The largest exhibition for tabletop gaming is held every year in Essen, in their ‘fairgrounds’ building — four days with six large halls filled with booths from game manufacturers, publishers and dealers. (And, because it’s Germany, there are also booths selling grilled sausages in between.) There is, predictably, a large offering from German manufacturers (not only is the majority of the public German, but there is a real designer boardgaming culture in Germany), but there are also many international offerings. Design collectives from Japan, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan bring pallets of their games and sell out during the pre-orders, and there are visitors from all over the world.
We’ve been going there for a few years now, and we went on the first day — not that we had a specific list of games we ‘needed’ to get before they sold out, but because the first day doesn’t have the most public. (And still it’s noisy and sometimes you’re stuck in foot traffic.) And yes, I did have a list of games I was interested in, but that was just a tentative list: things that I thought looked cool, but if we didn’t see/find them, it would be fine too. There was only one thing that I really wanted to buy, at the request of a friend who wanted to buy it for his wife.

Our day at Spiel Essen 2017 (picture heavy)

And then we arrived home, eleven hours after leaving. Kind of tired now…

Saturday, we visited the city of Haarlem to attend the official opening of the new zendo there.
(For those who do not know: my wife teaches zen meditation with zen.nl. It’s a franchise: individual zen teachers can set up their own location, using the methods and marketing of zen.nl. They will need, of course, a location to meditate in, and that room is called the zendo.)

The festivities were in two parts: there was a lecture by Rients Ritskes (founder of zen.nl), and then the official opening. Because there were too many people in attendance to fit comfortably in the zendo, that lecture was held in a former chapel. That was in a building that apparently served as the starting-point for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. Therefore the chapel was dedicated to St James, and the exterior was adorned with mediterranean scallops (the Dutch name means “St James shells”), which are the symbol of the pilgrimage. Of course, the building hasn’t been in use as such for a long time, and now it’s some kind of community centre that you can hire for your functions.

After the lecture, we walked through the charming city centre of Haarlem to the location of the zendo, which was then officially opened by cutting a ribbon and by a tea ceremony. There were drinks afterwards!

We left relatively early, and had dinner in Haarlem before returning home. A day well spent!

Pics or it didn't happen!

Bluebell special

Last week, on King’s Day, we stepped into the car and fled the country to Belgium! The Hallerbos had been on our list of places to visit ever since I saw a photo of the place in an album on imgur of the most beautiful places on earth. Whereas most of those locations were in Thailand or the US, this is just below Brussels, so it’s a good daytrip. And why would we go there? Because during the season, the whole forest floor is covered with bluebells!
While King’s Day is a day off in the Netherlands, it is a normal working day in Belgium — they have their own king, after all. So we reckoned it would be reasonably quiet in the forest — which was mostly true. We found a walk that would take us along most of the bluebells, and we set off.

What with bad traffic and a stop for a bio-break and lunch, it took us well over 2.5 hours to get there. Towards the end, it was also a bit unclear how we had to drive to get where we were going, but we found it and parked the car.
At the start, we had a light rain, but towards the end of our walk, the sun came out — and that is when we also smelled the bluebells. The photos don’t do it justice (and certainly not my crappy selfies), but it was really magical. I mean, a bluebell is nice and all, but if you see a valley filled with them, that’s really something else. There were some parts that didn’t have bluebells, but the rest of the forest had so many! It was so beautiful, I really recommend it.

After a walk of three hours, it took us again 2,5 hours to get home — we didn’t do much else that day! But if you’re in the area during early spring, do check out their website: they post regular updates during the flowering season so you know in advance what to expect.

We’re staying in Den Haag at the moment — Friday I had a day off, and the Rothko exhibit at the municipal museum was still on the list after last year’s debacle. So why not book a bed & breakfast (this one, a cozy mini-apartment) and make it a nice weekend outing? Why not indeed, so that is exactly what we did.

Yesterday we arrived around 13:30, and after getting installed into the apartment, we walked to Panorama Mesdag. I had never been there before, and klik wanted to show me. We had lunch on the way.
It was great fun — it is an impressive painting, and the illusion you’re standing on a dune is quite nice. But we also saw some photos of New Horizons, a photography project that took a photo at every hour in 2012. A few selected photos were on exhibit, and it was really beautiful and interesting. (Most photos won’t show anything special, but of course for this exhibit the selection featured night shots with illuminated ships passing by, shots with fog or beautifully orange sunsets.) It’s also thematically quite close to the Panorama, which is an added bonus!

After that, we walked into the city centre. We withstood the urge to go paper shopping at Daamen (we already have too much paper in store), and wandered around aimlessly. But around dinner time, our wandering was aimed at Burgerz, a gourmet hamburger restaurant.
Verdict: Not bad at all, with a much larger selection than Wally, but it is much less culinairy. Ketchup is served in mass-produced portion packages, for instance — something that simply does not happen at Wally. But if you’re there and in the mood for a burger, it’s certainly a good option! (The seats are kinda high, though, so getting in and out of your seat can be a bit uncomfortable.)

