In Memoriam: Jeen van den Berg, Ice skating legend

Today we mourn the passing and celebrate the life of Jeen van den Berg

Jeen van den Berg (8 January 1928 – 8 October 2014) was a Dutch speed skater primarily known as the winner of the Elfstedentocht of 1954. He rode the race a record seven times, his first in 1947 and his final race in 1997.

On 3 February 1954, van den Berg finished the race in a record 7 hours and 35 minutes, a record bettered by Evert van Benthem only 31 years later. He came third in the infamous 1963 race.

In 1973 he became the first Dutch marathon skate champion. As a long-track speed skater, Van den Berg took part at the 1956 and 1960 Winter Olympics. In 1956 he finished 24th at the 5000 meters and in 1960 he ended 19th at the 5000 and 22nd at the 1500 meters.

Jeen has accumulated over a thousand throphees  during his skating career and was the first official Marathon skating Champion, he was already 44 by then. He said goodbye to the ice skating world in 2000 as official during the Dutch skating Championships. He was honorary citizen of Herenveen and Knight in the order of Oranje Nassau. He was also called Mr Thialf (Thialf is probably the best and most famous ice skating ring in the world)

Jeen was a teacher by proffesion and was married to Atty van den Berg. He suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in a nursery home

May he rest in peace, he will be missed



Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutch Astronaut, Dies at 68

This morning at 11:08 local time, Wubbo Ockels died in the Anthony van Leeuwenhoek Hospital in Amsterdam. Ockels died from the effects of renal cell cancer. He was already taken into the hospital a few days ago.

Wubbo Johannes Ockels (March 28, 1946 – May 18, 2014) was a Dutch physicist and a former astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA). In 1985 he participated in a flight on a space shuttle (STS-61-A), making him the first Dutch citizen in space. He was not the first Dutch-born astronaut, as he is preceded by the naturalized American Lodewijk van den Berg, who flew on STS-51-B. Ockels is currently professor of Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology at the Delft University of Technology. On May 29, 2013 it was announced that Ockels has an aggressive form of kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) with a metastasis in his pleural cavity, and a life expectancy of one to two years. He died from complications of cancer on May 18, 2014.

Education and early life

Ockels was born in Almelo but considered Groningen to be his hometown. He obtained his MSc degree in physics and mathematics in 1973 and subsequently a PhD degree in the same subjects in 1978 from the University of Groningen. His thesis was based on experimental work at the Nuclear-physics Accelerator Institute (KVI) in Groningen.

From 1973 to 1978, Ockels performed experimental investigations at the Nuclear Physics Accelerator Institute in Groningen. His work concerned the gamma-ray decay of nuclear systems directly after formation and the development of a data-handling system involving design of electronics and programming of real-time software. He also contributed to the design and construction of position-sensitive charged particle detectors. While at the K.V.I. Institute, Ockels supervised the practical work of first-year physics students at the University of Groningen.

ESA career

Wubbo Ockels as an astronaut.

In 1978, he was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of three European payload specialists to train for the Spacelab 1mission. In May 1980, under agreement between ESA and NASA, Ockels and Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier were selected to begin the basic astronaut training for mission specialist together with the NASA astronaut candidates at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Ockels successfully completed this training in August 1981. He rejoined the Spacelab 1 crew for training as a back-up payload specialist to operate experiments aboard Spacelab 1. This mission of a reusable, scientific research facility built by the European Space Agency (ESA) took place aboard the Space Shuttle in November 1983. Spacelab 1 was a joint NASA/ESA mission. Having served his role as back-up payload specialist for German astronaut Ulf Merbold, he took his place in Mission Control in Houston as the primary communicator between the astronauts working in Spacelab and the Mission Management Team in Houston.

Ockels flew as a payload specialist on the crew of STS-61A Challenger (October 30 to November 6, 1985). STS-61A was the West German D-1 Spacelab mission. It was the first to carry eight crew members, (five Americans, two Germans and Ockels); the largest to fly in space; and was also the first in which payload activities were controlled from outside the United States: from the DLR control center in Germany. More than 75 scientific experiments were completed in the areas of physiological sciences, materials science, biology, and navigation. At mission conclusion Ockels had traveled 2.5 million miles in 110 Earth orbits, and logged over 168 hours in space.

A small planetoid is named after Wubbo Ockels by the International Astronomical Union. The planetoid orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The object’s full name is 9496 Ockels. Ockels is a member of the American Physical Society and the European Physical Society. From 1999 to 2003, he was head of ESA‘s Office for Educational Projects Outreach Activities.

Scientific career

In 1992, Ockels was appointed part-time professor Aerospace Engineering (in particular, Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology) at the Delft University of Technology, and promoted to full-time professor in September 2003. In this function, he has overseen the Nuna projects. He has also proposed the development of a Superbus, a new method of high speed (250 km/hour) public transportation by road. The public transportation company Connexxion is the first company to invest in the development of this Superbus.

at the end of his life Wubbo Ockels was involved in his “LadderMill” sustainable energy program. A Laddermill is a kind of windmill consisting of a “ladder” of “kites”. As quoted from his website:

The LadderMill is the response to the challenge for exploiting the gigantic energy source contained in the airspace up to high altitudes of 10 km. The concept has been developed with the aim to convert wind energy at altitude in electricity on the ground in an environmental and cost effective manner.

Whilst working at the university he has assisted and advised the Nuon Solar Team, a solar racer team consisting of students, which has won the biannual World Solar Challenge4 consecutive times from 2001 to 2007.

In 2009, Ockels presented a talk arguing that the notion of time is human-constructed as a result of our interpretation of the effects of gravity.

Personal life

Ockels was married, had two children and two grandchildren.

In August 2005, Ockels suffered a severe heart attack which required his hospitalization. He has recovered well and has resumed his work at the Delft University of Technology.

He is also known as ´Wockels´, a nickname he acquired at the TU Delft University of Technology, combining his initials and last name, mistaken for the crisps Wokkels.

Indiepop band John Wayne Shot Me recorded a song called “Wubbo Ockels” for their album “The Purple Hearted Youth Club”. (which I couldn’t find 😦 )



A Complete History of Portable Music Players

A portable music player is a consumer electronics device that allows users to listen to recorded music on the go. It is battery powered, and in some cases, accommodates the use of headphones for personal listening. Some early music players did not store music, but rather played music stored on other media.

From phonograph to record player

The first successful attempt to record sound signals was achieved in the late 1850s by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville who invented the first sound transcription device, called the phonautograph. It was able to record music, but did not support audio playback.

The Phonautograph

Inventor Thomas Edison furthered the work done with this technology with the invention of the phonograph which pioneered recording and playback, and paved the way for future innovations.

Edisons cylindrical Phonograph

Flat discs, much like LP records, were used just over 10 years later on the gramophone, marking the start of the rise of the music industry. The gramophone operated on a hand-crank. In 1925, electric record players were introduced to the market.

the gramophone by Edison

It’s successor the electronic record player

Although it did not contain recorded music, the first portable transistor radio debuted in 1954. Called the Regency TR -1 radio, this device was available in a variety of colors and featured an analog tuner.

