I was in Europe for about ten days at the end of September. I used to blog about trips in near real-time, but what little real-time reportage I do from the road now tends to happen on Facebook; so this is a chance to catch up on the trip as a whole.
I spent three days at the Happinez Festival in Utrecht, then the following week was all over, giving talks in Geneva, Copenhagen, and Luxembourg; then it was back to Amsterdam, and home. If there’s a way to solve the traveling salesman problem to get the least optimal result, I think I found it.
The Happinez Festival is a biennial festival put on by Happinez magazine. It’s held in a nineteenth-century fort that’s been converted into a concert and event venue, which was fascinating. The walk to the venue is very pleasant, and takes you through some classic Dutch countryside.
For three days, the place gets transformed.
The fact that it’s a fort made for some interesting moments.
The green room for speakers, for example, is located in what used to be a gunpowder magazine.
I spoke on all three days, to crowds that were satisfyingly large, and more important, pretty engaged and interested.
We also did book signings after each talk.
I’d love one day to understand the dynamics behind book signings– in particular how you can have large numbers of people one day, then nobody the next!
I also got to see a bit of the city, as I wandered down to the cathedral and university.
Utrecht is an amazingly pretty place, and while it doesn’t have the amazing concentration of cultural monuments that Amsterdam has, it’s still a great place to walk around. (Few cities are as dense with world-class museums and architecture as Amsterdam, anyway.)
Maybe I’m just getting older, but I appreciate well-kept, prosperous, stable cultures more and more– which means I really enjoy my time in places like the Netherlands and Nordic countries.
However, some things continue to mystify me. The wide variety of things available at the hotel breakfast to put on food that turn out not to be butter but instead unknown varieties of spreadable cheese, for example:
But other than that the hotel the speakers were staying in (the Hotel Mitland) was great.
My room had a terrific view for working.
It was an interesting experience to give the same talk three times, on three consecutive days. It did mean that I was able to refine my remarks to an unusual degree, and sharpen both the points I was making and the delivery. Usually, if you’re diligent you take notes on what you’ve said, how it went over, etc., but there’s a 50-50 chance that you’ll forget or lose those notes; this time, having 24 hours between talks meant I was able to incorporate the feedback a lot more quickly.