Discover Benelux, Issue 81, August 2023

Page 17







Tailor-made solutions for your financial and estate planning strategy

One of the best parts of living right in the middle of the Netherlands is knowing that some of the most beautiful destinations in the Benelux region are only a stone’s throw away. If I hop in the car, I can be in Amsterdam in the blink of an eye. In fact, come Saturday morning you can find me strolling the city’s markets in search of the freshest produce, starting my weekend with a coffee and the paper while basking in the charm of one of the canalside terraces or experiencing my own idea of zen at the Rijksmuseum. A short one-hour drive and I’m admiring the daring architecture so typical of Rotterdam, having lunch at the beach in Scheveningen or reliving my student days in the friendly city of Leiden. Tack on another 90 minutes, and I’m in the historic centre of the decidedly un-Dutch Maastricht in the south, which is surrounded by panoramic landscapes of hills, vineyards and castles. And if I have time and I’m in the mood to venture a little farther afield, Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp are less than three hours away, while a weekend in Luxembourg City is just five hours away. I guess you could say I made a pretty good choice when I moved here 25 years ago! Benelux is a cultural playground and a place where you can infinitely broaden your horizons. Just flip through the pages of this issue, and you’ll see what I mean.

Once again, we’re highlighting the people, places and products that make our region so attractive. We continue our Antwerp special with a focus on the city’s arts scene. You’ll find our selection of must-see exhibitions on page 24, and on page 26, we take a closer look at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, the largest cultural institution in Flanders. Gracing our cover is Vincent Van Duysen, one of Europe’s most renowned architects and design-

ers and the brainchild behind awe-inspiring buildings such as Winery VV (nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award). Read our interview with Van Duysen on page 44. If you’re a fan of Dutch design, check out the beautiful creations by our featured product designers and pick up one of the books we’ve reviewed in our Dutch design special (page 14). Fancy some seafood (page 68)? Keen on some rock climbing (page 64)? Benelux never ceases to amaze!

Enjoy the pages ahead and stay inspired!

Discover Benelux

Issue 81, August 2023

Published 08.2023

ISSN 2054-7218

Published by Scan Magazine Ltd.


H2 Print

Executive Editor

Thomas Winther

Creative Director

Mads E. Petersen


Paola Westbeek


Vera Winther

Graphic Designer

Mercedes Moulia


Matt Antoniak

Kristel Balcaen

Monique Gadella

Jennifer Dewar

Liam Greenwell

Debby Grooteman

Scheenagh Harrington

Steve Flinders

Tahney Fosdike

Dana Marin

Noelia Santana

Lucy Shrimpton

Paola Westbeek

Cover Photo

Piet Albert Goethals

Sales & Key Account Managers

Sophie Blecha

Hans Van Muylder

Petra Foster

Amber Peels

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© 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.

26 Issue 81 | August 2023 | 3 Discover Benelux | Editor’s Note




44 Creating, on a human level

Throughout its history, the port city of Antwerp has brought forth its share of talent that has put it on the map as one of the world’s leading creative hubs. Among these noteworthy individuals is Vincent Van Duysen, hailed as one of Europe’s most renowned architects and designers.


14 Outstanding Dutch design

Characterised by minimalism, functionality and innovation, Dutch design has gained worldwide recognition ever since the term was first coined back in 1993 during the Salone del Mobile in Milan. In this month’s design special, we’ll be highlighting companies that perfectly embody how Dutch design seamlessly merges aesthetics with practicality. But first, allow us to recommend a selection of thought-provoking reads for those eager to learn more about what makes Dutch design so, well, incredibly Dutch!

20 The arts in Antwerp

Antwerp may be Belgium’s second-largest city, yet it never feels overwhelming and is the perfect destination for a mini-break. Visit Antwerp, however, and chances are you’ll want to keep coming back. With its dynamic urban atmosphere, perfect blend of modern and medieval, and thriving cultural scene, the city is a wonderland of experiences guaranteed to delight the senses.

30 Enchanting places and must-see locations

Looking to plan a special day-trip or getaway this summer? Look past the Dutch capital (as much as we love Amsterdam!) and head to one of the many enchanting places scattered throughout the Netherlands. Can’t decide where to go? We’ve gathered our top suggestions.


34 We take a look at the month ahead in Benelux business, as well as profiling the companies you need to know about.


4 | Issue 81 | August 2023 Discover Benelux | Contents


52 Canal Plus+

Beyond the Netherlands, few seem to realise that there are canal views every inch as historic and evocative as Amsterdam’s. Take Utrecht, for example, situated a little over 25 minutes by train from the capital. With its unique and charming dual-level wharfs, it’s little wonder the place frequently ranks as one of Europe’s most beautiful canal cities.


The iconic Amsterdamse School

While the quaint gingerbread houses may serve as Amsterdam’s charming emblem, the city has more to offer in terms of architecture. Wandering through Amsterdam, one might notice buildings that stand out with their undulating facades, intricate brickwork and intriguing decorations. Among the cobblestone lanes and leaning houses lies a movement that defied convention and celebrated elegance: the Amsterdam School.


Scaling the sandstone of Berdorf, Luxembourg

Nestled in the northeast corner of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the seventh-smallest country in Europe, the town of Berdorf is a haven for adventurers. The surrounding region, called Müllerthal, is known as Luxembourg’s ‘Little Switzerland’ thanks to its craggy landscape and fairytale forests. Here, visitors scale sandstone rocks that require a high level of technical skill –and thoughtful preservation.


Zeeland’s seafood delights

If you thought herring is the only seafood the Netherlands has to offer, think again. The southwestern Dutch province of Zeeland is not only known for its water sports possibilities, but also for its crystal-clear waters and exceptional seafood: plump, meaty mussels; briny oysters, hearty prawns and some of the best lobster in the world. Hungry? Read our tips and ideas that will have your palate swooning.


The authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry

Separated from the historic centre by Boulevard Anspach, the districts of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry are hotbeds of innovation and cosiness. Unlike their historic counterparts, they aren’t packed with spectacular sights and legendary hotspots, but it’s a great destination for those who want to discover the real Brussels.

Desirable Designs | 8 Fashion Picks 38 Out & About | 82 Columns 64 Issue 81 | August 2023 | 5 Discover Benelux | Contents


Easy breezy all summer long

Enjoy a laid-back summer filled with sunny days. From the joy of eating alfresco in your garden, to sipping chilled beverages in beachside bliss, add in these cool designs for an effortless, sun-kissed season.

Digital Lavender

With a sateen weave and absorbent properties, the Belgian Towel, available in different colours and sizes, is perfect for the beach, sauna, picnics and other adventures. Invest in the 100% linen multipurpose textile to enjoy the sun, sand and more with practicality and elegance.


Stay hydrated in the heat with your new companion water bottle. 100% leakproof, the isothermal bottle keeps your drinks ice-cold for up to 22 hours (and hot for up to 10 hours). It’s a must-have whenever you’re out and about. So, why not add a personal touch and opt to inscribe your name when purchasing your bottle through Kambukka’s online store?


2. Elton Insulated 600 ml 1. The Belgian Towel 1.
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Design | Desirable Designs

Fancy some apéritifs while you hang out with friends on a balmy midsummer night?

Studio Tim Somers offers this handmade platter with a gouged cherry top and two supporting slats of pear wood. Indulge in the good times by serving your delights with perfect taste.

€75 (summer deal €60, or 2 for €100 incl. shipping)

Your terrace needs more whimsy. With its cartoonish appearance, this horseshoeshaped armchair made from rigid plastic and an elastic polymer is both sturdy and comfortable. After summer ends, bring the playful chair inside to continue lounging in its spacious design throughout every season.

Price on demand

This innovative wine cooler is the perfect solution if you like your wine cool but not ice-cold. Your drinks will maintain a temperature of 10 to 12°C for up to eight hours. By the sea or in your own backyard, Coolenator’s clean look effortlessly blends in wherever you decide to enjoy your beverage on a hot day.


3. Plateau
Discover Benelux | Design | Desirable Designs
5. sam son 4. Coolenator | Dutch Blue 3. 4.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 7


Whether planning a weekend escape to the seaside or a ‘forget about everything and focus on your tan’ kind of holiday, packing can be stressful. But don’t worry – help is at hand! Here are a few essentials that should make the cut when packing for your beach holiday.

The beach cover-up

Lacking space in your luggage? Pack pieces that can be worn in different ways. This stunning kimono by Essentiel Antwerp can do the rounds as a chic beach or pool cover-up, but also looks insanely good as a dress for drinks after dusk, with a belt to emphasise your shape.

Essential Antwerp, Domino Kimono, €210

Bather shorts

Invest in a great pair of swim shorts that can take you from the beach to the beach club before you can say “one gin and tonic, please”. This pair of shorts is crafted from recyclable materials and has a gorgeous floral print. Plus, it has plenty of pockets. Just don’t forget to take your phone out before jumping into the pool!

Bather bouquet recycled swim shorts, €100

Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks 8 | Issue 81 | August 2023

L’esprit ouvert swimsuit

When looking for a swimsuit, the fit is very important. Trust the experts and go for a brand that understands women’s bodies. The L’esprit ouvert swimsuit by Belgian brand Ophelia enhances the natural curves while maintaining comfort thanks to its soft Italian fabric. The one-shoulder strap is trendy but versatile enough to wear in the evening with a pair of ecru wide-leg linen trousers and golden sandals.

Ophelia lingerie, L’esprit ouvert swimsuit, €180

Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks
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Beach gear

Be the envy of all your sand buddies with this complete set of beach gear by the Australian brand Business&Pleasure Co. Made with UV-protective and waterresistant materials, this kit will turn your beach day into a luxury experience.

Business&Pleasure Co (via Smallable), Parasol €299, chair €299, towel €79, cooler bag €79

The indispensable accessory

Mango’s latest collab with LA-based lifestyle brand Simone Miller has all the accessories you need to keep your summer looks fresh, all while staying practical and keeping you protected. This raffia hat will keep away the sun’s rays and make you look like a celeb.

Mango, Raffia hat €59.99

10 | Issue 81 | August 2023 Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks

Comfortable bikini

Even out your tan by alternating a swimsuit with a bikini. We love independent designers who put effort into creating unique pieces made to last.


K.O is a Canary Islands brand created by Sara Cabrera, a fashion designer and sea lover. As an avid surfer and swimmer, she understands the need to create fun designs that don’t compromise on comfort and stay in place. All designs are made with recycled materials.

Juanita K.O, bikini top and bottom, €68

Discover Benelux | Design | Fashion Picks
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Nail art has been around for millennia, but it’s now reached a whole new level with innovative product technology and creative designs. Indigo Nails is at the cutting-edge of these new trends, and with its new state-of-the-art training school in Péruwelz, Belgium, it has become the by-word for quality beautician training in Belgium and Luxembourg.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global nail care products market size was valued at US$22.34 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow to US$32.84 billion by 2030. This is mainly down to a growing consumer demand for healthy, clean nails due in part to a greater number of women working outside the home, meaning more money is being spent on grooming, including well-cared-for nails.

Nailing it

An inviting training centre and showroom

Established in 2009 by entrepreneur Laetitia Leone, the Indigo Nails training centre and showroom offers a warm, friendly environment for professionals who want to learn everything nail related and more, including semi-permanent nail care, nail polish, gel nails, gel polish, nail art, manicure and working with accessories. Responding to the increased popularity of nail salons, Laetitia Leone says: “Women are increasingly looking to have wellgroomed hands with a clean look. It’s also an opportunity to take time out and relax.”

In March this year, Indigo Nails opened its new premises with professional equipment for the training needs of its students. Students have their own professional nail

table with a vacuum cleaner for nail particles, a sander, a lamp and all the learning tools they need. There are also digital screens to aid learning, and there’s even a great dining area for trainees.

