Neither Tracked Nor Traced – Nor Service at PostNL – 70 Days and Counting

If you have read any of my previous blogs about the Netherlands, I am usually very positive and tend to use phrases like, the Dutch punch above their weight class.

And then there is Post NL.  The Dutch postal customer service.

I’ve lived here a long long time.  And within the Netherlands, if you mailed something on Monday to someone in the Netherlands. It was there the next day. No worries. No questions. It happened. If you shipped something abroad, in my case usually the US, it got there as well 7-10 days later.

And then came the internet. Email. People and companies sent fewer and fewer letters via PostNL, simply no longer used their services. Why take a day, what can be delivered within a minute….cheaper.   And how did PostNL respond…post offices were closed and were replaced by commercial companies like your local Bruna shop looking to drive traffic to their stores. No issue there.

Yet somehow with the rise of email came the fall of service at PostNL.

Long intro, so where am I going? Perhaps the following example will demonstrate my point better than me just blah blah blahing.

90TH BIRTHDAY – My mom turned 90 back on May 22nd.  She lives in Texas. We don’t.  Surprising her with a visit on her 90th was simply not in the cards. The corona crisis affected air travel possibilities. And as the Bruna worker told me when I dropped off and paid for my birthday gift to be sent to the US back on April 28th at 11:08 in the morning, one could expect a delay…difficult to say how long. Hey, completely understandable. Less passenger flights meant cargo flights was the more likely option. And given the increased amount of stuff that has to go by a limited number of cargo planes….delay.

We factored in a delay. We were giving PostNL 25 days to delivery what previously took 7-10 days based on my own experience. 

Time Stood Still – Sometime in early May I checked PostNL’s Track & Trace site. What a nice surprise….

…on April 30th my package was sent to the land of destination.  Okay, great job PostNL.

Checked a few days later and again a few days later…because the May 22nd due date given my mom’s birthday was less than a week away. No change in status from April 30th.

On May 18th after having to figure out where to ask my question, answering various questions about my package in a chat that takes twice as long as it should, filling in my track & trace details, I was finally given a service number to call: 088 225 5623. This is evidently not information for the general public, because they will call, so write this customer service number down because it is not easy to find this number on the web.

The call took 16 minutes, 10 of which were spent waiting for a customer service person, while listening to among other things, statements about how Covid 19 could delay their service. Gnah…waiting (and paying for)10 minutes to actually speak to someone turned out to be par for the PostNL course. That’s been my previous experience, pre-Covid, and yes…for the majority of the calls to come in this story.

So, what did the PostNL service person tell me? Basically nothing. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. They told me that my package was sent to the country of destination on April 30th….really…please tell me something more than what your chat box told me, more than what was listed on your Track & Trace site, because I can read. 

So, they did….kinda….

PostNL: well sir, with Corona there are less flights and it is possible that we shipped your package by boat.   

Me: By boat, but I paid for air freight? Can you check to see how it was shipped?

PostNL: No

You see PostNL’s track & trace system neither tracks nor traces……you have entered the black hole. Once they scan it that’s it for information until someone scans it on the other side…land of destination. How it was shipped in this case…air or by boat….they can’t, or perhaps, won’t say.

So, when I spoke with my mom, the story above made for an interesting conversation. As I told her, I sent it on the 28th….maybe it gets there on time….and maybe weeks later as your gift may be on a boat.

Not on time – the 22nd came and went. No package in Texas. No change in status on PostNL’s Track & Trace site…still in transit…still April 30th

On May 28th I called PostNL again.  And again, one has to go through the same PostNL song & dance before you get a customer service person who has your details ready and available to discuss. So, write their service number down now 088 225 5623 to save you this time-wasting exercise. Not that it matters.  Once again, PostNL explains…track & trace says….not sure how it was sent, but probably by boat. Did you know sir, that the US postal service has issues processing packages arriving by boat, because of Covid 19. That delay could last weeks as your package just sits there on the dock.   

Believe it or not, the foreigners are to blame folks. That’s been, at least for my conversations with them, a common PostNL theme.   Early fall 2018 I sent a wedding gift, again to Texas, and here too those pesky foreigners were to blame. So, I spoke back then with one of those foreigners, my mother, who in turn went over to her local post office. Yes, they still exist there. And they checked their system. Guess what? According to their system the package, I had sent weeks before, was still in the Netherlands. Those pesky foreigners travel a two-way street.

