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I S S U E 4 | A P R I L 2014

FRÄNK SCHLECK T U R N I N G

T H E

P ROMOTI NG B ELGI U M,

P A G E

THE

ABC OF THE BENELUX A R T, B U S I N E S S A N D C YC L I N G

PLUS: DESIGN, CULTURE AND TOURISM

NETHERLANDS

AND

LUXEMBOURG


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Discover Benelux | Contents

Contents APRIL 2014

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41

COVER FEATURE 6

Fränk Schleck

FEATURES 26

The 33-year-old Luxembourg-born cyclist may have been plagued by the doping scandal that surrounded him over the past two years but now he’s back after the hiatus with the accusations behind him and he’s looking forward to the future and some new additions to his family. Fit and clipped back on the pedals, Fränk’s determined to prove that his strengths still lie with the bike. Together with brother Andy, they’re targeting this year’s Tour de France and are ready to battle on the climbs once again.

This section includes basically everything that should be seen and done throughout April and the rest of the year. Our highlights? Visit the stunning Jardins d’Annevoie and have a chuckle as you read a Canadian’s observations in Stuff Dutch People Like.

Cycling

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Hotels of the Month With Luxembourg and Brussels as the ultimate city break destinations of choice for many, the Steigenberger Grandhotel Brussels and the Sofitel Europe Luxembourg know good service and how to provide it. Expect luxury suites, top quality restaurants and prime locations.

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Restaurant of the Month One of Luxembourg’s top restaurants, the Château de Bourglinster has creative, Michelinstarred cooking that attracts Heads of State, Monarchs and pretty much everyone else.

Attractions of the Month Our attractions this month are some of Benelux’s most visited attractions – and understandably so. NEMO, the Netherlands’ science museum has heaps of knowledge, excitement and energy for everyone to enjoy, while a visit to the incredible spheres of the Atomium in Brussels takes you back to World Expo 1958, and in Luxembourg, all eyes are on Vianden and its castle.

Special Feature: King’s Day

Summer holiday plans still not fixed? Or an urgent parcel to be delivered in Luxembourg City? All these things are best done on two wheels, take it from us. Discovering Belgium on a bike is becoming even easier now that Famenne à Vélo’s 350km network of signposted routes are fully functional, providing a healthy, enjoyable way to see the best that Wallonia has to offer.

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With the King Willem-Alexander’s official birthday falling on a Sunday this year, the official King’s Day celebrations have been shifted to Saturday 26 April. Will you be in the Netherlands on that day? Read our definitive guide by Berthe van den Hurk.

SPECIAL THEME 14

See and Do

BUSINESS 42

Features, Columns and Calendar Business abounds in April with our special focus on the International Festival of Business. Regular columnists Josiah Fisk and Steve Flinders offer their take on business communication and how to improve it.

PLUS 11 Desirable designs from Benelux | 12 Fashion Picks 49 Luxessed | 50 Learn Luxembourgish | 51 Out & About | 53 States of Art | 54 In their words

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Discover Benelux | Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Discover Benelux

Sales & Key Account Managers

Issue 4, April 2014

Mette Tonnesen

Published March 2014 ISSN 2054-7218 Published by Scan Group Design & Print Liquid Graphic Ltd.

Alice Tanghe Pooja Gurnani Corinne Camara Publisher: Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3TY United Kingdom

Executive Editor Thomas Winther Creative Director Mads E. Petersen

Phone +44 (0)870 933 0423 Fax +44 (0)870 933 0421 Email: info@discoverbenelux.com www.discoverbenelux.com

Editor Emmie Collinge Contributors Berthe van den Hurk Anna Parkin Harun Osmanovic Phil Gale Lisa Gerard-Sharp Steve Flinders

As cycle mania takes over Belgium with their Spring Classics and the UK gears up for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire this summer, we knew that this month had to have a pretty special focus. We’ve got an exclusive interview with Fränk Schleck, one of Luxembourg’s and the world’s - best cyclists, who together with his brother has ridden many a Grand Tour. Now riding for Trek Factory Racing, both brothers have their sights set on the coveted Yellow Jersey in Paris. As if that’s not enough, we introduce you to an impassioned faux-Belgian, the Swede Emma Johansson whose love affair with Flanders is inextricably tied to her talent on two wheels. Feeling inspired to get out on your bike? Read about two passionate Dutch companies who aren’t content just riding for their own pleasure – instead they offer some of the world’s finest guided and self-guided holidays both in and outside of the Netherlands. Having lived in Belgium myself, I am only too familiar with the sight of hundreds of cyclists taking over the roads on the weekends. I lived in Ghent so regularly sped down the Schelde to Oudenaarde on my Sunday mornings – what a route, the ease with which you can speed along the river traffic-free is something pretty rare now that I’m back in the UK. I recently took my bike on the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam too, and from there I cycled up the coast to Leiden, then across to Utrecht and finally back to Rotterdam where I boarded the ferry with rather tired legs.

Anouk Kalmes Josiah Fisk Matt Antoniak Emma Thomson Cover Photo

As far as events and attractions are concerned, April is shaping up to be an exciting month. Koningsdag [King’s Day] on 26 April is going to be a pretty special affair – you can expect a great deal of oranjegekte in the country’s capital as people take to the streets clad in the national colour.

Michiel Hendryckx Advertising info@discoverbenelux.com

Belgium’s wonderful coastal resort of Knokke-Heist once again becomes a hive of activity as its annual photo festival opens at the end of March, and the Sofitel Luxembourg Europe, our Hotel of the Month, is an elegant hotel that constantly impresses. If you’ve got a trip to Luxembourg on the cards then a visit to Vianden and its pretty cool rock ‘n’ roll castle would not go amiss! Have a wonderful Easter,

© 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 4 | April 2014

Emmie Collinge Editor, Discover Benelux


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Discover real Private Banking At SEB Private Banking, we acknowledge that everyone has a unique set of challenges. It’s why we do not offer ready-made solutions, concentrating instead on developing meaningful, long-lasting financial relationships and making the effort to really understand you and your requirements. We look after all aspects of your personal and your family’s business finances – from daily transactions to long-term investments. And we offer everything from in-depth financial management to specialist advice on legal and tax matters. As one of the world’s strongest banks and with more than 150 years of experience in private banking, we have just what it takes to ensure your future prosperity. To find out what SEB can do for your personal wealth, contact us in London: Christian A. Hvamstad +44 (0) 20 7246 4307 privatebanking@seb.co.uk

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Fr채nk Schleck

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Fränk Schleck

F R Ä N K

S C H L E C K

Turning the page Fränk Schleck talks Luxembourg, kids and looking to the future on two wheels. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

“It would have been almost selfish to have quit after one bad year,” says Fränk with a bashful smile on his face. There can be little denying that the past couple of years did not run smoothly for the Luxembourgborn cycling brothers Fränk and Andy, but things look set to change for the Schlecks with their new team - Trek Factory Racing. Fast-forward to 2014, with Fränk’s oneyear doping ban now behind him and Andy fully recovered from breaking his collarbone, Fränk is resolute in his positivity. “I want to look forward. I’m turning the page on everything that happened. If anything, it has made me more motivated; I’m hungry for success. I’m also angry and that drives me.” The brothers’ main goal for 2014 is to ride along the Champs-Élysées in the elusive Yellow Jersey at the culmination of three weeks hard racing in the momentous Tour

de France. With Andy winning it retrospectively in 2010 after Alberto Contador’s doping offences, and both brothers taking second and third places in 2011, this year sees them more determined than ever to get on the top step of the podium. Discover Benelux is keen to know how the brothers got into cycling, how they experienced growing up in the Grand Duchy and what their imminent new roles as the heads of their own families is going to bring. It’s now the middle of winter, with the days at their darkest, and Discover Benelux has visited the brothers at their team training camp in the south of Spain. Fränk’s face lights up as he explains how their immediate family is about to multiply in size – much to his parent’s delight. While he is impatiently awaiting the arrival of his 2nd daughter in April with wife Martine, Andy, the youngest of the three Schleck

brothers, is due to have a son in March – coincidentally, on the exact same due date as eldest brother Steve, a politician in the Duchy. “Our parents are a whole bundle of emotions as you can imagine, they’re so happy and excited but also nervous!” Fränk explains with a refreshing happiness that they all live within 100m of each other, so while they have their independence, they also have babysitters on hand. With the sound of babies soon to fill their homes, Discover Benelux wonders how the brothers will cope with the enforced distance from their newborns when racing. Fränk’s voice does not waver as he elucidates their decisions to have children now: “Fortunately for us in this generation, we can pretty much choose when we want to have children. We can decide when we have time, and that is how it is with us both.” Accepting that they are likely to miss those precious first utterances and those

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Fränk Schleck

Fränk Schleck (right). Photo: Phil Gale. OPPOSITE PAGE: Andy Schleck

precarious first wobbly steps is naturally something that the brothers are having to come to terms with but their outlook remains positive thanks to today’s technology. “We are never going to be that far away and flights are so easy now. And of course, there is great communication thanks to Skype and all those other programmes.” This upbeat attitude is shared by both as they outline their racing schedule for 2014, both know exactly when their time off is – handily arranged around the due dates of their new offspring.

The season begins in earnest Last autumn, the brothers signed with Trek Factory Racing, a new pro-cycling tour team that evolved from 2011’s Leopard Trek. The team, the brothers’ new home, now 33 and 28 years old respectively, counts 4 Luxembourgers and a remarkable 11 young riders on its roster. The Schlecks are full of enthusiasm as they describe the young team, excitedly declaring that they can’t wait to unleash the emotion and the

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feelings. As is common for the Pro Tour teams, the cyclists spend the winter at various training camps before racing begins in earnest in March.

completely different ball game. We want to get back to our best. I want to prove it to myself and everyone else,” says Fränk fervently.

Fränk’s first foray back into professional racing was the Tour down Under (21-26 January) and saw him take on the famous corkscrew mountain without Andy. Preparation and training then continues in full force up to the beautiful Ardennes Classics, with the Tour de France as the year’s goal. The brothers explain that they are choosing tried-and-tested races for their preparation, preferring to stick with what they know as it has worked in the past. Having the opportunity to race again alongside his brother Andy who flagged a little during the 2013 season, perhaps due to the lack of Fränk’s support on the climbs, is certainly something that pleases both brothers. “We encourage each other, give support and help build each other up. Of course we have trained almost constantly together in the past months but racing is a

A healthy dose of competition Competing has always featured heavily in the boys’ lives so it was perhaps only natural that the brothers, gifted with genes ideal for cycling and born into a country rich with cycling tradition, would later ride the Tour de France. “There is such a great history of cycling within Luxembourg. Growing up we had such role models as Charly Gaul and Eddy Schutz,” raves Fränk passionately. “These are guys who came from the same place as us and who did amazing things on a bike.” But how was it growing up in the knowledge that your own father was so successful? As both father Johny and grandfather Gustave were international professional cyclists, with Johny riding a total of seven Tours and winning the national jersey, Discover Benelux wonders if the brothers felt pres-


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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Fr채nk Schleck

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Fränk Schleck

Frank and Andy Schleck in the new 2014 Trek Factory Racing jerseys.

sure to emulate their success? “As children we were encouraged to do any sport we wanted, so we played table tennis, football, hockey, tennis and all sorts. We started racing our bikes when we were 11 or 12 in the cadet category and then we gradually realised we should focus on this one sport.” By his early teens, Fränk had already caught the attention of cycling aficionados and in 2000 he was picked to ride for an Italian pro-team while little brother Andy remained in Luxembourg. In 2006, the crowds were stunned by Frank’s win at the Amstel Gold Race and his acceptance speech caused a stir: “But you haven't seen my little brother, Andy, he's more talented than me.” Andy’s breakthrough was just around the corner and arrived in the form of the 2008 Giro d’Italia where he won the young rider classification. Media attention of the brothers has always focused on their close relationship and sought to find cracks in what looks like a

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wonderfully tight bond between them. Watching them seek each other out in the peloton, a slight glance at the other, and then a burst of their climbing abilities as they show their excellence. Yet how did climbing become their strongest weapon when they come from a country little higher than the rest of Benelux? Luxembourg has “a very undulating and hilly relief”, but the highest point is a mere 559m above sea level at Buurgplatz and the lowest in Wasserbillig at 132m. So where are the mountains? “For mountains we did have to travel but we definitely have a lot of hills where we live. We were forever going up and down.” “Growing up in Luxembourg,” says Fränk Schleck without a moment’s hesitation, “was a wonderful experience. Not only is it a beautiful country with very little traffic, but the state also really look after the roads so it’s great if you want to go out on your bike.” Very much family men, the brothers

do not plan on leaving Luxembourg anytime soon. With their free time spent in the warmth of the family in the spa town of Mondorf-les-Bains, fishing or walking, they are able to escape the pressure of the races that dominate their calendar for nine months of every year. And having been brought up under the threat of no food from their father dare they race against each other, their positions in Trek Factory Racing are strong, and together they should reach the form that they have shown in previous years.

