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: BALKAN TRAFIK!

Balkan Trafik! festival is first and foremost an encounter between cultures, musical genres, cinema, dance performances and culinary authenticity. Taking place this April at Bozar in Brussels, this is the event of the season with Balkan beats, colourful costumes and more. For its tenth edition, Balkan Trafik! celebrates the multicultural richness of the Balkan region through exceptional performances and encounters with local artists. This unique atmosphere comes to life in the heart of Brussels in a colourful Tower of Babel, unique in its kind for those seeking something quite out of the ordinary. This year’s edition is going to bring an average of 20 concerts per day, complemented by diverse activities, workshops, discussions and films, many with the exclusive presence of their directors. Highlights include Frank London’s performance, who will introduce a 68 | Issue 25 | January 2016

new project in collaboration with a diverse group of Hungarian artists, as well as an original creation between Belgian-Tunisian artist Jawhar and the magnificent Hungarian Roma voice of Mitsoura. As usual, the festival will cross into different styles, from traditional to ethno-jazz and rock, and will present the best brass bands. Furthermore, expect the nights to close on a vibrant electronic note. “What we are trying to achieve with this festival is the encounter with ‘the other’. We live in times where there is great misunderstanding and fear around migration, and we want to counter that,” explains festival producer Nicolas Wieërs. It is certainly a unique opportunity for a four-day journey into a world of sound, colour and texture. Balkan Trafik! is held in Brussels from 14 to 17 April.

Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016

The annual Carnival of Bears celebrates the killing of a bear, which terrorised the city during the eighth century.


Located on the river Meuse in central Belgium, the city of Andenne is a vibrant cultural centre in the province of Namur. Although it has a mere 26,000 inhabitants, this charming city surrounded by rolling hills plays host to numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the year. Highlights include the Carnival of Bears held in March, where the city’s inhabitants don bear costumes and have a confetti battle. The festival began 60 years ago and is based on a local legend in which a young boy, believed to be future Frankish statesman Charles Martel, killed the bear that was terrorising the city’s inhabitants in the eighth century. It culminates with the king and queen of the carnival throwing hundreds of toy bears from a balcony into the crowds below. Another highlight is the Wallonia Festival, which takes place in September. There will be over 30 concerts, as well as street

performers, fireworks and entertainment for children. In November, the Festival of Cartoons and children’s books comes to Andenne. The Bear Rock festival is another major attraction. Taking place at the end of June, a range of alternative rock bands from Belgium, Italy, France and further afield play in the magnificent surroundings of the Place du Chapitre. All of these events are free to attend. “There is truly something for all tastes and ages in Andenne,” says Valentine Evrard, head of festivals and tourism for Andenne City Council. If festivals are not for you, then there are plenty of walks to do in the surrounding beautiful Samson valley or Sclaigneaux nature reserve, plus activities like bike riding and exploring the city by Segway. There are copious examples of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture and statues, in addition to the Scladina cave, which is still being excavated by archaeologists but can be visited.

The old town of Andenne is worth a visit, in particular the 17th century neo-classical cross and church of Saint Begge. There is also an intriguing Ceramics Museum. The surrounding towns and villages offer a wealth of picturesque chateaux, Roman churches and houses built in the local blue stone. Visitors can consult the Andenne Tourism Office at 48 Place des Tilleuls.

FESTIVALS IN ANDENNE The Carnival of Bears takes place on 6 March. The Bear Rock festival is held on 24 June. The Wallonia Festival takes place from 23 to 25 September. The Festival of Cartoons is held in November.

Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016


Every year, at the end of June, 152,000 metal lovers from all over the world travel to Dessel. In this small Belgian village, they can see their favourite bands play during one of Europe’s biggest metal festivals: Graspop Metal Meeting. As well as striking a chord with Iron Maiden fans, this event also has a fun fair with Ferris wheel and vegan food trucks for the subtly hard core. Once a year, ever since the festival started in 1996, Dessel turns into a metal Mecca. “We even have a metal village now,” says Graspop promoter assistant Delphine Deconinck. She is already preparing for this year’s edition, which will include bands such as Volbeat, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The festival can look back on 21 former successful editions. What started off as a one-day festival to compensate for the lack of metal music at another Belgian festival called Rock Werchter, is a now a three-day 70 | Issue 25 | January 2016

event with five stages, its own camping space and a fun fair. To outsiders, a Ferris wheel for metal fans might seem strange. But Deconinck explains: “A lot of people have prejudices about metal festivals; the leather jackets, the long hair and the dark music. It does not appeal to those who don’t like metal. But at Graspop I see people who are not into the metal scene and they are having the time of their lives. Everyone is friendly and there is a fun and relaxed vibe at the festival,” she says with a smile. That vibe can also be felt in the Metal Town, a campsite village specially built for the festival. At just a stone’s throw away from the festival grounds, visitors can find a moment of peace here as well as showers with clean water. Perfect for those who do not want to party hard until the break of dawn.

Compared to other metal festivals, what makes Graspop so special? “I think we have gained lots of festival experience over the years,” Deconinck says. “Of course, there are many other good festivals, but Graspop has such a unique vibe. We’ve noticed people keep coming back for the ambiance and that’s amazing.” With clear instructions on the festival’s website, it is easy to get to Graspop Metal Meeting. With the help of shuttle busses, visitors coming from afar can easily make their way to Dessel from international airports, such as Brussels and Schiphol. #gmm16 Graspop Metal Meeting takes place in Dessel from 17 to 19 June.

Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016

A dream factory for folk and jazz TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTO: LIEVE BOUSSAUW

It is a midsummer night’s dream come true. Every July, big names from the jazz and folk scene gather at the Groentheater, a fairy tale-like ‘green’ amphitheatre in Brussels, to play for a captivated audience. The Brosella festival explores, but most of all celebrates, the charismatic worlds of folk and jazz. Built in 1932, the Groentheater became derelict after the 1958 world exposition. “A waste of such a wonderful place,” says Henri Vandenberghe, the festival’s director. “Because of its unique location, the theatre was perfect for Brosella. Furthermore, the trees surrounding the amphitheatre are a wonderful addition to the acoustics. They keep the outside noises away, which gives the music an incredible sound.” After the runaway success of the first edition of Brosella Folk Festival in 1977, the amphitheatre also became the location for the European Broadcast Union (EBU) Folk Festival in 1981,

held within the Brosella Folk festival. With artists coming from Scandinavia as well as Southern parts of Europe, different sounds in the world of folk collided. Because of the immense success, Brosella became a folk and jazz festival, a dream factory where new talent and big names work together. Vandenberghe: “By inviting artists from different genres and backgrounds we compose special collaborations. There are no walls in the world of music, so why act like they are there?” This year will see the 40th edition of Brosella. With names such as the Billy Cobham Band, The Unthanks, Richard Galliano and Philip Catherine, the festival promises once again to be a true joy for the whole family. Head to Brosella to discover the magical world of folk and jazz at a fairy tale location.

Photo: Jean-Luc Goffinet

Brosella Folk & Jazz Festival is held in Brussels on 9 and 10 July.

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Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016

The powerful and colourful message of freedom TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS: ANTWERP PRIDE

Once a year, the striking city of Antwerp lights up in all the colours of the rainbow during Antwerp Pride. At this festival, each and every community of the Belgian town is represented in a colourful feast with a powerful message. During Pride in Antwerp it is not only about the rainbow flag, a statement against homophobia. Similar to Pride celebrations around the world, it is a festival honouring not just the freedom of homosexuality but, in Antwerp, also honouring the freedom of everyone. The city, with its 118 different nationalities, will celebrate the freedom of all its citizens and everyone who wants to join them during Antwerp’s biggest cultural event of the year. The extraordinary Antwerp Pride was even chosen to be one 72 | Issue 25 | January 2016