The Regency TR-1. Sold in 1954 for $49,95

Among the first attempts at taking recorded music outside of the home for personal use was in 1965 with 8- track tapes that are played back in the car.

8 track tape device + tapes for home use

the car version of the 8 track

However, in 1962 the KLH Model 11,, developed by Henry Kloss, was the first transistorized stereo system that ran on A/C power. It featured a record player, amplifier, and speakers that folded together easily for the purpose of transporting the system. While these devices were not portable by today’s standards, they are major milestones in the evolution of the portable music device.

the KLH model 11

Timeline of the Evolution of Music Players

To gain a better understanding of the evolution of portable music players, the following timeline of when various music players were introduced into the marketplace offers a glimpse of how they have developed, culminating in the high technology portable music players of today.

Year Released

Music Evolution

1857 Phonautograph invented
1877 Phonograph invented
1888 Gramophone invented
1925 Electric record player introduced
1954 First portable transistor radio
1962 Transistorized stereo system
1965 8- track tapes introduced
1979 Walkman introduced
1983 Discman introduced
1992 Minidiscs introduced
1998 MP3 file format introduced
1999 First hard-drive based MP3 player
2001 iPod Classic introduced
2002 iPod Classic Generation 2,, introduced touch sensitive controls
2004 – 2005 MP3s become smaller (iPod Mini,, Nano,, Shuffle )
2005 Players incorporate video playback
2007 – 2008 iPod Touch,, incorporates applications and touch screen

As with any electronics, technology advances often result in more capabilities in a smaller overall package, as is the case with music players of today.

Portable Cassette Players

The Sony Walkman revolutionized the industry with its introduction into the market in 1979 in Japan. The self-contained portable music system, which came with lightweight headphones, played cassette tapes and was capable of Hi-Fi stereo sound.

the 1979 Sony Walkman

Although early versions were a little bulkier, the refined Walkman was considered innovative due in large part because of its size, as it measured only slightly larger than the cassette tape itself and ran on AA batteries. Several companies were quick to adopt this technology and came out with competing products.

the Walkman with radio

The use of cassette tapes for portable cassette players was innovative, as the media was less bulky than 8-track tapes and users were able to move from song to song more easily. Some portable cassette tape players also had the ability to play AM/FM radio.

Portable CD Players

In 1983, Sony partnered with Philips to create the D-50 which became commonly known as the Discman . It played compact discs and was the first portable digital music player. The Discman certainly made music portable, but it was less comfortable due to its larger size. Users were also limited to the number of songs that could be contained on one disc.

the Sony Discman

The Discman was just slightly larger than a CD case. Over the coming years, discs became smaller and music players became lighter, more compact, and pocket-sized.

The other issue with portable CD players was that if bumped or jarred in any way, the laser beam orientation system could be affected, causing it to skip music. This issue was later addressed by creating a buffer which was used to read ahead and store music. If the disc skipped, the device would pull data from the buffer to continue the music until the buffer was empty. Eventually, anti-skip technology was developed.

The rise of CDs signaled the end of cassette technology in the late 1980s, as CDs produced higher quality sound and the ability to easily skip tracks rather than forwarding or rewinding tape.

Philips Discman with radio

MP3 Players

The MP3 file format uses a compression algorithm that reduces the amount of data needed to store audio track information. The average size of an MP3 file is one-tenth the size of a file on CD.

In 1999, the MPMan was the first flash MP 3 player to be released, allowing high quality digital music recordings that do not skip when played to be transferred from computers to portable players. Developed by Korean company SaeHan Information Systems and imported to the U.S. by Eiger Labs, the player featured 32 MB of RAM and held an average of 32 minutes of music. It ran on a rechargeable NiMH battery pack and used solid-state memory.

the SaeHan MPMan

As technology advanced, MP3 devices became smaller, sleeker, able to hold more data, and more functional. Some of today’s MP3 players include the ability to play video as well as audio.

arguably the worlds smallest mp3 player

Apple iPod

The first entry into this market from Apple was the iPod in 2001. The iPod Classic combined 5 GB of hard drive space with a rechargeable battery pack. While it operated much like MP3 players introduced before it, it had a sleeker design and a unique and simple navigation system.

the iPod Classic 5Gig

iPods initially only worked with Macintosh computers, and the only way to import music to the player was from one’s own CDs or downloads from the Internet. In 2003, iTunes was launched, allowing users to legally download songs for a fee per track. Soon after, Apple introduced a Windows-compatible version of iTunes, widening the reach to more users.

Over the years, Apple continued to release smaller and sleeker versions of their portable music players, such as the Nano,, Shuffle,, and iPod Touch . Ultimately, Apple combined the functionality of its music players with cellular phone functionality with the introduction of the iPhone .

click image for larger version, the iPod timeline


Portable music players have undergone an interesting evolution since the beginnings as a transistor radio. That device, however, was the start of a major revolution in the music industry. People were no longer tied to their home or cars to enjoy their favorite music.

Music players followed the trend in music, as media such as cassette tapes, CD players, and flash memory evolved. The sound quality and consistency of music played also evolved with the technology, as well as the ability to carry more varied music in a smaller device. The interface has also evolved, from tuner wheels on radios, to function buttons on portable cassette and CD players, to touchscreen technology used on many digital audio players today.

Today’s portable music players include additional features and functionality, such as the ability to record and play back video, take pictures, and more. In the case of Apple, the combining of music technology into their iPhone allows users to carry one device that allows them to carry their entire music library with their cellular phone. And of course there is Google Glass which will bring us the future of portable music   Media devices

Mavadelos Cause of the Month

Cause of the month

Cause of the Month logo

Spring is in the air on this side of the globe and this means a lot of young animals and plants are being born and sprouted. This is a good time to highlight a Canadian founded but Dutch based cause.

Greenpeace is known for its direct actionsand has been described as the most visible environmental organization in the world. Greenpeace has raised environmental issues to public knowledge, and influenced both the private and the public sector. Greenpeace has also been a source of controversy; its motives and methods have received criticism and the organization’s direct actions have sparked legal actions against Greenpeace activists, such as fines and suspended sentences for destroying a test plot of GMO wheat.

Greenpeace might be controversial but the work they do is absolutely needed, who else has the willpower, the organization and the amount of people to defend out globe and all it’s beauty that this group of people.

Writing down the history of Greenpeace would take up way to much space and frankly, if you hit the Greenpeace banner above you will goto the wiki page that has the complete history with references. I can promise you a long but interesting read.

Current project involve Indonesia, the Amazon and the Congo Basin

You can read more about Greenpeace on their own websites. I link the international site and from there you can choose a localized version using the little world map displayed next to Greenpeace International on the top left of the page

This 4 minute video took 14 years to make

Hi All

As you might have seen I have posted very little the last few days, this is partly due to real life issues and partly due to my involvement with the Share your WordPress Blog Facebook group and the associated blog. I will resume the 25 songs challenge soon and resume “normal  blogging not long after that.

