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Amsterdam Introduces Contactless Payment Jackets for Beggars

It’s getting and harder and harder for beggars to survive on spare change handouts these days. People have become too reliant on alternative payment options to carry cash around with them, and those that still have a few coins in their pockets are often afraid that recipients will just spend it on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. However, a couple of Dutch advertising professionals have come up with an intriguing solution – a contactless payment jacket for beggars and homeless people.

Developed by Carsten van Berkel and Stefan Leendertse of N = 5, an Amsterdam-based advertising agency, the contactless payment jacket allows people to donate 1€ to the wearer using their contactless smart card. The unusual clothing item has a card reader sewn into it, and in order to donate 1€ to the wearer, all you have to do is hold the card close to the jacket for a few moments, and the sum is automatically debited from your bank account. The contactless payment jacket also comes with an LCD screen which constantly displays instructions of use.

“People have less cash in their pockets,” says Jan Jesse Bakker, the designer of the jacket. “And if you have a single euro on you and give it to a homeless person, then you do not know what happens to it.” That’s one of the big advantages of the contactless payment jacket. You’re not giving cash to a total stranger to do with it what he pleases. Instead, the fixed sum (one euro) goes into a bank account managed by a homeless shelter, and can only be used to purchase a hot meal, pay for a bath or spend a night at a homeless shelter (many such centers in the Netherlands require a contribution of 5€ per night). Homeless people who really want to turn their life around can also save money for various job certification courses or a down-payment for a home. “We can offer the homeless more than just a warm Christmas,” Bakker adds. “We give them back prospects.”

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You Need to Fail a Breathalizer Test to Enter the World’s First Hangover Bar

Provided you can find your way to it after a wild night of alcohol-fueled partying, the world’s first hangover bar, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, promises to make that nasty next-day hangover a lot easier to deal with.

Only open from Friday to Sunday, between 10am and 6pm, Amsterdam’s Hangover Bar is decorated as a green oasis in the middle of the urban jungle, and offers a variety of ways to deal with hangovers. But in order to experience any of them, you first have to prove that your blood alcohol content is well above functional levels, by taking a breathalizer test. Failing one of these is usually a bad thing, but at the Hangover Bar it’s actually your ticket in.

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The Cat Boat – Amsterdam’s Floating Sanctuary for Cats

The Cat Boat is one of Amsterdam’s most peculiar attractions. It’s essentially a sanctuary for cats, but what makes it special is that the rescued cats all live aboard a quaint little houseboat that bobs along the Herengracht canal. Although it wasn’t intended to be a tourist attraction, Cat Boat regularly receives about 4,500 visitors a year, most of whom are tourists missing their own cats while on vacation!

The origins of the Cat Boat can be traced back to 1966, when a kind woman named Henriette van Weelde took pity on a stray feline and her kittens and allowed them into her own home. Henriette soon became well known in the neighborhood for her kindness; people would regularly drop off rescued cats at her doorstep and she wouldn’t hesitate to take them all in.

This went on for about two years, after which Henriette simply didn’t have enough room to house more cats. So she came up with a solution – she put them all on an unused houseboat on the nearby Herengracht canal. The feline sanctuary was something of a ‘pirate’ ship for about two decades, operating without the knowledge of the authorities. But in 1987, it finally got a permit and was officially christened ‘de Poezenboot’ (the Cat Boat).

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Dutch Police Trains Eagles to Tackle Pesky Drone Problem

The Dutch are using an ingenious, low-cost, totally organic solution to the country’s increasing drone problem – they’re having eagles trained to attack the flying machine as they would their usual prey.

Drones are becoming a major problem all over the world – they block airspace and interfere with official operations like emergency air ambulance landings. Despite regulations, drone operators are able to get away with misuse. They’re often hidden from view, making it very difficult for authorities to detect their exact position and take action against them.

The Dutch police were looking at tech-based solutions like remotely taking control of drone operating systems, but forcing a drone to autoland could backfire as it could go completely out of control. Thankfully, raptor training company ‘Guard From Above’ came up with a much better idea – to make use of eagles’ natural hunting instincts.

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World’s First Sand Castle Hotels Open in Holland

If you love building sandcastles then here’s your chance to actually live in one. ‘Zand Hotels’ – the world’s first hotels constructed out of sand have opened in two Dutch towns – Oss and Sneek – to commemorate sand sculpture festivals held there each year.

The two pop-up hotels have fully furnished one-room suites, hidden inside eight-meter sculptures. One is modeled after the iconic Bedrock homes from the Flintstones, and the other has a Chinese theme, with dragons, the Great Wall of China, and the Terracotta Army as decorations. Believe it or not, these sand hotels have all the modern amenities, like electricity, running water, glass windows, king size beds, soft carpets, luxurious bathrooms and Wi-Fi!

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This Famous Dutch Owl Loves to Land on People’s Heads

A strange owl in the Dutch town of Noordeinde has become famous for its penchant for landing on people’s heads. It seems that the bird simply lands on people who happen to be walking by, for no apparent reason!