One month celebration – May 28th, which means I sent my gift one month earlier and still no one can tell me where it is at. Can you check?

PostNL’s response: No, however after 50 days we can start a search procedure. 

Me: Can you do it now?

PostNL: No, our (extremely bureaucratic non-customer friendly process)…..blah blah blah..says that only after 50 days will we start a search……

It’s the foreigner’s fault anyway…not us. Nothing else to do but count to 50 days starting April 28th. That would be June 16th.

Saturday June 13th……okay…I can only count to 47. I call PostNL…via the usual…chat box…get number and then I call, then wait 10 minutes(while paying for it), listen to the speech on Covid 19…

This customer service person was friendlier than most. She was willing to start the search….even if only 47 days. The story I heard regards…shipping my package by boat was not true. Yes, back in March they did send packages by containers, but they had a bad experience. Your package is probably still at Schiphol or maybe in Cologne, given it’s a cargo freight hub or maybe it was shipped via Iceland….but probably still at Schiphol.

Ok, start the search. How long will it take. 12 days. I ask, “It takes you 12 days to find something at Schiphol.”

That’s the procedure…they have 12 days….Ok…at least PostNL is doing something…

June 20th – hey, I waited seven days hoping to hear something. I mean, how hard can it be to find a package at Schiphol with Track & Trace? So, 54 days into the delivery of my mom’s present I decided to try another approach with discussing my issue with PostNL….their chat. I wrote on their chat that I started a search action, listed the tracking code and waited 10 minutes….oh sorry….forgot, I’m not calling but live chatting.  Other than an auto-reply:

Due to corona-regulations and extra online orders, we’re experiencing high volumes. Some parcels might get delayed. Please check for information.  If your question is about a parcel, please include the tracking code in your message.

my comment on 54 days later was meant with silence. No response. So, 56 days later I wrote on PostNL’s “live” chat…56 days later. That was June 22nd.

Four hours later……there is life after all on their chat.  I get a response from Ben. He wanted to know what channel I used for my search. I sent him the required info and then the following exchange took place:

Ben was not happy with my last comment, as he did not respond, but at least he confirmed that his colleagues were “searching” for it. Actually, Ben probably responded, within his organization, by telling his call-center colleagues what an idiot we have here. Hey, my son used to work at a call center. I’ve heard the stories.

Understanding! – My comment the next day – June 23rd – on the chat was simple: 57 days later…auto reply blah blah.

And 7 hours later…Jesse responds!  He understands! He also likes to use the exclamation point!   But again, the department who looks after lost packages is really busy and he is certain that within two days I will get a response!

Thursday June 25th – 12 days later – I call the service line. Go through the usual procedure. Wait the usual 10 minutes while paying for this call….and….I’m told it’s 12 working days…not 12 days. Looking back in the chat I see that 12 days and 12 working days are used interchangeably.  Experience has shown that discussion is not possible….because….they understand….their colleague is busy…and beside we have now waited 59 days for this package to be delivered, however I did make one additional remark and….

I was wrong – As you can imagine, my frustration point is boiling over by now. No answers, just fake understanding and busy colleagues showing no results. The comment I made was and I’m paraphrasing……….but, please allow me to first point out that while I may have raised my voice, at no point during any conversation, did I use profanity or wish anyone a deadly disease…..which is by the way…..the Dutch way to swear. The one comment I made, was that, “why don’t you tell me now that you lost the package I sent instead of me waiting until Tuesday June 30th – 12 working days – to tell me that you cannot find my package”.  But that’s not what you told me last Tuesday…day # 64…two full months plus three days underway.

Now my clog breaks – which is a literal translation from a typical Dutch expression basically meaning in this case……can this story get any worse. But it does.

On June 30th – 12 “working” days I call. I thought you would tell me today that you lost my package. I was wrong.  The service person told me, “not sure how it happened. But we made a mistake and we have not started the search process, hence, we have to start the procedure today and you have to wait 12 days…have to wait”.