However these little gems I had to post. These video’s are made by I think a Dutchman judging by his name and they are two time lapses of his children from 0 to 14 for his daughter and from 0 to 11 for his son. It is of course a great way to document how your kids grow up and fascinating to see as well




Dutch Tolerance, the myth (2002–present)

After Janmaat it was silent for a while on the extreme right of the political spectrum. We all figured that we where still a very tolerant country and continued as we always had done, ignoring the problems that we had created ourselves until Pim Fortuyn came to the stage. Now don’t get me wrong. Fortuyn was not nearly as bad as Janmaat and he was among the first to openly speak about the real problems we had created however many people felt he was doing so in a populist way

In 1992 Fortuyn wrote “Aan het volk van Nederland” (To the people of the Netherlands), declaring he was the successor to the charismatic but controversial 18th-century Dutch politician Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol. A one-time communist and former member of the social-democratic Labour Party, Fortuyn was elected “lijsttrekker” of the newly formed Livable Netherlands party by a large majority on 26 November 2001, prior to the Dutch general election of 2002.

On 9 February 2002, he was interviewed by the Volkskrant, a Dutch newspaper (unfortunately not archived). His statements were considered so controversial that the party dismissed him as lijsttrekker the next day. Fortuyn had said that he favoured putting an end to Muslim immigration, if possible. Having been rejected by Livable Netherlands, Fortuyn founded his own party LPF (Pim Fortuyn List) on 11 February 2002. Many Livable Netherlands supporters transferred their support to the new party.

election poster LPF

As lijsttrekker for the Livable Rotterdam party, a local issues party, he achieved a major victory in the Rotterdam district council elections in early March 2002. The new party won about 36% of the seats, making it the largest party in the council. For the first time since the Second World War, the Labour Party was out of power in Rotterdam.

Fortuyn’s victory made him the subject of hundreds of interviews during the next three months, and he made many statements about his political ideology. In March he released his book The Mess of Eight Purple Years (De puinhopen van acht jaar Paars), which he used as his political agenda for the upcoming general election. Purple is the colour to indicate a coalition government consisting of left parties (red) and conservative-liberal parties (blue). The Netherlands had been governed by such a coalition for eight years at that time.

the book

In August 2001, Fortuyn was quoted in the Rotterdams Dagblad newspaper saying, “I am also in favour of a cold war with Islam. I see Islam as an extraordinary threat, as a hostile religion. In the TV program, Business class, Fortuyn said that Muslims in the Netherlands did not accept Dutch society.He appeared on the program several times. It was moderated by his friend Harry Mens. Since his death, commentators have suggested Fortuyn’s words were interpreted rather harshly, if not wrongly. For instance, he said that Muslims in the Netherlands needed to accept living together with the Dutch, and that if this was unacceptable for them, then they were free to leave. His concluding words in the TV program were “…I want to live together with the Muslim people, but it takes two to tango.”

After his death a statue was placed at his home in Rotterdam

On 9 February 2002, additional statements made by him were carried in the Volkskrant. He said that the Netherlands, with a population of 16 million, had enough inhabitants, and the practice of allowing as many as 40,000 asylum-seekers into the country each year had to be stopped. (This figure was higher than the actual numbers, and immigrants were decreasing at the time.). He claimed that if he became part of the next government, he would pursue a restrictive immigration policy while also granting citizenship to a large group of illegal immigrants.

He said that he did not intend to “unload our Moroccan hooligans” onto the Moroccan King Hassan. Hassan had died three years earlier. He considered Article 7 of the constitution, which asserts freedom of speech, of more importance than Article 1, which forbids discrimination on the basis of religion, life principles, political inclination, race, or sexual preference. Fortuyn distanced himself from Hans Janmaat of the Centrum Democraten, who in the 1980s wanted to remove all foreigners from the country and was repeatedly convicted for discrimination and hate speech.

Fortuyn proposed that all people who already resided in the Netherlands would be able to stay, but he emphasized the need of the immigrants to adopt Dutch society’s consensus on human rights as their own. He said “If it were legally possible, I’d say no more Muslims will get in here”, claiming that the influx of Muslims would threaten freedoms in the liberal Dutch society. He thought Muslim culture had never undergone a process of modernisation and therefore still lacked acceptance of democracy and women’s, gays’, lesbians’ and minorities’ rights. He feared Muslims would try to replace the Dutch legal system with the shari’a law.

He said he was concerned about intolerance in the Muslim community. In a televised debate in 2002, “Fortuyn baited the Muslim cleric by flaunting his homosexuality. Finally the imam exploded, denouncing Fortuyn in strongly anti-homosexual terms. Fortuyn calmly turned to the camera and, addressing viewers directly, told them that this is the kind of Trojan horse of intolerance the Dutch are inviting into their society in the name of multiculturalism.”

When asked by the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant whether he hated Islam, he replied:

I don’t hate Islam. I consider it a backward culture. I have travelled much in the world. And wherever Islam rules, it’s just terrible. All the hypocrisy. It’s a bit like those old reformed protestants. The Reformed lie all the time. And why is that? Because they have standards and values that are so high that you can’t humanly maintain them. You also see that in that Muslim culture. Then look at the Netherlands. In what country could an electoral leader of such a large movement as mine be openly homosexual? How wonderful that that’s possible. That’s something that one can be proud of. And I’d like to keep it that way, thank you very much.

Fortuyn used the word achterlijk, literally meaning “backward”, but commonly used as an insult in the sense of “retarded”. After his use of “achterlijk” caused an uproar, Fortuyn said he had used the word with its literal meaning of “backward”.

On 6 May 2002, at age 54, Fortuyn was assassinated in Hilversum, North Holland, by Volkert van der Graaf. The attack took place in a parking lot outside a radio studio where Fortuyn had just given an interview. This was nine days before the general election, for which he was running. The attacker was pursued by Hans Smolders, Fortuyn’s driver, and was arrested by the police shortly afterward, still in possession of a handgun. Months later, Van der Graaf confessed in court to the first notable political assassination in the Netherlands since 1672 (excluding WW II events). He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. (and will be released on probation this month after having served 12 years)

His Killer Volkert van der G

The assassination shocked many residents of the Netherlands and highlighted the cultural clashes within the country. Various conspiracy theories arose after Pim Fortuyn’s murder and deeply affected Dutch politics and society. Politicians from all parties suspended campaigning. After consultation with LPF, the government decided not to postpone the elections. As Dutch law did not permit modifying the ballots, Fortuyn became a posthumous candidate. The LPF made an unprecedented debut in the House of Representatives by winning 26 seats (17% of the 150 seats in the house). The LPF joined a cabinet with the Christian Democratic Appeal and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, but conflicts in the rudderless LPF quickly collapsed the cabinet, forcing new elections. By the following year, the party had lost support, winning only eight seats in the2003 elections. It won no seats in the 2006 elections, by which time the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, had emerged as a successor.

funeral Fortuyn

During the last months of his life, Fortuyn had become closer to the Catholic Church. To the surprise of many commentators and Dutch TV hosts, Fortuyn insisted on Fr. Louis Berger, a parish priest from The Hague, accompanying him in some of his last TV appearances. According to the New York Times, Berger had become his “friend and confessor” during the last weeks of his life.

Fortuyn was initially buried in Driehuis in the Netherlands. He was re-interred on 20 July 2002, at San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone in Italy, where he had owned a house.

