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Entries in Netherlands (13)


Santorum is a filthy liar - even by Republican standards

This is Santorum discussing the health care system in the Netherlands:

Well in the Netherlands people wear a different bracelet if you are elderly. And the bracelet is ‘do not euthanise me’. Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. But half the people that are euthanised every year, and it’s ten percent of all deaths, half of those people are euthanised involuntarily at the hospitals, because they are older and sick.

And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country. Because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, that they will not come out of that hospital to [unaudible].

Look at what has happened just in our tolerance of abortion. Fifty years ago, people who did abortions, sixty years ago, people who did abortions were, you know, in the shadows, or people who were considered really bad doctors. Now abortion is something that is just accepted. Well, of course people do abortions, it’s legal, it’s fine, there are no moral and ethical problems. This is the erosion, and it happens in the medical profession, and it can happen very fast, and I think Obamacare will lead us down that road.

Almost every single sentence he uttered is a filthy lie. Not shades of gray, an alternative interpretation or statistical slight-of-hand - just a complete lie. The elderly in the Netherlands do not wear bracelets saying "do not euthanise me". All euthanasia in the Netherlands is voluntary, can only occur following multiple independent consultations and even then only in the case of unbearable pain. Euthanasia accounts for ~1% of total deaths in the Netherlands, not 10%. Health care provision to the elderly is higher in the Netherlands, not lower, and there is no shadow health-care system of Dutch fleeing over the border because they are afraid to go to Dutch hospitals. Abortion rates in the US are lower than they were 50 years ago, thanks to contraception, and abortion-related deaths are much lower, thanks to safe provision of medical services. "Obamacare" will not increase the number of abortions provided.

This is the man the majority of Republicans want to be the next President of the United States. And that says a whole lot about Republicans.


The town with two countries

Last weekend we took JT to visit Baarle Hertog / Baarle Nassau. This is a wonderful little Belgian/Dutch town, with the world's most complex international border.

 Which meant that Hayden could stand in two countries at the same time:


Dutchies inflict their politics on the whole world

I was just reading that the world has been bombarded with Dutch political advertising for centuries, via the medium of the humble carrot. Yes, the carrot, after which the orange pigment carotine was named, was once red, violet, purple, yellow and white. The orange version of the carrot was only created in the 17th century by Dutch carrot growers trying to suck up to the Royal Family of the Netherlands - the House of Orange. The carrot they created, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, has effectively wiped out all competion.

Those Dutchies, tricking us into supporting their royal family. With $300 million in the bank and palaces across the Netherlands, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the Oranges have been taking a royalty for each orange carrot bought.


A big week for Dutch-speaking neo-nazis

Vlaams Belang, the neo-nazi anti-immigrant party of Belgium, is sending out free pocket knives to people in Brussels who fill write to them with concern about "immigration and crime in Brussels".

At least Vlaams Belang were not stupid enough to emblazon the pocket knives with a swastika. You can't say quite the same for the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), the neo-nazi anti-immigrant party of the Netherlands, which last week was photographed flying the old Dutch Nazi flag from their parliamentary headquarters. 

Of course they are not racist, they insist, they are just concerned about all of these filthy foreigners. 



I don't think this product is officially endorsed by Disney

Pirates of the Caribbean vibrator, as seen in Den Haag


Images of Leiden

A beautiful city to spend a spring day in, even if the beer does not meet Belgium's high standards.


The tulips of Holland

Yesterday we nipped up to the Netherlands to visit Keukenhof. The Keukenhof Park is the largest flower garden in the world, with seven million tulips on display within a 15th century garden, or as Lydia calls it "the Floriade of Holland".

Keukenhof was originally a herb garden for the Countess of Hainaut, and is one of the few surviving aristocratic gardens in the region. The other grounds in the area were all removed to grow tulip bulbs during the Dutch tulip craze, which is kind of ironic considering that the only estate resistant to the tulip purge has spent the past fifty years as the display piece for the Dutch flower.