Discover Benelux’s top tips for races to watch: APRIL: 23.: Flèche Wallonne 27.: Liège-Bastogne-Liège JUNE: 4.-8.: Skoda Tour de Luxembourg JULY: 5.-27.: Tour de France


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Discover Benelux | Design | Desirable Designs

Desirable Designs from Benelux April has arrived and with it comes blossom and birdsong, family gatherings and bank holidays. Trends this month are going back to basics: bird nests, recycled corks and our favourite chopping board for all those spring salads.

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BY EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

3: Nero This industrial-chic coffee table has made us weak at the knees with its strong frame and stylish upper surface. Designed by two young Belgian designers under the studio name DIALECT, Nero has the style and the edge to be our go-to coffee table. (Q350.00)

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www.atelierdialect.be

5: Taboam 1: Birdhouse Rooftile Aesthetics and ethics blend wonderfully in these responsible birdhouse roof tiles designed by Dutch designer Klaas Kuiken. Aware of the ever-diminishing number of urban dwelling birds, Kuiken’s rooftiles, which provide shelter, protection and warmth, are best placed on north-facing roofs away from direct sunlight. www.klaaskuiken.nl

2: CatCube Young Belgian designer Delphine Courier has struck design gold in our eyes by combining cats and a super cool design. We can’t really say anything else about this adorable, functional and fun cat cube although it is technically an icosahedron rather than a cube! (€39.50)

4: Cork Portrait We can definitely see this is on our lounge wall, or even the office wall for that matter. A portrait of Al Pacino, made solely with wine corks which the designer collected from bars and cafes all over Amsterdam. The amount of love and patience put in by 27-year-old Lukas Sebastiaan is admirable, having collected no fewer than 10,000 used corks from his beloved city. In short, a really cool art piece that will no doubt spark some conversation. Bottle of wine with that? www.kurk-design.nl

www.catcube.be

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Taboam has evolved by from mellem’s original solid wood Taboa. Whether chopping or serving, right or left handed, this is an “object for presenting and tasting.” Salt, olive oil and hunks of bread fit casually into the indents, as do wasabi, ginger and soy sauce, it’s all a matter of taste. We’re completely taken by its sleek design, double sided use (the other side functions as a regular chopping board), and its solid natural rock has a wonderful feel. (€80.00) www.mellem.me

6: Swing stool Discovering the Belgian Dimitri Cassiers’ swing stool was a momentous day for us. The chair’s appeal stems from its trendy, simplistic style, yet Cassiers has not neglected comfort. After sinking into it, we are certain that it is ideal for our editorial meetings, how many do we need in the office? (€295.00) www.dimitricassiers.be

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Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks

A P R I L

F A S H I O N

P I C K S :

Orange is the new black Spring fashion in the Benelux can only mean one thing: orange! When the people of The Netherlands go haywire on the 26th of April for their very first King's Day – after decades of celebrating Queen Beatrix – orange will be the only colour you'll see for miles. So bust out your perkiest shades of tangerine and get down for the Lowlands!

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AS PICKED BY IMMI ABRAHAM. FASHION GURU AND BLOGGER. STYLE4GUYS.BLOGSPOT.CO.UK | PRESS PHOTOS

WOMEN 1: Michael Van Der Ham Photo: Kim Weston Arnold for style.com Ever since graduating from the prestigious Central Saint Martins fashion academy in 2009, Dutch designer Michael Van Der Ham's star has been steadily on the rise. From his latest collection comes this stunning orange lace number. Patriotism has never looked more chic. 2: Cedric Charlier dress €505. Photo: Net-à-porter

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Erring on the salmon side of the spectrum, this bright orange piqué dress by Belgian talent Cédric Charlier will be the talk of the town on King's Day! Modern, sleek and vibrant like a traffic cone: this one's a car stopper! 3: Delvaux Le Madame Orange pochette €1650. Photo: Delvaux A luxury leatherware house older than Hermès and a favourite amongst queens and movie stars alike? It can only be royal warrant holder/enemy of savings accounts Delvaux! This fabulous orange clutch with a manta ray leather accent is the ultimate King's Day accessory. So covetable, Máxima might even try to snatch this one off of you. 4: Essentiel Antwerp Jumpsuit €145. Photo: Essentiel This tie-dyed Essentiel jumpsuit is brilliant for partying in! It’s comfortable so you can dance to the “Wilhelmus” national anthem with absolute ease; plus it's not too fitted so it'll hide your ‘food baby’ from inhaling vast amounts of kroketten* ! Everybody wins. 5: Atelier 11 necklace Price upon request. Photo: Atelier 11

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What could be more fitting for King's Day than a miniature orange wind mill necklace? Antwerp collective Atelier 11 really hit the nail on the head with this one!

*A fast-food snack - containing mashed potatoes and ground meat - of which the Dutch consume around 300 million a year.


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Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks

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MEN 1: Kris Van Assche Photo: Marcus Tondo for style.com This spring/summer 2014 look from Kris Van Assche is the epitome of King's Day high fashion. The polo shirt and matching shorts, in their fluorescent hue, are all you need to draw attention from both revelers and street style photographers alike. 2: Raf Simons sneakers €330. Photo: Mr Porter Orange, white and blue were the colours of the historical Prince's Flag, which waved fiercely when the Dutch Republican rebels fought during the Eighty Years War. The colours were based on Prince Willem of Orange's coat of arms. So now you'll not only look cute in Raf trainers, but maybe you'll be able to snag a history point at your next pub quiz! 3: Bernhard Willhelm scarf €53. Photo: oki-ni

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Antwerp-based designer Bernhard Willhelm is known for his amazingly colourful and vibrant work that fashion insiders flock to. This cotton scarf is perfect for celebrating King's Day in style (or for covering up any neck-adorning marks you've acquired during the festivities). 4: Scotch & Soda trousers €109.95. Photo: Scotch & Soda That these subtly printed orange trousers hail from Amsterdam should come as no surprise! What better way to celebrate your country than in these attentiongrabbing, quintessentially Dutch chinos?

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5: Café Costume bow tie €65. Photo: Café Costume What's a king without his bow tie? King Willem Alexander himself might opt for this lovely tie from Belgian brand Café Costume, perhaps as a token of forgiveness since the Belgians gave his forefather Willem I quite the headache.

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE... ... and little Luxembourg will become much bigger: discover its most beautiful corners by bicycle on the 600-plus kilometres of designated cycling paths. A bicycle path network provides not only stress-free holidays and leisure time but also much more. TEXT & PHOTO: LËTZEBUERGER VËLOS-INITIATIV

The bicycle is an environmentally-friendly and healthy mode of transportation. We, the “Lëtzebuerger Vëlos-Initiativ” (LVI), want to encourage you to switch from the steering wheel to handlebars on your way to work, school or grocery shopping. The LVI is dedicated to the promotion of cycling through intelligent bicycle traffic concepts, improving possible links between cycling and public transport, and also through the continued extension of the touristic bicycle path network. So that everybody can ride a bicycle safely in pleasant conditions. Therefore we are focused on getting more and more people on their bikes for leisure and tourist purposes, and in this way get them back to regular cycling.

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The landscape in Luxembourg varies drastically from north to south, and east to west. The bicycle is the best choice to explore this diverse terrain. The country’s miscellaneous topography offers almost anything a cyclist may desire: appealing river valleys along the Moselle and Sûre, bicycle paths on disused railway tracks, the hilly North with its scenic landscapes, and the South, the land of the red rocks. Our recommendation? A 100 km trip in two days will give you a remarkable impression of Luxembourg. Starting in the millennial capital of Luxembourg, follow the PC13 [piste cyclable/cycle path] to Hagen where PC12 will lead you through charming landscapes. From here, join PC15 to Colmar-Berg. Weaving alongside the river Alzette on PC15, you will reach Ettelbruck. Next, follow the river Sûre on a former rail-

road track to the estuary of Sûre and Moselle on the German border. From Wasserbillig, a train will take you back to Luxembourg City with your bicycle. Another wonderful tip: bicycles can travel for free on our national trains. Most of the national cycle paths are on tarmacked paths free from motorized traffic. For accommodation, Luxembourg offers 78 bed and bike establishments of all kinds, from luxury hotels to private rooms, from campsites to youth hostels. You will find detailed information on www.bedandbike.lu. To organize your trip, the map “Luxembourg by cycle” (in English, French and German, scale 1:100.000) is available in bookstores and at the LVI for the price of €7 (incl. shipping). For more information see www.lvi.lu Bike shop offering guided tours and information: www.velosophie.lu


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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

Cycling through Flanders’Fields The formidable bulk ofYpres’Menin Gate arches above us. Carved into its milky French limestone walls are the names of over 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers who fought and died in the Salient and have no known grave. TEXT & MAIN PHOTO: EMMA THOMSON

Printed in a history book, numbers like these are difficult to comprehend. But as my eyes follow the rows and rows of names upwards, the sacrifice made by each family builds until I feel I overwhelmed under the weight of so much stone and loss. Tours of the Ypres Salient – a Belgian region that witnessed ferocious Front Line fighting between German and Allied Forces during World War I – always tug at the heart, but most car or minibus tours lessen this connection because they race from one site to another. I had joined a new cycling tour in a bid to experience the Salient at soldier level and pace. My guide, Carl Ooghe – a trim, spectacled Belgian, who has been devouring history books since he was 14 years old – steers

me away from the great gate and heads north along a cycle path running alongside the muddied Ijzer canal. “Geography was key!” he exclaims. “The slightest rise in the land was crucial. When they dredged the waterway at the turn of the century, they piled all the sludge onto the left bank we’re riding along now, making it higher, and thus more advantageous for the Germans when they came along years later to fight against the Allies, who were stationed

across the water near those factory buildings,” he says, pointing across the bank. I cast my eyes over the grassy knoll and see his point: the ground is barely a metre higher, but it was enough to allow the Germans to see directly into enemy lines. With the wind on our backs, we quickly cover the two kilometres to Essex Farm Cemetery – the site of an Advanced Dressing Station, where the wounded were

Photo: Milo Profi

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

Rows upon rows of the fallen from WWI. Photo: Carl Ooghe

triaged, just behind the Front Line. It was here that Canadian surgeon Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae penned the haunting In Flanders’ Fields poem after witnessing the horrific death of his best friend Alexis Helmer, who was so severely shelled his remains were buried in a sandbag. We have the cemetery to ourselves, and when we step inside the bunker where McCrae fought to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, the fear and desperation are palpable amid the silence. As we turn to leave, I see a small Canadian flag, a flash of proud red, in the shadows at the back – a token of respect from a visiting countryman. We step outside, return to our bikes, and with the cold wind on our backs once

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more, pedal north towards the German cemetery of Langemark. We follow an old railway track covered thinly with bitumen. The fields roundabout are filled with maize stubble and drooping stalks of Brussels sprouts. The nose-wrinkling stench of manure signals a farm up ahead and we soon pass a milk factory. “Ever wondered why Belgium has so many cows?” laughs Carl. “After the end of the war, Germany had to repay some of their reparation costs in livestock. Luckily, there was lots of leftover barbed wire for the fencing!” Arriving at Langemark, we gently lean our bikes against the outer wall and step through the entrance arch. “Notice how it’s got a completely different feel to it?” Carl remarks. “Over 44,000 German soldiers

are buried here, but not one of them has an individual grave. Originally, there were 68 German burial sites, but they were consolidated into four in 1950s.” “Why are all the headstones flat?” I ask. “Ah, good question: when the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the end of the war the British told the Germans they couldn’t have upright tombstones like other Commonwealth fighters – a form of punishment.” Suddenly, the whoops and yells of a school group break the quiet, so we decide to press on, veering southeast towards Tyne Cot – the world’s largest Commonwealth war grave cemetery. After three or four kilometres it appears on our left. From afar the 12,000-plus head-


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TOP RIGHT: Menin Gate, Ypres. BELOW: The bicycle tour takes place in Ypres and its Menin Gate. MIDDLE RIGHT: View from the Ijzertoren. BOTTOM RIGHT: Ypres’ main square. BOTTOM LEFT: Diksmuide (Vladslo) - German War Cemetery: Grieving Parents (Käthe Kollwitz)

Photo: Emma Thomson

stones look like rows of ivory dominoes, fragile and ready for a fall – like the soldiers’ own lives. “Tyne Cot was originally a German strongpoint,” Carl shouts back from his saddle a few metres in front. “The Allies fought hard to win it – and you’ll see why.” Just then, the land starts to rise and I have to push deeper into my pedals to propel

Photo: Milo Profi

me uphill. We loop round, park the bikes outside the main pebbledash archway, and walk towards the centre of the cemetery, where the gleaming Cross of Sacrifice stands. “Underneath this memorial, is a German bunker. Look at what they could see.” So I turn around and am stunned at the sight spread out before us: a sweeping 180-degree view of the entire valley and there, jutting above the skyline, the spires of Ypres’ churches and almighty town hall. “It’s just 4.5km, as the crow flies, and it meant the Germans could see everything the British were up to,” finishes Carl. Our last stop is Polygon Wood Cemetery and the adjoining Australian Buttes Cemetery, created after the war. “Did you know that parents often used the last line, of the last letter, their sons sent them for the epitaph on their grave?” Carl asks as we pace slowly between the headstones “No, I didn’t,” I reply. He comes to a standstill in front of one, turns to face me and asks: “What would you tell your mother if you knew you were facing certain death?” “I’d tell her I was alright.” Without a word, Carl steps to the side to reveal the stone he has been blocking. It belongs to Lieutenant Harold Rowland Hill and there, carved into the base, are the words: “I’m all right, Mother – Cheerio”. He was just 22 years old. 2014 may mark the centenary of World War I, but in that moment it feels like yesterday.