Indigo Nails has YouTube videos which help explain the products and nail art trends as well as offer advice on the technical aspects of filing gel nails. Laetitia Leone is also currently working on online courses for students, which will be available in the future.

Beyond nails

It’s not just about nails, however. The centre also offers training in eyelash enhancement, brow lift, eyelash extensions, Russian volume (which are more voluminous than normal eyelash extensions) and

12 | Issue 81 | August 2023
Photo: Alexandre Laurent

make-up training with its new Hédonista make-up brand. They plan to offer permanent make-up training in the future.

Training is open to everyone: students who are starting out, beauticians, nail technicians who want to improve their skills or even people who are in professional retraining, particularly since Covid. Laetitia Leone: “Many women have changed their lifestyle and want to do a job they love or find something which fits in with the rest of their responsibilities, such as looking after their school-aged children.”

When asked what her most outlandish creation has been so far, Laetitia Leone replies: “I once made a Russian almond with 3D flowers in acrylic. It was very artistic, but the truth is, I prefer more classic nails with zero flaws!”

The nails training centre covers everything from beautifully clean and elegant nails to the latest trends using multiple colours and designs.

On their website, you’ll find a wide selection of Indigo nail products and beauty products from their Posh Lash and Hédonista range. Indigo Nails guarantees the highest quality products in its online store, both in manicure and in gel nails, hybrid polish and classic nail polish, to-

gether with brow, eyelash and make-up products. They also offer a wide choice of more than 35 semi-permanent nail polish collections to suit all tastes. This includes innovative products such as the award-winning Protein Base or the Mineral Base 3. Their most popular online product is the Protein Base, a gel polish base that strengthens natural nails (thanks to the jojoba protein) and can also be used to reinforce longer, natural nails.

Indigo Nails guarantees consistent quality throughout the franchise network. They also ensure franchise operators are clear on a certain number of criteria, namely a welcoming environment with clear visibil-

ity of products inside and outside. This was a key reason for creating the training centre. It was critical that customers felt reassured by the brand and would receive the same treatment and service no matter what salon they visited.

Laetitia Leone’s main purpose in working with the brand was “to ultimately bring joy to all our customers, thanks to the diversity of colours that we carry, avant-garde products that are coming back to the market, perfumes from the Spa range and other products that we offer.” Quite simply, it’s about bringing pleasure to women.

Discover Benelux | Beauty | Indigo Nails
Laetitia Leone.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 13
Photo: Martin Pilette

Outstanding Dutch design

Characterised by minimalism, functionality and innovation, Dutch design has gained worldwide recognition ever since the term was first coined back in 1993 during the Salone del Mobile in Milan. In this month’s design special, we’ll be highlighting companies that perfectly embody how Dutch design seamlessly merges aesthetics with practicality. But first, allow us to recommend a selection of thought-provoking reads for those eager to learn more about what makes Dutch design so, well, incredibly Dutch!

Piet Mondrian’s Victory Boogie Woogie, 1942-44, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Photo: Sailko TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK Rietveld Schröderhuis in Utrecht. Photo: Iris van den Broek, NBTC Holland Mediabank

How They Work: The Hidden World of Dutch Design

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the homes and workplaces of designers, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of How They Work. As attractive as the work of those featured in its pages, the book is a solid volume full of photos that draw you in to the world of 17 of the Netherlands’ top designers. Each chapter is devoted to a different designer and introduces them through a series of visuals before describing them in words. Flipping through the pages of the book will sometimes feel a bit voyeuristic, as though you’re looking through a keyhole. You’ll not only observe the working methods of the designers, but you’ll also see them at home with their children, at the table having lunch and even in bed. Revealing and intriguing, the book makes no secret of why Dutch designers are acclaimed worldwide.

Food is Fiction: Stories About Food and Design

Though in our health-conscious society most of us read food labels and are interested in the nutritional content of the foods that go into our shopping cart, perhaps few have given thought to its packaging. Why do certain products grab our attention more than others? And what is the role of design in the food industry?

Food is Fiction: Stories About Food and Design gives answers to these and other questions while taking us behind the history of packaging design and advertising in the food world. Historical and contemporary visual materials are used to illustrate how designers think, seduce us with their work and reflect the spirit of their times. Renowned Dutch brands, including Van Houten, Van Nelle, Verkade, Calvé and Blue Band are discussed, as well as current trends such as the phenomenon known as ‘food pornography’.

The attractively designed book is not only recommended to those interested in the history of (food) advertising, but also to anyone who wants to learn how design influences our choices. Chances are that after reading this book, you may just question why you’re reaching for a certain product next time you go grocery shopping!

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Outstanding Dutch Design
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 15

Do It Ourselves: A New Mentality in Dutch Design

With change come new challenges as well as fresh opportunities. Crisis has led designers to change course, choosing new values and starting points for their work. In recent years, humour and concept in Dutch design have made way for irony and contemplative criticism. Designers are now focusing on social relevance and how they can make positive contributions to current issues.

Do It Ourselves: A New Mentality in Dutch Design investigates these changes and brings to light the next stage in the development of Dutch design. The book examines 199 innovative projects and products created by a new generation of designers who are committed and optimistic, but also pragmatic, engaged and open to experimental research. It opens with an essay and is divided into eight chapters that feature an interview with leading Dutch designers such as Frank Kolkman, Dave Hakkens, Manon van Hoeckel and Chloé Rutzerveld.

Dutch Designers Yearbook ‘22

Fans of Dutch design will enjoy revisiting or becoming acquainted with some of 2022’s design highlights as they dip into this impressively varied yearbook. With Chaos as the year’s fitting theme, the Dutch Designers Yearbook ‘22 focuses on pressing global issues and features everything from compelling essays to interviews with leading figures in the world of Dutch design, among them Madeleine van Lennep, director of the Professional Organisation of Dutch Designers, who, despite the current challenges, looks ahead with hope: “If the state of the world sometimes gets me down, I only have to look to the youngest batch of designers who fight so passionately for their ideas.” This new crop of talent is spotlighted in the book through an impressive selection of graduation pro-

jects chosen from renowned Dutch design schools such as the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the ArtEz University of the Arts in Arnhem. Award-winning work is also included and beautifully illustrated with full-colour photography. For example, Ineke Hans’s REX (the Netherlands’s first chair with a refundable deposit and the winning product at the 2022 Dutch Design Awards, featured in our June issue) and the National Holocaust Names Museum (winner of the Amsterdam Architecture Prize).

The book opens with a thought-provoking letter addressed to designers by climate diplomat Yvo de Boer and features portraits of iconic designers such as Petra Blaisse and Chequita Nahar. This enlightening edition proves once again why Dutch designers continue to receive worldwide recognition for their bold and forward-thinking creations.

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Outstanding Dutch Design
16 | Issue 81 | August 2023

Timeless, desirable design

We are surrounded by beauty: from the natural world to inside our homes. When it comes to desirable design, Studio Divers by Margriet Foolen is a treasure trove of products blending form, function and fabulousness. This talented graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, is also helping other creatives showcase their work at a permanent concept store in Bergen op Zoom.

Studio Divers reflects the fact that Foolen designs all kinds of products, including furniture, lighting, kitchen products and living accessories. It was launched in 2006 after she graduated and got off to a flying start, as she explains: “I wanted to create and design products and furniture, so I thought, ‘let’s see where it goes’.

“There were a lot of design competitions asking me to enter, and I won some of them, which was really great. My graduation project was also chosen by major brand Royal VKB. It was a good start for me!”

Foolen started out designing and manufacturing products in a bedroom, but soon

moved into her own workshop to accommodate a growing client list that includes Zuperzozial, Liv Wise, Leitmotiv, Zuiver, Serax and EYYE.

For Foolen, design is a mix of beauty and functionality. “When a chair is beautiful but you can’t sit on it, then it is art, not a chair. Good design to me means timelessness, functionality and simplicity. As a designer, I don’t want to do ‘too much’. It needs to be plain and clear.”

Like many artists, sustainability is central to how she works and what she uses to create. “I want to work with clean materials,” Foolen says. “I really like to work with paper, ceramics, metal and wood. Mostly natural materials which can be recycled or that will last for a really long time.”

Many of her must-have designs can be found at the Bergen op Zoom concept shop. “I make most items myself in cooperation with friends, local materials and producers and sell them through my webshop, to keep the producing and selling circle small,” she explains.

For Foolen, the collective is not just a source of inspiration, it’s also an indication that our appetite for gorgeous design means the future is looking bright. “I hope that I can make nice designs that are sustainable and make people happy,” she says.

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Outstanding Dutch Design
Studio Divers by designer Margriet Foolen, who creates must-have products and furniture.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 17
Margriet Foolen.

Get on board with sustainability

There are many ways to reduce the impact of your household CO2 emissions, but have you ever thought about the items you use in the kitchen on a daily basis, such as chopping boards? Manufactured under high pressure from recycled paper, wood pulp and resin, Finest by ATMK Boards are of high quality and very durable.

Plastic chopping boards are not meant to last very long, and wooden ones are beautiful, but you can’t put them in the dishwasher. Finest by ATMK in the Netherlands provides you with an original and sustainable solution. Fully tested according to European standards (NSF), they offer a robust and wear-resistant alternative to the conventional chopping board.

Another advantage of these high-quality boards is that your knife won’t go blunt like it does when in contact with plastic.

Inspired by the Netherlands

The creative shapes of the boards are the brainchild of Karin and Michel den Dulk, who started this venture in 2019. They

import the basic material from the United States and produce a product that is distinctively different from anything currently available. The names of the boards are chosen from cities that have a meaning for the family. They are favourite places to visit, such as the often overlooked city of Haarlem (represented by a champagne bottle, as it is the culinary capital of the Netherlands).

The puzzle pieces that make up Board Maastricht are female and male, making it an ideal gift for a couple. The boards measure 15 x 30 cm, which gives you ample space to cut anything you need for cooking or to display your appetisers. Board Amsterdam is shaped like a traditional canal house, so typical of the cap-

TEXT: MONIQUE GADELLA | PHOTOS: FINEST BY ATMK Finest by ATMK Amsterdam. A board shaped like a canal house to display cheese.
18 | Issue 81 | August 2023
A champagne bottle represents culinary capital Haarlem.

ital of the Netherlands. The elegant fishshaped Board Scheveningen is named after the most famous fishing port in the country, situated a stone’s throw from The Hague on the North Sea Coast (where Michel was born). Karin: “The Hague is our city and also the most beautiful city in the Netherlands.” Of course, this meant creating Board The Hague, a very versatile chopping board available in four different sizes: mini, midi, maxi and mega. The smallest board is 15 x 20 cm and the largest is 27 x 45 cm, so there is one size to suit every need. Board Utrecht is shaped like a hexagon and is reminiscent of the shape of the province of Utrecht, centrally located in the Netherlands. With these boards, you can travel around the country with ease. Combine the different shapes and sizes for optimum effect.

Endless options

B2B options are plentiful. For example, they can add your logo to a serving board used for a cheese platter in a restaurant. They can create a branded business gift to have your customers remember you on a daily basis. And, for your catering business, they can even create a unique shape to display your food. The options are endless with Finest by ATMK.

Some boards come with a juice channel, which is extremely useful when cutting meat, fish and vegetables. If you have a BBQ restaurant, you can slice steak at the customer’s table on Board Alkmaar without making a mess with the juices. Juice channels can be added to boards of all shapes and sizes, so don’t hesitate

to discuss your ideas with the team at ATMK. Anything is possible, and because everything is done in-house, the communication lines are short.

The company is based in Den Hoorn, in the province of South Holland, near the historic city of Delft. It is a true family affair as the Den Dulks often have their children Tessa and Jeroen help out with the various aspects of their successful business. Karin particularly enjoys designing new boards, often together with their business clients: “I take great pleasure in creating custom-made pieces.” A showroom is on site for those customers.

