Nativity Secrets of Hotel Sonne

Father Helmut in the middle checking out the terrace in front of the porch to the courtyard

Courtyard of Hotel Sonne in Offenburg, GermanyThe courtyard with private parking space and the breakfast room at your left.
Here it is clear that the old part of the building is really old.

Nativity in the wood

Roman style Nativity

Close up of another Nativity

The three Kings

For the less religious there is the showcase with a persiflage of the hoteliers family

You may know that I’ve frequently visited Hotel Sonne in Offenburg, Germany. The hotel is operated by Gabi and her husband Horst. However the father and mother of Gabi, Helmut and Brigitte, who must be well in their 80ies still help their daughter out almost every day. The same family operating this hotel already for over 150 years.

In my prior review I’ve just showed one photo. Here I have some more, also to point you to their little secret: One forebear of Brigitte loved to collect little wooden figures and loved to make showpieces of them, mostly with Nativity as subject. Time permitting Brigitte will love to show them to you. They occupy a couple of their hotel rooms, but soon they will disappear as the hotel rooms will be refurbished in due course and be added to their inventory.

Books about the common roots of UK, US and Dutch societies

In my previous post I promised to share two books I’m currently reading.

Recently, on occasion of their return to Texas, we offered a farewell dinner to an expat couple that had resided with us as long stay guests. They concluded their stay in The Netherlands of over three years with the observation that there are more similarities in character between Americans and Dutch that they would have believed. They also pointed me to a recent book of Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World, that gives some background explanation.

It is an epic story about the discovery of New Amsterdam and it’s early years as a settlement of the Dutch West Indies Company (in Dutch Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie). The book is based on historic material kept under dust for ages, but popped up in Albany, New York, of all places. For over 25 years there sits a historian who is in the process of translating over 12,000 Dutch language documents dating back to the first half of the 17nd century. The Dutch were too tidy and destroyed most of their West India Company’s archives so it is a sort of wonder this new material popped up. It is known as The New Netherland Project or NNP. Do visit their site as they have a wealth of material!

I learned Englishman Henry Hudson discovered New Amsterdam on commission of the Dutch East India Company (VOC or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). On a former trip he had discovered Newfoundland on commission of the British Muscovy Company, in search of a northern passage to the India. He had hoped that via the rivers Hudson or Connecticut he could reach the great lakes and from there there was a passage to India.

Going Dutch by Lisa Jardine

When buying The Island at the Center of the World I stumbled on the book Going Dutch, How England Plundered Holland’s Glory, by English writer Lisa Jardine.

Coincidentally Robbert Russo penned an insightful column for the New York Times Going Dutch about how an American looks at Dutch society.

Lisa uses the subtitle more as a eye catcher than as a flag covering her cargo: She describes the early 17nd century more from a view of an art historian. How thinkers, architects, landscape architects, sculptors and painters from the low countries influenced the English courts. How members of the Royalists party got refuge in The Hague during Cromwell’s reign and how the various European courts especially those who were not in the Roman Catholic league like the Spanish were related, intermingled and intermarried and tried to cooperate in their struggle against the Spanish. All up to the year 1688 when William and Mary took over the English throne.

It is really fun to read the two books together. If you’re interested in Dutch, US and/or UK history both books are a must read!

Dutch Return Head of Ahante Chief to Ghana

Nana Baido Bonso (or Bonsu) II
Nana Baido Bonso (or Bonsu) II

In 1838 a Chief of the Ahante tribe, Nana Baido Bonso (or Bonsu) II, killed two Dutch soldiers who invaded his farm. He was court martialled, hung and beheaded. His head was send over sea and ended up preserved in a bottle in Leiden University University Centre for Medical Research….I assume the chief did what every farmer would do to uninvited invaders of his property….

The issue of Nana Baidoo Bonso (or Bonsu) II’s head came to light when a Dutch historian Arthur Japin raised it during former President John Kufuor’s official visit to the Netherlands in October last year.

After hearing the story of the head, the former President instructed the Ghana Embassy to negotiate to secure the release and the return of the head.

After much negotiation the Dutch government finally allowed the release and the head was finally returned to Ghana on July 24.

I’m currently reading two books that shed new light on the influence of the Dutch on both the UK and the US. I will come back with the names and bearings. This is why this story drew my attention. It is part of our colonial history. I’ve not read much about it in our Dutch press….tellingly?

The people of Ghana will be glad to have the opportunity to give the chief peace with a proper ceremony…

Read the entire story by Francis Kokutse in the African Press blog:

Elzenduin, a Perfect Restaurant near The Hague, brings new fame to Ter Heijde


Recently my wife and I had dinner at restaurant Elzenduin in Ter Heijde. Elzenduin is a 27 room hotel with a restaurant, a beach pavilion and a beach terrace. We had heard and seen good reviews of the restaurant, its brasserie and its beach pavilion. Recently it had undergone a total renovation and its beach terrace won the 2009 Dutch terrace award.

Ter Heijde is a very small township in the dunes of the Dutch North Sea coast half way the 30 km between The Hague (actually Scheveningen, the beach resort of The Hague) and Hoek van Holland or “Hook” as the Brits who visit The Netherlands via ferry use to call it. Ter Heide is part of the village Monster and the municipality Westland.

On July 31, 1653 (according to the Julian calender in use in England) or August 10, 1653 (according to the Gregorian calender in use in the Dutch Republic of Seven United Provinces) Ter Heijde became (in)famous because of the Battle of Ter Heijde (also named the Battle of Scheveningen) during the first Anglo – Dutch war. Eventually there were four Anglo-Dutch wars. Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertz Tromp leading the Dutch fleet of about 104 man of war on board of the Brederode was defeated by George Monck leading an English fleet of 105 on board of the Resolution. You can see them engaged in the middle of the painting of the battle by Jan Abrahamsz between 1653 and 1666. Not long before Tromp had twice engaged with a fleet under Admiral Blake, the “Father of the Royal Navy” in the Battle of Goodwin Sands (or Battle of Dover) and the Battle of Dungeness where he had defeated Blake. Tromp died during the battle of Ter Heide by a bullet from a sniper on board of the ship of William Penn, the father of the William Penn who founded Pennsylvania. Actually I am a bit disappointed Elzenduin doesn’t elaborate a bit more about these historic events than in the one sentence their site devotes to the battle….

Most details are from Wikipedia and some details and the photo of the painting of the battle are from the blog History of the Sailing Warships in the Maritime Art

Back to dinner at Elzenduin: This is a picture from its window. It is located at the path between Ter Heijde and the Beach. So you look a bit up at the dunes and can see the sun setting behind the dunes.

This was our starter. A painting in itself.

And this was the well sculptured and fine tasting desert we had. I predict that the chef will acquire his first Michelin star very soon.

Update 2014

Only a very short time has this high standard been maintained by the restaurant. Currently it is middle of the road again.