Do you understand now why…….now my clog breaks.  After explaining, I’m a bit tired of understanding PostNL employees, busy colleagues and telling him it’s not his fault, I would like to speak with his boss. At first, he said no, then he said,  I will try and he put me on hold……..a minute or so later……….probably after he told his colleagues…what an idiot…or perhaps ate a sandwich…I was told very politely that his boss was unfortunately busy. Can happen.

Later on I asked again to speak with his boss and was connected to about 6 weeks ago….what do I mean with that?  The boss, she tried to explain to me……you see….I have to understand that issues with corona…….foreign postal companies have issues……It was at this point of our conversation that I informed her that I had heard this song and dance before. By the way, one of her other colleagues told me three phone calls before……that my package was with 99% certainty still at Schiphol.  I then commented that if they screwed up internally and did not start an investigation 12 days ago, that that had nothing to do with foreign postal workers and then to throw salt onto the open wound, ask me to wait another 12 working days. She said she would tell her colleague, whom I spoke with before, to speed up the process and then connected me with him.

He guaranteed me that he would look after it and then informed me, “oh by the way, this process will take 12 working days…no special speeded-up search.”

The one question I did not ask, but should have,  was how his other colleagues could check their system and see that their colleagues were busy with the search process for my package…..and then 12 working days later…..the answer is…..they NEVER started the search process to start.  How did that Queen song go, oh yeah, “It’s a kinda BS”.

PostNL Facebook –  check out this site if you want to see all kinds of shiny happy people with no issues. I posted my service issue with PostNL on their Facebook. The first post, it lasted a few hours. The second and third posts were deleted automatically…once posted

Today……July 6th  – my package is 70 days underway…..5 working days into the second search…and PostNL, as of this morning, is still stuck at the end of April

and my mother has stopped checking her front porch every day for her 90th birthday gift. At least she got some daily exercise.

One final comment…to be fair.  At the end of April, we sent a package to Japan. It arrived later than expected…but it arrived.   We sent another package in June to the same address in Japan and it too arrived….in fact, when compared with the first package to Japan,  it took a fewer number of days for it to be delivered. That’s great.  One difference…..the first package is according to PostNL’s track and trace,  still not delivered, whereas the second one was marked as delivered on the day it actually was on track and trace. Those pesky foreigners again.

…To be continued……probably not before July 12th…..because 12 working days is 12 working days….Schiphol is a big airport….and it’s busy….corona…..and my colleague is looking after it…….we understand

That’s the Night They Turned Out the Firework Lights in Rotterdam on New Year Eve

“Say it ain’t so Joe”, that’s a phrase attributed to Chicago Daily News reporter Charley Owens in reference to baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson’s admission that he cheated in the 1919 World Series.  Found guilty, despite setting a World Series record with 12 hits, Shoeless Joe was banned from baseball for life. He spent the rest of his life making a fairly good claim that he was innocent.

So, what’s Shoeless Joe got to do with Rotterdam today? Nothing really…I’m just surprised that with the VVD party finally voting in favor, the Rotterdam city council has made Rotterdam a firework free city.  New Year’s Eve in 2020 will be awfully quiet. Okay, we’re not there for certain yet, but we’re pretty darn close.

They banned fireworks in Rotterdam. Say it ain’t so Mayor Aboutaleb. Actually, he is for the fireworks ban and certainly has good reasons for it.

So, what’s a big deal of shooting off a couple of bottle rockets, cherry bombs and black cat firecrackers…. that’s my kid’s memory anyway of New Year’s Eve in the U.S.. Then I moved to the Netherlands war zone on New Year’s Eve.

The European Union imports 110 thousand tons of fireworks(+/- €260 million). Four EU countries account for 77% of that import:

Germany                     – 40 thousand tons  36% of the total import

Netherlands                – 24 thousand tons   22 %

Poland                             – 11 thousand tons   10 %

United Kingdom          – 10 thousand tons    9 %

The Dutch being second in total fireworks import is in itself a big number. Yet, when you factor in that almost five times the amount of people live in Germany vs. the Netherlands, the Dutch are without a doubt European champions….hope to say that as well in June this year about football(soccer).

