Sunday, 22 November 2015

Seeing one of my heroes.

After a couple of false starts (last minute hospital appointment and then an injured arm which stopped me driving) we finally made it to The Netherlands last Saturday, just in time to see one of my heroes.

Ready ------ Boom -------Smoke

Saint Nicholas visits The Netherlands for about two weeks every year. He comes on his steam boat all the way from Spain and he was due to arrive about the same time as us. His official port of entry this year was Meppel, a town in Drenthe, not exactly on the coast, so how his steam boat got there is a mystery that we won’t be exploring in this blog, because I didn’t go there. More importantly, Saint Nicholas was arriving in Den Bosch (where Cees’ daughter has her house ship) the Sunday after we arrived and I was definitely planning to see him there.

Dancing Petes - he is there somewhere

It was rather rainy as I ventured off the ship to wait at the impressive Citadel on the edge of the old city. It appeared that to be present at the “intocht”, grown-ups really need to be accompanied by a child, so I took Cees’ daughter with me (we’ll skip over the fact that she is over 40 and taller than me) and she took me – which is more logical as I am not much taller than a small Dutch child – all that cheese, you know.

The band plays and the Petes greet
We stood in the rain and waited for the 5 gun salute to announce his imminent approach. I nearly jumped out of my skin with the first one, I thought it would be a gentle plop not to scare the kids, but no, it was a full throttled kaboom. Due to unpreparedness and camera shake, the photo shows the second firing when I was a little more ready!

Then the “pakjesboot” (parcel boat) arrived with thousands of his colourfully clothed helpers - all called Pete so you don’t get confused.  The main man was sheltering at the back of the boat. I can’t blame him for not wanting to dance on the roof like his Petes, but still he was a little too incognito for most of the kids near me in the crowd.

Special wave for me - yes he did make my day!
After the band played a few rousing Saint Nicholas songs, he left the boat and mounted his white stallion (the one he uses to ride over the roofs and drop presents down chimney with) and surrounded by multiple bands and hundreds of Petes, he set off on a grand tour of the old city where the Mayor would greet him at the town hall about two hours later.

As you can see, he saw me in the crowd and gave me a special wave; I even got a chocolate letter in my shoe that night. What a hero.

For information on holiday accommodation about a day's drive from where you can see the next intocht, click here.

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