Category Archives: Amsterdam

Real HEMA on Kalverstraat


Kalverstraat 170 is a stately merchant’s house from the second or third quarter of the seventeenth century. In the second quarter of the eighteenth century a renovation took place where the current facade was built. The property has an interesting architectural history, but is mainly connected with the history of a famous Dutch department store. On November 4, 1926 the initial establishment of HEMA was opened here.

The Hollandsche Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij Amsterdam (H.E.M.A.) was established on November 4, 1926 by the Jewish directors Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer of luxury department store De Bijenkorf. The first branch was opened on Kalverstraat. A few days later, a second branch followed in the Oude Hoogstraat 14-18. The strong international orientation of Leo Meyer, he had the idea for a unit price shop for people on a tight budget, which he had gained during a trip to America. Prices were initially not more than 25 and 50 cents; in 1928 were also more expensive products introduced of 75 and 100 cents, ‘the best quality that can be manufactured at such low prices’.

The first two stores did not fare as well as the founders expected. The shop in the chic Kalverstraat got little attention of shoppers, while the branch on Oude Hoogstraat had a to small floor space to handle the influx. The low conversion didn’t prevent the board to open many branches in the rest of the country at a rapid pace. When the Depression struck deeply the Dutch economy in 1929, the public flooded in and the realized large profits.


Until the establishment of the HEMA stores in 1926 department stores were posh palaces for the richer part of the population. Stores like Hirsch & Cie., Maison de Bonneterie were fashion palaces for the elite. The well-off middle class did her shopping at Metz & Co., Gerzon Brothers and De Bijenkorf. HEMA was a store for everyone. HEMA gave the common people even its first coffee shop where the customers could eat a three-course meal for 50 cents. The staff consisted mainly of unmarried women, in white clothing, worked about 75 hours a week. Due to the low unit price shop H.E.M.A. was once seen as a ‘poor man’s shop’. Wealthier Dutch did not want to be seen on the street with a bag from HEMA. (How times change to nowadays!)

The Second World War left a significant scar in the history of HEMA. In July 1942 all Jewish employees had to be laid off and the board was pushed to the side. HEMA meant during the war years <em>’Helpt Elkaar Met Alles'</em> which translates in ‘Helps Each Other With Everything’. The dismissed Jewish workers were supported wherever possible but after the liberation there was not much left of the blazing HEMA of before the war. Many shops were in ruins or looted. 201 employees, including the management, were killed in the camps. They are commemorated every year on May 4 at the headquarters in Amsterdam-North..

After the liberation the management of the HEMA changed drastically: fixed low prices were no longer used, HEMA stood for the highest possible quality for as little money as possible. This proved a success and HEMA expanded at breakneck speed. In the 50s HEMA became the first franchise organization in the Netherlands. With approximately 150 ‘Affiliated Companies’ is HEMA still the largest franchisor in the country. Early 90s, the group opened its first stores in Belgium. Meanwhile HEMA is also based in Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom. The shop on Kalverstraat changed places and is now underground in Kalvertoren, but it is still called branch number one.


When you ask a Dutch person what he or she would miss most when he’s abroad, 8 out of ten would say HEMA’!

BTW this is a video of what to do with shoplifters…

Netherlands Police Train Eagles

The Dutch National police have joined forces with ‘Guard From Above’, a raptor-training security firm based in The Hague, to keep wayward drones from causing trouble. As the use of drones increasingly worries everyone from air traffic control and law enforcement to firefighters, Netherlands’ national police have aligned themselves with a group that purely hates flying robots on principle, the bald eagle.

gfaGuard From Above
‘s CEO, Sjoerd Hoogendoorn, recently described the project as, ‘a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem’. he and the company’s chief operating officer, Ben de Keijzer, train birds of prey to catch unauthorized unmanned aircraft. Hoogendoorn has a background in private security, and de Keijzer is in bird-handling and training.

Often drones lose their flying privileges because local birds feel crowded, ‘the drones are pretty much the size of a bird of prey, so smaller birds on the ground aren’t likely to mob a bird of prey when it’s flying–but larger birds are, especially when it’s around their nests,’ comments LeBaron, who’s seen the behavior in Barnacle Geese as well as raptors like Ospreys. ‘The birds of prey are having an aggressive interaction to defend their territory from another bird of prey.’

LeBaron is the director of the organization’s Christmas bird count, a crowdsourced wildlife census that tracks US bird populations. The birds, he said, are in many cases demonstrating that they have superior onboard equipment to the drones.

‘What I find fascinating is that birds can hit the drone in such a way that they don’t get injured by the rotors,’ says LeBaron. ‘They seem to be whacking the drone right in the centre so they don’t get hit; they have incredible visual acuity and they can probably actually see the rotors.’

Humans, of course, only see rotors as a blur, LeBaron suspects that the eagles can make out the complete movement and thus have no trouble avoiding injury. It doesn’t hurt, either, that attacking a drone the way a bird might attack another bird is usually effective. ‘Their method of attack is always going to be to hit it in the middle of the back; with the drones they perceive the rotors on the side and so they just go for the rear.’