of the top ten best Prides in the world by online magazine Jetsetter. “It’s all about celebrating positivity,” says Bart Abeel, president of Antwerp Pride. “Everyone is welcome to join us to celebrate how proud we are of our city and how happy we are with the freedom that we have,” says Abeel. It is a powerful message with a strong effect. “A Gay Pride sounds so exclusive,”Abeel says. “We want to be a festival for everyone, not only for the gay community. If we celebrate diversity, a diverse audience is needed.” That diversity was seen in last year’s Pride parade, one of the festival’s main activities. With bucket loads of glitter and glamour, the wagons passed by an incredibly diverse audience, bringing people from

all kinds of religions and backgrounds together. Mothers, fathers, children and the elderly were walking along as all age groups were represented in the colourful parade. This diversity makes the event truly one-of-a-kind. While it is the most popular part, the parade is not the only aspect of the event. For four days, festival visitors can enjoy many activities organised all over town, but also prior to and during the Pride is the Queer Arts Festival in Antwerp. This art festival questions sexual and gender identities through performing arts and inviting locals and international guest to academic, artistic and activist performances. Starting on a Thursday, there is a 24/7 party scene with all the bars and restaurants in Antwerp participating until Sunday. Entry to the opening feast, the

Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016

fantastic mid-summer party, is free and allows you to try delicious food from food trucks, have a lively conversation with new friends and show off your moves on the open-air dance floor. Furthermore, there are several opportunities to network during events specially focussed on the LGBT society (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). Abeel: “We focus on more than just a parade. We want to engage everyone in the festival, so we also organise parties and networking events.” It shows how much the event has grown throughout the years. During its eight former editions, the festival has gone from a small cultural meeting for locals to a fourday festival with visitors from all around the world coming to Antwerp to celebrate freedom and love. Antwerp Pride is especially moving for people who cannot celebrate such a joyful event in their own country and the festival also anticipates on cultural awareness. Between all the partying and parading, other important aspects of the festival are the lectures and seminars where speakers and members from minorities can meet up with those who want to find out more about a religion or a community.

Furthermore, the festival has a new theme every year. That theme represents a part of the world, such as Africa in 2014 and China and Eastern Europe in 2015 and this year’s theme will be the Middle East and North Africa, with a special focus on the refugee crisis. “When we choose a theme, we invite several artists from that part of the world to participate in this wonderful event either by performing or giving lectures. We want to include everyone in this event,” Abeel says. During the four-day festival the city is flooded with love. So much so, that there is hardly any aggression during those days. Or, as Abeel says: “We always hear from the police that this is the most fun event to have in town, because there is almost no fighting. It is a wonderful celebration wrapped up in a beautiful festival where you can meet others, celebrate the love and freedom that you have and enjoy a magnificent, colourful weekend in Antwerp.” Antwerp Pride is held throughout the city from 10 to 15 August.

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 73

Discover Benelux | Belgium | The Best Festivals & Events in 2016


Once a year Hasselt, the Belgian capital of jenever, celebrates the Hasseltse Jeneverfeesten. Visitors from all over Europe travel to the town to enjoy the big delight of a small glass filled with gin or ‘jenever’. Rumour has it that even the city’s fountain will be flowing with jenever during the festival. Jenever, or Dutch gin, plays an important role in the heritage of Hasselt. It was by chance that the city became one of the few towns in Flanders where the strong gin was allowed to be brewed. Here, the most powerful men in town were the bosses of the once more than 30 jenever distilleries. Even today, Hasselt is still famous for its spirits and the city is known as the ‘Belgian capital of jenever’. To celebrate the town’s relationship with the strong liquor, the Hasseltse Jeneverfeesten were organised for the first time almost 30 years ago: “The city 74 | Issue 25 | January 2016

was already home to Belgium’s national jenever museum, but we wanted to create an annual event honouring the history of jenever in Hasselt. A big party for a small glass,” says president of the festival Jean Pierre Swerts. The Jeneverfeesten, which started off small, are now a two-day event attracting more than 150,000 visitors. Festival guests from every age group travel from near and far to enjoy the city’s delights in the third weekend of October, and they are not only coming to drink a satisfying glass of jenever. “We offer a wide variety of cultural activities during the weekend. There is music, varying from classic to modern day genres, performed on a stage or at old balconies in the inner city, creating a spontaneous and surprising effect. There is stand-up comedy and street theatre. There is something for everyone,” says Swerts. “Furthermore there is a culinary village with the 15 best chefs from

