Holland on the Hudson
If you want to explore your Dutch heritage next month, book a flight to New York City.
In 1609, explorer Henry Hudson left Amsterdam and, aboard the Dutch East India Company ship Halve Maen (Half Moon), sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to land on a large island now known as Manhattan.
That was 400 years ago. Today, New York City and the Netherlands will celebrate Hudson’s landing and our joint heritage with a citywide party called the NY400 festival. For one week, from Sept. 8 to 13, New Yorkers will have the chance to discover everything from wooden shoes to windmills. No need to come home to honor my Dutch roots, next week everyone in NYC will be going Dutch.
There is nothing more Dutch than the Masters themselves, and one of them, Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), is making an appearance. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is lending one of Vermeer’s most famous pieces, “The Milkmaid,” to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Dutch art doesn’t have to stay on the easel. There are events celebrating Dutch design (Dutch design week in SoHo), photography (New York photographers display photos of Amsterdam at the Museum of the City of New York), video (installations at the MoMA), furniture (a period room is being set up at the Met) and even felt (at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum).
One of the most exciting events of the week will be the New Island Festival taking place on Governors Island, which is off the tip of Lower Manhattan. The event is based on the famous Dutch traveling festival, De Parade. For two weekends Governors Island will evoke a carnival-like atmosphere full of street theater, music and a “Captain’s Dinner,” served on one giant, 400-foot long wooden table.
Back on Manhattan Island, Holland, Mich., may have a bit of competition. You can jump on an orange Dutch bike (they will be available to rent) and ride downtown to Bowling Green Park where there will be an authentic Dutch village set up, or wander nearby to The Battery, the waterfront at the southern tip of Manhattan. There you’ll be able to admire a new public space, described as an “outdoor living room,” designed by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel. There will also be Flying Dutchman sailing races, an Old Amsterdam walking tour and a two-day workshop on “finding your Dutch roots.”
Through your mouth, however, is the best way to learn about another culture. During “Nieuw Amsterdam” restaurant week, $24 will buy you some tasty Dutch dishes (herring anyone?) at restaurants throughout the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn (or, rather, Breukelen).
But if you really want to get a taste of the Dutch life, NY400 has set up a Job Swap experiment (www.jobswap.org/). From firefighters to farmers, citizens of New York and Amsterdam will swap lives for a week to know what it’s like to live in each other’s (wooden?) shoes.
There is a serious side to celebrating our shared heritage with the Dutch. Dozens of Dutch experts will give talks and lectures, offering advice on flood protection (half their country is below sea level), finance (there is a designated Dutch Financial Day and the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade will speak at the New York Stock Exchange), clean energy, and hydrogen-propelled boats.
There will even be a bit of celebrity thrown in the mix: Princess Máxima of the Netherlands and her husband the Prince of Orange will be in attendance.
If there is any doubt that New Yorkers don’t embrace their Dutch heritage, you can fugetaboutit — last week Amsterdam just sent New York City proof of its ancestry — a birth certificate.
By ANNA VANDER BROEK