It was a glorious day to be out with friends, full of sunlight and colour. Despite being only 30°C, it was the hottest place in Europe, along with Belgium. Actually, Belgium weather has been so gloriously sunny for the past month that we are having bushfires and farmers complaining about the lack of rain - you could forgive me for thinking that I was back in Australia.

More photos from our various trips to the Netherlands are here.


The Siege of Leiden

To Leiden with friends to celebrate the end of the Siege of Leiden on the 2nd of October, 1574, during the Eighty Year's War when the Low Countries rebelled against Spanish rule. Leiden was under siege nearly continuously for a year, with a pause only when the Spanish left to destroy the relief force of William of Orange. Unphased, army destroy, William of Orange broke the dykes and flooded the whole region so that he could relieve the city with his navy. After months of starving, with thousands dead, the Spanish retreated on the very same night that the walls of Leiden crumbled. The Orange Navy broke the famine with herrings, white bread and "Hutspot", a carrot and onion stew left behind by the Spanish army.

We celebrated on the night of the 2nd as Leiden was turned into a giant drunken fun fair, then spent a pleasant afternoon in a cafe in Rotterdam on the way back to Belgium.



The Dutch remember you, oh Neutral Moresnet

Thanks to an intruiging tip-off about a small independent country that once existed in the east of Belgium, today Neutral Moresnet blossomed and died for me.

Being in Vaals for a conference, this morning I took the chance to visit Drielandenpunt (Three Land Point) for myself. This is the point where the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany all meet up. For over 100 years (from 1816 and 1919) it was the Vierlandenpunt (Four Land Point), as the tiny state of Neutral Moresnet also touched on the border.

Neutral Moresnet was a country of only 1 square mile, formed in 1816 after bickering between Prussia and the Netherlands over a zinc mine. Neither country would let the other claim the valuable resource (there were only two zinc mines in Europe at the time, the other was in Bristol), so they created a new country around the mine.

The population of Neutral Moresnet was only 256 in the beginning, but rose to 4,668 over its 100 year existance, with workers attracted to the mine and to the exemption from military conscription.

The country was officially a condominium, shared between Prussia and the Netherlands until 1830, then Prussia and Belgium after Belgian independence. Dr Wilhelm Molly, the chief doctor for the mine, was a strong advocate for Neutral Moresnet, and worked tirelessly to build a future for the country after the mine, first attemting to start a local postal service (vetoed by Belgium), then a casino (vetoed by Prussia) then even managed to get Neutral Moresnet declared the world capital for Esperanto. Unfortunately the peace settlement after WWI changed all that, and in 1919, after a noble 100 year history, Neutral Moresnet was absorbed into Belgium.

Despite being long gone, Neutral Moresnet is still remembered by the Dutch. The roads leading up to Drielandenpunt are named "Route des Trois Bornes" (Three Land Road) in Belgium, "Dreiländerweg" (Three Land Road) in Germany, but "Viergrenzenweg" (Four Borders Road) in the Netherlands. 

As an aside, the highest point in the Netherlands, Mount Vaals, is also at Drielandenpunt. It is 322.7 metres above sea level.


Belgian exclaves

We thought we would spend the glorious Belgian spring day in the small town of Baarle-Hertog with our dear friends visiting from Cambridge, Michelle and Grant. Of course, if you are going to visit Baarle-Hertog, you have to visit Baarle-Nassau. And I don't mean that in the "oh, it would be a real shame to visit Baarle-Hertog and not visit Baarle Nassau" type of way - it is physically impossible to visit Baarle-Hertog without visiting Baarle-Nassau. You see, this town has the most complicated international border in the world. Baarle-Hertog is a set of 24 Belgian exclaves, each of which is also a Netherlands enclave. To make matters more complicated, Baarle-Nassau doesn't just surround the 24 Belgian exclaves, it is also made up of seven Netherlands exclaves, each of which are Belgian enclaves by virtue of being within the Belgian exclaves of Baarle-Hertog.

Complicated? I need a map to explain.