And so we come to Geert Wilders, the New Janmaat (and by some even compared to Goebels and even Hitler). Wilders is a man that makes no secret of how he sees out Dutch?Arabic citizens, he doesn’t care if they are born here, he doesn’t care if they do well at school, work hard and are fully intergrated into society. Geert Wilders has just one M.O… getting into power over the back of the immigrants and their kids.

Geert Wilders

In 1997, Wilders was elected for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) to the municipal council of Utrecht (same as me), the fourth largest city of the Netherlands He lived in Kanaleneiland,(again, same as me.. in fact same street as I do) a suburb with cheap social housing and high apartment blocks, and which has a relatively high number of immigrants. While a city councilor, Wilders was mugged in his own neighbourhood; some have speculated that this may have catalysed his political transformation. He was not rewarded for his time on the municipal council of Utrecht, for in the following elections he would score well below the national average in the University city.

A year later, he was elected to the Netherlands’ national parliament, but his first four years in parliament drew little attention. However, his appointment in 2002 as a public spokesman for the VVD led Wilders to become more well known for his outspoken criticism of Islamic extremism. Tensions immediately developed within the party, as Wilders found himself to be to the right of most members, and challenged the party line in his public statements. He was expelled from the VVD parliamentary party, and in September 2004, Wilders left the VVD, having been a member since 1989, to form his own political party, Groep Wilders, later renamed the Party for Freedom. The crunch issue with the VVD party line was about his refusal to endorse the party’s position that European Union accession negotiations must be started with Turkey.

The Party for Freedom’s political platform often overlaps those of the assassinated Rotterdam politician Pim Fortuyn and his Pim Fortuyn List. After his death, Fortuyn’s impact remained, as more and more politicians sought to gain political mileage by directly confronting topics such as a ban on immigration that were, from a politically correct point of view, considered unmentionable in the Netherlands until Fortuyn came on the scene and upended the Dutch tradition of consensus politics with an anti-immigration stance. Wilders would position himself to inherit Fortuyn’s constituency. The Party for Freedom called for a €16 billion tax reduction, a far stricter policy toward recreational drug use, investing more in roads and other infrastructure, building nuclear power plants and including animal rights in the Dutch constitution. In the 2006 Dutch parliamentary election, their first parliamentary election, the Party for Freedom won 9 out of the 150 open seats.

Anti pvv logo

In March 2009, in a party meeting in Venlo, Wilders said “I want to be prime minister“, believing the PVV will eventually become the Netherlands’ biggest party. “At some point it’s going to happen and then it will be a big honour to fulfil the post of prime minister”.

Polling conducted throughout March 2009 by Maurice de Hond indicated the Party for Freedom was the most popular parliamentary party. The polls predicted that the party would take 21% of the national vote, winning 32 out of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament. If the polling results were replicated in an election, Wilders would be a major power broker. Under such circumstances, there would also be some likelihood of him becoming Prime Minister of the Netherlands. This has been partially attributed to timely prosecution attempts against him for hate speech and the travel ban imposed on him by the United Kingdom, as well as dissatisfaction with the Dutch government‘s response to the global financial crisis of 2008–2009.

Wilders (right) with the leaders of VVD and CDA following the 2010 election.

On 3 March 2010, elections for the local councils were held in the municipalities of The Netherlands. The PVV only contested these local elections in the Dutch towns The Hague and Almere, because of a shortage of good candidates. The big gains that were scored indicated that the party and Wilders might dominate the political scene in the run-up to the parliamentary elections scheduled on 9 June 2010. The PVV won in Almere and came second to the Dutch Labour party in The Hague. In Almere, the PVV won 21 percent of the vote to Labour’s 18 percent, preliminary results showed. In The Hague, the PVV had 8 seats—second to Labour with 10 seats.

On 8 March 2010, Wilders announced that he would take a seat on the Hague city council, after it became clear he won 13,000 preference votes. Earlier he had said he would not take up a seat if he won. In the parliamentary elections on 9 June 2010, the PVV went from 9 to 24 seats (out of 150) resulting from over 15% of the vote. This made the PVV the third party in size. With a fragmented parliament, at least three parties were required for an absolute majority. A coalition of VVD and Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) was negotiated with parliamentary support by the PVV. The PVV did not become part of the government formed by VVD and CDA but actively participated in the negotiations and thus policy decisions and – as part of the outcome agreed that they would not support any motion to dismiss ministers concerning topics listed in a so-called “support agreement” – much like the Danish model where the Danish People’s Party plays a similar role. The very fact of the participation of Wilder’s party in these negotiations caused fierce discussions in political circles.

On 21 April 2012, Wilders withdrew his support from the Rutte cabinet because of new austerity measures that were about to be taken. Commenting on his withdrawal Wilders blamed the “European dictates” pointing to the 3% rule on budget deficit for European countries although his party had supported these rules earlier on. The cabinet blamed Wilders for what they call his “lack of political will” and “political cowardice” in regards to addressing the economic woes of the Netherlands.Wilders’ withdrawal from the negotiations led to new elections in September. Wilders and the PVV ran on a campaign to have the Netherlands withdraw from the European Union and for a return to the guilder. The PVV won only 15 seats in the election.

Then two weeks ago during the City Council elections he made some controversial remarks again. When he was in the Hague on a campaign trail he asked the crowd “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in your city and country” the crowd chanted “Fewer Fewer Fewer” after which Wilders responded “then we going to take care of that” The fact that he said it, the crowd responded and he made the promise was not even what shocked me. I was absolutely not surprised and actually glad he showed his true colors at last (he always claimed NOT to be a racist and he was always careful in his wording not to target a specific group from a specific country) No, what shocked me was the poll a few days later which showed that a whopping 45% of the people questioned about it had absolutely no problem with what he said (thank God the majority still does)

Soo… If you still think the Netherlands is such a tolerant country think again. We have become a country that has just as much racists as for example Germany, the USA or the UK We have a long way to g before we are free from this hate mongering lunatic and as long as this man is around I am afraid I can not call my country a “tolerant and welcoming country”

Of course the Netherlands is still filled with millions of beautiful people from all walks of live and all religions, cultural backgrounds and there still are loads of tolerant people, we just aren’t the most tolerant country anymore.

Dutch Tolerance, the myth (1960’s -2002)

There is a lot of talk during the last.. well… decades if not centuries, about the so called “Dutch tolerance” and yes, if you check our past the Dutch have been a very tolerant people. First of course there s the multicultural aspect.. If you check cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht you will see that we have many nationalities roaming across the city streets. You can see a lot of people from the former colonies like Suriname and Bonaire whom have been part of our Dutch culture for many centuries. Most of these Dutchman you will find in Amsterdam and Rotterdam as where the Hague is more the city where you will find the people that originate from areas like Indonesia. Since the mid 60 there has been a huge growth in Dutchman that originate from the middle Eastern areas like Morocco and Turkey and with the things happening in central and north Africa in recent decades the amount of people originating from the African continent has been growing as well.

Of course where cultures meet lot of things happen, always has been doing that always will be doing that. These “things” can be positive and negative but they almost always come from either lack of knowledge about a certain culture or (more positive) curiosity about these different cultures.

Of course all these “new Dutch” had their reasons for coming to the Netherlands. When it comes to people from the former colonies many things can be the reason ranging from economic to family related issues, although clearly not “original Dutch” I don’t think there are many Dutch that are counting them as “allochtoon”

An “Allowhat?” you might ask yourself now. In the Netherlands there is a distinction between the people that are “original” Dutch and those that are “Import”. If you are Born and bred Dutch with Dutch parents and grandparents you are considered “Autochtoon”. Anybody else is considered “Allochtoon”. I Highly doubt  if there is a translation for these words in English (or any other language for that matter). It has been “invented” as political correct alternative for the many words depicting “others” that might be offending to the subject in question such as “Negers” (litteral “Negros” but more regarded in the same way by many as the dreaded “N” word” in English)

So..back to the reasons of moving to the Netherlands. As said, the former people from our former colonies could have many reason like work or family related. Then there is a large group of people that originate from either Morocco or Turkey. In the post WWII era there was enough work in Holland, in fact there was so much work that the Dutch where feeling to “high and mighty” to do the dirty work themselves. If you where Dutch in those days you would opt for a job as manager or salesman, working in a store or in an office building. Jobs like Garbage collector, factory line worker, cleaner and maid where “sourced out”. Many small temp job agencies came to live that had a representative in these countries and they where recruiting the Moroccan and Turkeys people for these “Dirty jobs” Many came to Holland invited by us to do the jobs we didn’t want to do ourselves. Although many came here as “temp workers” or as we called them “Gast Arbeiders” (Guest workers) most of them ended up staying either marrying someone they met over here but in many cases bringing wife and kids over as well. No real efforts where made during those days to have these people integrating into our society since “they would not stay anyways”

Here is where the main problem started, although we did invite these people most of us never really tried to actually “get to know them”. If you where lucky, people greeted each other when they met but more interaction then that was not really there. However as it goes with people, most of us get kids eventually and these kids grew up in a split world. In one world they where at home wit their family, the language was Arabic (Moroccan, Turkeys, Kurdisch etc etc) and there was (and still is btw) a big chance that at least one if not both parents where unable to speak proper Dutch. Since these kids grew up never hearing Dutch they entered the school systems with a severe disadvantage since all classes in Dutch schools (some university classes excluded) are. in Dutch. Imagine being 6 and going to the first grade for the first time and being greeted by a lady that is talking to you like your deaf (why are people shouting when they talk to deaf people, they can’t hear you). often in typical Dutch “high speed talking” Kids at the playground laughing at you or with you? or are they even laughing? could be crying, or shouting or, or, or). So these kids start with a disadvantage that often only gets bigger with time passing since teachers simply don’t have the time p go one on one with a student.

And so this first “Dutch born” generation grew up in relative anonymity. Although these kids did learn the language, the cultural gap between home and school still made them relatively lost between two worlds and many if not most of these kids left school after primary school. However by then the jobs we Dutch didn’t want to do when there parents came over we now needed ourselves and so the unemployment within this generation grew bigger and bigger.

It was the 2nd and 3rd generation after WWII (basically my generation) and the things that happened in WWII was something we only knew from History class and the things our own parents still knew. Since our own parents where typically around 5 or 6 in”45 the seriousness of what had happened did not sink in for a lot of people. Yes, we knew there had been war, people had been killed and we did understand that such a war should never happen again however the reasons and motives… we just didn’t mirror it onto how we treated our Moroccan class mates unwillingly creating a generation of kids that grew up with bullying and in some cases even flat out hatred towards them. Then the extreme right wing started to show it’s ugly face.

Old pamflet of the CD saying: You can choose before it is too late

First there was Hans Janmaat , This man was from the WWII generation (born in ‘37) and should have know better but he was the first really racist, right wing politician in our country. Janmaat wanted to represent the indigenous Dutch workers and middle class. His views were based mostly on economic and materialistic arguments rather than an underlying ideology.Disappointing economic growth, unemployment and government cutbacks could not be addressed while large numbers of immigrants were flowing into the country Janmaat was against a multicultural society: he argued that immigrants should either assimilate into Dutch culture, or return to their country of birth. His best known slogans were “Holland is not a country of immigration,” “full=full” and “we will abolish the multicultural society, as soon as we get the chance and power”; he was convicted for the last two statements. According to Jan van de Beek, Hans Janmaat often used economic arguments in his tirades against immigrants.

He was often accused of committing acts of hate speech, and received fines and a conditional prison sentence for incitement to hatred and discrimination against foreigners.

He often made controversial remarks about immigrants and other politicians. He argued that Ernst Hirsch Ballin should not be allowed to hold a high office because of his Jewish heritage  and said he was not saddened by the sudden death of political opponent Ien Dales.

Other parties erected a cordon sanitaire around Janmaat, ignoring him while he spoke in parliament. A taboo on discussing negative aspects of immigration existed in the Dutch political climate in the 1980s.

Meindert Fennema, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory of Ethnic Relations at the University of Amsterdam, argued in 2006 that Janmaat was convicted for statements that are now commonplace  due to changes in the political climate (caused in part by the September 11 attacks, and the assassinations of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh).

More in the following blog

Shades of gray: can Wolves and Humans live together

Gray wolves once ranged across North America. But by the 1930s, they were nearly extinct — trapped, poisoned and hunted by ranchers, farmers, and government agents. With protection under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the wolf population rebounded. But wolves lost federal protection in 2011.


Now, with hunting permitted in many Western states, the future of this once endangered species may again be in question. Can we live with wolves? Earth Focus travels to Montana and Wyoming to find out.

So one of the reasons that people are afraid of wolves is because the fear for attacks on livestock and/or Humans. How well founded is this fear? let’s take a look at the facts, shall we?

I guess many Americans will be familiar with Politifact and the Oregon section had the following on fatal wolf attacks on Humans in the Rocky Mountain states

In a recent article in The Oregonian, Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, spoke some about those risks.

“Wolves have attacked and killed people in Canada and Alaska,” Dennehy told The Oregonian. “It is extremely rare and has never happened in the Rocky Mountain states, but we advise people to keep your distance from wolves and any wild animals.”

Oregon is home to an estimated 24 wolves, a small population. But a 2010 reportby the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts the number of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain population (which includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon) at more than 1,650.

This got us wondering whether it could be true that there have been no documented cases of run-ins with wolves in that fairly large area. Plus, we’re always looking for a change of pace.

We started where we always start: the source. Dennehy pointed us to a 2002 report from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research called “The fear of wolves: A review of wolf attacks on humans.”

Because “the vast majority” of global wolf research happens in North America, the report says, wolf attacks in Canada and the U.S. have been extremely well documented. That documentation — and the fact that attacks are so rare — allowed the authors to detail every attack in the past century.

All told, the study’s authors found 18 wolf attacks in North America — 12 in Canada and six in the U.S. Of the attacks in the U.S., four occurred in Alaska (as did an unspecified number of small incidents along a road where truckers had taken to feeding the wolves) and two in Minnesota, in which the victims weren’t injured. Two of the attacks in Alaska left the victim dead of rabies. Both of those happened in the 1940s.