Hasselt. They will be preparing delicious meals, with jenever of course.” Still, the festival stays true to its core: honouring the jenever heritage of Hasselt. Typical traditions and rituals are kept alive, for example the city fountain Het Borrelmanneke will not spew water, but jenever on Saturday. Moreover, the mayor of Hasselt always has to approve homebrewed jenever before it can be served at the festival. Swerts: “It’s wonderful to keep the heritage alive by organising a festival that brings so much joy. Almost everybody that visits the festival comes back the next year. What bigger compliment can we get?” This year’s Jeneverfeesten will take place on 15 and 16 October.



Don’t miss these 3 exhibitions in the center of Brussels

CRINOLINES & CIE 25/05/15 10/04/16

Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle Photo : Crinolines et Cie ©Julien Claessens / crea: Olivier Theyskens


OF AN EXCEPTIONAL PIECE the Pieter Coecke tapestry cartoon

Mystic Transport Gülsün KARAMUSTAFA & Koen THEYS

29-10 15 > 28-02 16


Novotel Suites Luxembourg: A smart solution The Novotel Suites Luxembourg, part of the Accor Hotels group, on Avenue JF Kennedy was the first in its group to test their specific take on the suites concept. And from reviewing what is on offer, it is easy to see why the idea has since been such a phenomenal success. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: NOVOTEL SUITES LUXEMBOURG

“The suites concept is aimed in particular at guests who are not just doing an overnight stay,” says manager Sonia Zaied: “Our suites are 30 square metres so they’re absolutely ideal for the traveller wanting to have a longer stay, like people spending some time in the city on business, or families making it their base while touring and looking at the city. We have businesspeople who stay for a month – they get the benefits of a hotel but also have extra comforts that make it more their own space.” 76 | Issue 25 | January 2016

The Novotel Suites Luxembourg opened in July 2010, a very modern building with cleverly contemporary touches to make it both stylish and comfortable. White is the predominant theme in the design to keep it light and airy, with bolder purple notes in some of the soft furnishings, and walls in warmer pastels.

Spaces for all conveniences The spacious main room of each suite comprises two distinct areas, to give it more of a homely feel than conventional

hotels can offer. Zaied explains: “A curtain can be pulled across to divide the space, or it can be left more open. There’s a bedroom which contains a queen-size double bed, and a living area that has a couch, flat-screen television, and other facilities to make a stay more comfortable and independent – a microwave, minibar and fridge, and a kettle. Depending on the room, there will be one or two single beds too, and always a separate bath tub and shower for convenience – we figure our guests will probably have more than one

Discover Benelux | Hotel of the Month | Luxembourg

bathroom option at home, so they’d like that here.”

Just like a family It is not just through the fixtures and design that the hotel tries to make guests feel more at home: “We also want to make a stay more welcoming, like coming back to a place where you belong, so we run a small dedicated team of about 20 people here and especially in the reception and bar, we make it our job to get to know guests staying with us for some time, and to remember guests who’ve stayed with us before,” she adds.

the Boutique itself, to eat there, or they can do that in their own suite, so they can work or watch TV and kick back while they dine. There’s a good selection of desserts and cheeses too, so they can choose just to have a snack or to put together a three or four-course meal with say, salad or charcuterie, a main dish, cheese and pudding, and drinks.” In the Boutique Gourmande the emphasis is on seasonal and local foods like cheeses, charcuterie, regional beers and wines and, especially at breakfast, there is a great choice of pastries and breads.

Grab and go or stay and snack

That’s smart

There is a Sofitel opposite and a standard Novotel just 90 metres away where Zaied’s guests can dine if they wish but, again aiming to make for a more relaxed and private stay, the suites set-up has substituted a ‘Boutique Gourmande’ for the normal restaurant.