The boards come in either black or lightbrown, which is the natural colour of the basic materials. The black board is great for displaying cheese and toast at a party, and the light-brown board would appeal to people who love natural colours.

If you want to make your living environment more sustainable, treat yourself to a user-friendly product and present your food beautifully, try one of the boards from the Finest by ATMK range. You can even have a personalised short message engraved on the board.

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Outstanding Dutch Design
Finest by ATMK is a true family business. A fishmonger presents his fresh produce.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 19
All the ingredients for a great cocktail can be cut on Board The Hague.

The arts in Antwerp

Antwerp may be Belgium’s second-largest city, yet it never feels overwhelming and is the perfect destination for a mini-break. Visit Antwerp, however, and chances are you’ll want to keep coming back. With its dynamic urban atmosphere, perfect blend of modern and medieval, and thriving cultural scene, the city is a wonderland of experiences guaranteed to delight the senses.

TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Woodmonkey Christian Wijnants shop.
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Photo: Frederik Beyens

Merging historical heritage and contemporary creativity, Antwerp has always nurtured and been a platform for diverse artistic expressions, making this bustling city on the banks of the River Scheldt especially attractive for art and culture aficionados. Not only has Antwerp been a prominent centre in the Flemish Baroque art movement, boasting artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens, but it is also home to galleries and museums showcasing a vibrant mix of the finest contemporary art; among them the Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA), located in the south of the city, and other cultural gems such as the Photo Museum (FOMU) and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Special events, such as the Antwerp Art Weekend, which will be celebrating its 10th edition in 2024, offer visitors the chance to become further acquainted with the city’s eclectic contemporary art scene.

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | The Arts in Antwerp
MAS, Museum aan de Stroom. Photo: Filip Dujardin, Neutelings Riedijk Architecten
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FOMU. Photo: Victoriano Moreno

Of course, Antwerp has also made a name for itself in the world of architecture and fashion design. The historic city centre is home to striking buildings such as the Town Hall (a UNESCO World Heritage site with a strikingly beautiful Renaissance-style facade) and the Museum Plantin-Moretus, which was once the home and workshop of Christophe Plantin and his son-in-law, Jan Moretus, who were the city’s first industrial-scale printers. Other noteworthy buildings include the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom), located on the old port neighbourhood Het Eilandje, and the iconic railway station, which was constructed between 1895 and 1905 in an eclectic mix of styles. Fashion is also part of Antwerp’s cultural fibre, earning the city international recognition with names such as Dries van Noten, Christian Wijnants and Martin Margiela.

In the following pages, we’ve compiled a selection of art and cultural experiences you won’t want to miss. From must-visit exhibitions at some of the city’s leading museums to a closer look at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, the largest cultural institution in Flanders, active in both Antwerp and Ghent. Get ready to truly broaden your horizons in Antwerp!

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | The Arts in Antwerp
Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Woodmonkey Combining shopping with stunning architecture.
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Photo: Wim Haderman Antwerp’s Central Station.
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Photo: Visit Antwerp

Antwerp’s must-visit exhibitions

With a vibrant cultural atmosphere, impressive architecture and myriad galleries and museums – from the KMSKA where seven centuries of art await, to the MAS, which is housed in an eye-catching brick and glass building that has been wowing visitors since its opening in 2011 – it’s no wonder that coming to Antwerp means broadening your horizons. We’ve rounded up a selection of exhibitions you won’t want to miss.

Turning Heads: Bruegel, Rubens and Rembrandt

20 October 2023-21 January 2024


This autumn, the KMSKA (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp) promises to delight audiences with one of the most absorbing exhibitions to date. Focusing on the evolution of the head study, which became especially popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, ‘Turning Heads’ will spotlight no fewer than 76 captivating masterpieces depicting the human face, intimately rendered by the likes of renowned Belgian and international artists such as Bruegel, Rubens, Van Dyck, Dürer, Bosch, Barocci, Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Whereas faces had been previously shown in biblical and mythological scenes, they now take centre stage. The tronie (meaning ‘face’ in Old Dutch) was not meant as a portrait but rather as a creative experiment for artists to practise capturing the unique intricacies of facial expressions. Instead of immortalising an individual

who commissioned the work (as was the case with portraits), the models were ordinary people who would mostly remain unknown. Nevertheless, each face tells its own story, not only drawing in the viewer to closely examine these often small yet stunningly painted, drawn or engraved artworks, but also bringing them closer to the artist than ever before.

Come and discover the development of this overlooked and infinitely fascinating genre through five themes spanning five centuries – beginning with a 15th-century prelude and concluding with a number of 19th-century holdovers, while placing emphasis on masterpieces from the 17th century. Guided by Rubens and Rembrandt, you will be able to admire their works generously scattered throughout the exhibition. Of special interest is that

visitors will be given a chance to unleash their inner artist by, among other things, making digital studies of their face, complete with everything from eye-catching headgear to lightning effects.

‘Turning Heads’ is the first major exhibition since the museum’s grand reopening last September and first major worldwide exhibition on this genre.

Rare and Indispensable: Masterpieces from Flemish Collections

31 October 2023-25 February 2024

(Museum MAS)

Michelangelo, Magritte, Francis Bacon, Ensor, Henry Moore and Rubens are just a few of the world-famous names on display at the MAS this autumn. The unmissable exhibition ‘Rare and Indispensable’ displays a unique selection

TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK PHOTOS: VISIT ANTWERP Turning Heads ©Peter Paul Rubens, Head of Bearded Man. Photo: National Gallery of Ireland
Discover Benelux | Special Theme | The Arts in Antwerp 24 | Issue 81 | August 2023

of almost 100 works from the Flemish Masterpiece List. Works of art, manuscripts and artefacts for which visitors would otherwise have to comb through Flanders are now temporarily on display in one place. Some of the pieces are on display for the first time.


10 November-3 March 2024 (Museum Mayer van den Bergh)

The exhibition ‘Conversations’ brings together masterpieces that are part of Museum Mayer van den Bergh’s collection (among them Pieter Bruegel, Cornelis De Vos, Alessandro Allori, Daniël Seghers, Jacob Jordaens, Joachim Patinir and Gerard de Lairesse) with new and exciting works by 15 contemporary artists (among them Jonathan Meese, Adrian Ghenie, Edward Lipski, Bram Demunter, Ben Sledsens and Rinus Van de Velde). The artists enter into a conversation with these historic masterpieces, resulting in a brilliant merging of past and present, beautifully presented at the museum’s atmospheric interior. In collaboration with the Tim Van Laere Gallery.

From Scribble to Cartoon: Drawings from Bruegel to Rubens in Flemish


17 November 2023-18 February 2024 (Museum Plantin-Moretus)

Discover who, why and how people drew in the Low Countries during the 16th and 17th centuries at this intriguing exhibition. Featuring 85 of the most beautiful draw-

ings by Old Masters, this is a one-time opportunity to discover artists such Pieter Bruegel, Anthony Van Dyck and Jacques Jordaens alongside those by lesser-known draughtsmen, including Jan van Stinemolen, Pieter van Lint, Godfried Maes and Jan Erasmus Quellinus.

Masterpieces from the museum’s own collection form the basis of the exhibition along with pieces on loan from other public and private collections. Included are Rubens’ sketchbook from when he was 12 years old, Antoon van den Wijngaerde’s 10-metre long Panorama of Zeeland and the extremely rare Italy sketchbooks of sculptor Pieter Verbruggen.

10 years Red Star Line Museum

In September, the museum will be celebrating its tenth anniversary. Step back in time to the years between 1873 and 1935 when immigrants departed from Antwerp aboard the Red Star Line’s steamships in hope of a better life in North America. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this September, the Red Star Line Museum invites you to discover the collections and stories housed at the shipping company’s original harbour sheds on the Rijnkaai. From the observation tower, you will have a magnificent view over the Scheldt, where more than two million passengers (among them Irving Berlin and Albert Einstein) departed from this historic location.

For more information about these must-visit exhibitions and all the great things Antwerp has to offer, visit:

From Scribble to Cartoon ©Maerten de Vos, design for the decoration of the Joyous Ascension of Ernest of Austria in 1594 Conversations ©KATI HECK, Must be the Truth, 2023. (KH-P0206) Rare and Indispensable ©Jean Brusselmans, Beach view with bather, Collectie Mu.ZEE – Stad Oostende (inv. nr. SM002528). Photo: Steven Decroos
Discover Benelux | Special Theme | The Arts in Antwerp Issue 81 | August 2023 | 25
Poster, Henri Cassiers (1899). Photo: Letterenhuis

Bringing opera and ballet into the 21st century

Music may be the food of love, but in the coming years, arts fans are in for a real feast at Belgium’s Opera Ballet Vlaanderen. Under artistic director Jan Vandenhouwe, who was recently unanimously granted a second six-year term, OBV continues to push the creative boundaries, combining operas and ballets to create works that are captivating theatregoers old and new.

Keeping opera and ballet alive and finding fresh audiences are arguably the biggest

challenges facing Vandenhouwe, whose tenure as artistic director will now run until 2031. He says: “To get a younger and more diverse audience, we all need to think about the stories we want to tell and in which form we want to tell them.”

His response? To fuse the two genres and erase the myth that opera and ballet are not for ‘everyone’ by making OBV’s productions reflective of the modern world. For example, next season opens with Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, direct-

ed by Milo Rau, set in art galleries and refugee camps.

New ways to tell classic stories

“Diversity is a big theme today, and it is not always easy with century-old pieces that are all written by white men,” Vandenhouwe admits. “What are we trying to say? That it’s a constant challenge to bring these pieces closer to the audience. I’m not interested in shocking people. We have to remember our traditional audience and try to take them with us in this story.

TEXT: SCHEENAGH HARRINGTON Lateef Williams and the OBV dance company performing Alain Platel’s C(H)OEURS.
26 | Issue 81 | August 2023
Photo: © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Filip Van Roe

“When we create new pieces or give commissions to write completely new things, it is very important to make this diversity visible. The Opera House can be like a conservative temple in the city, but these days I’m often contacted by young people who would like to work with us and be part of the story we’re developing.”

Of course, it takes a lot of work to combine two different art disciplines and create something audiences want to see. Company dancers Nicola Wills and Lateef

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | The Arts in Antwerp
Mozart Concert ‘Arias’, Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker. Photo: © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Filip Van Roe
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 27
Cosi fan Tutte. Photo: © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Annemie Augustijns

Williams relish the challenges and opportunities presented by OBV, as Wills eloquently says: “Art is all about accessibility and inspiring people.”

Speaking about the fusion of classic and contemporary dance, Wills says: “I relish it. The classical form does have its limitations, but it allows you to be able to explore within it and gives you a base to launch from if you’re going to approach work in a different context.”

Williams is equally as enthusiastic: “As dancers, it means we have to be versatile. It challenges us to hone our skills in both classical and contemporary movement. It also gives us more language to express ourselves with.”

Identity and interactions

For OBV’s musical director, Alejo Perez, the hybrid productions are a smart way for the house to stay true to its identity while also forging a new path.

“There are kinds of hybrid productions where you can’t ask, ‘is this just an op-

era’ or ‘is this just a ballet’. It’s really quite fascinating to observe and to experience,” he enthuses, citing the hit C(H)OEURS, by director and choreographer Alain Platel.

Perez reveals how invited guests and soloists were surprised by OBV’s consistent full houses, crediting the strategy of trying to make opera more open to other arts through collaborations with people from outside that sphere, such as French art house film director Philippe Grandrieux, and Fabrice Murgia, who will helm next season’s world creation, Brodeck, based on Philippe Claudel’s novel.

“This attracts the interest of people who wouldn’t initially think of going to the opera,” Perez says. “There’s some appeal perhaps to new audiences about OBV, and I hope it makes for a very exciting future.”

