One of Dr. Gorter’s many Initiatives: a Bio-Dynamic vegetarian restaurant BALDUR in the center of Amsterdam with courses and practical cooking classes for patients and their loved ones; A Day Care Center and several doctor’s offices
Weteringschans 72-74-76 in 1017 XR Amsterdam Center:
Baldur and various offices (l) and the Ita Wegman Huis Day Care Center (m) and Doctor’s offices (r)
Dr. Gorter had always been interested in how nutrition (but also pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers) would influence health and disease. But at colleges and universities, it was a non-issue and not taught in any way at the time. For ethical reasons, Dr. Gorter has been a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian since he was four years old, and he never drank alcohol or used drugs (except coffee). Almost since the day Dr. Gorter started his own Day Care Health Center, he was consulted by many cancer patients; Cancer patients also came from far away and from other countries. Dr. Gorter almost always discussed the lifestyle and nutrition of patients. Then the same problems often emerged:
1) Healthy food tastes terrible
2) Healthy cooking takes much longer
3) Organic and biodynamic products are much more expensive
4) I can’t cook like that.
So; the idea with Dr. Gorter came to set up a health food restaurant next door
1) People can just start eating and discover that healthy food can taste delicious.
2) Where lectures on all aspects of nutrition, environment and anthroposophy could be given
3) Give cooking lessons to anyone who is interested (but especially patients and their loved ones). For this purpose, seven kitchens were built in the backyard and lectures and cooking classes were offered here in the evenings and on selected weekends; there was once a waiting list to start cooking classes more than two years (!).
4) The kitchen itself was so big that Waldorf School students from Amsterdam and Haarlem and other cities not far away came en masse and were given similar cooking lessons and after a communal lunch all leftovers were taken home in “Doggy bags.”
Also, a regular restaurant was founded. Dr. Gorter chose the name Baldur from Germanic Mythology; this God represents Renaissance; Enlightenment, and Resurrection in a sense. Baldur’s team cultivated its own herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender, thymine, garlic, etc. for the kitchen according to biodynamic principles. Eighteen people worked full-time at Baldur and all this according to the principles of the threefold social order, where, for example, income was determined only by the needs of each employee.
The photo above shows Robert Gorter, chairing a meeting with most of the BALDUR team members on a sunny early spring day in the backyard of BALDUR, the practice, and the Ita Wegman House. Robert Gorter can be seen from his back on the far right in this photo.
The front door of the Ita Wegman Huis for all anthroposophical therapies: Weteringschans 74 in Amsterdam
Three-Fold Social Order
In the social upsurge of post-war Europe in 1919, Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D. (1861 – 1925) presented his ideas about reforming the basis of society in three fundamental, autonomous areas: economic, political/rights, and cultural. He worked for a short time to put his ideas into practice, but it soon became impossible to establish a “threefold social order” and he withdrew from outward work in this field. Since then, his ideas have been worked on over the decades and have proven to be as valid today as they were then.
These concepts have their origins in the ideals of the French Revolution.
Since the French Revolution, these three principles also served as models for the Founding Fathers who wrote the American Constitution and the Bill of Human Rights. Even the text of the Bill of Human Rights clearly shows these three principles (the basis for the United Nations which was founded in 1945 in San Francisco, California, and not in New York City where its headquarters are currently located).
Brotherhood is the area where the production and sharing of goods takes place. One’s labor is considered a gift to all and therefore one cannot be paid by the hour, but all economic needs of all must be met by all colleagues together.
Following all the principles of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture, BALDUR employees grew all herbs on their own organic farm. Baldur’s team grew its own herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender or garlic, for the kitchen according to biodynamic principles and here, with Tineke van Oranje (she was also Robert Gorter’s secretary at the Jellinek Kliniek, a state clinic for heroin addicts and alcoholics, which Robert Gorter co-founded in 1971) and Annet Stomph on their knees, carefully selecting the herbs for that evening meal (around 1978).
It was the sincere wish of Dr. Robert Gorter to implement these principles of the threefold social order in the way the Baldur restaurant in Amsterdam could function. One of the consequences was that everyone who worked in the restaurant was paid not by the hour and by training, but according to the needs of each. So, twice or three times a year, the team would meet to determine how to fairly distribute the money coming in to team members based on their economic (financial) needs.
Each team member would be mandated for a certain period of time to take on a certain responsibility, such as accounting or purchasing the biodynamic (organic) products and planning the menu for the coming week.
Often and after his clinic ended, Robert Gorter helped as a waiter, washing dishes or mopping the floors and cleaning the hallways and toilets after 11 p.m. Here Dr. Gorter (l) with Ilse Bartels, taking orders just before a live coffee concert was about to start (ca. 1978)
It must be said here that it worked very well for a number of years. When Robert Gorter immigrated to the USA, he placed all properties and efforts in the “Odin Foundation” (NL: Stichting Odin). He left management and decision-making to whoever had been their job for at least three years. Sharing income according to the needs of your peers is harder than you might think. Unfortunately, a few years after Robert Gorter’s departure from Amsterdam to San Francisco, California, to begin an academic career, the principles of Three Fold Social Order were dropped. And Dr. Gorter left for the USA with 3.000$ in his pocket to start the next phase of his life.
Millieu Defensie (later Green Peace) had its headquarters right around the corner from the Weteringsplantsoen and employees and sometimes the board itself often came to Baldur for lunch (and received their desserts for free out of admiration for their work). Biodynamic agriculture and horticulture was born around 1915 through lectures given by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) about commercial agriculture with all its monocultures and artificial fertilizers. B-D agriculture lives entirely according to the principles of “love for the environment and people”
The threefold social order was also known as the threefold Commonwealth or Towards Social Renewal. The German title reads: “Die Kernpunkte der Sozialen Frage in den Lebensnotwendigkeiten der Gegenwart und Zukunft.”