And that number translates to at least an hour’s worth of your friendly neighbor’s fireworks, throughout the Netherlands, shooting off about €70 million euros worth of much bigger than bottle rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in all, gave proof up until 2 am legally, that the Dutch are still there…celebrating the new year.

That’s €70 million, bought legally over a three-day period after Christmas and going up in smoke in a 8-hour time frame starting at 18:00 on New Year’s Eve….uneducated guess….probably 95% going off starting at 12:01. Of course, every year a lot more money goes up in flames on lottery tickets, be it Staatslotterij, Bankgiro or the Postcode…because traditionally speaking….winning do you by….someone somewhere else.

Not all goes well when your neighbor is lighting off their fireworks….I can remember guests of our ex-neighbors throwing a firecracker at my son’s foot, which of course exploded. He was five at the time. Of course, it was our fault that he was outside and not in bed. Not sure why, but we did not offer them the traditional Dutch best wishes greeting for that new year and many others to come. No three kisses either!

Worse things do happen with fireworks. Rotterdam’s (oogziekenhuis)hospital, specialized for eyes, is very busy. Some 18 individuals spent part of their new year’s day there and the majority of them will have varying degrees of sight issues for the rest of their lives.

Then there are the idiots who greet first responders, ambulance, police, fire fighters by throwing fireworks at them.  Can someone explain this to me why they do this??

Overall four persons died due to acts of violence in the Netherlands. Now in the US they don’t shoot off fireworks, like here, but they do shoot each other, unlike here, or themselves. As reported by Newsweek, on New Year’s Day there were 45 non-suicide gun violence deaths across America, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive research group. Including suicides by gun, there were 177 deaths.

Well, we don’t have guns and even if we did I can live without fireworks. So, what will we do in Rotterdam on December 31st, 2020? Will the Rotterdammers be marching in the streets to protest, like the good folks of Duindorp last December, when their permit for their annual New Year’s Day bonfire was not issued…what did you really expect given last year’s overexuberance.

The VVD party voted for making fireworks illegal in Rotterdam….with the expectations….that there will be more money spent on professionally organized firework displays. We will call this the, if they build it, they will come solution. Yeah, I stole that from Field of Dreams. Ok, this is not Iowa and Shoeless Joe won’t be showing up to play at Neptunus’ Family Stadium either. Still it could work….or….start making your reservations to visit friends in other parts of the Netherlands or maybe hop over the border to Germany.

Couple of things are for certain: your pet cat or dog won’t be complaining this year about the noise and firework imports in Belgium and Germany will increase!  

Still, there is one final question. What are the Rotterdamers going to do with their share of the €70 million euros spent by the Dutch, that they will now not be spending on legal fireworks. Hello Belgium and German cities….located just on the Dutch border…..Antwerp is also nice in December….

Annual Traditional Dutch Holiday Protests …I Mean Celebrations

Let 2020 begin….the holiday season ends tomorrow on January 6th…12 days after Christmas. Now there’s a religious reason for this in countries like Italy and Spain(where tomorrow Spanish children will be receiving presents!), but for the rest of Europe, by chance this year, it’s called Monday morning….back to work.

Having said that, the holiday season itself starts a wee bit earlier in the Netherlands with the celebration of Sinterklaas on December 5th.

Now if you live outside of the Netherlands and you have heard of the Dutch celebrating Sinterklaas(the Dutch version of Santa Claus…more or less to simplify our story) on Pakjesavond(when presents are exchanged – December 5th), it’s unfortunately probably due to the perceived racist connotation surrounding the Zwartepieten, the folks who help Sinterklaas deliver the presents.

Why…because Sinterklaas’s helpers wear blackface…given zwartepiet in English means black Pieter. Have to admit that the Dutch are losing the PR battle as my frame of reference, and many others, for racism is to depict black people with fat lips, colored red, and wearing large ear rings. Canada’s prime minister Trudeau could add a few words here on why this is not a good idea as well.

It’s a shame that the focus the past few years has been on this aspect of the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas, because it is truly a children’s holiday in every way…one where yes gifts are given….mainly to children from Sinterklaas….and to the tune of about 100 euros on average being spent and not the almost 1000 euros per person being spent in the US on Christmas gifts and celebrations.

