Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Berlin calling

Some thoughts after a weekend trip in Berlin

As one writer once said, Berlin is a city condemned always to become, never to be. Indeed, even today, two decades after the reunification, Berlin seems to be in a process of transformation. This restlessness, fortunately, is translated into one of the most vibrant city lifestyles in the world. Bach concertos in churches are as common as underground techno parties and Michelin-starred restaurants compete with canteens selling bratwursts. Starbucks are trying to win market share against small cafés operated by leftist collectives and independent boutiques in Prenzlauer Berg exist alongside big brands stores in the consumerist heaven of Kurfürstendamm. The nightlife is one of the best in Europe and prices for drinks and food are ridiculously low, compared to cities like London or Amsterdam. Berlin seems to strike the perfect balance between the meticulousness of Western Europe and the care-free attitude of the Mediterranean countries (with the exception of the weather, unfortunately).

Is there perhaps a lesson Eindhoven could learn from Berlin? It would be unfair, of course, to compare the two cities. However, I feel that the example of Berlin shows that quite unremarkable urban areas (Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg) can become hotspots of creative activity with international appeal, given the right conditions. Could Eindhoven ever obtain the critical mass for something like that? It is already a major hi-tech center in Europe, so I think it is not impossible. The development plans for the Strijp area (where the old Philips factories are still standing) are definitely a step in the right direction. Until then, we can always visit Berlin for inspiration.

Graffiti, East Side Gallery (remnants of the Berlin Wall)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snow again...

This year's winter seems to be a lengthy one. The tiny kingdom of the Netherlands has been attacked by a new snowfall since yesterday night. At this part of the planet this is far from being unexpected. Dutch and Flemish painters in the previous centuries have immortalised in their art those snowy winters of the past and the social activities that came together. So, let's have a look on these depictions...
...accompanied with the appropriate music ( ).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder : Winter landscape with a bird trap (1565)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder : The Slaughter of The Innocents (1565-1566)
This is more of a religious allegory to the actual events that were happening during the days of the painter's life. By that time, a Spanish army was moving through Flanders and southern Lowlands killing protestant people. Those events triggered what came out to be later the Dutch revolution and the establishment of the state of the Netherlands.

Hendrick Avercamp: Winter landscape (early 16th century)

Hendrick Avercamp: A scene on ice near a town (1615)
As you may have already noticed, most of the Dutch/Flemish landscape paintings of the 15th/16th century have a strong characteristic: They provide a large proportion of the canvas to depict the sky. A foreigner who has never travelled to the Lowlands may not know why would a painter do such a thing. But by the time you come here and walk in the Dutch countryside you understand the reason...the sky dominates more than half of the view. And this may only happen in a vast flatland.

Charles Leickert: A Dutch town in winter (late 19th century)

Jacques Doucet (French): L'hiver hollandais (The Dutch winter) (1948)
Also in the modern times artists have been inspired by the wintry Dutch landscape, although in a bit more abstracted way. I have no idea what is the deeper meaning of the above painting, but I think it conveys in a strange way the frustration you feel while biking at -15 degrees with a chilling wind blowing in your face.

Expats in Eindhoven: Winter view by the Dommel (late 2010)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Shantel at Effenaar

This Sunday Shantel and his Bucovina Club Orkestar are playing at Effenaar! Shantel, hailing from Germany with Romanian roots, is the undeniable king of Balkan beats, fusing traditional Balkan rhythms with modern elements. You can find more info about the concert at the Effenaar website. Great, lively music and an event that is sure to gather a young, international audience: all in all, a great way to close the weekend!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Gaslab electro party on Thursday

This is a little bit of a short notice but still here it is:

Electro music party at Gaslab

Date: Thursday 9th December
Place: Gaslab ( Concert venue inside TU Eindhoven )

More details here or here

We tried it last year and we totally recommend it!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Sinterklaas is coming to town

As in every December, an expat in the Netherlands is about to experience the most gezellig of all Dutch traditions: Sinterklaas. As you might have already guessed this is more or less the Dutch version of Santa Clauss (or is it the other way round? Keep on reading...). You know, this fat guy with the red robe who visits us during these days to reward all the good children with presents. I guess I shouldn't really tell this story, you already know about it.

Yet, there are a few differences in the Dutch version of the tale. Here, Sint is not bringing the presents during Christmas eve, but on the 5th of December. Somehow it is that Christmas are not the big winter celebration here but instead December 5th is.

Another exclusive Dutch feature on the story are the Zwarte (black) Piet, his devoted servants that help him distribute the presents and the candies:

These ever smiling guys, dressed always in the same old fashioned way, are very popular among the children since they are the ones to distribute candies. Dutch cities are filled with those fellows on November 13th, the day that Sint is coming by boat from Spain (!?!).