Travel essentials Half- or full-day cycling tours around Ypres can be booked through Cycling the Western Front +32 (0)4 7581 0608. Costs from €75 per person. www.cyclingthewesternfront.co.uk

Above photos: Westtoer

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

What makes a classic a classic? Within cycling there are certain events that send a shiver through your body, your eyes light up as your pulse begins to race. Of course, the arrival of spring marks the welcome start to the cycling calendar and everyone’s favourite one-day wielerklassiekers. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: PHIL GALE

Belgium’s Spring Classics certainly did not become classics overnight. Nor did the Mona Lisa, the James Bond series or Dirty Dancing. No, over the decades they have garnered such attention and enthusiasm that today thousands upon thousands take to the streets to cheer on national heroes. Their significance stems from their early positioning on the race calendar – early enough to show who has the condition and the potential to win some of the year’s Grand Tours – and often marred by volatile spring weather. As keen cyclist Dries de Zaeytijd from the Cycling Museum in Roeselaere explains: “If you win a classic, your season is already made. Classics are the essence of road racing: drama, heroics, tension, abandonments, and teamwork.”

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Within the boundaries of Belgium’s 30,000 square kilometres live more than 11 million people. Statistics show that 69% of Belgian households possess at least one bike. More specifically, bikes are overwhelmingly more popular in Flanders (86%) than Wallonia (51%), and certainly less popular in Brussels (39%) – unfortunately not really known as a bike-friendly city, hello central ring road. With a nation of cycling fanatics on our hands, we decided to take a look at where this passion stems from. As, unlike the Dutch, known for enjoying the simple pleasure of using the bicycle as a form of transport, it is the Belgians whose competitive spirit is unbridled. The disparity can perhaps be explained by Europe’s volatile history. De Zaeytijd continues: “Road rac-

ing was banned in the Netherlands for a large part of the early 20th century, so they don’t share the tradition which Belgium, France and Italy have – as they have no races from pre-WWII. “ Italy, France and Belgium can boast of their spring classics, and the most prominent Belgian events are surely the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. On the occasion of these events, and almost every weekend in fact, Belgians take to the streets en masse. Road closures, lead motorbikes tooting their horns and campervans on the roadsides are a common sight during the spring and summer. A family having a picnic wait excitedly for the pelo-


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Cobbles pose a further challenge when riding in Belgium. Top left photo: Milo Profi/Visit Flanders

ton to round the nightmarishly cobbled corner. There are no mountains to test the riders, so are the tricky cobbles part of the appeal? “Indeed, our hills aren’t that big but they come in quick succession – many with cobbles – and combined with the twisty roads and stunning open landscape, the Flemish Ardennes have their own special character. For heroic feats, it’s the perfect backdrop,” elucidates De Zaeytijd.

“The Ronde van Vlaanderen was first organised by the sports newspaper Sportwerld. They were desperate to sell more papers – so their commentaries portrayed the riders as heroes. There was no live TV commentary so long ago, so they could write what they wished. In this manner their articles fuelled the passion of the general public – cycling is popular because it is so accessible. Its main characters come from the same place as everyone else – back then it was farmers or local men who could achieve fame and fortune on two wheels.”

Last year saw the 100 year anniversary of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. This year, the event on 6 April will rank among one of the Luik-Bastenaken-Luik (or Liege-Bastognemost exciting. Totalling a gruelling distance Liege) is another overwhelmingly popular of 259km, the course begins in Bruges event which can hold its head up high with and culminates in a packed square in Oudenaarde in the Flemish Ardennes. The toughest encounter comes in the form of the 1.6km long cobbled Oude Kwaremont which tests the riders no less than three times. The day prior to the elite race sees 16,000 bicycle tourists battle with the route, the same hills and the very same cobbles. This year’s event has already attracted more international cyclists than ever before, hopPhoto: Koen De Langhe/Visit Flanders ing to emulate the sporting greats.

regards to the title of Spring Classic. First held in 1892, this event has around 4,700 metres of climbing – pretty remarkable for a low-lying country like Belgium. With a similar set-up to the public Ronde van Vlaanderen, Liege-Bastogne-Liege invites 6,000 riders to cover a range of distances including the full 276km. As a non-competitive cyclist, the chance to pit yourself against the best in the world, admittedly not on the same day, is a rare, precious one. Faced with steep, sharp climbs, constant attacks and, more often than not, less than ideal weather conditions, the satisfaction that you garner from taking part in such a huge nationally important event is nigh on unbeatable. And if that is too challenging get yourself along to one of these events to drink in the atmosphere and possibly some of those exquisite Belgian beers. www.wielermuseum.be www.flandersclassics.be

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B I K E C O U R I E R E X P R E S S D E L I V E R Y:

More than a standard delivery system TEXT: PHIL GALE | PRESS PHOTOS

When you have a last minute delivery you need taking to the other side of Luxembourg City, what to do? Simple, turn to Bikecourier of Luxembourg and set them the challenge. “For me the thrill starts when we get a call for an express delivery,” starts Jean Fischbach, founder of Bikecourier. “We then have three seconds to say yes or no, after that the race is on to make the pick-up and delivery, it is a real thrill.”

hand delivered to your house, appealing to “aged, house-bound and disabled people,” explains Fischbach. \With riders circulating the most populated areas of Luxembourg, Bikecourier also offer mobile advertising. Your advert is pulled behind a bike; your location, route, plus timings can be chosen by you, based on what will achieve the most impact. With the majority of static billboards going unno-

ticed, this is certainly an interesting way to advertise your business. More than just a service, Fischbach concludes: “Every express delivery we make gets us a new client – so far I have never said no to a delivery and when the clients see how hard we have worked to make the delivery they know we are much more than just bike couriers.” www.bikecourier.lu

These ingenious cyclists don’t just offer one service, but have diversified what they supply. Starting with the typical express, 30 to 45 minutes, they also offer a standard and one-day delivery service. Unique to Bikecourier is their pharmacy service, in which your pre-ordered prescriptions are

DUTCH BIKE TOURS:

Rolling through rolling fields TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: FRANK HOUTSTRA | ROBERTO GONELLA

After cycling a staggering 6,840 km across the USA in the Bike Centennial ’76, the founders of Dutch Bike Tours realised the potential for self-guided bike holidays. With expert planning and logistics along stunning routes, all you do is pedal. Manager Frank Houtstra is understandably proud of his home country’s devotion to cycling, its ardent maintenance of the fietspaden [bicycle paths] and its crisscrossing widespread network of fietsknooppunten [bicycle route markers]. “80-90% of our routes follow bicycle paths, making them very safe.” No exaggeration; cycling accidents are few and far between in Holland. Arriving at your designated (and desired) hotel, you’re greeted by your high quality

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rental bike, detailed route map and description (or GPS if you’re so inclined). Your role now: enjoy your independence as you ride from hotel to hotel, while your baggage is transported for you. “We offer 52 different tours and tailor-made ones too. A classic route starts in Amsterdam and heads around the former

Zuiderzee: the Ijsselmeer – encountering every possible Dutch landscape in one route,” he explains. “The tulip route is a beauty now, and Amsterdam as a starting point is popular. From there, head out to Haarlem, Delft, Gouda – the Pearls of Holland.” Houtstra’s personal favourite route is Island Hopping around the Wadden Islands – seldom visited by tourists but “a chance to see another side of the Netherlands”. Amsterdam to Bruges in eight days is the ideal opportunity for anyone pedal-inclined to see the beauty of the Netherlands: canals, coast and cities – and one of the pearls of Belgium. www.dutchbiketours.com www.zuiderzeecycling.com


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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

Never too many cobbles Sweden’s love letter to Flanders from the world’s top female cyclist Emma Johansson INTERVIEW: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

places. But I need to train consistently and it is up to me to get myself out there and push myself.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first came to Flanders. But I was pleasantly surprised. Flanders has so many amazing small places that no one has seen. Too many people see Belgium as a step in between and just stop in Brussels. I live in Zingem and my house is close to all the famous cobbled sections. When Visit Flanders first asked me to be an ambassador I thought it was a bit crazy. But now I realise that it is positive for me and for Flanders. We started filming the short film in August and it was a grey day: drizzling and cold, but the film has come out so nicely. [www.cycling-in-flanders.com] Cycling in Sweden is like cross-country skiing in Belgium. Cycling does not get much attention in the Swedish press. Sometimes I think they more interested in scandals. I love that Belgium shows so much cycling on TV.

I’m not 20 anymore. I’m married and I want to make the most of the time with my husband. I could have trained in Australia this winter with my team Orica GreenEdge but 40 degrees Celsius is not for me! Now I am back in Belgium after a short training camp in Tenerife. Today I’m off to the gym to push weights. Standing on the Olympic podium is a lot of fun. After a silver medal in Beijing, the 2012 Olympics were a lot harder. Mentally it was a tough year and it took a lot of energy to come back from. I am my own boss. Life as a pro-cyclist is definitely a lifestyle. In a certain sense I am always at work, but you could also say that I am always on holiday. With races all over the world I get to explore so many

I’m a typical Scandinavian in that I am good at building a good foundation in training. Winter training is the best as I love not being on the road bike. I spend my winters in Norway on the mountain bike and skiing whenever possible. I’m not planning on cycling once I retire. I love racing and being up at the front but there is so much more out there to do.

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

F A M E N N E

À

V É L O :

Belgium’s new cycling tours Cycling is part of Belgium, from the numerous professional races with their wailing mass of supporters, to its role as a simple form of transport in cities - two wheels are part of this country’s life. Famenne à Vélo is a way of tourists to get in on this craze and check out the best that this region has to offer. TEXT: PHIL GALE | MAIN PHOTO: PAYS DE FAMENNE

It is the age-old question: what to do for a holiday, a break from the doldrums of everyday life? Many of us are content to laze on the beach for a week, but for those who want more action, what is the answer? Famenne à Vélo have a possible solution with their 350 kilometres of cycle ways in both the Famenne and Ardennes regions. “First and foremost the bike is possibly the best way to explore an area when you are on holiday,” begins Mélanie Daune Chargée de Mission “If you do a driving tour of a region you may as well watch the places you pass on TV. On a bike all of your senses are used to take in and experience the local countryside, which – I can assure

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you – is very rich and varied in our region.” With all your senses stimulated you will also have an active holiday, allowing you to earn those treats and local delights that you nibble en route.

Famenne, a quiet region Situated just south of Namur, Famenne is a region easily reached, famous for its farming and agriculture. This abundance of countryside makes for a perfect location to discover southern Belgium on a bike, Daune continues: “What makes Famenne à Vélo different to other routes is not only the location, which takes in the best that rural Wallonia has to offer, but it also uses the practical nodal system.” The nodal system is a form of sign posting that is popu-

lar in Flanders and the Netherlands. It numbers each route, making it clear and easy for you to find your way around your chosen loop. The idea of Famenne à Vélo was conceived in 2012 when six of the communities in the region wanted a way to allow tourists to visit the best of their sites in a simple, environmentally- and family-friendly manner. After 2 years of hard work, Famenne à Vélo is now hugely popular, attracting tourists and more experienced cyclists alike, Daune expands: “We have a multitude of different routes: from 15 kilometres, which is aimed at families to a 60km loop that is very popular with more experienced tourists. Naturally being on


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The nodal points, a simple way-marking system. Photo: Anne Stelen

TOP: Durbuy old town. Photo: C. Mottet. BELOW LEFT: The Hotton caves. Photo: C. Mottet. RIGHT: The cave area of Han-sur-Lesse. Photo: Alain Petit

the edge of the Ardennes the region does have some hills, so this makes the longer loop somewhat of a challenge.”

routes. There is a virtual map that allows you to use your location to research your trip. We have maps of all of the routes also. There is also our app that you can download and use for preparation or during you visit. We really want to make sure that you have the best time possible and see all of our many sites.”

So much more than just a route More than just the simple case of developing a route, putting up signs and leaving the rest to you, Famenne à Vélo has all the support on hand to make sure you have the best trip possible. From initial planning to getting your luggage taken from location to location everything has been thought of to make sure you enjoy your time on two wheels in the rural region, Daune elaborates: “We have worked hard on our website to make sure that all the information possible is present to help those wanting to come to Famenne and ride our cycle

And there are sites aplenty to see too, with numerous beautiful small villages, typical to the region, as well as larger towns such as Rochefort, Hotton, Durbuy, Somme-Leuze, Marche en Famenne and Nassogne, so you’ll have plenty to take in during your time pedalling. As with the rest of the country of Belgium, Famenne is also famous for its beer, with some routes even

taking you to the best spots to check out this refreshing tipple.

