Last weekend I was one of the Guests of Honour at Beneluxcon 2008, a small, friendly SF convention. Beneluxcons are jointly run by the Belgian club, SFAN, and the Dutch NCSF(Nederlands Contactcentrum voor Sf); this year, it was the turn of the Dutch to host it, in Eindhoven. It was chaired with commendable calm and efficiency by Heidi van der Vloet; everyone seemed to know everyone else; the atmosphere was intensely relaxed. I shared GoH duties with Dutch writer Edith Eri Louw, and my schedule was fairly light: a couple of panels and a Guest of Honour speech (apologies once again to my audience for getting too excited by images of the moons of Saturn and speaking too quickly). I also discovered the delights of cinnamon-flavoured chocolate - a Dutch Christmas thing - and learned about Sinterklaas
and his deeply disturbing helpers, in more ways than one, Zwarte Pieten, high cultural weirdness that hasn't yet been steamrollered by global capitalism.
Eindhoven is a metropolitan sprawl of former villages and a small town where throughways and parkways and ring roads tangle amongst a patchwork of obsessively neat Dutch suburbia and clumps and clusters of big office buildings and towers and high-tech plants - it’s the home of electronics manufacturer Philips. Some older buildings have survived modern redevelopment and bombing during the Second World War, such as this barn:
And just around the corner from the hotel was the Van Abbesmuseum, with an extension by Abel Cahen abutting the River Dommel:
I liked this old-fashioned garage too - signs like these would be collectors’ items in the UK: