Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hans Brinker

When I am abroad I often get questions how sea kayaking is in the Netherlands. And what the difference is between the Netherlands and Holland.

People in the US are always keen to tell me that they heard of the famous kid (Hans Brinker) that stopped flooding in the Netherlands by putting his finger in a hole in the dike. In turn, I have to confess that I have never learned about this amazing feat in my early school days. It is only because of my travels that I learned about it. Getting this story fed back to me on my last visit to Anglesey by a Brit (or to be more PC, a Cornish guy) had me looking it up on the Internet...
"Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates" is a book written by Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865. The writer implied that her story is based on fact, while in reality she wrote a book on the Netherlands, a country that she never ever visited. That explains a lot!

If this is the case, then how about all that other Dutch folklore like windmills, wooden shoes, tulips and dikes? They are all 'true' and the Dutch tourist board is keen to reinforce the images that are already embedded in the minds of prospective visitors.

So how about paddling in the Netherlands? We have lots of water; sea, lakes and inland canals. What better independent and fresh view then from a sea kayaker that has just recently moved to the Netherlands and is logging her trips. Rhian has started her blog with the first trip in her new sea kayak.

Holland is technically the two western coastal provinces of the Netherlands. The historic significance of Holland (with Amsterdam) lies in the our golden age during the 1700's with it's Dutch East India Company (VOC) and it's infamous 'tulip rally'. This tulip 'mania' is considered to be the first recorded speculative bubble. There are many, many similarities to modern-day (pyramid-scheme) events like the internet bubble, banking 'crisis' and housing market 'crisis': Greed feeding an unsustainable 'growth'.

Does my mind wander off too much trying to point to a modern day "Hans Brinker"? Is it our "finance ministers" trying to put the finger in the financial dikes? Sure I would say that they try to plug the hole from the wrong side. And committed like this there is no way to look over the dike to actually see what the real problem is. So forget about Hans Brinker; a metaphor for incompetence.

The picture of Hans Brinker is from the "Madurodam" theme park in the Hague; a miniature version (scale 1:25) of the Netherlands on one square kilometer. Visit the whole of the Netherlands in only a day.