Today, we took the bus to the municipal museum, and arrived an hour after opening. I had bought tickets in advance so we did not have to wait in line for the ticket window — but I had forgotten those at home! So we had to buy tickets anyway… At least the money goes towards the museum, that’s a small comfort.
The Rothko exhibit was really interesting, but also quite packed with people who had gotten the audio tour. This resulted in people wandering around like zombies with headphones — and since there was a large horde of them, getting to see everything required frequent side-stepping.

I liked some of his early work, but the reason we wanted to see the exhibit was of course to see more of his ‘classic style’ paintings, which we had been ‘confronted with’ at the Tate Modern some years ago when we visited London. I like his darker paintings, because they have so much structure. It’s not all black, because if you look closer (or longer) you can see different shades of black, and the interplay of the light and the structure of the paint gives a different view depending on your viewpoint or your mood. It’s just a shame he had to be so depressed in order to make these beautiful artifacts.
We leafed through the catalogue, but on paper the paintings feel ‘flat’, and didn’t interest me.

Then we walked through some of the fixed collection, and then it was time for lunch. The line for the cafetaria was quite long, and once we had our food, we could not find a place to sit — the place was packed. In the end, we managed to find a spot.

Most of the other exhibits were interesting as well, with notable mentions for the ceramics and the ‘romantic fashion’. We also checked out the ‘Wonder Rooms’ in the basement, with a lot of fun interactive exhibits about art. (We skipped on the interactivity, we were getting tired…)
While we were strolling along, we passed our king and queen. I saw a family of three coming towards us, and heard the little girl say something, and then the mother sais something like “Yes dear, but we have to go on”. I didn’t pay attention (the Wonder Rooms are aimed at children, so it’s not that out of the ordinary to see a family there), but klik did because she thought the mother sounded like our queen.
She looked up and saw the three of them (king, queen and one of the princesses) walk by us in the opposite direction, with a security guy behind them…
I guess visiting a museum with your kids is a fun thing to do, but when you’re the king you can’t wander through the exhibits like we do. That’s kinda sad, really.

Anyway, after making the rounds we checked out the shop (didn’t buy anything) and went back to the B&B to rest up before heading out to dinner…

Wedding & paper

Thursday was the wedding of luna_puella and xjohanx. We were invited, and we had a super-good time! It turned into some sort of geekfestnl reunion, with people we hadn’t spoken to in years. Also fun to see them in their sunday best! 🙂
Kinda weird to see a girl you know as a fifteen-year old awkward adolescent all grown up in a wedding gown, but we got over that pretty quickly when we saw how happy she and her groom were! Good times were had by all. (And of course we made a reception album for the couple!)

We stayed at a hotel that was only two steps away from the party location, so we didn’t have to drive the hour home afterwards. In the morning, we had breakfast with both sets of parents, which was fun. Then we walked around the village for a bit, before making tracks to pick up zolphia. We had tea with a piece of home-baked brownie — though it seemed only a small piece, it was rather… filling.
And then we went to Rijswijk, to see part of the Paper Biennal 2012. It was still on our list to check out, and zolphia wanted to come with us to see the exhibit (apparently we were suitably enthusiastic two years ago) and also to see ‘how we visit museums’…

The museum is in the old city centre of Rijswijk. One of the ticket ladies tried to charm zolphia out of her necklace, but that didn’t work out as intended. We hung our coats and went to explore the museum. Most of it was very interesting, with paper playing a major role in the pieces. One of the aims of the exhibitions is to show how versatile paper is, and that was a success. There were scultures of paper maché, sculptures of rolled paper, but also papercuts, paper constructions and ‘combat paper’ which is made from old US army uniforms…
I find it hard to choose a favourite from the pieces, and I heartily recommend the exhibition!

When we emerged from the museum, it was way past lunch-time, so we ducked into a café for a sandwich and something to drink. We had through we’d also visit the second part of the exhibition, in Museum Meermanno in The Hague, but by the time we were done with lunch it was well past 15:00. This being a Friday just before a week-long school-holiday, the evening traffic was sure to be busy, and I wanted to be home before then. So we decided to drop zolphia off at home and go home ourselves. Even so, we got in a few traffic jams before we got home!

The wedding was lovely, and the day afterwards was lovely as well — and the weekend hadn’t even started yet! Good times.

Today, we became part of a work of art.

Ten minutes of sitting in a room with only a video camera to keep you company. Apparently this is very confrontational for a lot of people. Perhaps we are weird in that we have some sort of inner peace or something — those ten minutes had gone by faster than I thought.

After the taping, we chatted with the artist a bit. She has some pretty cool ideas.

In the museum shop, I saw this shirt. Sadly, the sizes don’t go above XL, which is too small for me. The shop lady told me that it was a work of art and that I shouldn’t wear it — but I buy shirts to wear them. Limited editions mean nothing to me. If art is combined with an everyday object, it needs to be used so that your day is infused with it.

Too bad, no shirt for me. I’ll live.