Fierce Women: A Walking Tour of Breda Review

By Michele

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The Dollhouse Museum

Our guided walk began at the Miniature and Dolls House Museum (Miniaturen- en Poppenhuis Museum) on Catharinastraat, where the finely detailed recreations include a fabric shop from the 1950s, a typical Breda ‘brown cafe’ and a library. Among these is the dolls house of Marjan Drukker, who was given the gift for her second birthday in 1931. The interior of the Amsterdam canal house is typical of the Art Deco style of the time, and includes everyday objects that would have been familiar to Marjan, including a menorah in the living room. The Drukker family lived a normal life in Alkmaar until the outbreak of the second world war. In 1941 Marjan was excluded from school, along with the other Jewish children in the city. A year later the family were put out of their house and fled from one hiding place to the next. In 1944 they were arrested, along with the farmer who sheltered them. They were sent to Auschwitz and never returned. Marjan’s dolls’ house remains as symbol of her family and a reminder of the fate of the Alkmaar Jews.

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Mencia de Mendoza, who invented the ‘automatica’

The Museum also holds a model of Mencia de Mendoza, third wife of Henry III of Naussau-Breda. She was an educated and spirited woman who determined to make the medieval castle of Breda into a Renaissance chateau, matching the art-loving atmosphere of the Spanish court in which she was educated. A widely-read woman who studied Greek, Latin and Dutch, Mencia was also interested in science and engineering. She designed the ‘automatica’, a device made from wood and leather which was intended to allow women who had never experienced it the feel of intercourse with a man. Whether Mencia used the ‘automatica’ herself is not recorded…

We continued our walk through to the Begijnhof, an historical cloister, also on Catharinastraat. The Beguines were single women who lived as part of a free lay community within the Catholic Church. IMG_0834They did not take perpetual vows but promised chastity and obedience to the elected head of the community. They were largely self-sufficient, growing their own provisions and made money by providing services to the local community including healthcare, teaching and prayers for the dead.The Begijnhof in Breda is one of the oldest in the Netherlands. It is a small walled community of individual houses with a herb garden, a small church and a rectory. The Beguines survived persecution through the 17th and 18th centuries and continued to be protected by the House of Orange-Nassau but the community waned in the 20th century, with fewer and fewer new novices. The houses are now rented to single women or widows.

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The Black Madonna

On Veemarktstraat, through a plain door wedged between a bar and a shoe shop, is the Lutheran Church. In this simple space stands a sculpture of a Black Madonna, created by Lian Wass. The body of the Madonna is covered with painted tears, shed for the wars and conflicts in the world. The artist created a wooden stand for the sculpture and on its unveiling, on Culture Night in Breda in January 2015, visitors were encouraged to write their wishes for peace on papers that were then slotted into the base. It might be noted that a sculpture of Mary has been placed in a Lutheran church, symbolic perhaps of the growing together of two sides of Christianity that historically were at war in this city.

Our tour ended in L’Ago B on Veemarktstraat, where clothes designer Olga Buise showed her atelier and exclusive designs.

Although we covered just a small area of the city, we wandered through backstreets and hidden entrances and discovered parts of Breda that were new to many of us. It was indeed a day full of surprises!

Guess Who Went to Dinner?

By Rajitha

Being a new member of the club, I have been looking forward to each possible event I could attend. The name “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” appealed to my curious nature. It was a very simple and interestingly described event addressing the reason and rationale to support a charity organisation in its name. Groups of up to four could reserve their place by paying a very reasonable amount for a surprise dinner, and all with the privilege of having our dietary preferences catered for. The feeling that the money I pay is directly supporting a charity itself was the big incentive for me to go ahead and book this event. You can guess, then, that I wanted to share this enjoyment with three of the dearest people in my life.