Speaking of candies, Sinterklaas celebration is accompanied here with special sweet stuff. These are:

a) Huge chocolate letters. You are supposed to give it to a beloved one, picking actually the first character of his/her name.

b) Kruidnoten. Cool tiny cinnamon cookies that are supposed to be consumed only during this time of the year.

c) Speculaas. Same taste as Kruidnoten but more fancy in design, it comes in different sizes and shapes.

*** Sinterklaas, the Dutch movie star ***

Since the Dutch people love this guy, it comes naturally that there have been a couple of local movie productions regarding his figure.

a) "Alles is Liefde" (= Everything is Love): A romantic comedy where the plot unfolds in the modern Netherlands around the days of Sinterklaas celebration. Some evil people claim that is just the Dutch version of "Love Actually".

b) "Sint": Very recent, it came out in the cinemas these days. It's horror movie (???) where Sint appears as an evil bishop that comes back from the grave to abduct children and kill the grown-ups. Did you know actually that on the 5th of December we actually celebrate the anniversary of his death rather than his brithday?

So, who is this saint?

Why does he bring presents?

What's the "real" story behind him?

To start with, his original name is Nikolaos (Νικόλαος in greek, from the words "νίκη"+"λαός" i.e. victory + people). Rather than being part of a legend, Saint Nikolaos is an actual historical figure. He was born during the 2nd century AD in Patara a city of Asia Minor, in the greek-speaking part of the Roman empire. He was an active Christian in the difficult ages of Diocletian's reign, the time when Christians were severely prosecuted. Coming from a rich family and having a strong educational background he strived to help poor people by founding hospitals and other institutions. He is known for bringing gifts because of these activities and also by another actual event: once he secretly paid for the dowries of three daughters of a pauper, who would have been sold into the slave market instead.

So how did he become Sinterklaas? Well, christian church in the first centuries of its existence worked a lot on promoting the new religion. To make it easier for people in the known world to be converted from their old pagan beliefs, to become Christians, the church promoted its own traditions that were similar with the existing traditions of the old religions. It was the case that the pagan germanic tribes in this neighbourhood had their own spirits associated with bringing gifts in mid-winter. Hence, the figure of Saint Nikolaos was exported to become eventually Sinterklaas. And from there on, centuries after that, the Dutch people brought their customs on their colonies (18th century). So it happened at the American colonies, the lands that became afterwards part of the States. And there Sinterklaas in turn, became Santa Clauss.

Which became a popular plastic figure all around the world. And we lived happily ever after...


We would like to thank Anniek for her help, the corrections that she made in the initial version of this post and all the extra information that she provided. Happy Sinterklaas meisje!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

First snow!

Yesterday we had the first snowfall of the year. Eindhoven is covered in snow and the temperature is well below zero. So, let's enjoy the white landscape and let the Dutch musician Palmbomen (=palm trees) transfer us to warmer climates with his psychedelic music.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Escherian Geometry

(* Suggestion: The present post is best viewed under the influence
of a tangerine dream ... *)

Maurits Cornelis Escher
was one of the most influential graphic artists of the modern times. He is greatly adored by people involved in applied sciences, mostly because his aesthetics capture a little bit of the magic that we see in engineering and architectural drawings. And indeed, his father happened to be a civil engineer, possibly playing a major role to his son's initial inspiration.

The grotesque drawings of this Dutch artist can be grouped into several categories, with respect to the visual effects that they demonstrate. Some drawings for example exhibit an unnatural circular kind of perspective that tricks the human eye:

Other drawings demonstrate the use of very uncommon tiling that involves lizards,fish,birds or other creatures:

And, of course, abundant is the high art of geometry:

As the Netherlands is a country that shows respect to its artists, there is a museum exclusively devoted to the works of Escher, the Escher's museum situated at Den Haag. Whenever you have the time to escape from the greyness of Eindhoven, we would definitely suggest that you visit the beautiful technocratic city of The Hague and its Escher museum. And thus pay your tribute to this avant-garde artist.

Before closing this post we have to mention that there exists an artefact that associates Escher with Eindhoven. More precisely, there is a creation of Escher which happens to be part of the academic history of the city. So here's how the story goes:

In 1944, World War II was reaching to its end as the allies were marching towards Germany. In the second half of this year the southern part of the Netherlands was liberated, including Eindhoven. But it took some more time and effort to liberate the northern part, which actually happened by May 5th of 1945. In the period that spanned between the liberation of the country's South and North, it happened that all the important universities where situated at the part that was occupied by the Germans. So there had to be done something for all those people that wanted to study in the free part. Because Phillips industry was already in Eindhoven by then, there were quite enough scientists there that eventually formed a small academy the Temporary Academy of Eindhoven (Tijdelijke Academie Eindhoven).