Bikes are more than welcome Another great addition to the Famenne à Vélo package is their Bienvenue Vélo partners, Daune explains: “We know that it is sometimes daunting and less than simple to travel with a bike. When you go to a restaurant or hotel it is sometimes hard to find the extra facilities needed to help your travel, such as simply a place to store your bike, or even top up a water bottle. With our Bienvenue Vélo programme we list partners throughout all of our 350km of cycle routes that are friendly and welcoming to bikes. Whether this is a gîte or hotel, or even a local food bistro or restaurant,

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LEFT: Four themed routes for old and young. Photo: Anne Stelen. TOP RIGHT: The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint Remy in Rochefort and its celebrated Trappist monastery. Photo: Alain Petit. RIGHT: Bed and Breakfast – Bienvenue Vélo. Photo: Pays de Famenne.

each one with the Bienvenue Vélo sticker in their windows has all the facilities you need to make your stay welcoming and comfortable.” Taking the stress and guess work out of cycle touring is the aim of Famenne à Vélo. All of their routes are easy to cut short or lengthen depending on how your day’s plans turn out. It is sometimes easy to get side-tracked whilst on holiday, ditching the watch for a more relaxed pace, so the ability to change your ride takes the pressure

HOW TO: Fly to Brussels or Brussels South Charleroi airport. Drive from Calais or Dunkirk ferry terminals. When to go: February to November for either a long weekend or longer break Bikes: If you don’t have bikes, Famenne à Vélo cooperate with many bike hire companies. Website: www.famenne-a-velo.be

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off you, allowing you to enjoy your leisure time.

and experience something different during your vacation.”

The best routes, roads and locations

More than a holiday and not as strenuous as a cycle tour, Famenne à Vélo offers the best of both worlds to those looking for a different vacation break, Daune concludes: “Cycling is a rich part of Belgium culture, but we are not all athletes, so with our Famenne à Vélo everyone from the cycling fan through to families, young and old, can enjoy a break in our rural region. We know that you will leave with many great memories.”

A further significant objective behind the whole experience is for you to take a slower pace of life as a tourist, Daune expands: “All of our routes are on mixed surfaces, either small country roads, specific cycle tracks in the forest, gravel paths or linking railway stations. How could you enjoy a wander through our region on the main roads? We aim to allow you to relax

NOT TO MISS: Fiesta Vélo – 3 dates dedicated to celebrating bikes at certain locations on the Famenne à Vélo route. A friendly festival with everything on offer from vintage bikes to group rides, all wrapped up with a concert and local food to celebrate cycling in this region. MORE THAN TOURISM: More than just a form of transport for tourists this group has set up another

initiative, VéloBus. Aimed at getting local children on their bikes to ride to school, it sees groups of school children riding all year round, promoting a healthy form of transport.


Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling

CYCLETOURS:

“It’s a lifecycle” As an early pioneer of cycle tourism, Cycletours knew there had to be more to holidays than lazing on the beach. Led by a curiosity of what lay behind the beach and a desire to explore other cultures, Cycletours was founded in 1981. Manager Frits Deben begins matter-offactly: “It’s all in the name – Cycletours – that’s where our passion lies.” An ardent cyclist, he admits all bike rides are beautiful, but some routes surpass all others for their surroundings. With over 300 set holidays across six continents, from home turf in the Netherlands and Europe to Kenya to Vietnam, their tours encompass jaw-dropping scenery, history, culinary treats and an incomparable introduction to a new country. Unique to the Netherlands is a route combining the country’s two main attractions:

Bikes & Barges. “You cycle while the boat carries your luggage. As night falls, you’ll feel immediately at home on board,” he says assuredly. “On a bike you discover so much more: sights, sounds and smells,” explains Deben, “especially in the Netherlands where there is so much history within such small distances.” The company aims to get everyone on two wheels, organising family holidays for the tiniest tots in the

TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE PRESS PHOTOS

trailer to hip teenager-orientated trips, for amateur cycling clubs and pensioners alike. For levensgenieters [lovers of life] the bike is “a tool to get to know a country” while for more advanced cyclists “it’s not a tool but the challenge.” For Deben, it holds that the younger you start cycling, the better – “it’s a lifecycle.” www.cycletours.com


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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Koningsdag

Nederland kleurt oranje op Koningsdag Once a year, regardless of which space station in which galaxy you look down from, you’ll see the Netherlands glowing in Dutch orange - with an occasional refreshing burst of red, white and blue. On April 26, the Dutch will once again celebrate their monarchy. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: NBTC

Up until this year the Dutch celebrated ‘Queen’s Day’ as a national holiday. The change of rule in the past year gave the Netherlands a King, so ‘Queen’s Day’ has become ‘King’s Day’. The Dutch don’t mind the name change or the flexible date, as long as they get their party and a day off.

Dutch - on her actual birthday of January 31 the weather is probably not suitable for outside festivities. Now there is King Willem-Alexander. His birthday is considered weather-proof so the date changes again, to April 27 – unless of course that falls on a Sunday, then it’s held the day before.

A rundown of the day

Throughout the years, the celebrations have changed quite a bit. When Juliana was Queen, the people flocked to her residence at at Soestdijk Palace. Many Dutch walked along a mile-long parade and gave flowers and gifts. But when Beatrix came to power, she went to the people. Each

The date changes for the first time in 1949. Princess Juliana becomes Queen and Queen’s Day will be celebrated on her birthday, April 30. To honor her mother Juliana, Queen Beatrix decided to maintain the date. Also - quite important to the

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year, she descended on two towns – something that won´t change with King Willem-Alexander. The places where the royals are welcomed usually organise an array of traditional Dutch games, folk dances, and let's call them 'special events'. The dances by the children are naturally cute, but it is perhaps better if the adults leave the dancing to the children. But the grownups also create all sorts of ‘fun’ for the royals – like the miraculous 2012 `throwing the toilet bowl competition’. Yes, it´s all in the name. Not to worry, future King Prince Willem-Alexander won the competition with a whopping


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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Koningsdag

‘party like it is 1999’ sort of day, with a Royal Birthday-excuse. They still say that it is a celebration for the children, but actually it’s a day to celebrate a day off work or make some serious money. There are parties and festivities for everyone, everywhere, anytime. The most popular cities are Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Utrecht. In fact, Amsterdam became so popular that the local government had to take serious action and relocate the huge parties with world-famous artists. Worldwide, Dutch embassies celebrate Queen’s Day, each one more enthusiastically than the next. As a Dutch student at the time Michiel Stol (29) had the opportunity to celebrate 2009 Queen’s Day in Tanzania. “To prove you were Dutch, you had to say ‘Goedemorgen’ (good morning), if found ‘Dutch enough’ you were invited in. The woman who checked everybody at the entrance was a Tanzanian woman for sure, and I think she learned to say ‘Goedemorgen’ that same day.”

No spoiling the fun

King's Day sees the population take to the streets, celebrations and festivities abound as everyone can partake in the fun.

twenty feet ‘toilet bowl throw’. Of course, everything the Royals do at Queen’s Day will be live on national television.

And for the paupers? While the royals are kept occupied, the rest of the country gets busy too. There are jumble sales everywhere. (*A friendly warning: the Dutch don’t like to miss out on the best-selling spots – resulting in fights or nights spent on the street to ‘bag’ the spot.) People don’t only sell yesterday’s clutter. The Dutch have all sorts of creative ways to make money. For example, you can get your nails done for fifty cents at every jumble sale. Probably done by a 7-

year old, who still has a lot to learn. Sometimes someone gets really smart and simply fills in the needs of the public. Hilke Heijmans (24), student of media and communication living in Amsterdam: “A friend suggested I should let people use my toilet for €1. So during the day I was a lavatory attendant with my best friend. It was quite an experience.”

The 2009 edition was the most memorable Queen’s Day. It was the year that a man deliberately crashed a car into the Royal parade. Fortunately, the Royals were unharmed, but the tragedy shocked everybody and there were some casualties. Since this calamity the Dutch decided that no one can take away their Queensday. Now, the Oranjegekte (orange fever) cannot be abated and just gets stronger. This year’s King’s Day will be celebrated on April 26, and the Netherlands will go orange all the way.

The ever so down-to-earth Dutch seem to get an infectious madness at King’s Day. Even animals are dressed up in orange, feathered scarfs and hats. Throughout the years it has become more and more extreme. For the Dutch, Queen’s Day is a

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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Stuff Dutch People Like

A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE DUTCH

Stuff Dutch People Like If you ever have travelled to the Netherlands, you’ve probably experienced some strange and incomprehensible peculiarities. If you haven’t but are planning to, there are some ‘important-need-to-knows’ about the Dutch. Otherwise you might be offended, confused or even slightly panicked. Every nation has its quirks, but the Dutch seem have some… rather unique ones. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | MAIN PHOTO: NBTC

Not to worry, salvation is here! Salvation in the name of Colleen Geske. The Canadian social media consultant created the blog “Stuff Dutch People Like” when she went to live in the Netherlands. After experiencing some odd and puzzling moments with the Dutch, she just had to write about it. “The most important thing to know is the Dutch directness. Dutch people are direct. Direct to the point of shocking at times. Direct to the point of “what on EARTH did he just say to me?!?” There is no tiptoeing around subjects like religion, sex or politics. Directness is not necessarily a bad thing. Your opinion is appreciated. It’s different in a good way – refreshing and charming.” “Secondly; the Dutch have a lot of expressions. I used to have this colleague who almost exclusively spoke to me in

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Dutch expressions which he haphazardly translated into his own unique English versions. A lot of them are pretty strange for non-Dutch people. They talk about cows in ditches, or having butter on your head.” During our conversation, Colleen falls silent, her face shows a little torture. Suddenly she says: “And what is it with the Dutch talking about not being able to make chocolate out of it? Why would you even try to make chocolate out of a book or conversation?” A common idiom used by Colleen Geske

the Dutch when they don't understand something. Then there are the typical Dutch names. Names that sound ridiculous in English. Try not to laugh when someone introduces themselves as: ‘Floor’, ‘Harm, or ‘Joke’, and not forgetting ‘Freek’. All regular names in the Netherlands, but in the English-speaking world hysterical laughter isn’t unusual. The blog evolved into ‘Stuff Dutch People Like’ the book: ‘Celebrating Dutchness in all its glory’. It makes everybody love the lowlands and her inhabitants. So, do you have a Dutch friend, are you married to one, or invited to a Dutch celebration? Everything will be alright, as long as you have Colleen by your side.


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Your Shortcut to Scandinavia Bergen

NORWAY

Oslo Stockholm Bromma

SWEDEN Aalborg

Gothenburg

Aarhus

UNITED KINGDOM

DENMARK Billund

Manchester

London City

GERMANY Brussels

D端sseldorf

BELGIUM

SWITZERLAND

Munich

Z端rich

S n acks

Me als

Drinks

ba.com

Pap ers

Lounges

Smiles


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Discover Benelux | Hotel of the Month | Belgium

HOTEL OF THE MONTH, BELGIUM

Steigenberger Grandhotel Brussels TEXT & PHOTOS: STEIGENBERGER

town. This five star hotel excels at hosting business meetings and events, providing 13 meeting rooms with the capacity to host up to 600 people.

The Steigenberger Grandhotel, Brussels benefits from a strategic and privileged location in the heart of the famous Avenue Louise, in the city’s most fashionable shopping district.

We offer an unparalleled range of international and local specialties to match every mood and palate at our Brasserie. Appreciate the relaxed and convivial atmosphere of the Loui Lounge & Bar and our Fumoir, offering a variety of tempting cocktails, cigars, beverages and snacks.

Each of the 225 guestrooms and 42 suites offers the same unparalleled sense of space, comfort and modern amenities to answer your every need. From Classic rooms to the Royal Suite, the Steigenberger Grandhotel, Brussels offers the most luxurious and largest rooms in the city. Our newly renovated Royal Suite is the hotel’s most prestigious, contemporary and lavish suite, offering 320 square metres of regal luxury. Close to the European Quarters and the historical center, the Grandhotel has one of the best meeting and function facilities in

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Hotel guests over 18 benefit from direct access and enjoy preferential rates at the exclusive spa Aspria Avenue Louise, a true haven of peace. en.steigenberger.com Aspria Avenue Louise


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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Castle Muiderslot

CASTLE MUIDERSLOT

A Medieval Day Out TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

With roots as far back as the 13th century, the Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot, strategically positioned to the east of Amsterdam on the banks of the river Vecht and the former Zuiderzee, is a medieval gem of a day-out. With the shouts and shrieks of jousting tournaments echoing, this castle is the place to visit 700 years of Dutch history. Draw your swords! Heralded as the Netherlands’ best-kept medieval castle, Muiderslot’s main attraction stems from the fact that it ticks all the boxes when it comes to castles with its pictureperfect turrets, moat, and intact castle walls. The castle, built by Count Floris V, was once home to P. C. Hooft, considered the Dutch Shakespeare, and was the focal point of cultural life in the region during the Golden Age of the 17th century.

