There are very few Americans who are not familiar with the story of the brave little Dutch boy (aka Hans Brinker) who stuck his finger in the dike to save Holland, yet the story is not terribly popular in The Netherlands. And when I mentioned that it was something I would like to see, both Roderick and his father seemed quite astonished. "What is this fascination Americans have with Hans Brinker?" Wauter asked. But no sooner than I made my request, we were making the trek to Spaarndam, where the statue and the giant sluices (the enormous wooden gates used to keep out the water) are located. It would be much later that I learned why Americans are so quick to associate the mythic story with the country whose land is mostly below sea level. It turns out that the story is not actually of Dutch origin, but from a book written by Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, an American author, in the late nineteenth century and, with typical Dutch humour, they provided a statue in which we American tourists can stick our fingers.
But it is with Willem van Oranje (William of Orange) or Willem de Zwijger (William the Silent), leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish and founder of the house of Oranje-Nassau, that the real Dutch mythology lies and it wasn't long before we headed south to Delft (the city which produces the famous pottery painted in the colour named after their city- Delft blue) to see his tomb.
We grabbed a quick snack (I had croquettes with spicy mustard, a traditional Dutch treat) next to the town hall (pictured above) in the center of the city, then walked across the plaza to New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) where the tomb is located. The outside of the church is a massive stone structure, left over from the days when it was a Catholic Basillica, with a tower that seems to pierce the sky. Once inside, however, the decorum becomes quite austere, characteristic of Dutch Reform Churches, and the lavish mausoleum stands in stark contrast to the rest of the interior. It was quite beautiful, with white marble and lots of gold trim, yet seemed oddly out of place in a church where iconoclasm was such a great concern. As a student of religious history it was very interesting to see the inside of a Dutch-Reform Church (particulary the one which houses the world's largest pipe organ, clearly separating them from their Calvinist roots) and as a student of Dutch history, it was an absolute must see.
We drove back to Aerdenhout (the city in which the ten Woldes reside) and relaxed for a bit before Roderick and I headed to his uncle's beach restaurant in Zandvoort for dinner. I had gambas (colossal shrimp) that were swimming as recently as that morning and watched the kite surfers as the sun slowly set on the North Sea. It was a fantastic day!