And it’s not just about giving gifts, but writing and reading out loud the poems associated with the gifts. And the celebrations at school whereby students make “surprise” gifts for each other(ok, your parents mainly make the surprises….ok ok….your mother usually makes the surprise gifts.). Leaving your shoes by the front door, filled with carrots, for example, for Amerigo…..Sinterklaas’s horse. You’ve never heard of Sinterklaas’s horse….well listen to this….There’s simply a lot of well intenioned effort…attention…etc. put into celebratng the Sinterklaas holiday.

Why celebrate the evening of December 5th, because the good saint, an actual bishop from the city of Myra in Turkey, died on December 6th.  And way back in the middle ages he took on the legend of being a protector of children…hence we celebrate.

Interesting to note that in the beginning the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in the Netherlands was protested by the protestants as it was considered to be a catholic celebration. Good to know the Dutch tradition of protesting…..zeurpieten(whiners)… was just as alive and well back then as it is today.

Ignorance is bliss and often mainly ill-informed and dangerous when one wishes to share their belief on a local holiday celebration they apparently know little about. At the beginning of last December I had a conversation with some non-Dutch folks regards the Sinterklaas celebrations, whereby one person fervently insisted that the original “Black Pieter” helpers were actually depicted as gorillas than later as little black boys.

In the real world, the origin of the modern Sinterklaas celebration came from a book, St. Nikolaas en zijn knecht(St. Nicolas and his page), written by Jan Schenkman(from Amsterdam) in 1850 where three of the main traditions celebrated today were listed;  the arrival of Sinterklaas,  on a steamship from Spain and he was accompanied by his page, who were not originially from Europe as Moors tend to be.  Where is the outrage indeed…..from Rotterdammers? You are raising your children on ideas that originated in……. Amsterdam!

It was the Canadians who started the idea of a number of Sinterklaas helpers in 1945, after WWII, when they organized a Sinterklaas celebration, whereby a large number of helpers were used.  To my knowledge gorillas are not common in Canada.  Maybe she meant black bear, but then again neither gorillas nor black bear are very kid friendly. Maybe that was Trudeaus’s idea when he dressed up in black face…but I’m digressing.

Gotta admit that Sinterklaas living the life in Spain beats the North Pole.  And taking a cruise certainly beats the current shame associated with flying….a sled.  And what about all those elves working overtime in the harshest of labor conditions on the North Pole, making toys for children in other parts of the world where the average salaries are much higher…..slave labor perhaps is used….time to slap on tariffs from the Trump administration given perhaps the use of non-union sweatshops.

Today the Dutch holiday protest season starts every year a bit earlier as discussions on the racist implications of zwartepieten(black pete) take place earlier and earlier and specifically what steps can be taken to solve this issue.  Representatives from the UN actually got involved back around 2013. They have nothing better to do.  And a study was commissioned and the results confirmed that there were racial implications originated from the days of slave trading.

To be honest I have not read this report. But I will believe the results, especially as I am also not hearing anyone saying that the study’s results were untrue.  Actions speak louder than words.

And today more and more actions are being taken by local communities to change the outward appearance of Sinterklaas’s helpers to …..rainbow piet….(chimney)soot piet.  Changing traditions are never fun, but sometimes are needed. Hopefully in a number of years, it will no longer be an annual  tradition to protest the looks of Sinterklaas’s helpers.

My guess is that the children under the age of 6 won’t care about the color of the face of Sinterklaas’s helpers as per the tradition established in the 1850s and then carried forward by friendly Canadian soldiers after the war.  Will someone from Rotterdam please write a new book…establishing new traditions….make sure you use only politically correct animals that are not currently in danger of extinction due to our current environmental policies …norms… standards… due to the tradition of doing as little as possible. Make sure you talk with the UN first though.

And now that we have tackled that issue….let’s figure out how we can stop the Dutch from spending more that 70 million euros annually on fireworks…which are of course intended to be used to celebrate at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve….yet for some stupid reasons, known only to the idiots doing this, are also used on first responders…ambulance drivers, police, firefighters.

And so, 2020 begins with the traditional discussion on fireworks….I love tradition.