This academy served in educating the students in the free South for this short period of time. It dissolved by December 1945. To commemorate this endeavour, Escher was asked to create a wooden plaque for the professors of the academy.

This though never made it to the hands of the graduates. Either way, the plaque remains among with its beautiful implications: The owl is the sacred bird of Athena, the ancient Greek Goddess of wisdom. There appear also broken chains, an implication of liberation. The other side of the river depicts the occupied part of the country with smoke coming from the cities that were bombed (or maybe because there the war still continues).

Note that this short lived academy existed before TU/E was founded. So could it be considered as its rightful ancestor? Could then Escher be considered as the creator of the first diploma ever made for this institute? ;)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Passed Midnight

Walking back home through the silent streets of the city after midnight. A quiet winter night, except a few loud youngsters passing by on their bikes, returning home from Stratumseind. Being reminded of a song from my poor little country...

Μεσάνυχτα (=Midnight) from the band Μικρο.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Book Hunting

It is true that reading literature and poetry is not part of the general stereotype of technical university students. Yet, there do exist some of us who would rather seek for a nice mind-travelling book rather than spending some more time on youtube or chatting on facebook. Buying books from amazon is definitely a nice way to quench your thirst for literature fast and easy. But how about doing it the old way? How about going out in the local book stores looking for hidden treasures? Discovering a nice cheap book that you'd never heard of makes you more motivated to read it, doesn't it? However, for an expat staying in Eindhoven, it is an issue where to focus your quest for books written in english. Thus, in the rest of this article we pinpoint some hot spots in our beloved city where you can practice book-hunting.

1) The Saturday Kiosks at Rechtestraat

Assembled every Saturday on the street that connects V&D and Piazza and dismantled on late afternoon of the same day. Selling lots of decorative stuff yet also second hand books. Most of those in Dutch but there are always some stuff in english too. In general, very nice prices and, for some strange reason, one of those consistently offers quite enough fantasy/fiction books. Also there you can find lots of vinyl lp's and 7" ep's (thumbs up!). Especially for vinyls, you can look at the kiosk in front of the carousel (at the main square) the same day.

2) De Slegte

On the same street, just a couple of squares further towards the cathedral you will find a big book store called De Slegte. It occupies quite a few floors and it's known for its nice prices on first/second hand books. There you will find all shorts of stuff, mostly in Dutch, but there is also a distinctive section for books in english, mostly second hand. Also books in other languages (more like German and French) are there too. Seek and thou shall find. Also for those of you who are into collecting old books, you will find there some nice gems of the kind. But you shouldn't expect the latter to be as cheap, right?

3) Selexyz and yet again Selexyz

Selexyz is the big shiny corporate book-store thingie in the Netherlands, selling all kinds of, always new, books. There are three departments of the chain in Eindhoven (correct me if I'm wrong), one in Heuvelgallerie, one close to Design Academy and one at TU/e inside Hoofdgebouw building. The one in Heuvelgallerie does not have much of books in english while the one in TU/e is very small and has very limited non-Dutch stuff (though it does provide some titles in english literature). The one close to DA looks more like our actual target; it has a separate section for foreign books and a wide collection of english classics from Oxford Press and.

I hope that the above data will make your hunt more successful ;) If there is any other hot spot around that we've missed, please drop us a line to indicate it.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Glow 2010

Not much to say, just some interesting pics from last week's Glow event in Eindhoven. Many thanks to Amateur Aρτιστ for the photos!

(click fotos to enlarge)

Artist: Teresa Mar Location: Catharina church

Artist: Spectaculaires Location: Paters church

Artist: Mr. Beam Location: Vestdijk-Lage Landen building

Artist: Mon jardin public Location: 18 September Plein

“Amateur Aρτιστ”, as his pseudonym suggests, is an amateur photographer based in Eindhoven, Netherlands. This young “amateur” makes his first steps in photography, while studying architecture in the Technical University of Eindhoven. With minimal budget, but with great artistic taste the young student tries to present his “amateuristic results” as he says, just by using simple equipment and software.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A touch of melancholy

Fallen leaves, rain, grey skies. Inspiration for an art of grief.
A song by the Dutch melancholic rock band The wounded.

Friday, 12 November 2010

STRP Festival

It looks like it's not a bad time to be in Eindhoven. A few weeks after Dutch Design Week and just days after the lights of GLOW are switched off, STRP Festival 2010 begins. STRP is an annual art and technology festival that takes place in the former Philips industrial area, Strijp-S. Its focus is on electronic art and culture and its program includes concerts, art installations, games, workshops, lectures and films. You will find the compulsory incomprehensible artwork, but you can also play 3D Pacman and understand the literal meaning of the expression "no pain, no gain" with the Painstation.