Guess Who 2The game of guessing started right from the hour of reservation. The four of us had our minds wandering in four different directions. What if a celebrity is joining the event? Oh no…we are not aware of any famous names in Dutch television or film industry. Let’s Google them! Who is the mayor of Breda and surrounding places? Who is the best Dutch culinary chef? Is someone coming from a paparazzi or art background? Our minds only became still when we finally arrived on D-Day at hostess Angela’s beautiful home in Bavel.

It was an evening where ten people came together to get to know each other, share laughter and fun. We learnt a lot about how the charity works and how the money raised through these dinners help make the lives of others stronger. There was a four course menu, with four rich complementary wines, involving eight hours of preparation and five hours of celebrations that ended at midnight. Our menu and dietary preferences were smoothly taken care of with a personal touch.

Guess Who 3Being from India I went with my partner who also from India. We were joined by two best buddies, one from Nepal and her spouse, a pure Dutchman. We enjoy Bollywood (Indian film industry with dances and dramas) music a lot.To our surprise, Angela’s spouse was very familiar with Bollywood music and needless to say it was a BINGO moment☺. After the last course of dinner the room slowly transformed from dining hall into dance floor where Angela showed us traditional dance from Scottish culture. Another group who had been enjoying a similar event at a neighbour’s house joined us for drinks and then began the Bollywood music with booty shakes banging the floor with super fun and joy.

You may be wondering who had stolen the show. Who was the icon of the guessing game after all? It was Mr. Mathijs Eggli – the Chef from Vis restaurant Ginneken. Mathijs Guess Who 1dedicated his whole day to preparing a delicious menu with carefully picked fish, vegetables, fruits, wines including all the small details. Angela was the sous-chef, pouring all her energy to mobilise the cooking and make our moments memorable. I hope this event raised a fair amount for the charity after the initial outlay for the dinner itself. Special thanks to Kriss who moderated the event.

All my best feelings and warm greetings to each one (including the people behind the scenes) who were involved in this event to make it wonderful. Wishing your selfless efforts to flourish in this world and help mankind.

What’s the Book Club Reading This Year?

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through but how many can get through to you”.

So said Mortimer J. Adler (philosopher, educator and author). Of course, everyone’s definition of a good book is different. In the Book Club we try to keep our selections eclectic and exciting (we may not always succeed, but we do try!).

The_Silkworm_July_2014200px-CuckoosCallingCoverThe reading year begins in September with a comparison of two books (most of us can manage two during the summer months…). This year we will compare two novels written by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) and The Silkworm (2014) describe the life of Private Detective Cormoran Strike – an amputee war veteran, who, in the best tradition of loveable gumshoes is a little down-at-heel, at times desperate, but ultimately successful in solving cases. 

the-hound-of-the-baskervillesLater in the year, we will be reading about an altogether different sort of detective in the classic novel The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “A wonderful Sherlock Holmes story from its sparkling first pages, through its vivid painting of darkest Dartmoor, its undertones of fear of the mind’s depths, and on to the triumph of the rational” (The Times)

But the Book Club is not all about detectives and crime solving! We also aim to read one title translated from Dutch into English, one piece of non-fiction, and one biography/autobiography as well as the usual fiction. Titles that are included on the list for later in the year include:

9780099593584The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2014

Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

1861890931 Intercities by Stefan Hertmans (translated from Dutch)

In this title, the author thinks about what constitutes identity in present-day Europe. Looking at people and cities from the periphery, he tries to discover an archaeology of streets and faces which could bring him closer to himself. Set in peripheral cities such as Trieste, Marseilles, Dresden and Bratislava, and in major ones like Vienna and Amsterdam, this work is about the feeling of being abroad, of losing part of one’s self in order to gain a richer life. Mingling travel stories with philosophical reflections, Hertmans’s poetic text proves the 16th-century observation that every journey is a voyage around your own chamber. His book is a personal statement about living in Europe today which looks beyond the surface to the heart of contemporary urban existence.

The Book Club meets on the second Tuesday of each month, 10:00-12:00 at member’s homes. We are always looking for fresh blood, so if you are interested, please contact us.