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Jan Vandenhouwe named Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as one of several “world-famous Belgian choreographers” who emerged in the 1980s. She is one of OBV’s three associate artists, alongside

C(H)OEURS. Photo: © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Filip Van Roe Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
28 | Issue 81 | August 2023
Photo: © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Filip Van Roe

De Keersmaeker and Vandenhouwe collaborated on projects before he took direction of OBV, so she knew she was in good hands when she agreed to the staging of her productions Cosi fan Tutte (which she choreographed and directed for the Paris opera) and the Mozart concert, Arias.

“I have been following OBV for a long time and found that, in the last few years, the company has really evolved in a very interesting way,” she says. “It has a company of dancers who are technically very strong, yet very open-minded in dealing with other material which is not from the basic classical language.

“We all know what kind of pressure these big houses are under, and I found the collaborations were very smooth and

with a focus on the content that was very inspiring.”

De Keersmaeker hails OBV’s ambition to bring bigger, more expensive pieces with a live orchestra to new audiences and applauds how the hybrid production strategy gives opportunities “to new dancers and other choreographers to create new work”.

“I was sad we didn’t have the opportunity to present Cosi fan Tutte in Brussels,” she says. “It was good that the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen made it one of the crucial pieces to present.”

As for future projects with OBV, she remains tight-lipped. “We’re speaking with Jan about other repertory and creations, but it’s too soon. I can’t say anything yet.”

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | The Arts in Antwerp
Flemish choreographer Jan Martens and American Jermaine Maurice Spivey. Jan Vandenhouwe. Photo: © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Filip Van Roe La Clemenza di Tito.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 29
Photo: ©Carole Parodi

Enchanting places and must-see locations

Looking to plan a special day-trip or getaway this summer? Look past the Dutch capital (as much as we love Amsterdam!) and head to one of the many enchanting places scattered throughout the Netherlands. Can’t decide where to go? In the following pages, we’ve gathered our top suggestions.

TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK | PHOTOS: PIXABAY Rotterdam’s Cube Houses, one of its many architectural wonders.
30 | Issue 81 | August 2023
Giethoorn is meant to be explored by boat.


At only 20 kilometres north of Amsterdam, Volendam should be on the itinerary of anyone who visits the country. The colorful town situated in North Holland is pure charm; from its whimsical Dutch houses lining the dyke to its harbour full of boats in all shapes and sizes. It is picturesque, quaint and somewhat isolated, yet never sleepy or boring. Especially during the summer, the streets of Volendam come to life with a cacophony of languages from all over the world. Tourists stroll through the busy harbour area, often stopping for a browse at the many souvenir shops or treating themselves to a meal at the restaurants and food stands selling everything from fish and chips to waffles, ‘poffertjes’ (plump, tiny pancakes) and other traditional Dutch treats. And don’t forget that Volendam is especially famous for its smoked eel!

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Enchanting Places & Must-See Locations
Boats on Volendam’s harbour.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 31
Middelburg’s City Hall dominates a large part of the market square and is one of the city’s most imposing structures.


Enclosed within star-shaped fortifications, Middelburg is a city steeped in culture and historic allure. Dating back to the 9th century, it is the capital of the southwestern province of Zeeland and currently has a population of approximately 50,000. With its stately architecture, quaint streets, myriad interesting shops and wonderful restaurants, the city is still as inviting and dynamic as ever.

Highlights include the Stadhuis (City Hall), which dominates a large part of the market square and is one of the city’s most imposing structures. A major part of the late-Gothic building was built between 1452 and 1458. Its Vleeshal (Meat Hall) and tower were added between 1506 and 1521. The facade boasts Gothic windows with red and white shutters, various towers and 25 statues of counts and countesses of Holland and Zeeland. Must-visit streets include the traffic-free Spanjaardstraat (home to approximately 50 protected monuments) and the Lange Noordstraat where the famous 17th-century Dutch poet and writer Jacob Cats

once lived at number 31. More interesting streets and homes of the famous can be found in the various city routes that are available at the tourism office (Markt 51). And when you’ve seen all there is to see, escape to the shore and indulge in a little healthy sea air or some fine seafood (see page 68). After all, you’re only about half an hour away from glistening coastlines and pristine beaches!


Dating to the 13th century, Amersfoort is a lively city located in the central province of Utrecht, approximately half an hour to the southeast of Amsterdam. With more than 650 monuments, attractive architecture, ancient gates and a rich and vibrant history, the city is one of the country’s most captivating medieval jewels.

As you walk through the centre of town, more than 750 years of the city’s history are beautifully palpable. Boats gently sailing through the charming canals and ancient gates, monumental buildings with crow-stepped gables and narrow cobblestoned streets lined with pretty

homes all tell stories of the past. Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren (the Tower of Our Lady), also known as the ‘Lange Jan’ (Tall Jan), marks the exact geographical centre of The Netherlands. At 322 feet, it is one of the tallest medieval church towers in the country and one of the city’s main landmarks.


Located in the province of Overijssel, in the northeastern part of the Netherlands, the postcard-pretty town of Giethoorn charms visitors from every corner of the world with its numerous canals and wooden bridges. Giethoorn is divided into several small islands connected by over 180 bridges. Don’t expect to get around by car as Giethoorn’s most distinctive feature is the absence of roads, meaning that you’ll mostly be travelling by boat! In fact, this is the perfect way to admire all that Giethoorn has to offer – from its beautiful thatched-roof farmhouses and wooden bridges to its lush gardens and lively waterside terraces. Don’t forget to stop by Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus (Binnenpad 52) to learn more about the

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Enchanting Places & Must-See Locations
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Rotterdam has the Netherlands’ most impressive skyline.

village’s history and culture. For more information about Giethoorn, check out our June issue.


Boasting the Netherlands’ most impressive skyline, architectonic masterpieces such as Piet Blom’s renowned Cubic Houses and the horseshoe-shaped Markthal, a thriving cultural atmosphere with everything from engaging museums to a 40-kilometre port (the largest in Europe) lined with historic warehouses, Rotterdam is one of the most buzzing destinations in the country.

On sunny days or for a little quiet respite, head to Het Park, a lush oasis of calm just a stone’s throw from the Euromast. And if you enjoy cycling, the 30-kilometre Polderpadroute starts at Rotterdam Central Station and leads you through a breathtakingly beautiful area between the Schie and Rotte rivers dotted with verdant pastures, grazing cows, dykes and the animated sounds of chirping birds!

A taste of Dutch culture

‘Come as a visitor and leave as a friend’ is what motivates the team of Simonehoeve. At this captivating cheese farm and clog factory, you will find a passionate group of people who take great pride in their work. Come and indulge your taste buds with no fewer than 27 cheese varieties – while walking on wooden clogs!

Simonehoeve is an authentic cheese farm and clog factory that lies amidst picturesque meadows, situated just 22 kilometres from Amsterdam. You will feel right at home at this farm, where a visit will transform into a memorable friendship. Upon your arrival, you will be warmly greeted by a staff member (dressed in traditional Volendam costume) who will guide you through the process of cheese and clogs production. Marco Harting, a host, is an integral part of a close-knit team of family and friends who work here.

To make sure communication is no barrier at Simonehoeve, the team members collectively speak almost all languages. Harting, in particular, speaks more than the average number of languages: “I am fluent in Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. I can also offer tours in Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Czech and Hebrew. Our aim is to involve visitors in the demonstration by speaking to them in their native language.” Harting emphasises that the goal is to receive genuine applause after a tour and ensure that people leave feeling content.

Harting: “Additionally, for private groups, we can arrange a transfer to and from their hotel. During the journey we can provide further information about the surrounding area.” Simonehoeve is conveniently located, and there is a bus stop almost in front of the premises.

Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Enchanting Places & Must-See Locations
TEXT: DEBBY GROOTEMAN | PHOTOS: SIMONEHOEVE Trying on clogs at Simonehoeve. Iconic Dutch clogs and cheese.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 33
Amersfoort boasts more than 750 years of history.

Benelux Business

What do Michelangelo, David Beckham and Elvis have in common?

When Sabine left school in Switzerland at the age of 18, she started a four-year commercial apprenticeship. Her company then supported her through university studies until she got a Masters. She now manages the HR function for the Swiss subsidiary of a US multinational.

Many other senior Swiss and German managers have also started as apprentices: two-thirds of young Swiss people follow a vocational training course after finishing school. As a Brit, two things strike me about Sabine’s story. First, that there is a vibrant tradition of white-collar as well as blue-collar apprenticeships in Switzerland.

Second, that there is no stigma attached to embarking on a vocational rather than an academic pathway after school. While in the UK, the relationship between vocational training and academic education has for long been massively unequal in terms of both status and funding, Switzerland, Germany and Austria enjoy greater parity between the two and greater integration of the two tracks, making it possible for individuals to combine elements

from both and to switch between the two as their careers develop.

In an era of skills shortages across Europe, there is something fundamentally flawed about education and training systems which are failing to produce individuals who possess the skills – soft as well as hard – that they need to do useful work and to find satisfaction in that work.

At a European Works Council seminar I attended recently, only the French and German reps – out of the ten nationalities present – said they were broadly happy with their company’s apprenticeship system. The UK, in particular, has failed to address this challenge for decades. It’s still debatable whether Tony Blair was right in setting the target in 1999 of getting 50% of British school leavers into university. Perhaps the draw of the university over the technical college is a reflection of a more deep-seated inequality in British society.

One thing is clear: We need to close the gap between academic education and vocational training and integrate each of them into national and supranational programmes of lifelong learning, with cradle-

to-grave opportunities for professional and personal development for all.

Apprenticeships have been an important part of European society since the Middle Ages, as reflected in the opening question. All three of these, of course, served apprenticeships: Michelangelo in an artist’s studio, Beckham at Manchester United, and Elvis became an apprentice electrician when he left school.

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS
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Business Calendar

ESC Congress 2023

25-28 August

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The global cardiology community reunites every year at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. This year’s event takes place in Amsterdam, bringing together cardiologists and researchers to exchange ideas, share data and establish valuable professional connections. The congress will primarily focus on heart failure but will cover various topics on cardiovascular medicine. ESC-Congress

International Conference on Agriculture (IC-AGRI-23)

4-5 August

Bruges, Belgium

Scientists, policymakers and industry experts come together at IC-AGRI-23 to share their experiences and knowledge in agriculture. This conference provides an excellent opportunity for attendees to network and discuss with fellow peers, exchanging the latest findings and advancements in the industry.

13th International Congress of Egyptologists

6-11 August

Leiden, the Netherlands

When it comes to Egyptology, Leiden has a long history. Its role as a home for this discipline started in 1818 when the first large collection of Egyptian antiquities arrived at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.

In August, Leiden hosts The International Congress of Egyptologists, recognised as the largest regular gathering of Egyptologists and specialists from related fields worldwide.

European Finance Association (EFA)

2023 Annual Meeting

16-19 August

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The 50th EFA 2023 Annual Meeting will be held at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. The agenda comprises around 80 sessions, a panel featuring Nobel laureates and a keynote address by Antoinette Schoar (MIT). There will be plenty of opportunities for networking and a ‘Finance +Humour’ program.

Hiswa te Water

30 August-3 September

Lelystad, the Netherlands

The must-visit event this summer for every water sport and boat enthusiast is Hiswa te Water in Lelystad. It’s the largest in-water boat show in Northern Europe, and this year it is set to break records with nearly 400 boats moored on the quay of the Batavia Haven.

Discover Benelux | Business | Calendar
TEXT: DANA MARIN Photo: Hiswa te Water
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 35
International Congress of Egyptologists, Cairo. Photo: A. Romeih

Schooled for business in Brussels

Most business people and entrepreneurs rely on what they know to get ahead and succeed. For Mozambique-based Silvia Ferreira, who worked for a multinational company before launching her own sustainable business, Cosini, it was what she didn’t know that prompted her to seek out educational opportunities. She found them with an MBA at Vlerick Business School in Brussels.