Apparently, a fence or a tree just isn’t good enough for the beautiful European eagle owl, weighing around six pounds. It only lands on people’s heads, staying perched for about a minute before flying off in search of its next target.

The residents of Noordeinde aren’t bothered by the owl one bit. In fact, they’re quite delighted with all the attention that their town is receiving, thanks to the wild bird. “I’ve seen photographers and birders from around the country, from The Hague to Spijkenisse, they come from everywhere to see the eagle owl,” a cheerful resident said. “Our village is finally on the map!”

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Dutch Eco-Hero Proves That One Man CAN Make a Difference

Tired of witnessing copious amounts of trash strewn across the banks of River Schie in Rotterdam, Dutch artist Tommy Kleyn decided to step up and do something about it. He singlehandedly organised a cleanup of the entire bank, leaving absolutely no trace of trash whatsoever, proving that anyone can indeed made a difference if they want to.

Kleyn, 37, became aware of the issue during his morning commute to work – he would bike past a section of the Rotterdam riverway and see piles of trash along the bank. The situation troubled him, so he decided to spend 30 minutes every day cleaning the place up, filling one garbage bag a time. And when he posted photographs of his work on Facebook, a few of his friends decided to pitch in as well. In five weeks, they had a 100-meter stretch sparkling clean and completely trash-free.

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Dutch Retirement Home Offers Free Rent for Students in Exchange for Interaction with the Elderly

A Dutch nursing home has come up with an innovative plan to get young college kids to interact with the elderly. They’re offering small, rent-free apartments to the students, in exchange for at least 30 hours a month of spending quality time with their older neighbors.

According to the officials at Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, the students participate in a variety of activities with older residents – watching sports, celebrating birthdays, and offering company when they’re ill. It’s a unique win-win situation – the students are able to enjoy free accommodation, and it also solves the problems of isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

“It’s important not to isolate the elderly from the outside world,” explained Humanitas head Gea Sijpkes. “When you’re 96 years old with a knee problem, well, the knee isn’t going to get any better, the doctors can’t do much. But what we can do is create an environment where you forget about the painful knee. The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact.”

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Disco Shopping in Amsterdam – Dutch Group Turns Supermarkets into Discos

Shopping for groceries can be dreary, but a group of Dutch entrepreneurs is trying to change that. They’ve come up with a unique concept called ‘Disco Boodschappen’ (Disco Shopping) which basically involves throwing a disco dance party at an otherwise boring supermarket.

The organisers said they came up with the plan after they saw a tweet with a similar idea. “A friend of mine posted a tweet with a picture of a note from a supermarket where a student is proposing an hour of disco shopping,” said entrepreneur Joost Aarsten. “I thought, ‘Wow, we gotta do that!’”

So he got together with a few friends to formulate a simple event that would make shopping for food seem like a celebration. With a high quality sound system, a few decorations, and a DJ, they plan to convert the most mundane supermarkets into a hip place for a few hours.

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Amsterdam Crane Gets Converted into Luxury Hotel

Ambitious architects in Amsterdam have converted an old beast of a crane into a luxury hotel, complete with swanky rotating suites, spa pools and a TV broadcasting station.

The 250 ton, 50-meter high, decades old maritime crane is actually one of the world’s oldest and highest mechanical structures. It was almost in ruins, doomed to a life of decay, when a group of daredevil architects from various Dutch companies decided to get together and give it a new lease on life. 

Despite being dismissed as ‘technically impossible’, they decided to take on the task of converting the old crane into a world class luxury hotel. The project was not easy – they had to lay new foundations to withstand the weight of the massive structure, because the quay of the old wharf was simply not strong enough. Developers splurged nearly a million dollars on constructing each room. They even fitted the structure with a thrust bearing made of gold, allowing each suite to rotate with the wind.

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The Seemingly Normal Dutch Village Where Everyone Suffers from Dementia

The isolated Dutch village of Hogewey, located on the outskirts of the town of Weesp, has only 152 inhabitants who seem to be living a normal life – they eat, sleep, walk around the village and visit shops and restaurants. But in reality, every single one of them is being constantly watched. That’s because Hogewey is actually an elder care facility, and all of its residents suffer from dementia.

‘Dementia Village’ takes care to maintain the illusion that life is normal for the residents. The 152 patients have no idea that their home is a mental institution, nor that their living quarters are constantly monitored. Within the village, residents do not live in wards and there are no long hallways or corridors. Instead, they live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. The homes are furnished according to the time period when the residents’ short-term memories stopped functioning properly – the 1950s, 1970s, and the 2000s, all accurate down to the tablecloths.

The residents are allowed to freely roam the grounds and admire its landscaped trees and fountains, or rest on the benches. Caretakers are stationed all over the village; 250 full and part time nurses and geriatric specialists wander the town as cashiers, grocery-store attendees, post-office clerks and more. Finances have simply been taken out of the equation, as everything is included in the family’s payment plan.