In the internet age, the hotel now offers easy online check in, something that time-constrained business travellers will welcome. This is complemented by a fast check-out, where you just drop your key and go – the invoice is emailed later.

Zaied explains: “The Boutique Gourmande has lots of cold platters available, and plenty of options where guests can select a dish to heat in the microwave in

Another nice innovative touch for guests staying four nights or more is the hotel’s SmartCar: “As part of the service, and to bring an extra layer of convenience – say if a guest wants to do a bit of shopping

– we have a SmartCar available. You just come to reception and see if it is available, then return it when your errand is done.” This idea can take some of the tension out of business travel, and so does the fitness centre, which is available round the clock. In the room too, thought has gone into ways to make the business and family traveller more relaxed: “We have free Wi-Fi, and on-demand TV including a children’s channel – that can be a real life saver for parents,” says Zaied. Overall, Novotel Suites Luxembourg has not just created another hotel, but a place where one feels at home in another country, with all the conveniences that no longer need to be sacrificed for the sake of travel.

NOVOTEL SUITES LUXEMBOURG: – 110 rooms – 20 staff – Situated in Luxembourg City’s Quartier Européen. Issue 25 | January 2016 | 77

Discover Benelux | Event of the Month | The Netherlands


Rotterdam celebrates the city! This year, the city of Rotterdam presents its current, excellent state of being. As 2015 was a year of remembrance, now is the time to celebrate. TEXT: CATHY VAN KLAVEREN | PHOTOS: ROTTERDAM FESTIVALS

With buildings such as De Markthal, De Rotterdam, the Central Station, the iconic Bijenkorf building and many more, Rotterdam has built a completely new city from the ground up. In 2015, it was 75 years since the German bombs fell on Rotterdam and wiped almost everything clean. The city became unrecognisable. As the war had only just started, there was no telling when the city could be reconstructed. However, there was great resilience among the Rotterdammers, as only four days after the bombing, architect Willem Gerrit Witteveen received the assignment to draw a new city master plan, says Gabriël Oostvogel, manager of de Doelen. This day, 18 May, is known as the Wederopbouwdag. “Every year on this day, the people of the city would celebrate the 78 | Issue 25 | January 2016

fact that the reconstruction had renovated everything a bit more. Every year, it began to look more and more like a real city again,” Oostvogel says. Now Rotterdam is glowing with modern architecture, but the city will never forget her history. Rotterdam Festivals has been working hard to make 2016 a year full of events: Rotterdam celebrates the city! In March, the festivities will begin, with a three-kilometre stretch of dominoes ending at the Schouwburgplein, where De Nieuwe Rotterdammer will be revealed. Johan Moerman, of Rotterdam Festivals, says: “The Rotterdam citizen is young and open for innovation, and is always eager to learn.” However, it is the people more than the buildings who are important to show to the world. For example, during the festivities

75 people who are all connected to the Maasstad (another name for Rotterdam), were chosen to remember 75 years of reconstruction. For Head Lights, buildings will be adorned with faces with their accompanying stories. The Erasmus bridge will be decorated, talent shows will be held at the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, the 50th anniversary of de Doelen will be marked (on that special day in May) and the renowned Rotterdam International Film Festival will be themed: This is where reconstruction starts. This year’s festivities will not be forgotten quickly. Everyone, inside and outside of Rotterdam, can enjoy the programme that will last till the end of July next year.

National Tulip Day

Amsterdam Fashion Week

Photo: NBTC

Photo: Team Peter Stigter

Out & About While the holiday season is in the past, it is freezing outside and we are all already failing our New Year’s resolutions, there is absolutely no reason to feel sad about it being January. From Fashion Week to the International Film Festival in the Netherlands, to a week dedicated to chocolate in Belgium, there are plenty of reasons to start the year cheerfully. TEXT: ELLA PUT

Amsterdam Fashion Week Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 8 – 18 January Amsterdam might not be Paris, Milan or London but that does not mean there is no fashion in the capital of canals. On the contrary, in January and July the best Dutch designers, models and fashion entrepreneurs prepare for one of the

biggest fashion events: Amsterdam Fashion Week. This week in January will be all about showing the latest fashion for the upcoming spring and summer as well as promoting young talent and while events are hosted all over town.