“I felt the need for more technical knowledge on the supply chain and to get updated on the current trends in the global market,” she explains. “That’s why I decided to do a Master of Business Administration at Brussels-based Vlerick Business School.”

According to Ferreira, Vlerick stood out for several reasons: “It was not only well positioned in the market, but was also strategically located in Brussels. It had a lot of connections with other multinational companies, which was something I was really looking for.”

She also noted international as well as ethnic diversity within the classes, which gave her the chance to work with a variety of people, something else that was important to her.

Vlerick’s application process was also more attractive than other schools, which relied on an entrance exam or psychological tests to assess potential candidates. Ferreira explains: “Most of the

TEXT: SCHEENAGH HARRINGTON | PHOTOS: ERIK VAN DER BURGT Vlerick Business School graduate, Silvia Ferreira.
36 | Issue 81 | August 2023
Experience Vlerick Day.

time it’s not really about your story, what you did and what you want to achieve.

“I think this is something Vlerick respects and focuses on during the interview and application process, so the decision was not that hard to make.”

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the programme was the opportunity to rub shoulders with a wide range of people from different business fields. “They really try to put together diverse teams inside the class as much as possible,” Ferreira points out.

Diversity, diversity everywhere

She was pleased to find Vlerick’s commitment to diversity went beyond skin colour. Ferreira saw diversity everywhere, from the professors teaching classes, to the business backgrounds of the people learning.

“We really need to respect people as individuals and what they have to contribute, what they have to achieve,” she says. “That they consider someone coming from an African country and the process of getting to know my story and what I want to achieve – that was very interesting.”

That cosmopolitan mix – mirroring Vlerick’s location in the centre of Brussels –clearly had a positive impact. “It’s not always comfortable if you’re coming from a culture that takes things at a different

speed or takes a different approach to the same problem.

“Some people are more pragmatic and want to be very direct, while others use a lot of emotions. I respect both sides and know now that we need balance,” she says.

That equilibrium was important elsewhere, too. Many students enjoy a healthy social life during their university years, and although more professional, it was no different at Vlerick. “I was looking for the full experience,” Ferreira says, but there was more to it than merely meeting new friends.

Learning to adapt

“Nowadays, I believe the social aspect is so much more important to individuals within teams because no matter what industry you are in, you need to sell. You need to adapt yourself to different situations,” she explains.

She’s even adapted her recruitment process to include the ability to communicate and be social, helping her identify people who can work as a team. “Developing that is really very much linked to also being professional,” she says.

Ferreira clearly learned a lot at Vlerick and was able to put that education to good use when she was promoted shortly after

finishing her learning journey. She managed the supply chain for 900 kilometres of railway, had a team spread across three different cities and had to report to a board of shareholders.

“When you work as an individual, you really focus on your work,” she says. “But I was responsible for other people’s work and behaviour, so it’s important to keep in mind the big picture of what I want to achieve. This is crucial for anyone leading a team, and Vlerick was very good at teaching that.”

It’s a philosophy Ferreira carried with her when, in 2016, she established her own company, Cosini, which provides a range of sustainable construction, real estate and industrial solutions.

She credits Vlerick’s project management course with giving her the tools to put the thriving enterprise together and the MBA for giving her the confidence to “just go for it”. Without hesitation, Ferreira would encourage other entrepreneurs to apply to the business school.

“It’s a great investment,” she says. Vlerick Business School is at the heart of Europe and offers a vibrant mix of cultures, nationalities and backgrounds – from participants to faculty members.

Discover Benelux | New Campus in Brussels | Vlerick Business School
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 37

Out & About

August is known as the month of abundance, and that holds true for the events calendar in Benelux as well. As temperatures soar, we’re enticed to spend more time outdoors, enjoying each other’s company and savouring the fragrant summer nights. Embrace this delightful season as opportunities for shared experiences and memorable moments abound.

TEXT: DANA MARIN Schueberfouer. Photo: Sabino Parente


23 August – 11 September, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

One of the biggest funfairs in Europe, the Schueberfouer, is coming to Luxembourg at the end of August. The origins of this fair go all the way to 1340 when John the Blind, Count of Luxembourg, organised an eight-day market in celebration of Saint Bartholomew’s Day. Today, the fair hosts 200 stalls and expects to welcome two million visitors. Themed days, such as Family Day or Day of the Queens, will add to the excitement, ensuring there’s something enjoyable for everyone.

Steampunk Convention

5-6 August, Echternach, Luxembourg

For two days in August, the oldest city of Luxembourg will play host to the sixth edition of the Steampunk Convention. The theme for this year is ‘The Transformation of the Little Marquise’. Expect many creative costumes, intricate ma-

Discover Benelux | Culture | Lifestyle Calendar
Amersfoort World Jazz Festival. Photo: De Nozem Fotografie
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 39
Steampunk Echternach.Photo: Uli Fielitz

chinery and gears, a market, music and photo shoots. The convention will end with a glorious costume competition.

Amersfoort World Jazz Festival

15-20 August, Amersfoort, the Netherlands

Jazz lovers in the Netherlands are in for a treat this summer, with the 44th edition of the Amersfoort World Jazz Festival! Visitors can choose from more than 80 concerts at indoor and outdoor locations. At the Lieve Vrouwekerkhof, you can listen to sounds from the Latin

America and Caribbean Islands, fado and gypsy jazz, and more. Dutch jazz talents will present their latest music at various locations, and you can attend intimate acoustic concerts in the Sint Aegtenkapel.

Pride Amsterdam

1-6 August, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Pride Amsterdam brings a week of celebration to a city known for its important role in the queer community. Throughout the week, parties, concerts and other events will take

place across the Dutch capital, culminating in the spectacular boat parade on the canals on Saturday, 5 August. This year’s theme is #YouAreIncluded, and it’s about diversity within the LGBTI community.

Richard Long in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

Until 29 October, Amsterdam, the Netherlands For the past ten years, the Rijksmuseum has organised yearly sculpture exhibitions in its garden. Open to everyone, the museum’s garden is a green spot in the city centre where you can

Discover Benelux | Culture | Lifestyle Calendar
40 | Issue 81 | August 2023
Four Sisters. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde

stop for a relaxing break, read a book and appreciate the beauty of flowers and sculptures. The 10th edition of the annual sculpture exhibition in the Rijksmuseum Gardens will celebrate the work of Richard Long, a British artist who is known for his subtle intervention in landscape, which can be explored by walking.


11-20 August, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Having the beautiful canals of Amsterdam as a backdrop, the Grachtenfestival is an annual cel-

Discover Benelux | Culture | Lifestyle Calendar
Richard Long, Time after Time, 2023. Photo: Rijksmuseum, Jannes Linders Pride Amsterdam. Photo: Jeroen Ploeger Grachtenfestival.
Issue 81 | August 2023 | 41
Photo: Melle Meivogel

ebration of classical music, jazz and music from various cultures. Young musicians from all over the world will captivate the audience over ten days, and, as night falls, the streets of the city centre will come alive with the resounding melodies of this vibrant festival.

European Para Championships

8-20 August, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

This multi-sport event, hosted every four years, is coming to Rotterdam in 2023. It will mark the first edition where the European Para Championships of ten different parasports will be organised simultaneously. There are 1,500 Paralympic athletes from 45 different European countries enrolled for the competitions, promising a captivating event.

Utrecht Early Music Festival

25 August-3 September, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Celebrate the early European art and music at the Utrecht annual Early Music Festival. This year, the festival embraces the theme of ‘Revival’ and will feature music from the Renaissance. The festival challenges musicians to create new ways of exploring musical heritage.

Four Sisters

Until 27 August, Brussels, Belgium

Four Sisters is a must-see moving exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, showcasing the work of four Jewish artists: Chantal Akerman, Marianne Berenhaut, Sarah Kaliski and Julia Pirotte. They are sisters from different parents and different generations, but they all

lived in Brussels and have in common that they lived through disaster and created work that expresses their lives.

Quintanilha: Visual Chronicles of Brazil

Until 27 August, Brussels, Belgium

The Comics Art Museum in Brussels hosts an exhibition b the Brazilian artist Marcello Quintanilha. Drawing inspiration from everyday life in Brazil, his captivating stories are imbued with tension and feature striking characters. Quintanilha aims to expose the country’s social inequalities and inequities through storytelling.

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Utrecht Early Music Festival. Photo: Marieke Wijntjes
Discover Benelux | Culture | Lifestyle Calendar Issue 81 | August 2023 | 43
Quintanilha. Photo: Daniel Fouss, Comics Art Museum European Para Championship. Photo: EPC

Creating, on a human level

Throughout its history, the port city of Antwerp has brought forth its share of talent that has put it on the map as one of the world’s leading creative hubs. Among these noteworthy individuals is Vincent Van Duysen, hailed as one of Europe’s most renowned architects and designers.


Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Vincent Van Duysen
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Vincent Van Duysen. Photo: Piet Albert Goethals VVDA_2021 EK Residence, LA.
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Photo: AD USA (Stephen Kent Johnson)

After completing his studies at the Sint-Lucas School of Architecture in Ghent in 1985, Vincent Van Duysen (Lokeren, 1962) embarked on the first steps of his prolific career training alongside postmodernist designer and architect Aldo Cibic in Milan and later working with JeanJacques Hervy in Brussels and Jean De Meulder in Antwerp, the city he has called home for more than three decades.

Van Duysen established his eponymous multidisciplinary firm in Antwerp in 1990

and has since added everything from architectural and interior projects (including designing Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s house in California; Winery VV, nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award; and the interior of Graanmarkt 13 in Antwerp) to collaborations with international brands to his portfolio. This past June, he continued his partnership with Zara Home –started last year – by launching a dining and entertaining collection that features cabinets, tables, chairs, tableware, cutlery, linens and more.

Van Duysen’s work, which fluidly merges architecture with the design of interiors, products and furniture, is characterised by the use of pure, natural materials and meticulous attention to how space is experienced. Within these main pillars, he embraces timeless aesthetics and resolutely eschews fleeting trends.

In 2016, Van Duysen took on the role of creative director at Molteni&C, a leading Italian furniture design brand with more than 600 stores worldwide. From 2018

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to 2020, he was Sahco’s creative director and is now one of the Danish textile company’s senior designers. Van Duysen has been lauded numerous times with awards such as the Flemish Culture Prize for Design (2015) and the Henry van de Velde Lifetime Achievement Award (2019). In 2016, he was named Designer of the Year.

Were you born a creative?

My parents educated me across many different arts as a child – architecture,

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Vincent Van Duysen
VVDA 2019 August Antwerp. Photo: Mark Seelen VVDA 2021 EK Residence exterior.
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Photo: Stephen Johnson

painting, arts, photography. Thanks to them, from an early age, I inherited an interest in the arts and got the education to develop that further. It obviously helped that I always had a natural kind of understanding of beauty. I always had a very intuitive sense of creativity in all forms: dance, fashion and so on. I took up architecture because within my parent’s circle of friends there was a professor from the Sint-Lucas School of Architecture in Ghent who explained to me that the enduring quality of architecture was that it covered so many aspects of all of the applied arts I had been exposed to. Architecture gave (and still gives) me the opportunity to express my creativity in many different ways.

In your 20s, you trained with Aldo Cibic in Milan. What do you remember most about that experience?

When I started, it was around 1985. I was passionate about architecture and design but still had a lot to learn. Postmodernism was emerging as a recognisable style and, in many ways, that influenced my outlook. I was always very interested in architecture that exhibited a rigor or purity, but due to my time working in Italy with Aldo Cibic and Sottsass Associati, there was always an element of playfulness and spirit to my work. My time with Cibic in Milan gave me an appreciation for essential and pure forms.

In 1990, you founded Vincent Van Duysen Architects in Antwerp. Tell us about your first major project.