Historical Food Festival Rotterdam(Delfshaven)

“Taste the history” the Ketels aan de Kade poster promised. Now to say the food we tasted during the August 10th and 11th weekend was historical would be in today’s parlance fake news. Nevertheless, we always welcome an excuse to walk around Delfshaven, a small part of Rotterdam that survived world war II fairly intact, plus it’s historical significance goes back a bit further in time.

Delfshaven has only been an official part of Rotterdam since 1886. Its origin and purpose can be found in its name.  And you have to tip your hat to its founders, the forefathers from the city of Delft.  They decided to build a harbor, one capable of handling oceangoing vessels, circa 10 kilometers(6 miles) south of Delft. And why you ask…to avoid paying a toll to Rotterdam. And when? We are talking 1389.

There will be a better reason than a food festival to visit the port of Delft(Delfshaven) in August 2020. Not sure what will be organized, but somehow the 400th anniversary of the Speedwell leaving Delfshaven on August 1st 1620 for an initial stop in the UK will be remembered…the Speedwell??

The Pilgrim Father’s church was known as the “Oude” church before the Pilgrims sailed from Delfshaven

The Speedwell demonstrates that, with the exception of the Titanic, no one ever remembers who finished second or not at all. The Speedwell took the pilgrim colonists from Delfshaven to England first. There in Southampton the pilgrims (originally from the UK, but had years before fled to the Netherlands to be able to practice their religion) joined up with their sister ship the Mayflower for their journey to the new world. Long story short, after many attempts to leave the UK, only the Mayflower was seaworthy enough for the long overseas voyage, one that ended in the establishment of the second colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Now, we may conveniently forget that Speedwell part of this ocean tale next August during the 400th anniversary celebrations in Delfshaven, while we are hopefully eating better tasting food festival historical grub! Having said that, we are pretty certain the real reason the pilgrims left the UK in the first place was English food…not historically proven mind you…

Delfshaven today

Zomercarnaval 2019 – 35th year in Rotterdam

What started out as an Antillean summer carnival celebration in Utrecht has for the last 35 years in Rotterdam become a melting pot of diverse carnival traditions from all over the world and that is what makes the summer carnival parade so uniquely special. It’s a weekend celebration with one of the highlights being the parade traditionally held on the last Saturday in July.

Some 2500 carnival dancers, musicians, revelers parade down a 5 kilometer course that shuts down the city center to make way for, where we were standing on Witte de With street, two hours of carnival cultural pride. Those taking part walk, dance, play music or float past us while decked out in their culture’s traditional carnival costumes.

Enough talk. I will let the following pictures tell the rest of the story.

Mark on your calendar or in outlook or set your alarm clock in 2020 for the last Saturday July 25th.

Hopefully the various pictures shown here give you an idea of what you will see…and I did not even show you any of the marching, dancing, simply having fun local bands….

See you at the 2020 Zomercarnaval(Summer Carnival) in Rotterdam – July 25th

Oude Haven(Old Harbor) – Rotterdam

For Rotterdammers the Oude Haven, ”Old Harbour”, is actually old, is actually a harbor, and is not just a slick city marketing tool gimmick.  In 1350 the first scaffolding was erected where part of the “Rotte” river flowed into the Nieuwe Maas river. And while it is still “kinda”  in use today as a harbor, some 670 years later, the main reason for tourists to visit, is the view of / and from the harbor, and the bars and cafes that line the waterfront.

View from Oude Haven(Old Harbour) – Willemsbrug(Willems Bridge) and the Witte Huis(White House)

What will you see from your bar stool?  Willemsbrug(Willem bridge) – the red-colored bridge named after King Willem III(1849-1890) and not the current King Willem-Alexander.

You will also see the White House……a building once rife with spies from all over Europe….really really

On a more serious note, the Witte Huis, “White House”, was the first high-rise building built in Europe. It is 10 stories high(43 meters) when completed in 1898 in an Art Nouveau style during this architectural style’s hey days(1890-1910).

Built in 1898 the Witte Huis (Whte House) was the first high-rise building to be built…all 10 stories

Witte Huis – More than just a building. During World War I the Dutch were neutral. That said, Rotterdam’s location and infrastructure made it a perfect spot for not only the German intelligence to set up its espionage operations, but also the British. The Kaiser’s secret agents worked out of the white house in the old harbor whereas the Brits were located further down the Nieuwe Maas river in a quay area known as Boompjes.