Ascertain for yourself the weight of a sword, the traditional handicrafts and clothing, and the burden of chainmail. After a lengthy climb up the castle’s tallest tower, the West Tower, the journey back to the time of lords, ladies and knights can begin in earnest. With hands-on exhibits, young and old can discover how the nobility once lived, and faced with a choice of treasure hunts, the Ridderroute for knights and the Torenroute for defence, children are kept entranced as they search for clues among the history. Between April and November, regular demonstrations of birds of prey take place in the impeccable renaissance gardens of this quaint, picturesque castle Last year’s royally-opened Waterschild pavilion offers visitors the chance to go underground and uncover the truth behind

the castle’s relationship with water: friend or foe? The impenetrable Muiderslot, overlooking the IJmeer, can easily be visited by boat. A short trip down the river from Amsterdam IJburg harbour takes you to the castle in true medieval style. The on-site restaurant is also available for private hire and the grounds double as the perfect backdrop to precious wedding photos. A visit during Easter will prove particularly entertaining as the castle stages its annual Easter egg hunt. Hidden among the chocolate eggs is something rather special: the lucky one to stumble across the Golden Falcon’s egg has the chance to be a junior director of the castle for the day. www.muiderslot.nl

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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Miniworld Rotterdam

MINIWORLD ROTTERDAM

Dawn to dusk in 24 minutes TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

Piet Blom’s cube houses in all their finery? The Erasmus bridge and the Euromast up close and in detail? These are not every day experiences that’s for sure. Perhaps you’ll spot your favourite park bench or architectural highlight of the city? Re-creating the thriving city of Rotterdam on a scale of 1:87 was certainly no mean feat but one that is now creating waves. With regular new additions to keep pace with the ever expanding architectural capital of the Netherlands, this tiny scale town, which heralds a new day every 24 minutes as its inhabitants rise and begin their routines, is attracting more and more visitors every year. An all-too-common lament of those who visit: “Oh, we needed more time!”

Since its long-awaited opening in 2007, Miniworld Rotterdam now boasts 27,000 miniscule humans whose lives can be observed and admired. As visitors pore over the 2,800 miniature buildings on a scale of 1:87, their gasps are audible: watching the trains chug along the 2km of tracks that span the 535 square metre area and the many thousands of lights that adorn the city at dusk. In Benelux’s largest miniature world, young and old are confronted with history: charting the city from the year 1500 onwards. Twice awarded the accolade of South Holland’s Best Day Out by ANWB, Miniworld Rotterdam is also a fantastic venue for business outings: whether it’s a seminar or team building you’re after, the venue can cater for up to 250 guests, and school classes are equally welcome.

www.miniworldrotterdam.com

C H AT E A U D E L O U V I G N I E S

Living history in rural Belgium TEXT: PHIL GALE | PRESS PHOTOS

Tucked in rural Belgium the Chateau de Louvignies continues to bring history to life with its new exhibition celebrating the selflessness of those who took part in World War One. History is something that lives and breathes. Not restricted to books, it comes to life within historic buildings and through exhibitions. The Chateau de Louvignies is such a place. Situated in Soignies, just north of Mons, this family-owned castle has opened its doors to the public to share real history. Now run by Florence Moreau, daughter of the Baron and Baroness de Moreau, the Chateau is about to open a new exhibition, Moreau explains: "I want to convey stories of altruism. Not only those of the soldiers in the trenches, but also those of the generous women in the shadows, like

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Maria, a cousin of my grandfather who transformed the castle into a hospital during the war." The exhibition focuses on Moreau’s direct relations who helped soldiers, civilians and children alike during the conflict. Entitled “A lady in the trenches” the exhibition’s centrepiece is a collection of letters and personal memories of Moreau’s relation. A lady in the trenches is a must-see; as the years pass it is crucial that the suffer-

ing of WWI is not forgotten, otherwise we will never learn from history, because the emotion is still very real. Moreau concludes: “I read and I cried, there are so many strong emotions. I saw myself in the mud of the trenches with the soldiers and know that you will too.” 1 rue de Villegas, B-7063 Louvignies Phone: +32 477 45 40 27 Email: chateaudelouvignies@gmail.com www.chateau-louvignies.be


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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Jardins d'Annevoie

JARDINS D'ANNEVOIE

Go with the flow Set in the rolling Ardennes countryside, Jardins d'Annevoie exudes tranquillity with its array of fountains, streams and cascades. But don’t be fooled by this guise, because at least once a year, Jardins d'Annevoie drops its calm appearance to get into the carnival spirit. TEXT: ANNA PARKIN | PHOTOS: QUENTIN VANDOORN

While castlephiles may be disappointed to know the impressive 18th-century Château d'Annevoie can only be admired from the exterior, it’s the water features at the Jardins d'Annevoie which are the main attraction anyway. The water works have been flowing without the aid of machinery for the past 250 years. “It’s what makes us unique,” explains manager Nathalie de Changy. While many guests are happy to simply marvel, guided tours explaining how it all works are available in numerous languages. The tour takes between an hour and an hour and a half, but as De Changy explains, it’s easy to while away the hours with a romantic stroll through the charming hedge gardens, hornbeam lanes, false grottoes and typically Walloon statues. And while the gardens welcome countless newlyweds for their official wedding photos, Jardins d'Annevoie isn’t just for lovers – there are treasure hunts for children and a vegetable patch for budding horticulturalists. Visitors can gain inspiration from the garden’s eclectic design – majestic French landscaping harmonises with English romance and Italian sophistication here. “The

mix of the three styles really makes for an interesting visit,” explains De Changy. The gardens also put on regular events, including a festival this Easter called ‘Les 100 costumés de Venise’ (running 19th21st of April 2014). Now in its fourth year, the festival invites over 100 Venice Carnival goers to parade in their finest masks and

elaborate costumes to the sounds of Italian music. Added animations include an Italian market and children’s activities. “April here is beautiful. There is colour everywhere as all the undergrowth flowers start appearing,” De Changy says. “Plus, we plant some 20,000 tulip bulbs so the ground is a sea of colour. Many Japanese tourists come especially to see this.” But guests who can’t make the festival needn’t worry. “Every season here is beautiful. From the freshness of spring to the changing colours of autumn, you’ll find something interesting whenever you come.” www.annevoie.be

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Discover Benelux | Hotel of the Month | Luxembourg

HOTEL OF THE MONTH, LUXEMBOURG

A hotel hand-crafted just for you TEXT: HARUN OSMANOVIC | PRESS PHOTOS

Home is where the heart is, they say. That’s undeniable. But home is also the sum of those little things that make it so… well, like nowhere else. It’s that coffee brand you like so much, the smile of your spouse in the morning or the order of the channels on your TV. All the comfort of those certainties, those habits that make you feel like: “this is me.” You belong to them as much as they belong to you. This is in essence what the Sofitel Luxembourg Europe is trying to recreate; that sense of belongingness, like everything was tailor-made to your specific taste. “We look at ourselves as craftsmen,” explains the general manager of the five-star hotel Mrs Onursal, “our services are cousumain.” (Understand handmade). Located some two kilometers away from the old town, the Sofitel Luxembourg Eu-

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rope has been implanted in the heart of the business district for close to 20 years, and still remains the only five-star hotel on the Kirchberg plateau. With its 8 meeting rooms, 5 Sofitel suites and 4 prestige suites with a panoramic view of the city, Sofitel Luxembourg Europe is not only the perfect place for conferences but has much more to offer. “A lot of our clients first come here on business and fall in love with the charms of the city and the service we offer, so we often welcome them back a little later for a relaxing weekend.” As the Gibraltar of the North, Luxembourg has a lot of hidden secrets. The old town, listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, the casemates, a vast underground system of passages and galleries, the ruins of the old castle, the canals and the art scene are many attractions worth a shot.

But sometimes, you don’t really need additional incentives. The Sofitel Luxembourg Europe is a building flooded by light and resonating with beautiful melodies. The very contemporary architecture and the breathtaking atrium give a feeling of weightlessness, or better yet of levitation when you step into the panoramic elevator to your room. The two restaurants, Ore e Argento and Stübli, will take you from a Venetian scenery, with all the refinement of a handpainted fresco, to the atmosphere of a wooden chalet in the Black Forest. So all things considered, though the city has a lot to offer, the Sofitel Luxembourg Europe is a pleasure worth a visit in itself. www.sofitel.com


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Discover Benelux | Restaurant of the Month | Luxembourg

R E S TA U R A N T O F T H E M O N T H , L U X E M B O U R G

Chateau de Bourglinster - where fairy tales come true TEXT: LISA GERARD-SHARP | PRESS PHOTOS

Some medieval castles are more magical than others. Chateau de Bourglinster is a castle with cooking that banishes demons and dragons – and dreary fine dining. Garlanded with awards, the chef uses flowers and fairy-tale touches to weave culinary spells. The frostiest Heads of State are won over by these fantastical feasts. “I saw this medieval castle advertised and couldn’t resist snapping it up – it was also where I got married,” enthuses Sélim Schiltz of his proudest possession. Schiltz married in the Salles des Chevaliers, the Knights’ Hall, and many couples have followed suit. Just fifteen minutes from Luxembourg City, the State-owned castle doubles as a captivating destination restaurant. “What’s special? It’s built on a human scale, intimate rather than daunting, despite being on a rocky spur.”

Forget Eurocrat fat-cat fine-dining, this is contemporary, creative cooking. “Every encounter with nature is magical,” claims the irrepressible chef, with the passion that befits a Gault Millau Vegetable Chef of the Year. Schiltz chimes in: “We regularly host Heads of State, but I’m probably most in awe of our royal guests, from the King of Spain to the former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.” As if food and famous guests weren’t enough, the castle also stages art exhibi-

tions and craft workshops, as well as concerts and theatre. Any ghosts in the castle? “Well, ghosts come with the territory” smiles Schiltz, “and I did once disturb an owl, sitting snugly in my office.” The Michelin-starred La Distillerie and La Brasserie Brasserie Côté Cour: Wednesday to Sunday evening, with reservations advisable. Tel (+352) 7878781. www.bourglinster.lu

Barely fifteen minutes from Luxembourg City, the Chateau de Bourglinster’s La Distillerie is a firm favourite.

Chef René Mathieu

Schiltz sees his chef, René Mathieu, as a visionary. “The chef brings fame and professionalism to the table but none of that matters if you don’t get on – and we do.” The Belgian chef is now at home in the Grand Duchy. “I poached Rene from the GrandDukes of Luxembourg, where he was the resident chef. My favourite dish is probably the foie gras prepared with roses or strawberries, but I love being surprised by him.” Chef Mathieu butts in: “I see food as poetry. I’m inspired by landscape – if I see a garden I like, I try to recreate it – it’s amazing what you can do with wild herbs, asparagus, even potatoes.” Both foodies are proud of their Michelin-starred La Distillerie and the simpler Brasserie Côté Cour’s Bib Gourmand, representing the Michelin inspectors’ favourite affordable spots.

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Discover Benelux | Food | Cafetin de Buenos Aires

CAFETIN DE BUENOS AIRES

More than a tango – a state of being We’re in Buenos Aires, Argentina, it is the beginning of the 20th century. The streets of the capital are filled with little cafés where immigrants of all origins meet. The Italians, the Poles, the Spaniards or the Slavs: they all gather to have a drink, read literature and talk. They’re moved by the need to share their story with people whose stories mirror theirs. TEXT: HARUN OSMANOVIC | PRESS PHOTOS

Cafetin de Buenos Aires, as famously portrayed by Enrique Santos Discepolo in the Tango of the same name, was one of those cafés. Now it is 2014 and Buenos Aires’ Cafetin is no more. But as happens ever so rarely, its spirit lives on in the most surprising of places, right by the Théatre des Capucins in Luxembourg. Mrs Sonez, a biochemist by education, comes from the province of Entre Rios with a passion for food and the desire to share the tastes of her homeland. In 2010 she opened Cafetin de Buenos Aires in the ruins of an old house. It took them one full year to renovate the house, she says, because they “wanted to keep its authentic look and add the spirit of the original Cafetin.” It is in a cosy and elegant set-up with a subtle musical background, overlooked by Maradona, Guevara, Darin and other iconic countrymen, where you can enjoy delicacies from Argentina. “Our meat comes directly from small Argentinian farms,” explains Mrs Sonez. “Our veal, of the most delicate nature, is delivered vacuum sealed biweekly. As for our wines; we have an exclusive cave with Argentinian wonders that you can enjoy here or at home with your barbeques. Alternatively, you can get them via our online store.”

Cafetin de Buenos Aires, Luxembourg's Argentinian dining haven.

Choosing to work solely with fresh produce means that the menu is intentionally small. Mrs Sonez recommends starting with a platter of Pata Negra ham with a bottle of wine, or trying the traditionallymade empanadas – a part-shortcrust part-

puff pastry stuffed with beef, black olive and white wine stew. For the main course, go with any piece of meat grilled the Argentinian way. If you fancy fish, the Zarzuela is a wonderful dish, and the Argentinian style lasagna is not to be missed.

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Wrap it up with a homemade Dulce and grab a bottle of Patritti before you leave. No doubt you will tango your way back home. www.cafetin.lu


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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Luxembourg

Discover the unexpected Luxembourg Travellers looking to relax in a city equally shaped by tradition and modernity and with great natural surroundings should consider staying a few days in Luxembourg. TEXT: OFFICE NATIONAL DU TOURISME DU GRAND-DUCHE DE LUXEMBOURG | PRESS PHOTOS

Luxembourg is a place of diversity and contrasts. Though the capital counts only some 100,000 inhabitants, they stem from over 150 countries. They all appreciate and enjoy the incentives of the city built around a fortress more than 1,000 years ago. There is good reason to refer to the city as the green heart of Europe: green areas make up about one third of the space, inviting the visitor to take a walk or go on a cycling tour. The old town around the cathedral has been part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1994. While one marvels at the remains of the commanding former fortress around the Bock promontory, splendid examples of contemporary architecture are on display in the European and finance quarter, including the much

acclaimed Philharmonie and the transparent light-flooded Mudam (Museum of Modern Art). Despite its spectacular modernisation in the last few decades, Luxembourg remains a metropolis on a human scale. One can stroll along the shopping streets, have a glass of wine on one of the numerous terraces or enjoy the many restaurants which offer local and international cuisine as well as star-loaded dishes. Diversity and contrasts continue beyond the city limits. All four regions of the country are worth a detour and can be reached in just a short drive. The Ardennes in the North are shaped by densely wooded valleys and windy plateaus.