My first apartment in Antwerp (VVD I Residence), followed by the renovation of AK Residence, still in Antwerp.

What has been one of the most fulfilling projects to work on and why? And the most challenging?

Too many to mention. They’re all different and have had the right share of self-fulfillment and challenges. It depends on the scale, the location, or the client.

You have referred to your work as ‘human-centric’. In your designs, how do you go about capturing the essence of what your clients want?

I work for human beings first and foremost, to improve their lives in an organic and timeless manner. I want to keep on designing and creating new architectures, products and interiors for mankind in an organic way, giving timeless objects to human beings. Ever since the begin-

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Vincent Van Duysen
VVDA 2020 CASA M. Photo: Ricardo Labougle

ning of my career – 30 years ago – the most important thing has always been to consider architecture as a profession dedicated to humanity; and that means starting from the architecture of places whose inhabitants need to feel protected and relaxed, right through to the furniture and the objects around them that are necessary for them to live a comfortable and happy life. It is very important to understand the client, to meet their demands and wishes, but to also have mutual respect and a chemistry.

Who or what has inspired you most in your career?

I am like a sponge absorbing from the most diverse disciplines. Everything has the potential to inspire me: a book, a work of art, all sorts of visual stimuli, galleries, movies. It all goes through the filter of my empathy and my imagination, and that’s how I create. But I’m optimally creative only when surrounded by people. I believe that for me, daily life, daily encounters, is what inspires me most. And my travels. And my team!

How has your work evolved during the past decades?

My approach over the years has changed and evolved a lot due to the ever-changing clients’ requests, but also to what each decade required of us architects and designers. We’re living in a fast-paced, on-demand society, so we need to be more aware of the quality and beauty of good design. In my case, even though today there is a lot of technology in designing and planning, I am still aiming for authenticity and consistency. What hasn’t changed is my human-centric approach, which instils a very organic feeling into my work. I enjoy sharing and being inspired, and I think it is important to develop work that demonstrates a progression or evolution of thinking. I like that people refer to my work as timeless, but it is important to me that my work continues to be contemporary, surprising and reach people on an emotional level.

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Vincent Van Duysen
VVDA 1988 VVD I Residence. Photo: Giorgio Possenti VVDA 1994 AK Residence Antwerp.
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Photo: Alberto Piovano VVDA 2017 VO Residence, Knokke, Belgium.
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Photo: François Halard

Last year you started a collaboration with Zara Home. Tell us about your upcoming dining and entertaining Zara Home+ Collection 02. Where did you get your inspiration for the pieces?

The inspiration came from wanting to translate my DNA into a full programme, harking back to the last 30 years of my work. The starting point for this challenging exercise was to revisit the key elements that defined my signature, distil shapes and forms and instil purity into these new creations.

Your home (and Dachshunds) have been featured in numerous publications. Are you a homebody?

I am not a homebody per se because I like to travel, meet people or enjoy nature, but of course, it is also true that I enjoy staying at my two homes to unplug, re-energise and feel protected.

What are you doing when you’re not working?

My mind never stops working, but I meditate in the morning before starting my day.

After a working day, I go to the gym and train with my personal trainer, after which I go home to enjoy my family and dogs.

What are the draws of living in Antwerp?

Belgium and Antwerp are strongly cosmopolitan in both arts and culture and have a huge breadth of creativity – theatre, performance, dance, fashion, architecture –with participation by many, but in varied and unique ways. In every discipline, like architecture or fashion, there are a lot of individual expressions according to unique personalities. The cultural and creative aspects of the Belgian cultures or Antwerp’s have always inspired me, even to this day.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I want to still be where I am now; that is, being creative. I would like to expand my portfolio by creating more public projects with something dedicated to art, like a museum or gallery, or something sacred like a chapel or church. And I’d like to be considered an inspiration to the world. My creativity is my longevity.

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Vincent Van Duysen
VVDA 2003 VVD II Residence. Photo: Thomas Seear Budd
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VVDA 2017 VO Residence, Knokke, Belgium. Photo: François Halard

Canal Plus+

Beyond the Netherlands, few seem to realise that there are canal views every inch as historic and evocative as Amsterdam’s. Take Utrecht, for example, situated a little over 25 minutes by train from the capital. With its unique and charming dual-level wharves, it’s little wonder the place frequently ranks as one of Europe’s most beautiful canal cities.

TEXT: LUCY SHRIMPTON Canoeists on the Oudegracht.
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Photo: Juri Hiensch
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Just as a French person knows his Camembert from his Chaource, show a Dutch person a Netherlandic canal at close range, and the native eagle eye will likely identify which city it is in a heartbeat. Whatever the clues might be – from the water level, colour or current, to the trees or brick – the Netherlands’ historic urban arteries are all subtlety different.

But there are no prizes for identifying Utrecht, since its point of difference is the easiest of all to spot: the city’s Oudegracht (‘Old Canal’) and Nieuwegracht (‘New Canal’) boast unique-in-the-world, split-storey streets meaning that you can not only explore at the same level as the gorgeously gabled townhouses’ front doors (as is the case in Amsterdam), but also down at the water’s edge via secluded stairways.

Take a walk on the wharf side

In contrast to the vibrant city bustle and whir of bicycle wheels above, down here you’ll find a quieter, tree-lined and prettily lit cobbled walkway known as the Werf (‘Wharf’). Like a neighbourhood in its own right, locals make a beeline to these second streets for all manner of meaningful moments – from a tranquil hour’s reading to a first kiss or canal-side cappuccino. If you’re picturing lovers lounging on the banks of the Seine in Paris, well, you’re not too far wide of the mark.

Punctuated by cellar doors, the wharf is also a place of fascinating hidden histories dating back to medieval times. Originally,

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Mural bookcase of Janis the Man.
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Photo: Jurjen Drenth
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goods arriving by boat were laboriously carried from the water level up to street level, before going through the front door, then down again to the property’s cellar for storage. Carried laboriously, that is, until one clever tradesman had a simple yet genius lightbulb moment: If it’s possible to keep the water level steady, he thought, why not build a tunnel straight from the boat to the cellar? It worked, others followed, and platforms were soon built to facilitate the new practice. Later the tunnel-cellars became lived in – sadly, only by those who had no choice but to put up with their dark, cold and damp conditions – yet today, by contrast, they’ve been regenerated into prestigious privately owned homes or wide-ranging businesses (predominantly on Oudegracht) –from bars, boutiques and places to stay, to workshops, themed-soirée attractions and art galleries. You name it, it’s down on the wharf.

You can, of course, stroll along it, though some sections are only accessible on the water, so opting for a boat trip, fun water

bike, kayak or paddleboard is always a neat idea.

Now go off-piste

The canals are such a major focal point in Utrecht that you’ll soon be using them to get your bearings to the rest of the town’s gems. While your go-to guidebook will no doubt point you to highlights such as the Dom Tower and the Museum Quarter,


the city boasts wads of other fascinating facets, including the Unesco-listed Rietveld Schröder House for architecture geeks; the city library on Neude Square for bibliophiles (as much for the beauty of the building’s interior and the café, too); Het Utrechts Archief for those keen to time travel through the city’s history and a wealth of eye-popping street art installations for contemporary art lovers.

Get there: There are around 90 direct trains per day between Amsterdam and Utrecht, and the quickest journey time is a little over 25 minutes. The city centre is blissfully car-free, so if you’re driving, you can leave your car for multiple days at the Science Park P+R and take advantage of the fast and frequent tram service into the city’s heart. Alternatively, blend in with the locals by opting to get around on two wheels.

Where to stay: If you like the sound of hostelling but with a boutique-luxury twist, book a shared-space pod at Bunk – an arty, foody, cool-vibes hotel not far from Utrecht Central Station. Fancy sleeping on the wharf instead? Court Hotel has some rooms in the waterside cellars.

Find out more:

Utrecht Science Park with rainbow cycle path.
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Photo: Ruben Drenth


In fun fish facts, did you know that there’s a doorbell for fish on one of Utrecht’s canals? Of course, the fish can’t *actually* press it themselves, but if you happen to spot that they’re stuck trying to get upstream, you can play your part by activating the doorbell to help them through.

No less than 465 thigh-busting steps to the top, Dom Tower is currently covered in a whopping 55 kilometres of scaffolding. Yet as far as locals are concerned, that’s nothing to throw a veil over; the poles won’t be there forever, but are such a fixture for now that they’re proudly on postcards, too!

Made with funds raised by local schoolchildren back in 1960, the Anne Frank statue on Janskerkhof is worth the detour. And have you heard of ‘Stolpersteine’? The golden pavement tiles soberingly indicating properties from which World War II victims were deported add a poignant dimension to your time in the city.

Warming-up winters don’t stop locals from skating; it’s just that now they’re en masse canalside – roller skating rather than ice skating. If you’re in town on a summer’s Friday evening, look out for the ‘Skate Parade’ whizzing by.

Dutch Masters mural on the Spaaklaan in Kanaleneiland.
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Photo: Robert Oosterbroek Cycling in Utrecht with a view of the canal and the Dom Tower.
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Photo: Ruben Drenth

The iconic Amsterdam School

While the quaint gingerbread houses may serve as Amsterdam’s charming emblem, the city has more to offer in terms of architecture. Wandering through Amsterdam, one might notice buildings that stand out with their undulating facades, intricate brickwork and intriguing decorations. Among the cobblestone lanes and leaning houses lies a movement that defied convention and celebrated elegance: the Amsterdam School.

The Amsterdam School (or ‘Amsterdamse School’ in Dutch) was an architectural movement that flourished from 1910 to 1930 in the Netherlands. With roots in Expressionist architecture, and sometimes associated with German Brick Expressionism, the style also borrows Art Deco elements. Once you learn about the characteristics of the Amsterdam School, you will see it everywhere around the city (in buildings, bridges and other architectural elements) and realise what a major role it played in shaping the Dutch capital of the 20th century.

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TEXT: DANA MATIN Amsterdams Lyceum. Photo: Dana Marin De Dageraad Detail. Photo: Dana Marin

The birth of a movement

Amsterdam in the early 1900s was a city on the cusp of change. To solve the issue of deplorable housing conditions for the working class, the Dutch government passed a new law that mandated municipalities to build quality housing for everyone. Strict technical specifications were given for these buildings, but the architects were granted freedom in their design. This created the opportunity for a handful of young architects to apply their daring – mostly socialist ideas – in the design of residential areas. The Amsterdam School movement emerged as a rebellious response to the traditional styles, but also as a response to the social developments of the time.

Michel de Klerk, Johan van der Mey and Piet Kramer, who worked in the office of architect Eduard Cuypers until 1910, were responsible for initiating the Amsterdam School. They were later joined by other architects, including Jan Gratama (who

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The iconic Amsterdamse School
Het Scheepvaarthuis view from the city centre. Photo: Dana Marin Muzenbrug Statue.
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Photo: Marcel Westhoff

gave the movement its name), Berend Boeyinga, P. H. Endt, H. Th. Wijdeveld, J. F.Staal, C. J. Blaauw and P. L. Marnette. The Amsterdam School ideas held a deep aspiration: the architects wanted to design for the betterment of society. And what better canvas for them than social housing? In their work, the Amsterdam School architects recognised the importance of shared spaces, courtyards and amenities that fostered a sense of community. The new buildings had spaces where people could come together and interact.