Dennehy also sent us a news clip from a paper up in Saskatchewan that detailed the 2005deathof a young Ontario student who was on a walk near a Saskatchewan mining camp when he was attacked and killed. A sad story to be sure, but one that happened a ways away from the Rocky Mountains.

We try to be thorough, so we also placed a call to the International Wolf Center, an organization that tries to advance the survival of wolves through education.

We spoke to Jess Edberg, who is based in Ely, Minnesota. Minnesota has the most robust wolf population outside of Alaska.

“Overall, in North America and around the world, a wolf attack on humans is very rare,” Edberg said. “In the lower 48, we haven’t had any attacks on humans.”
She added that many of the attacks that do occur often involve sick animals or animals who had been fed or allowed to become accustomed to humans.

Edberg did point out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had recently concluded that a woman found dead in 2010 on the Alaska Peninsula was killed by wolves.

Finally, she sent us looking for two studies on wolves. One report, which shared an author with the first Norwegian report, looked at Scandinavia and found that over the past 300 years, 94 people have been killed by wolves. All of those cases, the report found, were before 1882 and most were children under the age of 12.

The second, more pertinent report, done in 2002, by Mark E McNay for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game looked at wolf attacks in Alaska and Canada and found that “despite (a) large and widely distributed wolf population, no human deaths have been attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900, and biting incidents or bluff charges are rare enough to warrant publication in scientific journals.”

Of course, that report was published before the two deaths we mentioned above.

History and perception of wolf attacks worldwide


Map showing the number of wolf attacks in France by département from 1400 to 1918.

Map of Eurasia showing the distribution of wolf attacks, with blue indicating areas where both rabid and predatory attacks occurred, purple for purely predatory attacks and green for purely rabid ones.

Chart showing the hypothetical stages leading up to wolf attacks on humans in 15th-19th century Italy. While these factors are now largely absent in modern-day Europe, they are still present in rural India, where many attacks took place during the late 20th century.

In France, historical records compiled by rural historian Jean-Marc Moriceau indicate that during the period 1362–1918, nearly 7,600 people were killed by wolves, of whom 4,600 were killed by non-rabid wolves. Numerous attacks occurred in Germany during the 17th century after the thirty years war, though the majority probably involved rabid wolves. Although Italy has no records of wolf attacks after WWII and the eradication of rabies in the 1960s, historians examining church and administrative records from northern Italy’s central Po Valley region (which includes a part of modern daySwitzerland) found 440 cases of wolves attacking people between the 15th and 19th centuries. The 19th century records show that between 1801-1825, there were 112 attacks, 77 of which resulted in death. Of these cases, only five were attributed to rabid animals. In Latvia, records of rabid wolf attacks go back two centuries. At least 72 people were bitten between 1992-2000. Similarly, in Lithuania, attacks by rabid wolves have continued to the present day, with 22 people having been bitten between 1989-2001. Around 82 people were bitten by rabid wolves in Estonia during the 18th to 19th centuries, with a further 136 people being killed in the same period by non-rabid wolves, though it is likely that the animals involved in the latter cases were a combination of wolf-dog hybrids and escaped captive wolves.

Russia and the Soviet Union

As with North American scientists later on (see below), several Russian zoologists after the October Revolution cast doubt on the veracity of records involving wolf-caused deaths. Prominent among them was zoologist Petr Aleksandrovich Manteifel, who initially regarded all cases as either fiction or the work of rabid animals. His writings were widely accepted among Russian zoological circles, though he subsequently changed his stance when he was tasked with heading a special commission after WWII investigating wolf attacks throughout the Soviet Union, which had increased during the war years. A report was presented in November 1947 describing numerous attacks, including ones perpetrated by apparently healthy animals, and gave recommendations on how to better defend against them. The Soviet authorities prevented the document from reaching both the public and those who would otherwise be assigned to deal with the problem. All mention of wolf attacks was subsequently censored.

Asian Hakurou by WildSpiritWolf


In Iran, 98 attacks were recorded in 1981] and 329 people were given treatment for rabid wolf bites in 1996. Records of wolf attacks in India began to be kept during the British colonial administration in the 19th century. In 1875, more people were killed by wolves than tigers, with the worst affected areas being the North West Provinces and Bihar. In the former area, 721 people were killed by wolves in 1876, while in Bihar, the majority of the 185 recorded deaths at the time occurred mostly in the Patna and Bghalpur Divisions. In the United Provinces, 624 people were killed by wolves in 1878, with 14 being killed during the same period in Bengal. In Hazaribagh, Bihar, 115 children were killed between 1910-1915, with 122 killed and 100 injured in the same area between 1980-1986. Between April 1989 to March 1995, wolves killed 92 people in southern Bihar, accounting for 23% of 390 large mammal attacks on humans in the area at that time. Police records collected from Korean mining communities during Japanese ruleindicate that wolves attacked 48 people in 1928, more than those claimed by boars, bears, leopards and tigers combined.

North America

There were no written records of wolf attacks on humans prior to the European colonization of the Americas, though the oral history of some Native American tribes confirms that wolves occasionally did kill humans. Tribes living in woodlands feared wolves more than their tundra-dwelling counterparts, as they could encounter wolves suddenly and at close quarters.Skepticism among North American scientists over the alleged ferocity of wolves began when Canadian biologist Doug Clark investigated historical wolf attacks in Europe and, based on his own experiences with the relatively timid wolves of the Canadian wilderness, concluded that all historical attacks were perpetrated by rabid animals, and that healthy wolves posed no threat to humans. Although his findings were later criticized for failing to distinguish between rabid and predatory attacks, and the fact that the historical literature contained instances of people surviving the attacks at a time when there was no rabies vaccine, his conclusions were nonetheless adopted by other North American biologists. This view subsequently gained popularity among laypeople with the publication of Farley Mowat‘s semi-fictional 1963 book Never Cry Wolf, with the language barrier hindering the collection of further data on wolf attacks elsewhere. Although some North American biologists were aware of wolf attacks in Eurasia, they dismissed them as irrelevant to North American wolves.

By the 1970s, the fear of wolves was largely counteracted by the emergence of a pro-wolf lobby aiming to change public attitudes towards wolves, with the phrase “there has never been a documented case of a healthy wild wolf attacking a human in North America” (or variations thereof) becoming the mantra of people trying to create a more positive image of the wolf. Although several non fatal attacks had been reported since 1985, it wasn’t until April 26, 2000 when a 6-year-old boy survived an attack by a wolf in Icy Bay, Alaska that the assumption that healthy wild wolves were harmless became seriously challenged. The event was considered so unusual that it was reported in newspapers throughout the entire United States. Following the Icy Bay incident, biologist Mark E. McNay compiled a record in 2002 of wolf-human encounters in Canada and Alaska from 1915-2001. Of the 80 described encounters, 39 involved aggressive behavior from apparently healthy wolves and 12 from animals confirmed to be rabid.The first fatal attack in the 21st century occurred in 2005, when a man was killed in SaskatchewanCanada by wolves that had been habituated to humans, while in 2010, a woman was killed whilst jogging near Chignik Lake in Alaska.

basically….. there is no reason to fear a wolf attack however when in wolf country always be cautious. We all need to protest against this delisting and start protecting the wolf. One way of doing this is by supporting Wolf Haven International (and if you want more wolfhaven you might visit this blog done by one of their caretakers )


Wolf Haven International

Utrecht, The letters of Utrecht (an eternal poem) and a brief history

The Letters of Utrecht

A poem for the future grows in the stones of the street in the center of the town of Utrecht, The Netherlands. One character per stone, one stone per week. Every Saturday a stone mason turns the next stone into the next Letter. In months words appear. With the years verses grow in the streets, extended by a different poet of Utrechts’ guild of poets every few years. Through the centuries the line of the poem will itself draw letters on the map of the changing city.


