Holland, land of water

Yesterday was the annual fireworks festival in Scheveningen that I visited last year as well. The wind was a spoiler, blowing fine sand into… well, everywhere, basically, which made it difficult to watch the illuminated sky.

We were in Scheveningen hours before the show started, so we had time to walk around the boulevard. There is an awesome exhibition with fairytale statues outside, both of commonly known tales such as Hansel and Gretel, but also of some Dutch legends and stories.

Most stories are connected to the sea. Fish, traveling overseas, the dangers of water… Especially the story of Hans Brinker deals with these dangers. Netherlands as a whole is some 2 meters below sea level. We live in a land of water, and swimming is one of the skills people find vital for Dutch children, surrounded by water everywhere. We are protected by dikes near the sea, both artificial and natural. In the fifties, Holland was shocked as the water overwhelmed part of the land. The flood was caused by a storm surge combined with springtide and took the lives of over 1800 people and left many more homeless. The dikes had broken…

The story of Hans Brinker is originally an American story, though it is situated in Holland. An 8 year old boy was bringing pancakes to an old man. On the way back, he notices the water behind the dikes is higher than he has ever seen. As he often sees his father working, he mimics him and checks the dike. There is a hole in the dike, and water is seeping through! Hans puts his finger in the dike to stop the water, and stays there all night. He shouts for help, but nobody hears him. In the morning, when he is found, it becomes clear that he has saved his village.

Holland is a land of water. We live of the water, and have learned to live with the dangers of it. Some things never change.

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