However, functionality was not the only important element for the founders of the Amsterdam School. They believed that the working class deserved not just quality living spaces, but also aesthetically pleasing ones. The new buildings had to blend seamlessly with their surroundings and be pleasant to the eye. Their design embraced expressive forms and organic

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The iconic Amsterdamse School
Het Schip Museum. Photo: Alice Roegholt. Amsterdam School building in De Pijp.
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Photo: Dana Marin Het Scheepvaarthuis doors. Photo: Dana Marin Het Scheepvaarthuis’s impressive facade.
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Photo: Dana Marin
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Bijenkorf The Hague.
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Photo: Marcel Westhoff

shapes, in stark contrast to the rigid lines of traditional architecture. Sculptors and other artists worked together with the architects. The facades were adorned with sculptures, while stained-glass windows breathed life into spaces, and detailed brickwork and ironwork complemented the overall aesthetic. Nature was the main source of inspiration for the Amsterdam School architects and artists, and the organic beauty found in flora, fauna and other flowing forms can be seen in their work. The movement had its own magazine, published between 1918 and 1931. It was called Wendingen (translating to ‘Windings’ or ‘Changes’) and famous for its covers and typography. Today, these journals are available online. Additionally, enthusiasts of this architecture style can gain valuable insights from the ‘Platform for the Amsterdam School Wendingen’, started by Museum Het Schip in 2014.

Iconic structures

From residential buildings to schools and public institutions, each Amsterdam School structure tells a unique story.

The most famous piece of social housing built in the Amsterdam School style is Het Schip’ (‘The Ship’), a building complex in the Spaarndammerbuurt neighbourhood, which was designed by architect Michel de Klerk in 1919. Its name comes from the distinctive wavy shape and a spire reminiscent of a ship’s mast. With this building, De Klerk wanted to create a ‘Worker’s Palace’, providing stylish housing that celebrated the working class. The ship-inspired design wasn’t arbitrary as the residents intended for this housing complex worked in the nearby docks. The complex comprised 102 homes, a meeting hall, a post office and an elementary school. Today, the school building houses Museum Het Schip, dedicated to the Amsterdam School.

Another important example of the Amsterdam School is De Dageraad (the Dawn), a building drawing inspiration from the symbolism of the rising sun. Built as a residential complex for low-income workers, and part of the famous Plan Zuid designed by H.P. Berlage, De Dageraad bears the signature of architects Michel de Klerk

and Piet Kramer. This building houses a second museum that tells the story of the Amsterdam School and the Plan Zuid.

The most spectacular example of the Amsterdam School is Het Scheepvaarthuis (the Shipping House’), which currently houses the Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam. This architectural jewel was commissioned around 1913 by six major shipping companies and was intended as an office building. Het Scheepvaarthuis is richly decorated both on the outside and inside with ironwork, statues and stainedglass windows, all created using expensive materials.

The influence of the Amsterdam School crossed Amsterdam’s borders, and there are architectural offspring of this movement in other cities in the Netherlands. Examples include the Bijenkorf department store in The Hague, the former post office in Utrecht, Gemeentewerken in Groningen and Park Meerwijk in Bergen, to name only a few.

Next time you are in Amsterdam, keep an eye out for the elements of the Amsterdam School and you will be amazed by how much this short-lived style influenced the city’s residential neighbourhoods!

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The iconic Amsterdamse School
Het Scheepvaarthuis entrance. Photo: Dana Marin Het Scheepvaarthuis.
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Photo: Dana Marin

Scaling the sandstone of Berdorf, Luxembourg

Nestled in the northeast corner of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the seventhsmallest country in Europe, the town of Berdorf is a haven for adventurers. The surrounding region, called Müllerthal, is known as Luxembourg’s ‘Little Switzerland’ thanks to its craggy landscape and fairytale forests. Here, visitors scale sandstone rocks that require a high level of technical skill – and thoughtful preservation.

On the crags

When pulling into the Berdorf climbing area, the first thing you’ll see is the monumental Wanterbaach rock face. The ridged stone rises into the sky and offers a playground to rock climbers across Northern Europe. In total, there are around 170 routes along the rock face, a number that grows every year.

Bolt in with your buddy and make your way up the faces, most of which reach around 30 metres off the forest floor. Though Berdorf can be fun for multiple skill levels, the majority of runs are between 6a and 7c ratings, which means that they are best for climbers with high-intermediate experience. The runs reward patience and practice. With enough time and a 60-me-

tre rope, visitors make it to the top and turn around to see sweeping views over the Moselle River and beyond Germany.

While taking a rest, explore deeper into the rock formations. The area is full of narrow gorges formed by centuries of water carving through the soft sandstone, leaving high, curvy towers in its wake. The

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | Scaling the Sandstone of Berdorf, Luxembourg
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The rock faces of Berdorf are a draw for climbers across Northern Europe. Photo: Guillaume Henrotte
Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | Scaling the Sandstone of Berdorf, Luxembourg
Roads wind through the rocky Mullerthal region.
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Photo: Vincent Foret

area is a veritable labyrinth of stone, unlike anything else in the region.

Sandstone spectacle

Berdorf is one of the most remarkable spots in the world for climbing on sandstone, but visitors should know that the environment requires a special set of rules to preserve its integrity. Climbing on rock that is wet or damp can lead to its disintegration, so make sure to wait at least one day after rain, and possibly up to three following a major storm. That can make the rock ‘chossy’ (a climbing term that means ‘loose and unstable’). Even if the rock is dry, make sure to clean your shoes well before each climb in order to avoid further erosion of holds and grips. Finally, try to use a minimum of chalk as the buildup of the common climbing substance can also damage the routes.

Follow these rules, though, and you’ll be treated to a climbing experience that feels unique, compared to other outdoor and indoor ascents. Sandstone is easy to maintain a grip on because of its gritty texture, so that lack of chalk may not be a huge problem.

The trip does require some planning. Though climbers are no longer required to get a permit, they must be a member of a climbing organisation that is affiliated to the UIAA or IFSC (which many international organisations are). Once you check those boxes, though, you’ll see why Berdorf is one of the top climbing destinations in the Grand Duchy.

Rest days

There’s plenty to do around the Berdorf if you’re not a climber or you’re taking a day off. Start in the storied town of Echternach, the oldest settlement in Luxembourg and

home to a Benedictine abbey founded all the way back in 698. In 2008, the town was also named a ‘European Destination of Excellence’ for its longstanding role as a cultural capital of Luxembourg.

For visitors who prefer hiking to climbing, the Müllerthal Trail winds for 112 kilometres through the entire region of Little Switzerland. Make your way through sheltered forest glades, past cascades, and end in small towns that provide a peek into the region’s past.

Visitors also shouldn’t miss exploring more of the spectacular geology of the

region. ‘Hohllay’, which means ‘hollow rock’, is an amphitheatre-shaped cave whose undulating curves are reminiscent of the inside of a seashell. This isn’t a normal cave, though; it is actually man-made, having been used as a quarry during the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago.

Whether visiting Berdorf to make a pilgrimage to one of the best sandstone climbing walls in Europe or if you happen to be more attracted to the region’s history and culture, travellers will find a unique place whose natural beauty and opportunities for adventure are much larger than its size would suggest.

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Near the crags, unwind in the charming village of Berdorf, close to the German border. Photo: Timothee Gidenne
Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | Scaling the Sandstone of Berdorf, Luxembourg
A climber scales a run on the Wanterbaach. Photo: Region Mullerthal Berdorf’s sandstone holds provide a unique texture for climbing. Photo: Region Mullerthal

Zeeland’s seafood delights

If you thought herring is the only seafood the Netherlands has to offer, think again. The southwestern Dutch province of Zeeland is not only known for its water sports possibilities, but also for its crystalclear waters and exceptional seafood: plump, meaty mussels; briny oysters, hearty prawns and some of the best lobster in the world. Hungry? Read on for tips and ideas that will have your palate swooning.

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Classic mussels cooked with finely chopped vegetables and white wine.
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Photo: Merel Tuk
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Stellendam fishing boat.
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Photo: Claire Droppert


It’s no secret that the people of Zeeland are immensely proud of their mussels. Often referred to as ‘poor man’s shellfish’, in Zeeland they are honoured with the title ‘het zwarte goud’ or ‘black gold’. The province offers plenty of opportunities to feast on these succulent bivalves, whether during an informative tour or at one of the many seafood restaurants. On Wednesdays, for example, Tourist Shop Yerseke offers tours through the Roem van Yerseke mussel factory that include complimentary tastings. Anyone eager to learn about mussels should also stop by the Oosterschelde Museum, located in the former town hall. Through tools, photos and documentaries, the museum brings the history and production of mussels to life. Afterwards, you can pamper your taste buds at one of the village’s seafood restaurants. Especially recommended is Nolet’s Vistro, which

Stellendam’s fleshy prawns. Photo: NBTC Holland Media Bank Albert Paauwe and Wim Hoebeke of the YE-13 fish for lobster in the Oosterschelde during the lobster season.
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Photo: Hollandse Hoogte, ANP
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Close up of an opened oyster, ready for consumption. Photo: Hollandse Hoogte, ANP

offers a special three-course mussels menu (including an aromatic fish soup and dessert) for €42.50.

Another place mussel lovers visiting Zeeland will want to add to their itinerary is Philippine, home to the country’s first mussel harbour and a city with myriad restaurants specialising in all kinds of interesting mussel dishes. Auberge des Moules – featured in the Michelin Guide and known for its excellent three-course menu which starts with raw herring and

with finely chopped vegetables and white wine or broiled on the half shell with garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs. They’re also wonderful tossed with linguini, garlic, a sprinkling of red chilli and chopped flatleaf parsley. Serve your mussels with a light, citrusy Muscadet from the Loire or a Chenin Blanc. Or keep it local and try it with a Dutch wine (see our July issue) or


Oysters have been loved by the Dutch for centuries. So much so, that they’ve even been featured in many still-life masterpieces from the Golden Age, sometimes with a glass of white wine or a section of lemon and always utterly seductive. In Zeeland, there are two varieties of oysters raised in the Grevelingen Lake and the Eastern Scheldt: the Creuse oyster, which has a clean, briny taste, and the flat ‘Zeeuwse platte’ oyster with its more delicate flavour. Creuse oysters can be harvested after two years, while flat oysters need about six years before reaching optimum maturity. Both are preferably consumed raw with either a squeeze of lemon juice or a mignonette sauce made with red wine vinegar and shallots. If opting to grill your oysters, use the Creuse variety as it would be a shame to do this with the more refined flat oysters. And keep it simple: grill them with a knob of butter, just until the edges begin to curl.

Oyster season runs from September to April, and they are at their absolute tastiest during the months of October, November and December – a perfect choice for the holidays! A classic wine pairing is a minerally Chablis or a dry Riesling. Champagne, a more luxurious option, is also delicious. Some of the best places to indulge in this Dutch delicacy include De Oesterij and Restaurant de Branding (both in Yerseke) and Restaurant Cadzandia (in Cadzand).

Stellendam prawns

ends with Dame Blanche (€59) – is an eating experience many in Benelux have already discovered.

If cooking mussels yourself, it is essential to keep in mind that they’re at their best from July until approximately the first half of April. Avoid them during the other months (their breeding season) as the quality is not optimal. The mild, creamy taste of mussels makes them perfect for all sorts of flavour combinations and preparations. Classics include mussels cooked

With their fleshy bite and mild flavour, prawns from Stellendam are known to be the best of their kind. The prawns thrive off the coast of Stellendam where the sea bottom consists of fine, white sand. This influences the colour of the prawns. They are rosy brown and lighter than the ones caught in the Wadden Sea. They have a cleaner, less sandy flavour and a meatier texture. Enjoy them in a cocktail with a dollop of garlic mayonnaise and a few drops of lemon juice, or as a garnish crowning a cold avocado or asparagus soup.

Oosterschelde lobster

Often referred to as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of lobsters, the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt) lobster is sweeter and more refined than other varieties. The lobster is

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Eastern Scheldt lobster, known as ‘the Rolls Royce’ of its kind. Photo: NBTC Holland Media Bank

a Slow Food product caught under strict rules and regulations and only between the last Thursday in March and the 15th of July. It is protected and promoted by the ‘Kring van de Oosterscheldekreeft’, formed by 11 restaurants in Zeeland offering special menus (see their website) during the season — and the promotional foundation ‘Promotie Oosterschelde Kreeft’.

