Most of us recall the story of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. We also know or read The Diary of Anne Frank, the tragic story of a family hiding form the Nazis in World War 2. I once knew a guy named Hans, but the women called him “Hands” for obvious reasons.
Hans Brinker was actually written by an American, Mary Mapes Dodge, and published in 1865. The novel takes place in the Netherlands, Holland back then. It is a fictional portrait 19th century Dutch life, and a tale of youthful honor. The title refers to the beautiful silver skates, awarded to the winner of the race that Hans hopes to enter. The novel also served to introduce the sport of Dutch speed skating to Americans. He is still considered the prototypical speed skater, along with Olympic hero, Eric Heiden.
The book also popularized the story of the little Dutch boy who plugs a dike with his finger. But remarkably, Mary Dodge never visited the Netherlands until after her book was published. She wrote the novel at the age of 34.
I have also been looking for Sinterklaas, as well as the little Dutch boy. I can tell you, for sure, they are not hanging out in any of the bars where I went
I also took a walk down a nearby street to find the little hostel where I stayed 45 years ago. Perhaps the name has changed to prevent me from returning. You may recall that we got rather rowdy after spending most of the evening at The Milky Way, a nightclub disguised as a casbah, or is it the other way around? Maybe I will drop by tonight.
Tomorrow, I have a bicycle tour through the Dutch countryside. They say I will find more cheese than wooden shoes.
BTW, my room is almost as small as my room in London when I went to Wimbledon several years ago.
For those of you who have never been to Europe, this is the city I would visit. It has everything. Centrally located, good food, the friendliest people on the European continent, and a sing songy type of vernacular, whether speaking Dutch or English. Oh, and great museums, all in the same area. There is a Warhol exhibit here this fall. And American jazz great, Dave Koz played last night at the North Sea Jazz Club.