Although not from Rotterdam perhaps the most famous Dutch spy of all times once paid a visit to the white house during the first world war, Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” MacLeod. Who can say?  You will note that I did not call her the most successful Dutch spy as she was convicted of spying for Germany during World War I and executed by a firing squad in France in 1917. Not certain whom I am talking about. You are probably more familiar with her artist’s name, her stage name;  Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan.

The English and German recruited heavily in the Netherlands for spies during world war I. Given the sums paid perhaps this may have made them the forerunners for the German Bundesliga and the English Premier leagues recruiting Dutch footballers. I digress.

What is relevant is that the Witte Huis survived world war II given the May 10th, 1940 bombings that destroyed circa 80% of Rotterdam’s city center.

Truth in Rotterdam marketing. The “Oude Haven” area is not called the oldest harbor, because that honor goes to a jetty that was built also on the Rotte in 1334. Known at the time as the Steyger, the city’s landscape has changed a bit over the last almost seven centuries and now it is part of the Steigersgracht (Steigers canal); located just west of Markthal(some 800 meters from Oude Haven).  But no bars or cafes on Steigersgracht today so off to Oude Haven you go.

Relaxing at one of the many bars and cafes that line the waterfront at the Oude Haven

Trivia question: Was the old harbor once called the new harbor back in 1350?  I’ll leave that question to the historians and also the question on when did we actually start calling it the old harbor?  

Location – What I do know is if you want to visit just get off at the metro stop Blaak next to Markthal. Just walk to the yellow cube houses(KUBUS), cross the street while walking through the cubes(Some smart person turned his cube home into a tourist attraction if you are interested.) and then head towards the stairs to the Oude Haven.

View of the Oude Haven(Old Harbour) in Rotterdam….you find the Cube Houses…you found Oude Haven

One Day Escape from the Tourist Jungle – Come See Rotterdam’s Forest

Probably not the first item at the top of your list of things to see in the Netherlands, but nevertheless a nice opportunity to get off the beaten path and on to the paths of the largest city park in Rotterdam – Kralingse Bos.

So if you can miss a day of standing in a line for the next attraction the Kralingse Bos would be a nice chance to slow down and do like the locals do; take advantage of all the activities the park has to offer or simply grab a bite to eat…and if you are lucky…both.

Located in the eastern part of the city with a bird’s eye view of downtown Rotterdam the city’s largest, park, some 250 hectares(multiply by circa 2,4 = acres) is wooded park that surrounds the Kralingse Park lake

With downtown Rotterdam in the background the view from Kralingse Plas
Big enough to drive through but my suggestion would be to explore the park by foot, bike, inline skates….

The park is popular with local joggers, bicyclists, zip-liners, petting zoo enthusiasts, playground lovers as well as kamikaze inline skaters. There is even a 9-hole golf course. But if you want to play, make sure you make sure you try out your thickest Scottish or American accent, because if you live in this country, the land of many well-known international golf stars….name one….you need a license to play.

And should you find yourself lost on a path in the woods…also watch out for the horse-back riders as well….luckily no Ichabod Crane stories to tell here. There is however the CHIO event that takes place every year as it’s on the dressage, Jumping Nations tour calendar. And if you can get tickets for this perhaps you will run into Bruce Springsteen in cognito as his talented daughter is on the tour.

For those of you who prefer to spend some time on or around the lake, you can sail, swim, simply rent a boat or grab a bite to eat among the many restaurants that can be found on the lake front…

Schone Lei a lakeside restaurant
De Tuin….a lakeside garden terrace…just look for the windmills

or getting away from the water and hidden back among the trees.

Pancake house De Nachtingale…

On the water there is De Tuin, Boat House, Woodzs(near the “harbor”)and Schone Lei. And hidden in the forest there is Boshut de Big, once voted the best Dutch pancake restaurant in the Netherlands, also another pancake house De Nachtegaal(Dutch for nightingale) and even a typical Dutch snack bar should you need your daily fix of Dutch deep-fried fast food that you would certainly share with a famous Dutch golf player…. if you could name one of course.