Another colleague mainly worked as one of the cooks. Here he is busy baking cakes and cookies in the kitchen, which was so large that it covered the entire restaurant as a “sous-area” with access to the garden (ca. 1978)
One of the many corners of BALDUR restaurant, founded in 1975
Although there was no formal uniform for the colleagues, we agreed to wear a white T-shirt with the Baldur logo whenever possible.
Every employee of the (Bio-Dynamic) vegetarian restaurant Baldur at Weteringschans 76 in 1017 XR Amsterdam (next to the Ita Wegman House) would wear a white T-shirt with this logo. For a while, these T-shirts were very popular and were purchased daily by ‘happy tommy’ customers.
The logo shows a gnome in the garden collecting all the ingredients for vegetarian cooking.
Yet another colleague, but she was a bit “small” and therefore, she had to stand on a crate to comfortably reach the countertop for her chopping, slicing, and grating …
The three monumental buildings at Weteringschans 72-76 that Dr. Gorter bought for enormous mortgages, were next to each other and the gardens were designed by Dr. Gorter united so that there was a small park and he even had chickens there, which often slept in the trees….
Robert Gorter (ca. 1970) was a mini pop star and B-movie star (for gangster films when Bonnie & Clyde were popular) but he couldn’t leave classical music behind. And of course, he was determined to become a medical doctor. He played at benefit concerts such as the summer rock concerts in the Amsterdam Vondelpark, Amsterdamse Bos, and Kralingen in Rotterdam.
Coffee Concerts (Bi-Weekly)
Another activity of Dr. Gorter was organizing live classical coffee concerts on Sunday mornings in Baldur. Usually, students from the conservatory were invited to play classical chamber music. Nelly van der Spek once also sang; a world-famous soprano, who had often sung in oratorios (“bel canto”) and in operas (Puccini and Mozart) in New York, San Francisco, and Milan. Nelly van der Spek became a patient of Dr. Gorter and his team and he himself was able to restore her voice, which she had lost for several years. She was, of course, extremely grateful, and as a ‘thank you’ she offered to come and sing in Baldur a few times.
Nelly van der Spek (archive photo)
These coffee concerts became so popular that people often stood in a long line at the side aisle an hour before the opening of the restaurant and two hours before the start of the concert.
The coffee concerts were ‘free of charge’ and free coffee was served together with Baldur’s most popular dessert (“Dessert”): the ‘Banana Dream Pie.’
Offering free concerts and exhibitions is also part of the basic principles of the Three-Fold Social Order (Soziale Dreigliederung). Support is provided from the domains of economics, culture, and education. These free concerts with Banana Dream Pie” (in Dutch “banana droom taart”) were also very good advertising and people came for lunch or dinner after a coffee concert…..
A few weeks before the opening of Baldur, secretly in the middle of the night, Robert Gorter and a friend placed many posters in the city center of Amsterdam with the text: “It’s going to happen in three weeks!” and then a week later “it will happen in two weeks” and then “next week it will happen!.” Many people started wondering what that could be…? Even a local newspaper paid attention to these mysterious reports until posters appeared everywhere where it had happened: Baldur had been opened…. It was a very effective form of marketing and advertising.
Robert Gorter plays the violin and viola on special instruments built on instructions by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Sometimes he played classical music alone as a street musician with (seen in the back) Dr. Arie Bos, to whom Dr. Gorter donated his practice when he emigrated to the USA.
At number 72, Dr. Gorter set up his own clinical practice in 1973 and lived on the top floors. At number 74 he founded the Day Care Health Center for anthroposophical therapies (The Ita Wegman House), such as physiotherapy (with wooden bathtubs to offer warm-water baths to cancer patients to increase body temperature); curative eurythmy, art therapies, music therapy, biographical work, etc. Baldur was located at number 76.
From left to right: Ria Bos, Robert Gorter, Herma, and Elly Bos (Ria and Elly were sisters) as a team seven days a week at the reception of his own practice.
Since Dr. Gorter had to obtain three large mortgages to finance the purchase of the buildings AND all the renovations he did, he worked very hard from 7:00 a.m. till 11:00 p.m. for nine years and most weekends too. No one can remember Dr. Gorter ever having a holiday. Some recall that he was twice on missions for a few days for Amnesty International (AI) to Greece after the fall of the military junta and to Argentina for similar reasons.
In the backyards of buildings 72-76, Robert Gorter set up a chicken coop with about 25-30 chickens, which laid organic eggs for BALDUR (and a few for his own use) all year round. Because the chickens had not had their wings clipped, they usually slept high in the surrounding trees at night.
Robert Gorter and three of his receptionists and doctor’s assistants (Ria Bos and her sister Elly van de Noort, and Herma, the elderly lady) at that time, in Rob’s house, the best bakery in Amsterdam in the Kalverstraat next to the 15th-century orphanage (which is now a museum). Obviously, it was just before Eastern (1980) and the team was trading as Eastern Eggs and trying to blend in with a real Easter egg, which had been given as a thank-you gift by Rob the baker, as the team had done a lot for his late wife quite suddenly died of an aneurysm in her brain.
Some Baldur team members. This photo is by Dr. Gorter taken on the stairs leading to the entrance of Baldur one morning (in 1976?). One can see some of the team of 18 members in total who were present in Baldur at the time.
To date (September 2023), these buildings have been a lively center for study groups and lectures in Amsterdam and surrounding areas; for anthroposophical medicine (including psychotherapy and psychiatry) and therapies such as physiotherapy and rhythmic massage, heileurythmie and artistic therapies; for tasty and responsible food and for socializing.
The current value of these three monumental buildings is estimated to be 12 million Euros