Using birds to take down drones is that latest in a series of attempts to tackle unwanted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS). In Japan, drones using nets have been developed to capture rogue UAV that might threaten disruptions along flight paths. A team of British contractors have developed a ‘death ray’ for drones that can disable them in flight.

Day Of Hearts… I Love You!

HartjesdagOriginally Hartjesdag (Day of Hearts) was a festival celebrated on the third Monday in August in the areas of Haarlem and Bloemendaal and in various parts of Amsterdam, particularly around the Haarlemmerplein, in the Jordaan, and on Zeedijk. On Hartjesdag fires were kindled and children collected money. Later it developed itself into a type of cross-dressing carnival, where men dressed as women, and women dressed as men. A typical scene was captured in the oil painting entitled Hartjesdag, by the artist Johan Braakensiek in 1926.

During the German occupation in 1942 the Hartjesdag became prohibited, and after the war it eventually became obsolete. In 1997 a local committee on Zeedijk, Amsterdam, decided to see if they could revive the tradition. Each year since then, the festival has flourished into a two-day event on the 3rd weekend in August.

Where the name Hartjesdag comes from is not clear. Probably it has arisen in the Middle Ages. It is suspected that the name is a bastardisation of ‘hertjesdag‘ (Deer Day). This was a festival where in the forests around Haarlem deer (herten) hunting could be done by the ordinary people, which was normally reserved for nobility. The deer were then taken to Amsterdam and roasted in the streets.

On Sunday evening it’s now ‘Night of Romance’, when at the bars and restaurants, but also in small theaters in the surrounding streets, live music is played and songs are sung. On Monday they start with a brunch for the people of the neighborhood, and the ones who feel part of the neighborhood (like me, and I live 4.5km on the other side of town). After brunch the ‘Hearts’ (people who normally don’t cross-dress) and ‘Queens’ (the ones who do!) can register to win a prize at the end of the day.

I was greeted by a creature looking as ‘Divine’ who knew me by name, and I didn’t know who he was. I do know now, and when he dares to do it, with consent of his wife, I can do it too… next year!

Here are some photos who were posted on Facebook, I thanked the photographers already. They are in random order, and will change place every time you open this page. Click on one and it will open in a new page, there you can scroll through them.

EuroPride 2016, The Party Is Almost Over…

Yesterday was the main event of EuroPride2016, our world-famous Canal Parade. I didn’t make photos, others have better equipment and a more steady hand than I do. Below you find some impressions and on Facebook you’ll find another 595+ photos…

Second Life For 17th Century Furnace

The oven which was found by archaeologists of the Department of Monuments and Archaeology of the City of Amsterdam, a month ago at Spuistraat, will be rebuilt. Within 18 months one can be visiting the oven on the externally accessible courtyard of the new residential complex ‘De Keizer’ on Wijdesteeg in Amsterdam.


The oven that was found during the archaeological survey was part of the seventeenth century soap manufacture ‘De Clock’ (The Bell). Originally, the oven was used by brewery Delfftsche Wapen which was located in the same building from approximately 1510 to 1608. The oven consisted of a round brick construction with max. 3.4 m outside diameter, 1.3 m inner diameter and an inner wall of chamotte stone. The floor was made up of a lattice of chamotte bricks, supported by a structure of wrought iron. The iron door was still present and on the grate they found layers of peat blocks. The oven and the deeper boiler room could be reached through a brick staircase, which was filled up with construction debris and household waste from the last quarter of the 17th century. This archaeological dating fits in well with the historical fact that the ‘De Clock’ soap manufacture was closed in 1680.

For those who can’t wait, the oven is recorded in a 3D model

Click here for the 3D model.

The director of the construction company who develops residential complex ‘De Keizer’ was particularly struck by the discovery and therefore decided to rebuild the furnace. The oven is carefully dismantled two weeks ago by a team of archaeologists and construction workers. The iron parts are being preserved in the coming period in the archaeological workshop. Later, the oven will again be built, brick by brick, in the courtyard of the complex. The courtyard will also externally accessible so interested parties can take a look.


Yesterday’s Pride Walk also broke a new record, while the front of the walk passed halfway over Rokin, near Dam square (the destination), the last people of the walk just left the beginning at Vondelpark, a stretch of 2 km (1.24 miles). Traffic and public transport was blocked for nearly an hour and a half.

You may think that’s not that far or long, but those of you that have visit the centre of Amsterdam, and have seen the traffic through the narrow streets, cyclists included, know how a great havoc this can become.

The flags you see are from the 79 nations in the world where you can’t show whom you love, or live the life you want to live. In 12 of them you are killed for being gay.

I was somewhere half a kilometer behind this group, just turning up at  Munt square, driving my mobility scooter and Pink Noord banner, a local group of LGBT’s who meet for drinks. (BTW this photo was taken while we were still waiting in Vondelpark.
Next to me is Els also in a scooter, she’s a huge supporter for human rights, who lives on the opposite side of town in the Southeast.

American friend Bob Newmark who lives in Amsterdam posted 444 photos of the Pride Walk on Facebook. You can find me and his photos here.