The main attraction of the festival is undoubtedly the music program. This year's headliners are English electronic music legends Underworld and M.I.A of Slumdog Millionaire fame. Other notable participants include Jonsi, frontman of Sigur Ros, South African rap-rave sensation Die Antwoord and German electro duo Digitalism. You can find the complete program here. Even if you are not a big fan of electronic music, I think a visit to check the art and game installations is worthwhile. To tease your imagination, I close the post with a video compliation of last year's festival. Veel plezier!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Rock City Eindhoven

Greetings to all the rock fans in the neighbourhood! One of the killer rock bands of the 90's, Therapy?, are visiting our lovely city for one gig this Monday November 15th. The concert takes place at Effenaar and tickets cost 17,50 Euro. More info here. In case you are a fan of the alternative scene of the previous decade you shouldn't miss them. We won't. Here follows a teaser, straight out from their "golden era":

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Dutch Design Week 2010

Last week was that time of the year again; the week that all the interesting people were taking the train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven and not the other way around, as usual. Yes, it was Dutch Design Week 2010.
Contrary to what you might expect, Dutch design is more than just futuristic bicycles (although it is a big part, as you can see in the photo above). I attended the graduation show of the students of the Design Academy and in this post I have collected some of the works that struck my attention most.
I begin with a nice stop-motion animation film exploring the process of realising the designer's imagination, starring Walter:

Another graduate is concerned with the problem of getting young people acquainted with classical music. To achieve that, he uses guerilla tactics: he makes the silhouettes of a classical orchestra appear in an existing mainstream music video. The drums will take over the house beat and violins will take the place of the singer. You can see the interesting video in his website.

An eco-minded graduate proposes to use the space around the national high-voltage grid to connect areas of natural importance. Since the space around the pylons and cables cannot be used for building, by creating the right circumstances, these areas could become corridors for plants and animals. By thinking outside the box, you can turn a problem (unusable space because of power lines) into an opportunity (increased space for ecosystems).

The next graduate has created a heating body made from stone concrete that feels "like a brick wall glowing with the heat from the sun after a long summer’s day". I am sure it will look great in my villa in Tuscany.

The last exhibit I will share with you would drive my mother crazy: a lamp that attracts dust on purpose. The designer aimed to capture the beauty of dust and looks like he managed to do it.

That brings me to the end of my post with some of the many interesting things presented in Dutch Design Week. Stay tuned for more fascinating events in the Design Capital of Netherlands!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Two more events for these days

There two more interesting things to check in your agenda for the forthcoming days:

1) Cheap Book Festival: In Beursgebouw, the big building between Piazza and the train station, there is a market with a large collection of books at discount prices. As we've heard from friends, there are also books in english so you might be interested to try. For more details check here (the site is in Dutch but you can try a google translation) .

On a future post we'll give some more info as to where you can find on a regular basis cheap english books here in Eindhoven.

2) Eindhoven is proud to be the city of Philips, a huge company which started out as a light bulb industry. Hence, light bulb is a distinctive part of the local history. In honour of this, every year there's the GLOW festival around the city. This is the time when a bunch of artists disguise playfully the streets and buildings using cutting-edge light technology. So this week, when walking in the city centre, don't be surprised if you encounter strange lights all around. You've been warned :)

More info about the concept can be found here


For the data featured in this post, we're grateful to Ana who has sent us a very informative mail. Thanks a lot! We are more than happy to host here your suggestions on interesting local happenings.

Fijn weekend!

Friday, 5 November 2010

The advantages of being bored

Boredom can sometimes be very motivating. A dull environment may push somebody to improve his social skills and grasp all the offered opportunities around. Whether Eindhoven is such a dull environment is a question. But, surely, it's not the most lively city in the neighborhood, right? Seen from the perspective of a foreign student, there are things concerning the city that could have been better and things that could have been worse. What seems to be missing is a feeling of connection with the city itself; most of the students here see themselves as bypassers, not really considering Eindhoven as a place to set their roots. And those who do decide to stay here permanently, consider this a kind of compromise.

Driven by the above concerns we've timidly started writing this blog. Our intention is to express some of our thoughts on every-day life in this (post-)industrial city and also spread the word for any interesting events happening around. We're doing this as means of escaping from our routine, so do not expect something professional. We intend to feed this blog with posts as long as we're motivated by our boredom and not prohibited by our studies. If you feel like contributing, if you have a nice idea in posting something too or suggest some event, you can drop a line at eindhoven.calling@gmail.com and share your boredom with us.

To start with, there's already something of interest in the city for the foreign students this weekend. It's an International Weekend festivity and you can find detailed information here. It sounds fun and if you're new in Eindhoven you should really consider this one.

fijne dag!