Why is the border so screwed up? Basically this is the way all of Europe used to look. Feudalism cut and spliced Europe into tiny land fragments, all for sale to the richest bastard or free to conquest by a bigger bastard with a sword. Land was divided by sale or between sons during generational change, fused by marriages or purchases, gained or lost for arcane rights and taxation. Baarle was no different in being divided up between the Dukes of Brabant (“Hertog”) and the House of Nassau. What was different about Baarle is just how long the messed up situation has lasted. After the Belgian Protestants revolted against Spanish control of the Habsburg Netherlands in 1568, the Eighty Years’ War began.

The Protestants were rapidly pushed north (ironically out of Belgium, where it all started), but the situation soon stabilized along with is now essentially the current Belgian-Netherlands border. Spain refused to acknowledge the de facto independence of the Netherlands for 80 years (until 1648), freezing land claim disputes between the regions. Napoleon reunited the Netherlands and Belgium in 1815 but the union soon collapsed, in 1831, making it important to finally sort out the legal border. The Treaty of Maastricht in 1843 sorted out the border except for Baarle, which was complicated by the feudal owners now being divided by the new border. Eventually, in 1974, the enclave/exclave situation was agreed upon by both Belgium and the Netherlands, but it wasn’t until 1995 that a thorough analysis of the historical documents combined with GPS mapping made the official borders final (with a fair bit of shifting between 1974 and 1995 as the data became more accurate).

Of course, people were living in Baarle the entire time, and houses had been knocked down and rebuilt over the past 500 years, so that today’s border has no respect for the town planning. The border runs down streets, across parks and even divides houses and shops. Your bedroom can be in Belgium while your kitchen is in the Netherlands. For taxation and residential purposes, each house is deemed to be in the country in which the front door is located, so there are 2,306 Belgians in Baarle-Hertog and 5,330 Dutch in Baarle-Nassau. Some were surprised in 1995 when the final borders came out and the shift of a couple of metres turned Dutch into Belgians and Belgians into Dutch - the typical response was to change the position of the front door to get back into your old country. This was not merely patriotism - the front door move had serious taxation and regulation effects. A new door could change income and sales tax and even the opening hours of shops.

So what does it mean for a town where a few unsuspecting steps can mean that you are in a new country? 

Well, a lot of services are shared. There is an international library, a joint cultural centre and joint provision of water, gas and sewerage. But a lot of stuff is divided along strict national lines. There are two Town Halls, one for Baarle-Hertog and one for Baarle-Nassau, two fire services (it must be difficult for fire-fighters to keep track of whether a fire is on their side of the border or not), two telephone services and two electricity services. There are even two police services - I hope there is a good extradition treaty! Can you imagine the difficulty in trying to track down a criminal who can run across twenty international borders in ten minutes? Of course, you could just surround the entire exclave and wait until they get bored of living in the same few square metres. Until 1860 there was only a single Church, but then the Dutch Bishop of Breda realised that this meant Dutch Catholics were attending a foreign (Belgian) church, so he created a second Church for the Dutch.

One of the most absurd situations is the postal system. If you put a letter in a Baarle-Hertog post-box for a Baarle-Hertog address it is dealt with by the local postal system. If, however, you post it to your neighbour across the road in Baarle-Nassau the letter is international, gets sent to Turnhout then Brussels, transferred to Amsterdam by air, distributed to the regional centre in Tilburg and finally delivered to Baarle-Nassau.

To make matters more complicated, it is only for taxation and residential purposes that the front door counts. For all other legal matters, where you are inside the building dictates what is permissible. The movie theatre crosses the border, so when a movie came out that was rated X in Belgium but not in the Netherlands the Belgian police sat at the back of the theatre to make sure the audience kept to the Dutch side of the theatre.

Likewise, an old pub spanned the border. Belgian and Dutch closing times were different, so when the Dutch closing time came the owner had to lock the Dutch door and move customers over to the Belgian side of the border for the rest of the night.

A strange and crazy system, but it all seems to work out fine. The weather was perfect, people were packed in the outdoor cafes, we ate fine chocolates and quality beers and came home with a international sun tan.