High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Welcome To Holland: All Your Favourite Dutch Cliches In One Small Town
© Ken Westveld
© Ken Westveld © Ken Westveld
The L-Spot

Welcome To Holland: All Your Favourite Dutch Cliches In One Small Town

Clog making? Check. Working windmill? You bet. Gouda tasting? Step right this way. Holland has nailed just about every Dutch cliché you can imagine. That’s Holland, Michigan, in case you were wondering.

There’s even a theme park called Nelis’ Dutch Village where American tourists can save themselves a long transatlantic flight. As one visitor noted in an online review, ‘I learned more here than I did when I visited the Netherlands.’

Not far away, if you are beginning to feel peckish, there’s the Wooden Shoe Restaurant, with painted Dutch scenes on the walls but almost no Dutch specialities on the menu.

You can order French Toast, Belgian Waffles and even a Southern Slam challenge consisting of 12 eggs, American cheese, onion, sausage, hash browns and topped with a layer of sausage gravy. Finish it in less than 45 minutes and you get a free T-shirt.

But if you try to order something typically Dutch like, let’s say, erwtensoep, you are going to be disappointed.

The strict Calvinists who settled here in the 19th-century came from dirt-poor Drenthe, hoping for a better life. And they weren’t the only Dutch settlers in the region. The western area of Michigan state is dotted with familiar Dutch place names like Zutphen, Vriesland, Drenthe, Overisel, Groningen, Zeeland and Harlem.

But Holland is the place to go if you want to immerse yourself in Dutch clichés. The city has a Wooden Shoe Factory, a Tulip Festival in May, and of course a Sinterklaas procession.

The city also marks its Dutch roots with a bronze statue of a group of Dutch immigrants down by the lakeside. It was created by the Dutch sculptor Bert Kievit as a gift from the people of Drenthe.

Yet the most Dutch feature of Holland is the number of churches. There are more than 170 of them representing the different splits in belief since the first settlers arrived in America.

You can join the Reformed Church. And if that doesn’t appeal, there’s the First Reformed Church. Still not interested, then you will find a welcome at the Second Reformed Church. And if that doesn’t work, don’t despair, you can drive on through town to the Third Reformed Church.

Welcome to Holland.


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