The Mullerthal, fondly referred to by locals as Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland, has impressive rock formations which make the area a delight for those who enjoy hiking. Eastward lies the Moselle region with its mild microclimate and the vineyards where one can taste white wines and the famous crémant (sparkling wine). The region of the Terre-Rouge (red soil) in the South got its name from the iron ore. Visitor can stroll through the former industrial wasteland which nature has reconquered or take a ride with a historical train. For more information please visit: www.visitluxembourg.com/en

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Discover Benelux | Attraction of the Month | Luxembourg

AT T R A C T I O N O F T H E M O N T H , L U X E M B O U R G

Rock‘n’ roll Château TEXT: ANNA PARKIN | PHOTOS: ©JENGEL

Positioned on a rocky promontory overlooking the Northern town of Vianden and the River Our, Vianden Castle is a gem of Gothic and Romanesque architecture which has attracted politicians, royalty and even Rolling Stones to marvel at its rich and artistic heritage. Since being ceded to the state of Luxembourg back in 1977, Vianden Castle, which has origins dating from the 10th century, has been fully restored to give visitors a glimpse of castle life as they roam from its grand banqueting hall and well-preserved chapel via a stunning Byzantine gallery. Guests who have admired its carvings, sculptures and period furniture from across the centuries range from Queen Elizabeth II to Mikhail Gorbachev and John Malkovich. Mick Jagger even dropped by when in Lux-

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embourg for the Rolling Stones’ 1995 show at the Stade Kirchberg. “We’ve welcomed a very long list of famous faces,” says head of personnel and Vianden native Monsieur Jengel Klasen. And with a collection of art that world-class galleries would be proud of – it’s not hard to see why. Particularly appealing is the chance to see one of Raphael’s The Sacrifice at Lystra tapestries – the rest are at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Fast forwarding from Renaissance art to modernism, this March the castle will host a 6-month long exhibition showcasing the work of Russian-French painter Marc Chagall and Germany’s Otto Dix. It’s just one of the many ways the castle is continually innovating – there’s also a new shop and tavern due to open on site in July as well as a

new museum scheduled for 2016 which will portray the evolution of the castle and include a 3D animation to attract young and old alike. “We put an emphasis on fun here,” beams Klasen, when describing the castle’s annual Medieval Festival – which this year runs from July 26th to August 3rd. Now in its eleventh edition, the event returns the castle to its medieval roots with family-friendly animations including minstrels, falconry shows, fire eaters and a market with artisan food and crafts. “Children are the clients you should never forget about!” explains Klasen, adding that there’s no risk of nightmares for children of a fragile nature. “There aren’t any gory stories in our history. There’s not even a torture chamber!” he laughs. www.castle-vianden.lu


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Discover Benelux | See & Do | Hotel Petry and Belle-Vue

HOTEL PETRY AND BELLE-VUE

Vianden’s little secret Vianden, tucked away in the northeastern corner of Luxembourg is a popular holiday destination. With its famous castle and surrounding rolling hills it is the perfect place to relax. The Hotel Petry and Belle-Vue are Vianden’s hidden gems offering you an ideal base to make the most of the delights of this beautiful area. TEXT: PHIL GALE | PRESS PHOTOS

Hotel owner Paul Petry explains: “After visiting the Castle of Vianden, why not spend a pleasant moment wandering through the narrow streets of the medieval town of Vianden, fortified with ramparts and partially preserved. You can also take the chairlift up to the top of the castle and enjoy the panoramic view. For those more active there is an outdoor activity park situated in the forest. The famous ‘Indian Forest’ Adventure Park is just one km from the upper station. For an extended stay our hotels, Petry and Belle-Vue offer their services. Hotel Petry is well known and admired throughout the region for its gourmet French cuisine and woodfired pizzeria. It also has a large terrace and comfortable rooms, both luxury 3 and 4 star to choose from.” If you fancy a change of scenery, owner Petry suggests his second hotel: Hotel

Above: Hotel Belle-Vue with the wellness centre featuring a beautiful new pool.

Belle-Vue. “Here we offer you a beautiful new pool, as well as our wellness centre with saunas, rest area, beauty centre and massages. It also has a gourmet restaurant, large terraces, and a cosy bar with some great beers.”

best-kept secrets. Eating, sleeping, relaxing and all the attractions of this great region are waiting to be explored by you.

For those looking to travel to Vianden, a popular destination year round with its nut festival in autumn and ever-changing landscape through the seasons, the Hotel Petry and Belle-Vue really are two of the city’s

Hotel Belle-Vue, tel: +35 283 4127 www.hotelbv.com

Hotel Petry, tel: +35 283 4122 www.hotel-petry.com

Below: Enjoy a wood-fired Pizza and relax on the large terrace at Hotel Petry. Photos: Khaled Frikha

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Discover Benelux | Attraction of the Month | The Netherlands

NEMO is not only the largest science centre in the Netherlands, it is also probably the most exciting museum you will ever visit.

AT T R A C T I O N O F T H E M O N T H , T H E N E T H E R L A N D S

Bringing science to the masses TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: DIGIDAAN

Understanding science doesn’t come from textbooks – experimenting and learning by doing are key to grasping life’s most essential elements. With exhibitions on everything from water to space, power to puberty, NEMO is not only the largest science centre in the Netherlands, it is also probably the most exciting museum you will ever visit. After a short stroll from Amsterdam’s central station, past the national library and over the footbridge, take a glance around you. This harbour, bordered by some of Amsterdam’s finest buildings, has had NEMO at its centre since 1997. NEMO’s current incarnation, built in 1997 by Renzo Piano, sits proudly atop the river IJ tunnel. A striking copper ship-like structure with Amsterdam’s finest sloping roof terrace that demands attention is now set for a makeover. Shortly before we interview NEMO’s Anne-Marie Gielis, funding is con-

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firmed for the construction of a 5th storey for exhibitions – on the roof terrace. “Now it’ll fit Piano’s original plans,” she explains excitedly, “We can have all sorts of amazing things on the roof – more sculptures, exhibitions, a café, and installations exploring the four elements.” Today’s climb up the roof treats you to an incredible view of the city, but it’s the interactivity which defines it – currently it’s a Splashing Water Wonder installation where you can dabble in the physics of hydro power, seeing for yourself the effects of water pressure. Back inside the five-floor science and technology centre and dressed in a white lab coat and safety goggles, you can begin this interactive journey of discovery in the laboratory, analysing cells through your hightech microscope – this is Gielis’ personal highlight of the museum. Each exhibition

has something for everyone, she reels off the phenomena to be explored: “Here you can discover how water is purified, why your face has so many expressions, the strength of bridges and the influence that music has on how you perceive a film.” Inquiring minds have been drawn to the science centre for 90 years (celebrated last December), and understanding science and technology is not only relevant for kids. Gielis is keen to clarify: “Adults can get so much out of a visit here, too. As you go up through the building, the exhibitions get more complex and grown-up.” She cites the Smart Technology exhibition as being of particular interest – “it’s fascinating to learn about sustainable energy and how electric cars have been developed – and you really don’t have to have a kid in tow to appreciate it!” www.e-nemo.nl


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Discover Benelux | Attraction of the Month | Belgium

AT T R A C T I O N O F T H E M O N T H , B E L G I U M

As futuristic now as it was in 1958 TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

Brussels 1958. Europe is back on its feet and the world is looking towards Belgium. It is the World Fair. With both East and West represented, the Expo’s title “A World View: A New Humanism” is seen as a statement of hope, future peace and prosperity.

Hire a sphere for your business events where up to 200 people can attend. Photo: Axel Addington

EXPO 58 welcomed 42 million visitors to the pavilions of 46 nationalities, drastically changing the architectural landscape of Brussels. As is common for the World Expo, the Belgian Pavilion, the Atomium, was originally built as a 6-month temporary structure, but as Inge Van Eycken, press officer at the eye-catching building, explains: “It was just too popular. It immediately became regarded as a symbol of Belgium so it was decided that it should stay. It’s been open ever since, but during 2004 and 2006 it was renovated – remember, it was already pretty old!” Today, the humongous spaceship-esque structure still delights and astounds its 600,000 visitors every year. According to Van Eycken, visitors’ jaws literally drop as they are faced with the momentous size of the nine interconnected spheres in Brussels’ Heysel Park. “You hear them gasp, amazed by its futuristic architecture. It’s just so unique – people ask if it’s going to take off!” Her advice to visitors? “Seriously, just walk slowly,” she pleads, “the inside is just as special as the outside.” Details on the banisters of the stairs and escalators which connect the spheres are definitely worth noticing, and one of the escalator tunnels plays host to an awe-inspiring light and sound installation, referred to by kids as the ‘disco escalator’. Six of the nine spheres can be explored, including a restaurant, a 92m high panorama sphere and one designated for conference hire. “It’s definitely somewhere special to hold a meeting or dinner for any business.

TV recordings, music videos, telecommunication companies – we’ve had them all,” recounts Van Eycken. The lowest sphere houses the vast permanent exhibition dedicated to Expo 58, and two other spheres offer temporary design, fine art and architecture exhibitions. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for primary school children involves an overnight stay in one of the spheres, sleeping inside spe-

cial pods for 3 children. Activities and catering ensure that the stay is as comfortable as possible – although they’ll no doubt be too excited to sleep much. The academic year 2014/2015 still has some nights available. As the structure was built in 1958, wheelchair access is limited but Van Eycken guarantees that any extra needs can be met. www.atomium.be

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Discover Benelux | Business | Column

Steve Flinders

Get stylish with your communication TEXT: STEVE FLINDERS | PHOTOS: NBTC / COURTESY OF STEVE FLINDERS

I have a theory that a lot of managers understand as much about communication as I do about astrophysics (that is, very very little). How else do you explain the time wasted in meetings, or the boredom of so many presentations? Yet it’s not so hard to improve our communication skills and we can make a start simply by asking other people for feedback both on what we communicate and how.

seven reasons for his position. The Frenchman scored better because his audience was like him – structured, analytical, and practical. Ruled by the head more than by the heart, it was his personality and his professional communication style which chimed. That’s why I also train research technologists in one major food company to make technical presentations that can still excite marketing people.

How about you? Can you write down six words to describe your own communication style? Most people find this quite hard. But to influence people and get results, we need to flex our style and be aware of what we’re doing. In a course I just ran, an American made an impassioned elevator pitch to my very international group of factory managers, full of personal conviction and belief; but their votes went to the quiet Frenchman who then stood up and gave

Your nationality can influence your style too. A couple of years ago I watched a Norwegian and a French manager completely fail to negotiate a deal with each other and the problem wasn’t language, it was style. Where the Frenchman was combative, high energy, fast paced, circular, seemed oblivious to the time and interrupted a lot, the Norwegian expected a calm, consensual, slower paced, face saving, time-focused, turn-taking approach

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and was completely thrown by what he saw as the disrespectful approach of his opposite. Think about your style and how it comes across. Are you more or more or less formal or informal? proactive or reactive? expansive or concise?, emotional or neutral?, time-focused or time-flexible?, structured or organic?, fast or slow? Take another look at those six words you wrote down. Show them to a colleague. And get flexy with your style. Steve Flinders is a director of York Associates (www.york-associates.co.uk). He supports people who work internationally through training and coaching. He’s also a member of the steering group of Coaching York which aspires to make York the coaching capital of the UK (www.coachingyork.co.uk): steveflind@aol.com


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Discover Benelux | Business | IFB 2014

T H E I N T E R N AT I O N A L F E S T I VA L F O R B U S I N E S S 2 0 1 4

The Olympics of business TEXT: IFB | PRESS PHOTOS

The International Festival for Business is a 50-day business festival hosted in Liverpool during June-July 2014. Made up of more than 200 world-class events running back-to-back, the Festival is the key date in the UK and international business calendars. Just as the world came to London for sport in 2012, this year it will descend on England’s North West for business inspiration. Backed by the Government and supported by UKTI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and the Confederation of British Industry, IFB 2014 is a statement of what the UK, its cities and its businesses can do. It’s a central part of Britain’s ambition to promote economic growth, rebalance the economy and double exports by 2020. Gathering representations from more than 125 countries, the Festival aims to bring £100m worth of direct investment into the

UK by enabling businesses to make the connections that matter. Around the globe, people continue to associate Britain with its industrial past – steel, coal and manufacturing – but the reality is there’s so much more to this country. The UK is home to many of the industries that are transforming the economies of emerging nations, and we have worldleading research centres at the forefront of business innovation. So how will IFB work? The Festival is a global showcase of 21st Century British industry, one that connects UK businesses to new markets, new products and new partners. Designed to support start-ups, investors, corporates and everything in between, IFB will help businesses from across the country connect and grow. Standout highlights include Accelerate 2014, the UK’s only festival dedicated to

fast-growth firms; Africa Rising, a showcase of the opportunities in the African continent; Horasis’s Global India Business Meeting, described as the Indian Davos; and BT’s Global City Leaders’ Summit, a landmark gathering of the world’s mayors. The UK caught the world’s attention with the Olympics. Those who came to Britain were taken aback by its cultural riches, leaving with a lasting impression of the UK as the modern nation we know it to be. Britain’s Olympic tradition will be continued at IFB, where the business-facing side to the Festival is complemented by a worldclass cultural and sporting programme. IFB is a once in a lifetime opportunity for British and international companies to reach out to potential partners around the world and make valuable connections that will drive forward business growth in years to come.