Gustafson and the Amsterdam Fashion Week

Amsterdam Fashion Week Photo: Team Peter Stigter

Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 8 – 18 January Amsterdam Fashion Week will also reside at cross-platform pop-up Gustafson. Find Gustafson at the Westergasfabriek for food, drinks and an overnight stay, this week specially combined with design and fashion. The event will include a fashion shop and a ‘styling corner’.

Eurosonic Noorderslag Groningen, the Netherlands, 13 – 16 January Every January the northern city of Groningen is turned into one big, global music festival. With over 300 performances, the festival showcases upcoming and renowned bands during this four-day festival. Yearly 30,000 visitors from more than 40 countries come to enjoy the music, the atmosphere and discover new musical talent.

National Tulip Day Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 16 January Witness the start of the official tulip season and collect your free flower for National Tulip Day. The event is organised by Issue 25 | January 2016 | 79

Discover Benelux | Culture | Calendar

Ice Sculpture Festival Photo: Ijsbeelden Festival

Ice Sculpture Festival

Ice Sculpture Festival

Photo: Ijsbeelden Festival

Photo: Ijsbeelden Festival

Dutch tulip growers who will build a tulip garden on the Dam Square in Amsterdam specially for this event, turning the square into a rainbow of flowers. Next to that, there will be all kinds of promotions and activities during the day so do not miss this colourful feast.

the Djangofollies festival is held in Belgium each year. During this 22nd edition, over 30 bands will be playing at 26 locations over the country as an ode the work of Reinhardt, who was famous for his jazz and gypsy music and is seen by many as one of the greatest jazz guitarists ever known.

Djangofollies Festival Several locations, Belgium, 21 – 30 January To honour the birth of Belgian-born guitarist and composer Django Reinhardt,

Eurosonic Noorderslag Photo: Sander Baks

80 | Issue 25 | January 2016

Ice Sculpture Festival Zwolle, the Netherlands, until 24 January During the first month of the year, Zwolle’s city centre will turn into a frozen winter wonderland, showcasing dozens of ice sculptures made by artists from all over the world. Throughout the years the festival has grown to being the biggest of its kind with more than 250,000 kilos of ice and snow used to make the most spectacular sculptures for this wintery festival.

Rotterdam Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 27 January – 7 February Hundreds of filmmakers and other artists will present their work during the 45th edition of the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The festival, famous for its unique character promoting new, innovate and independent movies, is a mixture of cinema, film-related visual art and live performances. So grab a bag of popcorn and visit the biggest international film festival in Holland.

Antwerp pastry week Antwerp, Belgium, 29 January – 7 February This week might be one of the most fun weeks of the whole year. Belgium, famous for its delicious chocolate and pastries, is promoting their national delicacies by organising tours with experienced guides through the town of Antwerp, focusing on the history and of course the taste of a

Discover Benelux | Culture | Calendar

good pastry with coffee and tea. Does this make your mouth water? Then get your ticket fast.

From Floris to Rubens Brussels, Belgium, 20 January – 15 May This exhibition, featuring 90 drawings from artists from the Low Countries created between the 16th and the beginning of the 19th century, will be hosted in the recently renovated Belgian Museum of Fine Arts. Showcasing the work of famous painters such as Peter Paul Rubens and De Vos, this exhibition gives an exclusive look in one of the most fascinating and prolific periods in the history of draughtsmanship.

ence, Lorber travels the world with his band. Nominated for a Grammy Award, the band has distinguished themselves by playing catchy melodies and holding amazing live performances that are an experience to witness. They return to the North Sea Jazz Club at the end of January to present their new album Step It Up.

KAASH Utrecht, the Netherlands, 25 January With his show Kaash, Akram Kahn, the British-Bengali dancer, choreographer and innovator of the North Indian Kathak dance, is combining fast footwork with elastic torso movements in a unique and modern way. It will be held at the recently renovated Stadsschouwburg in Utrecht.