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All Aboard the Controversy Inn’s Tram Apartments

Viewed as one of the most unusual hotels in the world, the Controversy Inn gives the term “room and board” a whole new meaning by repurposing old tramcars  as luxurious accommodations for guests.

Located in Holland’s Hoogwoud village, the Controversy Inn is run by two kooky Prince fans and offers visitors the unique opportunity of sleeping in fully reconditioned tramcars that used to run in Germany and Amsterdam years ago. It might not sound like the most comfortable stay, but the owners of this wacky establishment have gone out of their way to make the trams as cozy as possible. All the “rooms” feature double beds, showers and toilet facilities, a well-supplied kitchenette, and lovely decorations made from old-traffic lights, discarded furniture, car parts and other recycled objects. The three tramcars and the full-sized railway car have all been themed around different cultures around the world – America, Italy, France and Mexico – and come with their own matching type of breakfast. Frank and Irma Appel, the two motoring enthusiasts behind the Controversy Inn, sleep in an English-style Double-Decker bus they’ve somehow managed to insert right in the living-room of their picturesque farmhouse. How crazy is that?

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Spin Your Room Around at Holland’s Unique Crane Hotel

If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to spend the night in an industrial dockside crane, there’s a unique hotel in Harlingen, the Netherlands, that you absolutely have to visit. The 0ne -room Crane Hotel may not be very spacious, but it allows tourists to operate the giant crane and spin 360 degrees for incredible views of their surroundings.

Located in the seaside town of Harlingen, just an hour’s drive from Amsterdam, the Crane Hotel offers a luxurious getaway for two. The genuine dockside crane used to move containers around during the 1960s was converted into a unique hotel between 2001 and 2003. Although it retains its industrial look on the outside, the interior has been radically altered to provide the same degree of comfort that other high-class hotels do. They’ve added tasteful decorations, the latest audio-video technology, a comfy double bed, and a twin person shower cabin, but also kept some of the elements that make this place so unique, like the observation deck and original windows. Perched about 17 feet above Harlingen’s peer, the Crane hotel is no longer accessed via its old steel ladder, but by a modern internal lift. And as if just spending the night in a real dockside crane wasn’t cool enough, you can also satisfy the kid in you by playing actually driving the industrial equipment. The crane is still functional, and you can rotate it 360 degrees to catch some amazing views of the old Dutch fishing town.

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Het Arresthuis – A Luxury Prison Hotel You Won’t Want to Escape from

After serving as one of the Netherlands most feared prisons for almost 150 years, Het Arresthuis, in Roermond, has been converted into a luxury hotel that no one wants to escape from anymore.

Het Arresthuis opened its doors in 1862, as a prison. Obviously, no one came here to stay by their own accord, during the 19th and 20th century, but things have changed a lot since then. The jail closed down for good in 2007, and now that the facility has been transformed into a luxurious hotel, guests actually pay big money to spend at least a night in one of the old holding cells. Although “cells” is not exactly the right word to describe the chic accommodations at Het Arresthuis. The 105 prisoner’s quarters have been converted into 40 spacious rooms,  including 24 standard rooms, 12 deluxe rooms, and four suites, all of which feature modern furnishings and chic interior design. They are all equipped with air conditioning, a flat screen TV, free WiFi, and even a personal coffee and tea machine, and the hotel’s include a sauna, a fitness center, a central patio with olive trees, and an organic herb garden. If you’re wondering about bars, this place has both kinds – the ones you can’t get past and the ones where you can get your drink on.

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The Mind-Blowing Installations of Bloemencorso, an Annual Flower Parade in the Netherlands

Held every year in the Dutch town of Zundert, Bloemencorso is the world’s largest flower parade made entirely by volunteers. Millions of flowers are used to decorate giant floats built from steel wire, cardboard and papier-maché.

The Netherlands is inextricably linked to tulips, but at the annual Bloemencorso flower parade, it’s all about dahlias, as these are the only flowers used to decorate giant floats made of steel wire, cardboard and papier-maché. Every year, members of 20 hamlets from the tiny town of Zundert (population 20,000) work hard to win the title of most beautiful flower float in show. Preparations begin months before the big event, as the older members of the hamlets are tasked with  planting and growing the colorful dahlias needed to cover the larger-than-life installations. Although Bloemencorso takes place on the first Sunday in September, tents are set up around town in May and June, and from then on, members of the competing hamlets start working on their masterpieces. They discuss design ideas and building techniques, but it’s the three days before the big event that are the most stressful. Because the flowers have to be fresh, contestants can only start applying the dahlias on the Thursday before Bloemencorso. If need be, hamlets will work night and day putting needles through the flowers, and sticking them in just the right spots on the cardboard body of their mobile installations. But all the effort pays off once these mind-blowing creations make their way through the streets of Zundert leaving crowds of spectators in awe.

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