ABOVE LEFT: Prime Minister David Cameron launching IFB in Liverpool in January 2013. TOP RIGHT: IFB 100 Days, London Stock Exchange. MIDDLE: Ed Bussey, founder & CEO of Quill, the pioneering content creation platform. RIGHT: Sarah Wood, co-founder & COO of marketing technology company Unruly.

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Discover Benelux | Business | IFB 2014

T H E I N T E R N AT I O N A L F E S T I VA L F O R B U S I N E S S 2 0 1 4

Business opportunities in the Benelux on show

On 19 June UK Trade & Investment will host a Benelux Day during the International Festival for Business (IFB 2014) in Liverpool. This one-day event will give British companies a chance to explore the current business opportunities in the Benelux, offering insight, support and inspiration through a series of seminars and workshops. TEXT: UKTI BENELUX | PHOTOS: LIVERPOOL VISION

With presentations from key industry speakers and specialist advisors on hand for one-to-one advice clinics, the Benelux Day offers a unique opportunity for visitors to discover the benefits of doing business in the Benelux and how UK Trade & Investment can help them achieve their international ambitions.

Business in the Benelux: Benelux: UK’s 2nd largest bi-lateral trading partner There has never been an easier time to do business in the Benelux. With a population of almost 28 million in an area the size of Scotland, the Benelux is one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Home to a number of successful UK busi-

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nesses, it is also the UK’s second largest export market after the USA. The two biggest seaports in Europe, Rotterdam and Antwerp, are less than 60 miles apart and when combined make up the world’s largest petrochemical processing centre. The region has prosperous and open economies and, through its excellent transport links with the UK and with opportunities in most sectors, offers an attractive market for UK companies.

The Benelux Day: Growth through export Business success in international markets is key to rebuilding the UK economy. As the government department dedicated to supporting UK companies reach their global

ambitions, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will have a permanent presence during IFB 2014 and will host a number of specific sector and market events throughout the Festival. The Benelux is one of the most dynamic export markets for British goods and services. The Benelux Day will look at how this small, diverse and cosmopolitan region is an ideal market for innovative UK companies of all sizes and a strategic gateway to the rest of Europe. After an opening address from the British Ambassadors to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the Benelux Day will commence with a series of presentations


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Discover Benelux | Business | IFB 2014

from well-known business leaders with connections to the region. Guests will be invited to stay for a networking lunch followed by an afternoon of breakout seminars and workshops, looking at four main sectors: - eCommerce - Food - Government Procurement - Offshore Wind Throughout the afternoon, visitors will have the opportunity to schedule one-to-one meetings with UKTI Advisors to discuss their international aspirations in greater detail, and how they can make the next step into the Benelux market.

The Festival: IFB 2014: Bringing the world of business to Liverpool in 2014 The International Festival for Business 2014 will be held in Liverpool city region and the wider North West in June and July of this year and will be the largest global concentration of business events in 2014. The Festival will host more than 150 business-focused events over 50 days, offering considerable opportunities for companies of all sizes and from all sectors to develop their business and create new relationships. The extensive programme of events will range from small, specialist seminars to major exhibitions and will focus on seven key themes: - Cities, Enterprise and Urban Business - Creative and Digital Industries - Financial and Professional Services - Higher/Further Education and Research - Low Carbon and Renewables

The British Prime Minister David Cameron (right) at the IFB Launch in January 2013.

- Manufacturing, Science and Technology - Maritime, Port and Logistics The free IFB Business Club will allow delegates access to a wide range of high-value services, facilities and business opportunities at the IFB Hub in the centre of Liverpool. Here delegates can attend events, exchange new ideas, promote their products and seek new sources of finance. The Business Club also gives access to a free business brokerage services that matches companies with potential customers, suppliers and investors. A similar event will take place in the North East in September for regional businesses interested in partnering or trading within Benelux countries.

Information and registration: www.ifb2014.com The Benelux region offers exciting opportunities for UK businesses -

The Benelux is one of the most dynamic export markets for British goods and services. It is an ideal test market: small, diverse, and cosmopolitan, with international infrastructure.

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The Benelux is at the forefront of political and economic activity, home to many international organisations including the EU, NATO and the International Courts.

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The three Benelux countries were the first in Europe to remove border barriers and to realise free movement of people, goods and services, and were forerunners of the European Union single market.

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Strategic location, centrally situated in the heart of Europe.

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English is an accepted business language.

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Excellent communications and transport connections with the UK (Eurostar, ferry, daily flights) and the rest of Europe.

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Efficient banking facilities have helped the Benelux become a leading international financial marketplace.

Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool

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Discover Benelux | Business | Scan The Market

Scanning your market, endlessly With a knack for lead generation and market research, a team of experienced sales professionals from across Europe, and a sought-after office location in the buzzing city, the brains behind Scan Group could not help but think that a multilingual telemarketing and appointment making business was the natural next step. Behold Scan The Market, the new go-to service provider for all your sales and lead generation needs. TEXT: LINNEA DUNNE | PHOTOS: MONICA TAKVAM

“I think I was a brilliant colleague, but a notso-brilliant accountant,” laughs co-owner and CEO Thomas Winther as he recalls one of his early-career jobs at one of the major accounting firms in the city. “Jokes aside, I’ve always loved working with people, and I had this urge to make things happen – and fast.” Having helped set up a London-Danish football club, which, he is quick to interpolate, is still very much alive and kicking, he met now-business partner Mads E. Petersen and presented his elevator pitch about a Scandinavian community magazine.

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Born out of a love of all things Scandinavian and a strong entrepreneurial drive, Scan Magazine quickly became much more than just a community periodical. Today it shares an office and parent company with two other successful magazines, Discover Germany and Discover Benelux, as well as a handful of related events and, finally, multilingual telemarketing, market research and lead generation company Scan The Market.

Sensitivity to cultural nuances Winther’s love of a fast-paced environment is as present as ever, and the new venture

was as much about natural progression as it was about starting something new, as he explains: “We’ve already got a competent group of bilingual sales and account managers working for our portfolio of magazines, and they are highly skilled when it comes to being sensitive to the nuances and seasonality of their markets, not to mention their language skills and cultural understanding and awareness of different time zones. Our in-house speciality is to sell and perform back-office functions in all the European languages, so it made sense to expand our service offering to something


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Discover Benelux | Business | Scan The Market

LEFT: Founders and Directors Thomas Winther and Mads E. Petersen (2nd and 3rd from the left) together with the Scan Group team.

makes for an impressive offering. Clients of Scan The Market can expect support not only with campaign planning, end-of-day reporting and verified sales appointments, but also with sales and lead generation – all in their customers’ native languages.

Track-record with clients and employees

we love doing and know that we’re very good at.” With more than 15,000 advertising customers throughout Europe to date, Scan Group has in its different capacities worked with some of the biggest brands as well as countless small, local and regional businesses. According to Winther, it is this sensitivity to the differences between the markets and brands that gives his team its strength. Taking this expertise and applying it to the telemarketing and lead generation field

“Our track-record works as a promise to our clients,” says Winther. “For every new project, our dedicated account director and management team will sit down with the client and get into the nitty-gritty details: we’ll make sure that we thoroughly understand the customer’s product or service, and then we’ll use our experience and expertise to tailor the most effective campaign for them. What the team working on their campaign will look like depends entirely on their needs; we’ll make sure to have the right numbers and the right languages in place.” The benefits are plentiful: clients can stop worrying about recruitment and training costs, day-to-day management of staff, increased phone bills and additional costs such as holiday pay, national insurance contributions, sick pay and pension contributions. Too good to be true? Not if you look at the existing Scan Group sales teams, made up of well-educated, hardworking young professionals who take pride in what they do.

“Our central London office location makes us an attractive employer for multilingual job hunters arriving in the city,” says Winther. “ On top of that, the existing business connections and marketing channels that we’ve built up thanks to our portfolio of magazines are valued not only by new customers – but also by potential members of staff.” Sounds like everyone’s a winner. scangroup.co.uk

Scan Group is a publishing and events company trading as the following divisions: Scan Magazine Discover Germany Discover Benelux Scan The Market The Scandinavia Show The Scandinavian Christmas Market Scan The Market was founded in 2013 and offers the following multilingual services: Telemarketing Sales Lead generation Appointment making Market research Campaign planning Reporting services

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Discover Benelux | Business | Calendar

Benelux Business Calendar TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | MAIN PHOTO: NBTC

Morningstar Investment Conference Europe 27 – 28 March 2014 Amsterdam, the Netherlands Her Majesty Queen Máxima of The Netherlands, in her capacity as United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, is the key-note speaker at this two-day conference. With panels and presentations from leading industry experts in finance, investment and asset managements, the inclusion of HM Queen Maxima is highly regarded. For full details of the Morningstar European Investment Conference, please visit: corporate1.morningstar.com/EU/ Conference/Morningstar-InvestmentConference Conference updates will also be available on Twitter through the hashtag #MICEU. www.morningstar.co.uk Webinar: E-commerce in Belgium 25 March 2014 Online With the rapid growth of e-commerce and m-commerce, incorporating these into your business will certainly work to the advantage of British companies looking to expand into Belgium. This UKTI webinar is the first of series of webinars aimed at offering a platform for discussion and advice regarding the best ways to approach this sector. ukinbelgium.fco.gov.uk/en

Hannover Messe 7 – 11 April 2014 Hannover, Germany The globe’s leading trade fair for industrial technology. Benelux is well represented at this advanced expo, a serious opportunity presents itself for networking and contact building, as well as familiarising yourself with the latest products to hit the market and discuss current developments in industrial technologies. The Netherlands is the official partner country of the 2014 edition and under the banner “Global Challenges, Smart Solutions” will showcase its most pioneering

ART BREDA 6 – 13 April 2014 Breda, the Netherlands Art fairs lend themselves to browsing and buying and are simultaneously a breeding ground for lifelong relationships. ART BREDA has moved from Utrecht and opened itself up to even more gallery owners and collectors from the Netherlands and Belgium. www.ARTBREDA.nl

Strooier en Mosterdpot, Roelandus Antonius Verlegh, 1870 can be seen at Art Breda. Photo: Jacob Roosjen

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and innovative solutions, ensuring the Netherlands’ presence will certainly be felt across the fair. www.hannovermesse.de Natural and Organic Products Europe 13 and 14 April 2014 Olympia, London, UK Europe’s biggest trade fair is a gathering of industry experts, suppliers and buyers for products from the ever-growing natural and organic produce sector. www.naturalproducts.co.uk The US – Europe Free Trade Zone. What is the potential? 24 April 2014 International School of Luxembourg, Luxembourg This evening seminar with the US Ambassador Mandell as the speaker broaches the subject of a free trade zone. Expect analysis, discussion and a well thought out approach to potential benefits for the US, Europe and Luxembourg. www.amcham.lu


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Discover Benelux | Business | Column

What communicates? TEXT: JOSIAH FISK | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JOSIAH FISK

If there’s another corner of the world so well-run, enlightened, and generally user-friendly as Benelux, I’ve never found it. Yet some things here still resist the improving impulse. Exhibit A: bureaucratic communications. I’m thinking about this because a friend recently received a fat envelope from the CCSS, Luxembourg’s social security office. Inside was a 10-page letter and a form. My friend wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of wading through it. But he never doubted he’d figure it out. Ha! The armour-clad letter resisted my friend’s every assault. He wielded his razor-sharp university degree. He deployed a bunker-busting two decades of business management experience. The letter just laughed. Defeated, he made an appointment to see a CCSS representative. That’s where he learned the truth about what they wanted from him. Nothing. The office, it seems, had taken 10 jargon-

choked pages to say that his new account was now open. And the form? For additional insurance, if desired. Completely optional. So my friend lost half a day of work for nothing. But that wasn’t his main concern. “Don’t they know that a shorter letter would benefit them too? They’d save on printing, on postage, and on paying staff to deal with confused customers like me.”

That’s the main point: good communication benefits both sides. To their credit, there are some signs the CCSS is beginning to understand this. Meanwhile, if you get a fat envelope from them – well, my friend sends his sympathies. Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.