The poem continues for as long as someone is willing to contribute the next Letter as a gift to his town and its future citizens and link his or her name with a Letter by bearing the costs of its creation. The costs per Letter are expected to be around 100 Euro, including 10 Euro for a good cause. A consecutive number will help the sponsor find his/her letter, and count the weeks since the beginning of the year 2000. Contribute your Letter!

the letters of Utrecht

At the same time of the publication on the street the Letter appears on this website, with the name of the sponsor. The stone mason can engrave the name or initials of the sponsor in the side of the stone (invisible under the surface of the street).

The Letters of Utrecht were unveiled on June 2, 2012. The beginning of the poem of the Letters of Utrecht was predated to fictitiously start on New Year’s day of the year 2000. The first 648 characters were actually placed on May 30th and 31st, 2012. From June 2d, 2012 onwards the next character is hewn out of the next stone every Saturday.

Stichting Letters van Utrecht organizes the project, the fiscal authorities in the Netherlands mark it as a cultural organization for the general benefit (culturele ANBI). Gifts can be declared in a Dutch tax declaration.

The poem that the Letters of Utrecht spell out on the street is also published on this site (Dutch version, seeNederlands), up to the most recently hewn letter.

The parts not yet published in the street will remain secret. The poem will be extended by a different poet whenever required. It is never completed.

List of Letters, sponsors, dates and position.

The following is a rough translation of the poem:

Ruben van Gogh (Letters 1-124):
Je zult ergens moeten beginnen om het verleden een plaats te geven, het heden doet er steeds minder toe. Hoe verder je bent, hoe beter. Ga maar door nu,
You have to begin somewhere to give the past its place, the present matters ever less. The further you are, the better. Continue now,

Ingmar Heytze (Letters 125-240):
laat je sporen na. Vergeet de flits waarin je mag bestaan, de wereld is je stratenplan. Was er een tijd dat je een ander was: die ging voorbij.
leave your footprints. Forget the flash, in which you may exist, the world is your map. If there was a time when you where another: it went by.

Chrétien Breukers (Letters 241-374):
Je bent die ander al. Je bent, zoals je weet, van dit verhaal de spil. Dit is de eeuwigheid. Die duurt. Die heeft de tijd. Ga daarom op in je verhaal en zwelg. Vertel.
You are the other already. You are, as you know, the center of this story. This is eternity. It lasts. It has the time. Become one with your story and revel. Tell.

Alexis de Roode (Letters 375-532):
Vertel ons wie je bent met elke stap. In ons verhaal verdwijnen wij vanzelf, en enkel jij blijft over op den duur. Jij en deze letters, die uit steen gehouwen zijn. Zoals de letters op ons graf.
Tell us who you are with every step. In our story we vanish inevitably, only you remain in the long run. You and these letters hewn from stone. As the letters on our grave.

Ellen Deckwitz (Letters 533-682):
De barsten in de Dom. Naar de hemel opgestoken als een wijsvinger, om de schuldigen aan te duiden en meer tijd te eisen. Zodat we weer rechtop kunnen gaan, als mensen langs de gracht.
The cracks in the cathedral’s tower. Raised to heaven as an index finger, to identify the guilty and demand more time. So that we can walk straight again as humans along the canal.

Mark Boog (Letters 683-?)
Die naar hun voeten staren. …
Those staring at their feet. Look upwards! See Utrecht’s churches…

(roughly translated up to Letter 733

The History of Utrecht

Utrecht (/ˈjuːtrɛkt/Dutch pronunciation: [ˈytrɛxt] ( )) is the capital and most populous city in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 327,834 on 1 November 2013.

Utrecht’s ancient city centre features many buildings and structures from the Early Middle Ages. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century. Currently it is the see of the Archbishop of Utrecht, the most important Dutch Roman Catholic leader Utrecht is also the see of the archbishop of the Old Catholic church, titular head of the Union of Utrecht (Old Catholic), and the location of the offices of the main Protestant church. Until the Dutch Golden Age, Utrecht was the most important city of the Netherlands; then, Amsterdam became its cultural centre and most populous city.

Castle Vredenburg

Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university of the Netherlands, as well as several other institutes for higher education. Due to its central position within the country, it is an important transport hub for both rail and road transport. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.


The academic building of the Utrecht University situated next to the Dom Church

Origins (until 650)

Many of the features in Blaeu‘s 1652 map of Utrecht can still be recognised in the city center

Although there is some evidence of earlier inhabitation in the region of Utrecht, dating back to the Stone Age (app. 2200 BCE) and settling in the Bronze Age (app. 1800–800 BCE),the founding date of the city is usually related to the construction of a Roman fortification (castellum), probably built in around 50 CE. These fortresses were designed to house a cohort of about 500 Roman soldiers. Near the fort a settlement would grow housing artisans, traders and soldiers’ wives and children. A line of such fortresses was built after the Roman emperor Claudius decided the empire should not expand further north. To consolidate the border the limes Germanicus defense line was constructed. This line was located at the borders of the main branch of the river Rhine, which at that time flowed through a more northern bed compared to today, along what is now the Kromme Rijn.

In Roman times, the name of the Utrecht fortress was simply Traiectum denoting its location at a possibility to cross the Rhine. Traiectum became Dutch Trecht. The U comes from Old Dutch “uut” meaning downriver. It was added to distinguish from the other Tricht, Maas-tricht. In 11th-century official documents it was then Latinized as Ultra Traiectum. Around the year 200, the wooden walls of the fortification were replaced by sturdier tuff stone walls, remnants of which are still to be found below the buildings around Dom Square.

From the middle of the 3rd century Germanic tribes regularly invaded the Roman territories. Around 275 the Romans could no longer maintain the northern border and Utrecht was abandoned. Little is known about the next period 270–650. Utrecht is first spoken of again centuries after the Romans left. Under the influence of the growing realms of the Franks a church was built in the 7th century within the walls of the Roman fortress during Dagobert I‘s reign. In ongoing border conflicts with the Frisians the church was however destroyed.

Centre of Christianity in the Netherlands (650–1579)

The Dom tower, with to the left behind it the remaining section of the Dom church. The two parts have not been connected since the collapse of the nave in 1674.

