D-Day Normandy

Heroes

Exactly seventy years ago more than 150.000 Allied troops, about half of them Americans, invaded Western Europe. They started on the beaches of Normandy and liberated the entire continent within 12 months. Six years ago I visited the beaches of Normandy myself. It had (and still has) a huge impact on me. Just think of it, hundreds of thousands of soldiers risked their lives invading a continent they didn’t know, to liberate people they didn’t know, all because of a single word… Freedom.

Today, especially today, I try to think of the alternative. What if the Americans decided not to help us? After all, it’s not their continent and it’s not them who neglected their armies for way too long (allowing the Germans to easily conquer the entire continent). But the Americans did help us, the rest is history.

I wish we’d think of this more often…

Sketch to illustration

Zaanse Schans, Kiozk Amsterdam

Can an illustration ever get more Dutch than this? A few days ago I asked the same question on Facebook and as it turns out… Yes it can. The replies I got varied from adding tulips, a bike, perhaps some wooden shoes and yes, even weed to the illustration.

Of course the question was rhetorical, but still… we could add all these things to the illustration above, since we created the windmill-illustration ourselves.

Recently we wanted to refresh our newsletter style. After a little brainstorm we decided, amongst other things, to include a big illustration which covers the subject of the email. Last week we used this image, which obviously referred to our launch in Amsterdam. This week it’s the windmills, which refer to this organiser we added to Kiozk.

I didn’t create the windmill illustration myself. In fact, I can only dream of creating an something like this. Luckily we’re a team! The thing that amazes me most is that the windmill-illustration started with this simple sketch:

sketch-to-illustration-Kiozk-windmill

This makes me look forward to our next newsletter. Let’s see if you’re able to guess the subject based on this sketch (and perhaps learn a little Dutch along the way):

sketch-to-easter

Tulips, canal houses and… Kiozk

Kiozk Start in Amsterdam

Tulips, canal houses, Anne Frank, the Rijksmuseum, the red light district and coffee shops. These are things Amsterdam is famous for. Starting today, you can add Kiozk to this list.

No, I won’t mind. Really.

Of course I’m exaggerating and Kiozk won’t be as famous as tulips and canal houses anytime soon (if ever). But still, theoretically it’s possible… theoretically…

Why? Because Kiozk, the company I co-founded, launched in Amsterdam this very weekend. Now Kiozk can be used in our Dutch capital, something we’re thrilled about. As you probably know by now, Kiozk shows activities taking place at the users current time and location. This way it’s easy to discover new and fun activities nearby. While preparing the launch in Amsterdam, we literally discovered hundreds of great activities, many of them free of charge. Every day, there are concerts, expositions, boat trips, lectures, entertainment, events and much much more. It’s amazing how Amsterdam, a city I thought to know quite well, offers so many surprises.

A big surprise is the Civic Guards Gallery, located next to the Kalverstraat, one of the busiest shopping street of the Netherlands. It showcases 15 substantial paintings of the Amsterdam Civic Guards from the 17th Century. It’s not only free of charge, it’s also the only place in the world where paintings are displayed in the open air, with only a glass roof to protect them. 

Another great surprise is the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, located next to the central railway station. The conservatory offers several free concerts a day (!), which actually isn’t the only reason to visit the conservatory. As it turns out, the architecture is worth checking out too. The entire building is brand new and the auditoriums are simply beautiful.

There are many more surprises worth mentioning. What to think of free activities like a boat ride, a film museum or a city walking tour and paid activities like a tour of the Ajax stadium and a bike ride to typical Dutch windmills.

I know I’m biased, but you should definitely check out Kiozk.com when visiting Amsterdam. Oh, and follow me on Twitter (here or here) to stay up to date with Kiozk related news.

Mac OSX desktops

This is what my desktop looks like

No, I won’t show you the apps I’m running nor am I willing to show the (sometimes) many icons that clutter my Macbook’s desktop. Instead I’d like to share the wallpapers I get to see every day.

Let me explain.

A friend and I both have a Macbook Pro. And we both use three desktops (I honestly don’t know if Windows has a similar feature). Like everyone else we pimped our desktops using a nice wallpaper (three actually, one for each desktop). I always use three of my own photos and update them about once a year. This friend uses a more sophisticated system. He too uses three different wallpapers but instead updates them every week (!). Every week he picks a theme -this week it’s Hawaii- and searches the Internet for beautiful imagery.

Last week I copied him. I too picked a theme and browsed for three matching photos. The only difference being I used three of my own photos. The theme I used? Walls. Yep, I know, it doesn’t sound inspiring, but it actually is. Check out my wallpapers below.
The Royal Palace of Naples

This is the wall (and ceiling) of the Naples Royal Palace’s Grand Staircase in Italy. This hall roughly dates back to 1768 and shows the full glory of the Bourbon Kings. It’s truly massive.

Pompeii

The wall on this photo is much older… about 1800 years older. I took this photo in Pompeii, the famous city destroyed in 79AD when a nearby volcano erupted. They were so sophisticated at that time, they even painted their walls. Like we still do today.

Bath Pompeii

This also is a Pompeiian wall. It appears to be much simpler compared to the wall on the previous photo but it’s not. Look at the top left of the photo. The painted wall and ceiling are separated from the concrete ceiling. This is done because this wall can be heated. Hot steam would fill the area between the outer and inner wall, effectively heating the walls and ceiling. A similar system was used for the floor. It’s an ancient equivalent of our modern-day underfloor heating.

Remember, we’re talking about 2000 years ago. Fascinating, isn’t it?

This is where history could’ve been made

Less than two weeks ago Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to talk about the Ukraine crisis. At that time, Crimea still belonged to Ukraine and Kerry tried to prevent an annexation (yes, he failed). Somehow I’m always interested in where such (potentially historic) meetings take place. I knew they met in London and discovered this great photograph on Twitter. It’s a beautiful location for such an important meeting and even more so when you realise this building is located within the city limits of London. Quickly I learned the location they used is Winfield House, the official residence of the US ambassador to the United Kingdom.

This week I got the chance to visit the Dutch version of Winfield House. Or, to be more precise, be at the location used by Secretary John Kerry and Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia for their next round of talks. They used a (much smaller) mansion in The Hague and I was just a few blocks away. Finally I get the opportunity to see where a historic meeting like this takes place!

Below are some of my photos.

Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

Surprisingly, security wasn’t that tight. Sidewalks on both (!) sides of the street could still be used. There are no roadblocks, no barricades and almost no police.

Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov 2

This cameraman is employed by news agency Reuters. All he needed was a shot of Foreign Minister Lavrov exiting the building and entering the car, which is what he told me. He waited for hours…

Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov 3

Finally Lavrov exits the building, which enabled the Reuters-guy to make his much-desired shot (and I snapped this photo).

Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov 4

Suddenly the street is crowded with cars and security guys. It took Lavrov seconds to enter his car and leave.

As it turns out, these talks were unsuccessful as well. I guess this isn’t such an historic meeting after all…