? Josiah Fisk

Image in the village TEXT: ANOUK K. | PRESS PHOTO

Previously I wrote about the lack of anonymity in Luxembourg and the impossibility to escape your past. I faced this truth again when recently my parents asked me to attend a coffee and cake event in the village where I grew up. Both of them were born in this place. The elder inhabitants know my parents’ parents and most of them know about me, even if the reverse is not the case. I hadn’t made an appearance for more than a decade since we moved away. But I had continued to exist in people’s gossip stories and everyone knew what I had been up to. It was very important to attend this event and make an excellent impression. My mum forbade me to wear a hat that I had bought in LA as this would be too over the top and highly likely to create negative discussions amongst the locals. She told me to dress in an elegant manner,

preferably in trousers as it would make me look slimmer. I left the hat at home but I chose to wear my ‘Sunday dress’. Being the only Asian person at the event, apart from also being the youngest, all eyes were on me when I walked in. And I played along, I shook hands when required, put the sweetest smile on my face and gave polite answers when asked any questions. The goal was not to cause any embarrassment for my parents and keep up the appearance of being their well-mannered, charming and successful child. In a couple of conversations I had to rectify old information: no, I am no longer driving a Mercedes coupé but an A-Class. And no, I am not aspiring to become an ambassador, I now work in a different industry.

In the end I played the part well and I maintained my parents’ honour. I am an ‘enfant terrible’ and I had to make a deliberate effort to be nice but it was the right thing to do. It will influence the imagined image that the village people have of me for the years to come. Anouk K.

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Discover Benelux | Culture | Column

Luxembourgish, dialect or language? TEXT: LIZ WENGER | PHOTOS: PHILIP WENGER

What is Luxembourgish? Luxembourgish, or Lëtzebuergesch, is the native language of Luxembourgers. Foreigners often tell me it sounds like Dutch but softer. It has kept much of the German grammar and syntax and a lot of its words can be traced back to either German or French. Isn’t it just a dialect? Technically no. In 1984, Lëtzebuergesch was established as the national language of Luxembourg and adopted as one of three official languages, alongside German and French. However, the question of when and how a dialect becomes a language is not a simple one to answer. All languages are influenced by the people living in an area and by the people that visit it. For example, Dutch settlers brought their West Germanic language to South Africa to eventually form a new language now known as Afrikaans.

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The line between dialect and language is not a hard and solid one, but rather a flexible area where speech develops through time and location as people try to make themselves understood. To me, a dialect becomes a language when it is distinct enough from other dialects or languages and is spoken by a separate nation or entity within a nation. Which languages was Luxembourgish influenced by? After the Romans conquered the Celtic Treveri tribe and occupied the area now known as Luxembourg in 53 BC, the aristocracy in the Luxembourg territories quickly learned Latin to preserve their economic status. Eventually, the Latin words they adopted also trickled down to the general population. In the 4th century, the Germanic Franks invaded the Luxembourg territories and the language started to become influenced by

Old Franconian. Today, Luxembourgish is considered an example of the Moselle Franconian dialect, a West Central German dialect spoken from around 1000 AD. However, the linguistic influences did not end there and before the Treaty of London in 1867, which led to Luxembourg’s formal independence, the country continued its tumultuous history of occupation and lost territories to France (1659), to Prussia (1815) and to Belgium (1839). Lëtzebuergesch is a witness to the turbulent history of this spot on earth and combines elements from many other European tongues while preserving its own neat little character. Liz Wenger is a certified Luxembourgish teacher, writer and founder of learnluxembourgish.com, a website focusing on teaching Luxembourgish to English speakers of the world. Join her on twitter @LearnLuxembourg to start learning Luxembourgish today.


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Discover Benelux | Culture | Out & About

OUT & ABOUT Plan ahead this April with our Out & About guide for the Benelux. Whether you’re into beer, bicycles, blossom or beats, there is something for everybody. If it's new - it’s here. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

Photo: Toerisme Sint-Truiden en Toerisme Limburg.

Knokke-Heist Photography Festival 30 March - 9 June 2014 Knokke-Heist, Belgium Now a staple event on the world photography calendar, Knokke-Heist’s festival attracts thousands of visitors to locations criss-crossed over the town. This year’s highlight, entitled Haute Africa, exhibits works offering an alternative perspective on the continent of Africa from renowned photographers like Martin Parr and Viviane Sassan. ‘Unknown Masterpieces’ housed in the Scharpoord Cultural Centre is the opportunity to see the rising generation of photography talent, and as always, the World Press Photo exhibition passes through this attractive seaside town from 11 May. fotofestival.knokke-heist.be/en Papillon 28, 29 and 30 March 2014 Halles des Foires, , Liège, Belgium

and the like – they’re all accessible. You’re in shape, you’ve still got style and these are the three days to show it off, learn more and have a giggle. With experts on hand to deal with all your questions, niggles and concerns, as well as range of exercise and wellbeing classes spread over the weekend, this is your chance to revitalise your second youth. Pre-register online and get free entry. www.salonpapillon.be

Julie Scheurweghs campaign photo in Unknown Masterpieces – a look at Belgium’s freshest photography talent.

Health, living, travel, fashion and more awaits you at the 19th staging of this fair for the lively 50-plus. There is no excuse to be left behind anymore – smartphones, tablets

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Discover Benelux | Culture | Out & About

Town of Saints live on the Energy Stage at Eurosonic Noorderslag. Photo: Bart Heemskerk

Town of Saints 30 March 2014 Paradiso, Amsterdam, the Netherlands With a hint of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes, this young band from Groningen are poised for international success. Multi-instrumental, warm and folky, they are crisscrossing the Netherlands for performances before taking to the stage at the beautiful Paradiso in Amsterdam on 30 March. www.paradiso.nl

Haspengouw in Sint-Truiden blossoms during the month of April. Surrounded by fresh flowers, wafts of blossom and local delicacies, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience springtime at its purest. www.bloesemfeesten-haspengouw.be/

Blossom Festivities 1 April – 4 May Various locations, Haspengouw, Belgium

Zythos Beer Festival Leuven, Belgium 26 and 27 April 2014 More than 500 beers from 100 of the best brewers are on tap at the Zythos Beer Festival, Europe’s largest beer trade fair. Forming part of Leuven’s annual beer weekend, the festival runs alongside brewery visits,

Photo: Toerisme Sint-Truiden en Toerisme Limburg.

Photo: Milo Profi

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beer walks, tastings and workshops. Make mine a Vedett Extra White. www.zbf.be Tour of Flanders Saturday 5 April for cycling tourists Sunday 6 April for the pros Bruges – Oudenaarde, Belgium 247km in total for the elites, and recreational cyclists can tackle 247km, 135km or 75km. Prepare yourself both mentally and physically for the steep climbs and cobbles on this undulating route. 16,000 recreational cyclists will cover the cobbles of Flanders on the Saturday, whilst you’ll


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Discover Benelux | Culture | Out & About

Van Oostsanen – The first Dutch Master 15 March 2014 – 29 June 2014 Amsterdam Museum, Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar and the Sint-Laurens Church, Alkmaar, the Netherlands Overlooked by many, the 500-year old Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (ca. 1475-1533) makes a welcome return to his place of residence and work. Heralded as the first Amsterdam painter to be known by name, this long-overdue, very first retrospective of the earliest Dutch Master will transfix visitors as they marvel at his infinite attention to detail and wide ranging abilities: paintings, woodcuts and etchings.

see the world’s top riders battle it out on the Sunday. www.rondevanvlaanderen.be/en Yoga in the museum 17 April Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp, Belgium Every last Thursday of the month is an open invitation to participate in a pretty special yoga session – it’s not every day that an art space is opened up to this purpose. Between 19.30 and 20.30, the session is for up to 50 people on a first come first served basis. www.muhka.be Folknam Namur 18 and 19 April 2014 Namur in its heyday. Traditional folklore takes over this Belgian city for one weekend with medieval displays, speciality markets, music and more. www.folknam.be

The first Dutch Master: Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, Noli me tangere, 1507. 54,5 x 39 cm, Staatliche Museen Kassel collection can be seen in Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar.

STAT E S O F AR T TEXT: MATT ANTONIAK | PHOTO: CHRISTIAN ASCHMAN

Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp (MuKHA): Dialogue #2 April starts with a bang in Antwerp, where on 3rd April, Luc Tuymans introduces the work of Vanessa van Obberghen in the second helping of artists’ talks at the Museum of Modern Art. The ‘Dialogue’ edition of four talks sees well-established Belgian artists introduce the work of a lesser-known artists in preparation for an exhibition of their work at the gallery. In the case of Dialogue #2 Tuymans introduces van Obberghen’s wide-reaching practice in which she has covered notions of identity and roles within society. MuKHA’s preview provides an opportunity to see a spearhead of Antwerp’s and the world’s art scene in conversation with one of the city’s most exciting prospects. Preview and talk Thursday 03 April Exhibition: Friday 04 April – Sunday 15 June

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Of Many Different Feathers For fans of the more traditional practices in art, then the KunsthaL, Rotterdam may provide the answer. Running until May 11, the showing of Andries Beeckman’s seventeenth-century drawings will tickle the fancy of keen artists, historians and travellers alike. “Of Many Different Feathers” is a vast array of exquisite watercolour drawings, prints and sketches Beeckman made whilst on a trip to Indonesia. The exhibition provides a glimpse into the exotic world of wildlife and natives, as well as the globalised world of the Dutch Golden Age.

imental platform in which designers and citizens collaborate in attempts to improve lives through innovative design, the cutting-edge biennale is a place to showcase the best in Benelux talent. After previous inventions such as the ‘soft bench’ and a garbage-sweeping clock, this year’s biennale promises yet more original and pioneering design delights! Exhibition: April 23 – June 15

Exhibition: March 1 – May 11 MUDAM Luxembourg: Design City 2014 – LXBG Biennale The Design City is back again for a third time at MUDAM, Luxembourg. An exper-

Mudam

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Discover Benelux | Culture | Column

The shallow man’s guide to dating TEXT: SIMON WOOLCOT | PRESS PHOTO

The Shallow Man has lived in Amsterdam South for over 10 years. An area that, according to a leading local newspaper, has the highest number of single women in the city. Having lived in the area for so long, I wasn't in the least bit surprised about this, actually, I would go as far as to suggest that the Pijp, a neighbourhood in Amsterdam South, is the singles capital of the Netherlands. With 72% of mobile phones in use in the Netherlands being smartphones, it's no surprise that one of the most popular forms of dating in Amsterdam involves the use of a dating app called Tinder. This allows users to swipe through potential dates, based on photos in user profiles. If both parties find each other attractive, a dialogue can start which often leads to the old fashioned way of dating – in person. When out and about for an evening in one of the many bars in Amsterdam South,

I love nothing more than observing couples that are meeting for the first time as the result of a tinder matchup. Tell-tale signs are often seeing someone walk into a bar, stare at their smartphone, then watch them looking around, scanning the faces of the various patrons present until, bingo, they've found their date. I feel like the commentator of a wildlife documentary, as I witness the first date ritual being played out before me. "Here we observe the male, shifting nervously in his seat as the female fires a series of questions at him in rapid succession." I almost feel like reaching out to the man in question and advising him not to mention his ex-girlfriend, or want to reach across to

the lady who has already started checking messages on her smartphone within minutes of meeting her date. Is the date going well? If long and awkward silences are present, then probably not. Or if the woman, (I witnessed this scene one evening) spends most of the date on her phone, texting updates to her friends, then it's probably time for the male to do the same, and start swiping to find someone new. Romance is very much alive and swiping in Amsterdam. The Shallow Man Guide to Dating the Dutch book is available from BOL.com and Amazon.

Beneluxer: in their words Stijn Veenstra is an International Business Administration student from Rotterdam. Currently doing an internship within the Economic Cluster at the Embassy of the Netherlands in London, which helps Dutch businesses to set up business in the UK and informs foreign investors about the highly competitive business climate of the Netherlands. What I miss most about the Netherlands: What I like a lot about the Netherlands is how close everything is. Even when you live in a big city such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, Stijn Veenstra you are able to be in the countryside, surrounded by cows and water within 20 minutes of cycling. Always a great way to escape the city! What the Netherlands has that the UK needs: The UK could learn something from the Dutch about cycling culture. In the Netherlands, we use cycling as a more relaxed way to get from A to B and a lot of people use their bike to commute. The Prime Min-

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ister and even the Royal Family frequently use their bikes to get to work or other places. Because of the separated cycling paths and legislation that protects cyclists, cycling is so safe that we do not have to wear helmets. Where I feel most at home in the UK: I have only been here for five months, so it is nearly impossible to have seen all of London (or even the entire UK). However, I have fallen in love with Clapham in southwest London. I especially like playing hockey with my team Clapham Common Hockey Club on both Saturdays and Sundays. Hockey has been a great way for

me to get to know the city and its (great) people! What I'm looking forward to in 2014: Sadly, my internship is about to end so I will move back to Rotterdam to finish my studies. Personally I am currently looking for a new challenging internship in business development. 2014 promises great opportunities to fully dress up in orange: the Winter Olympics, the Hockey World Cup in The Hague and, of course, the Football World Cup. These are a few events where I, as a Dutch person, will turn out fully dressed in orange. In my hometown Rotterdam, a lot of new great architectural buildings will also open in 2014, making Rotterdam one of the top 10 global cities to visit in 2014.


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Discover Benelux | Issue 4 | April 2014  

Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Discover Benelux | Issue 4 | April 2014  

Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.