By the mid-7th century, English and Irish missionaries set out to convert the Frisians. The pope appointed their leader, Willibrordus, bishop of the Frisians; which is usually considered to be the beginning of the Bishopric of Utrecht. In 723, the Frankish leader Charles Martel bestowed the fortress in Utrecht and the surrounding lands as the base of bishops. From then on Utrecht became one of the most influential seats of power for the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands. The see of the archbishops of Utrecht was located at the uneasy northern border of the Carolingian Empire. Furthermore it had to compete with the nearby trading centre Dorestad, also founded near the location of a Roman fortress. After the downfall of Dorestad around 850, Utrecht became one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. The importance of Utrecht as a centre of Christianity is illustrated by the election of the Utrecht-born Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens as pope in 1522 (the last non-Italian pope before John Paul II)Pope Adrian died one year later after his election and although he ordered to build the Paus Huize in Utrecht he never actually saw it.


When the Frankish rulers established the system of feudalism, the Bishops of Utrecht came to exercise worldly power as prince-bishops. The territory of the bishopric not only included the modern province of Utrecht (Nedersticht, ‘lower Sticht‘), but also extended to the northeast. The feudal system led to conflict, and the prince-bishopric was at odds with the Counts of Holland and the Dukes of Guelders. The Veluwe region was soon seized by Guelders, but large areas in the modern province of Overijssel remained as the Oversticht.

Clerical buildings

Several churches and monasteries were built inside, or close to, the city of Utrecht. The most dominant of these was the Cathedral of Saint Martin, inside the old Roman fortress. The construction of the present Gothic building was begun in 1254 after an earlier romanesque construction had been badly damaged by fire. The choir and transept were finished from 1320 and were followed then by the ambitious Dom tower. The last part to be constructed was the central nave, from 1420. By that time, however, the age of the great cathedrals had come to an end and declining finances prevented the ambitious project from being finished, the construction of the central nave being suspended before the planned flying buttresses could be finished. Besides the cathedral there were four collegiate churches in Utrecht: St. Salvator’s Church (demolished in the 16th century), on the Dom square, dating back to the early 8th century. Saint John (Janskerk), originating in 1040; Saint Peter, building started in 1039 and Saint Mary‘s church building started around 1090 (demolished in the early 19th century, cloister survives). Besides these churches the city housed Saint Paul‘s Abbey. The 15th-century beguine monastery of Saint Nicholas, and a 14th-century chapter house of the Teutonic Knights.

Besides these buildings which were part of the official structures of the bishopric; an additional four parish churches were constructed in the city: the Jacobikerk (dedicated to Saint James), founded in the 11th century, with the current Gothic church dating back to the 14th century; the Buurkerk (Neighbourhood-church) of the 11th-century parish in the centre of the city; Nicolaichurch (dedicated to Saint Nicholas), from the 12th century and the 13th-century Geertekerk (dedicated to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles).

City of Utrecht

The location on the banks of the river Rhine allowed Utrecht to become an important trade centre in the Northern Netherlands. The growing town Utrecht was granted city rights by Henry V. in 1122. When the main flow of the Rhine moved south, the old bed, which still flowed through the heart of the town became evermore canalized; and a very rare wharf system was built as an inner city harbour system. On the wharfs storage facilities (werfkelders) were built, on top of which the main street, including houses was constructed. The wharfs and the cellars are accessible from a platform at water level with stairs descending from the street level to form a unique structure. The relations between the bishop, who controlled many lands outside of the city, and the citizens of Utrecht was not always easy. The bishop, for example dammed the Kromme Rijn at Wijk bij Duurstede to protect his estates from flooding. This threatened shipping for the city and led the city of Utrecht to commission a canal to ensure access to the town for shipping trade: the Vaartse Rijn, connecting Utrecht to the Hollandse IJssel at IJsselstein.

The end of independence

In 1528, the secular powers of the bishop over both Neder- and Oversticht – which included the city of Utrecht – were transferred to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who became the Lord of the Seventeen Provinces (the current Benelux and the northern parts of France). This transition was not an easy one and Charles V tried to exert his power over the citizens of the city, who had achieved a certain level of independence from the bishops and were not willing to cede this to their new lord. Charles decided to build a heavily fortified castle Vredenburg to house a large garrison whose chief task would be to maintain order in the city. The castle would last less than 50 years before it was demolished in an uprising in the early stages of the Dutch Revolt.

Republic of the Netherlands (1579–1815)

Prince Maurits in Utrecht, 31 July 1618

In 1579 the northern seven provinces signed the Union of Utrecht, in which they decided to join forces against Spanish rule. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the beginning of the Dutch Republic. In 1580 the new and predominantly Protestant state abolished the bishoprics, including the one in Utrecht, which had become an archbishopric in 1559. The stadtholders disapproved of the independent course of the Utrecht bourgeoisie and brought the city under much more direct control of the Holland dominated leadership of the republic. This was the start of a long period of stagnation of trade and development in Utrecht, an atypical city in the new state, still about 40% Catholic in the mid-17th century, and even more so among the elite groups, who included many rural nobility and gentry with town houses there.

The city, which was held against its will in the states of the Republic, failed to defend itself against the French invasion in 1672 (the Disaster Year).

The lack of structural integrity proved to be the undoing of the central section of the cathedral of St Martin church when Utrecht was struck by atornado in 1674.

The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 settled the War of the Spanish Succession.

Since 1723 (but especially after 1870) Utrecht became the centre of the non-Roman Old Catholic Churches in the world.

Modern history (1815–present)

In the early 19th century, the role of Utrecht as a fortified town had become obsolete. The fortifications of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie were moved east of Utrecht. The town walls could now be demolished to allow for expansion. The moats remained intact and formed an important feature of the Zocher plantsoen, an English style landscape park that remains largely intact today.

1960s style architecture at the Jaarbeursplein

Growth of the city increased when, in 1843, a railway connecting Utrecht to Amsterdam was opened. After that, Utrecht gradually became the main hub of theDutch railway network.

In 1853, the Dutch government allowed the bishopric of Utrecht to be reinstated by Rome, and Utrecht became the centre of Dutch Catholicism once more.

With the industrial revolution finally gathering speed in the Netherlands and the ramparts taken down, Utrecht began to grow far beyond the medieval center from the 1880s onward with the construction of neighbourhoods such as Oudwijk, Wittevrouwen, Vogelenbuurt to the East, and Lombok to the West. New middle class residential areas, such as Tuindorp and Oog in Al, were built in the 1920s and 1930s. During this period, several Jugendstil houses and office buildings were built, followed by Rietveld who built the Rietveld Schröder House (1924), and Dudok’s construction of the city theater (1941).

During World War II, Utrecht was held by the Germans until the general German surrender of the Netherlands on 5 May 1945. Canadian troops that surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on 7 May 1945.

Since World War II, the city has grown considerably when new neighbourhoods such as OvervechtKanaleneilandHoograven and Lunetten were built. Additionally the area surrounding Utrecht Centraal railway station and the station itself have been developed following modernist ideas of the 1960s, in a brutaliststyle. This led to the construction of the shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, music centre Vredenburg (Hertzberger, 1979), and conversion of part of the ancient canal structure into a highway (Catherijnebaan). Protest against further modernisation of the city centre followed even before the last buildings were finalised. In the early 21st century the whole area is being redeveloped. An architectural unique music palace is being constructed, that will be run jointly by Vredenburg, Tivoli and the SJU Jazzpodium.

Currently the city is expanding once more with the development of the Leidsche Rijn housing area.