King Albert and The Great War Photo: Stille Getuigen Stichting

Bach Academy Bruges, Belgium, 20 January – 24 January Titled as one of Europe’s finest classical music festivals, this annual event pays a tribute to the late composer Johann Sebastian Bach. During the sixth edition of this festival you can witness dozens of performances at Bruges city’s music hall.

King Albert and The Great War Castle Rumbeke, Belgium, until 31 December 2019 One of the oldest Renaissance castles in Belgium serves as the backdrop for the exhibition King Albert and The Great War. The audio-visual exhibition features rare pictures, videos and audio material highlighting the story of Belgium during World War I but also taking you on a journey through the extraordinary life of its king at the time, the famous Albert I.

North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 29 January Keyboardist Jeff Lorber started playing the piano when he was only four years old. Now, with over 30 years of experi-

Marina Chavez & Jeff Lorber Photo: North Sea Jazz Club

Issue 25 | January 2016 | 81

Discover Benelux | Lifestyle | Columns


Make yourself beautiful


Happy New Year to you all. 2016, eh? Sounds futuristic doesn’t it? We’re further in the future than Marty McFly’s DeLorean now. Bearing this in mind, it is fitting that the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam shows Isa Genzken’s Mach Dich Hübsch! – a retrospective of an artist whose work is always ahead of the curve and fervently engaged with the present moment.

What is astonishing is her refusal to ever bow to any trend and her experimental, unconventional, risk-taking approach to sculpture. You will find the most bizarre of items hidden within her work. Despite the immediate impenetrable and outlandish nature of her work, you begin to notice that each piece offers a unique social critique of the world.

With recently appointed Beatrix Ruf now at the helm of the Stedelijk, this project brings together two of the most forward-thinking and boundary-pushing figures in art. Ruf’s unerring eye for the next big thing makes the Genzken exhibition a huge statement for the Stedelijk and shows the direction in which Ruf wants it to take. Indeed, her first purchase (two days into her reign) was Genzken’s Zwei

Witty, mad, glib, disconcerting and profound all at the same time; Mach Dich Hübsch! is a fantastical showcase of one of the vanguards of contemporary art. Lampen. This unassuming painting is in stark contrast to the rest of the mammoth exhibition, where Genzken’s penchant for all things neon, mannequins, and consumer detritus are all present.

Isa Genzken: Mach Dich Hübsch! Until 6 March, at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.


Brouwerij ‘t IJ – IPA This hoppy, dark-blonde beer has a deliciously balanced, fruity finish and is a product of Amsterdam’s Brouwerij ‘t IJ. The brewery was founded in 1985 by Kaspar Peterson, and under head brewer Roel Wagemans, Brouwerij ‘t IJ has built on its reputation for producing character-rich, unfiltered beers. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a style of beer that became popular in the British Empire. Extra hops and a high percentage of alcohol helped ensure beer survived long journeys aboard sailing ships to tropical colonies. IPAs fell out of favour, but in recent years they have undergone a revival thanks to the craft beer revolution and the trend of pairing food to ales with distinctive flavours. Arguably, the best place to try this brew is in the brewery’s proeflokaal, an 82 | Issue 25 | January 2016

attractive tap house pub next to the Netherlands’ highest wooden windmill. The pub, 1.5 kilometres east of Amsterdam Central Station, is at the site of the original premises of Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a building that was once a municipal bathhouse. The ale is served in bottles with an eye-catching, cleverly thought through label design. Some people might think the black and white labels are as fruity – or possibly as gorgeous – as the beer’s distinctive aftertaste. It depicts a curvaceous, long-haired woman whose tattoos provide the details about the ale. Rest assured, this beer stands up to scrutiny on its own accord. It’s an outstanding IPA and needs no gimmicky packaging to draw in admirers. The label and the fact that a Dutch company is brewing an IPA reflects the zeitgeist of our hipster-influenced age, of which tattoos and craft beers are very much a part.


Brewer: Brouwerij ’t IJ Strength: 7 per cent

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