It is a Well Known Fact that Dutch People—on average one of the tallest populations in the world—used to be much taller. In the 18th century it was not uncommon to encounter a Hollandaise man 3.2m (10’6”) in height. You can still find some of the old doorways designed to accommodate these Unfortunate Dutch Giants. Here I went on De Grote Deuropening Stadswandeling ”The Large Doorway Walking Tour” and discovered some of the gems of the genre.
From the quintessential 1920 Dutch instructional book “Hoe je een dame neuken” or “How to Flirt with a Lady” found in any self-respecting Dutch home, sandwiched between the Bible and Multatuli’sMax Havelaar.
Clear radio signal is valued above all else in the Netherlands. The Dutch have discovered that a cross pattern/four-point yagi antenna is most successful for catching radio waves across flatland and so you will see many of these antennae dotting the Dutch countryside. Over the years, radio stations have gotten into informal competitions with one another, trying to see who can construct the most ornate antenna tower. You may hear other theories about the origins of these structures floating around (windmills, clothes lines, gallows frames) but these theories are generally untrue, the inevitable result of excess grain supplies and people having too much time on their hands.
In this week’s episode of strange Dutch sports that no one else plays or has even dreamed about, comes Fierljeppen (literally “far-leaping”), the ancient art of vaulting over a canal using a very long pole that you then try to climb to the top of before it topples over and kills you. Like most strange things in the Netherlands, Fierljeppen comes from Frisland, a fiercely independent region in the north. The Frisians also host the Elfstedentocht, a 200km skating race, are famous for wadlopen or tromping around in mud, and even speak their own language, which sounds a bit like Old English spoken in a wind tunnel.
This video depicts Bart Helmholdt, a proud Frislander, breaking the Fierljeppen world record at 21.51 meters. If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, you still have plenty of time to train. The championships aren’t until August 4. All you need is a canal, a really fricking tall pole, and a little of that famous Frisland crazy.
They’re famous for designing elaborate systems to keep it out, but they’re also master engineers in extracting it for drinking water. This water tower, built in 1874 and still in use today, pumps up water that has been naturally filtered by the Scheveningen dunes.
My bedroom in Holland. This is very typically Dutch—a small country with an efficient sense of space. Sometimes as many as eight beds are stacked on top of one another. I’ve taken to sleeping in a different bed each night, depending on the kind of dreams I would like to have. (The higher you are, the more dramatic the dream.)