Make sure you purchase your lobster from a reputable fishmonger. A great one is Viskwekerij Neeltje Jans, located in Vrouwenpolder, where you can also buy oysters and mussels. They will even give you advice on how to cook Zeeland’s seafood delights.

If seafood alone isn’t enough to entice you to plan a trip, it might be good to know that the Dutch province also happens to have the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the country!

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | Zeeland’s Seafood Delights
Tartare of Stellendam prawns. Photo: NBTC Holland Media Bank Harvesting and cultivation of Zeeland crustacean and shell products at the Oesterij.
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Photo: Jan Bijl Fotografie

The authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry

Separated from the historic centre by Boulevard Anspach, the districts of SainteCatherine and Saint-Géry are hotbeds of innovation and cosiness. Unlike their historic counterparts, they aren’t packed with spectacular sights and legendary hotspots, but it’s a great destination for those who want to discover the real Brussels.

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Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The Authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry Issue 81 | August 2023 | 75
Marché au Poisson. Photo: ©Visit Brussels, Jean-Paul Remy

What Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry (the ‘second centre’) might lack in bombastic sights, they compensate for with cosy restaurants, bars and alleys. Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry are for strolling, tasting and relaxing. And what could make a better holiday than that?


If the Bruxellois say they’re about to stroll through the city, there’s a big chance that they are referring to Sainte-Catherine rather than the actual centre. At and around Place Sainte-Catherine, there are shops, terraces and picture-perfect alleyways aplenty. On the square itself, the Église Sainte-Catherine will grab your attention. In the weeks before Christmas, its facade makes the canvas for a spectacular light show. If you walk to the back of the church, you’ll find the ancient Tour Noire (Black Tower). As it dates back to the 13th century, this old city gate could not be torn down when Novotel wanted to build

a hotel on that same spot, which is why the chain built its hotel around it with this odd view as a result. In fact, playing fast and loose with the protection of historical monuments is referred to as ‘brusselsification’, as absurd installations like these are all but rare in the city.

Place Sainte-Catherine (Sainte-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

Walking on water at the old docks

It’s hard to imagine today, but the Sainte-Catherine district was once a fisherman’s neighbourhood. Little canals of the Senne River ran up to the church and attracted fishing and sailing aficionados alike. In the early 20th century, the docks were filled and became stretched-out city squares, which is what you’ll still find here today. Start your walk at the Quai aux Briques (the biggest of the docks) and continue through the rest. Some are parks, others more like beautiful walking boule-

vards. The Quai aux Briques even has some water features. If you feel like heading for the water afterwards, follow the Quai du Commerce until the end. From here, you are mere metres away from today’s canal.

Quai aux Briques, Quai aux Barques, Quai au Foin, Quai du Commerce (Saint-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

Among the locals on Rue de Flandre

Rue de Flandre is one of the cosiest streets in the city. It houses nice restaurants to suit all budgets, cute boutiques for the avid browser and exciting secrets around every corner. If you cross Place Sainte-Catherine, the street becomes Rue Sainte-Catherine, an equally cosy street with great gastronomy and countless Asian shops and taverns.

Rue de Flandre (Saint-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The Authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry
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Halles Saint-Géry. Photo: ©Visit Brussels

The place to be: Place Saint-Géry

After sunset, head to Saint-Géry to end your day with a tipple. Surrounding the old market hall, and even inside it, you’ll find many bars with charming fairy lights and colourful bunting. This is a local spot, so don’t hesitate to mingle with the Bruxellois. But Place Saint-Géry is so much more than just a bar-packed square. It is, in fact, the place where Brussels was founded in 979. The area was nothing but a swamp back then, but on an island, Duke Charles of Lower Lorraine built a chapel. Soon, more and more buildings were added, and the rest is history. Centrally in the market hall, there is a tower-high fountain. This is believed to be the exact spot of Brussels’ founding.

Place Saint-Géry (Bourse, tram 3 and 4). Free entrance to the hall. Hall is open daily from 10AM and until the bars close. Most bars work to similar schedules.

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The Authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry
Hospice Pachéco. Photo: ©Visit Brussels
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Rue Antoine Dansaert. Photo: ©Visit Brussels, Jean-Paul Remy

Design finds on Rue Antoine Dansaert

Rue Antoine Dansaert connects the city centre with the canal and presents two entirely different worlds. The part near the Bourse is packed with boutiques of hip designer brands and up-and-coming labels. A bit closer to the water, the street becomes less polished and rougher around the edges. Rue Antoine Dansaert is a good example of how rich and poor live side by side in Brussels. Many people

live next door to someone from a wildly different demographic.

Rue Antoine Dansaert (Bourse, tram 3 and 4; De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5). Shops are usually open from 10AM to 6PM.

Place de Brouckère: Miniature Times Square

During the 1960s, Place de Brouckère was the metropolitan heart of the city. The billboards on the roofs and the mod-

ern kiosk in the middle gave it the nickname ‘Times Square of Brussels’. Today, however, little of that grandeur is left, and the same goes for the billboards. Only the iconic Coca-Cola advertisement and a colossal screen at the adjoining skyscraper hint at what it must have been like. Over the last few years, Brussels has greatly invested in this part of the city and turned the square and the adjoining Boulevard Anspach into a pedestrian zone. As a bad-weather plan, head to the

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The Authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry
Église du Béguinage.
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Photo: ©Visit Brussels, Jean-Paul Remy Église Saint Jean Baptiste, Béguinage.
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Photo: ©Visit Brussels

UGC cinema on the square and buy a ticket for whatever film is playing in room seven. This is the Art Nouveau hall, called Salle du Grand Eldorado – an authentic, gold-covered screening room with exotic reliefs on the walls.

Place de Brouckère (De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5, tram 3 and 4).

Béguinage: A forgotten corner

Many cities in Belgium count béguinages – convents of small houses where poor, widowed and retired devotees lived. In Brussels, the old béguinage is long gone, but the sacred quietness and serenity of yore still linger through the streets. Start your walk at the central Église du Béguinage and continue down the streets. On your left, you’ll find the Hospice Pachéco, a gigantic building that used to serve as a retirement home. Don’t expect too much from this neck of the woods, but keep it in mind whenever you’re in the mood for a few minutes of tranquillity.

Place du Béguinage and surroundings (Sainte-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).


If you are in the mood for a mid-afternoon snack when in Sainte-Catherine, there is no better place to go than Gaston, an ice-cream bar on Quai aux Briques that sells the best gelato in the city. If you don’t feel like ice-cream, there are also a few chocolateries to discover on this same square.


Start at the Bourse and take Rue Antoine Dansaert to the Vieux Marché aux Grains. Circle the Église Sainte-Catherine and follow Quai aux Briques to the water feature. Take Rue du Rouleau to the end and head back to the docks through Rue de l’Infirmerie and Rue du Grand Hospice. Spend some time exploring the other docks, or immediately cross the square and take Rue du Pays de Liège to Rue de Flandre. Walk down this street from Rue Sainte-Catherine and Rue Paul Devaux all the way to the Bourse.

Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The Authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry
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Discover Benelux | Editorial Feature | The Authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry
Place de Brouckère.
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Photo: ©Visit Brussels, Jean-Paul Remy


Let’s Play Museum

What we see in our museums ought to reflect society; informed by all elements and perspectives within it. One often overlooked perspective is that of the child.

Pablo Picasso famously once stated: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

And so, perhaps with those sage words ringing in its ears, MKHA Antwerp has decided to take action with ‘Let’s Play Museum’, an exhibition designed entirely by and for children. Working with a class of nine-year-olds, art house De Studio teamed up with MKHA to question what the children thought the idea of the museum – and art itself – should be. Big questions indeed.

What these young curators have turned out is an exhibition full of fun; a maximalist playground that is, most importantly, interactive. Breaking down the tired notion of not being able to touch anything, the schoolchildren and De Studio have rifled through MKHA’s collection to install works that you can not only touch, but sit on, swing on, hide in and climb through. Contemporary artist Kati Heck’s giant swing dangles from the ceiling, and you can

WINE OF THE MONTH Thorn Pinot Noir Rosé

The picturesque ‘white village’ of Thorn in the Dutch province of Limburg, once a powerful abbey site for women from noble families all over Europe, is not just home to white wines – it also produces excellent reds and rosés.

Thorn, the winery, as well as the village, is located close to the Belgian border in one of the driest areas in the Benelux. They are part of the cross-border wine denomination ‘Maasvallei Limburg’, of which Harry Vorselen, the owner of Wijngoed Thorn, was one of the pioneers.

Originally a classical musician, Harry’s life took a turn and he switched to viticulture. In 2001, together with his wife Mieke, he established the estate, gradually expanding with new vineyards and grape varieties, such as Auxerrois, Riesling and Pinot Gris, Dornfelder, Frühburgunder and Pinot Noir.

It is the latter grape from which this salmon-pink, fruity rosé is made, in an appealing, off-dry style. A pinch of residual sweetness balances the zesty acidity and especially the orange and grapefruit bitters, while accentuating the bright, ripe berry fruit. On the palate, wild strawberries and raspberries intertwine with aniseed and heady hawthorn blossoms, ending on a refreshing citrus-bitter note. Perfect for carefree summer sipping, a picnic by the water, a sunny brunch or dinner under the stars!

Vintage: 2022

Alcohol content: 11.5% alcohol

Acidity: 6 g/L

Residual sugar: 7 g/L

Serving temperature: 6-8°C.

Available in their on-site shop, open on select days, and from specialist wine stores.

throw down some pins on Dialogist-Kantor’s bowling alley.

Particularly refreshing is the vast mix of artists and variation in the show. Devoid of any preconceived notions about art, the students have happily paired household names alongside local contemporaries and lesser-known artists. Sculpture sits happily next to painting, textiles, films and games. An incredibly generous show that offers something for everyone, ‘Let’s Play Museum’ is on view at MKHA Antwerp until 17 September 2023.

Kristel Balcaen is a Belgian wine writer, educator and consultant. She is a SommelierConseil, holds the WSET level 4 Diploma, and was named Belgium’s Champagne Ambassador and Wine Lady of the Year in 2018. Her food and wine book, Wijnboek voor Foodies, will be released in September 2023. Matt Antoniak is a visual artist and writer living and working in Newcastle, UK. He works mainly in painting and drawing and is a founding member of the art collective M I L K. TEXT & PHOTO: KRISTEL BALCAEN TEXT: MATT ANTONIAK | PHOTO: LET’S PLAY MUSEUM @M HKA
Discover Benelux | Culture | Lifestyle Columns
82 | Issue 81 | August 2023

Bring your creativity.

We’ll do the same

Elten Kiene is entrepreneurial and recognizes opportunities. He teaches workshops at schools in Rotterdam and in museums and youth detention centers throughout the Netherlands. He also creates programs and recently developed theater programs. This versatile artist uses the spoken word as his instrument.

Elten believes that we must view art through the lens of what it can be. For everyone. “Art is a very important tool for everyone. I believe that art can help make things bearable. Not just visual art but also books, music, or dance. Art can help you understand yourself and can provide comfort and support if you’re going through a rough patch. It’s there for you in good times and bad. I believe that everyone has a creative skill and discovering that skill

can be quite an enjoyable process.”

“For me being an artist in the Netherlands means freedom, possibilities, and discovering new ways of the self. The writing process reveals new ideas, new thoughts about myself, and new values. It also provides clarity on what I want to pursue, or not. Writing takes me on a continuous journey of discovery; a journey that’s always in motion.”

Position/ organization Author and spoken word artist / City Rotterdam

See more on

Elten Kiene (38), a spoken word artist in Rotterdam, was born in Suriname and raised in Dordrecht. He speaks of his journey with gratitude and confidence.



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