We frequently watch BBC’s program called Coast, which explores Great Britain’s coastlines, along with those of other nearby countries. One episode focused on the Netherlands, but I missed that episode when it first aired and only recently tracked it down. Watching it this afternoon, I realized that although my Dutch is still limited, my cultural integration has definitely expanded.
The program featured a short piece on fierljeppen, which I’ve written about before. I recognized it immediately, and soon realized that I even recognized one of the athletes! Sure enough, I looked through my photos from the event we went to last year and found the guy in the video, Jaco van Groot. How’s that for integration! Not only did I immediately know what sport they were doing, but I even recognized the athlete.
In another segment of the show, there was a Dutchman used as a local guide during a visit to Scheveningen. (They mispronounced it in the voiceover, something which could have gotten you shot during WWII when the name was used by the resistance as a test to prove that the person actually was Dutch and not a Nazi infiltrator.) While at the beachside town, they enjoyed some raw herring. As I watched and listened to the local, I soon realized that I did, in fact, recognize him, as well! His name is Philip Walkate, and I recognized him from his humourous bits about the Dutch inburgeringscurse (integration course).
And, of course, there was the bit about Dutch cuisine. As they commentators discussed the popularity of Indian cuisine in Britain, I knew immediately that they were going to be talking about the popularity of Indonesian cuisine here in the Netherlands. I knew that meant one of two things, saté or the broader rijsttafel. They went with the rijsttafel, a meal that goes well with my love of a selection of lots of smaller dishes.
I was ridiculously thrilled to recognize the athlete and comedian and to realize that I was very familiar with much of the information they provided, although the story about Texel island up north during WWII was something new and fascinating. My cultural integration is moving right along.
A few years ago, while watching The Amazing Race (at 4:09), I saw fierljeppen for the first time, although I didn’t know that name at the time, nor did I understand how big a sport it is here. Fierljeppen is an ancient Dutch sport in which competitors using a long pole jump from one side of a canal to the other. The origin stems from farmers doing this to get from one field to another.
Historically, the practice dates back to at least the 1200s, when the first written mention appears. The first major organized competition was in the 1700s. It’s particularly popular up in Friesland, which is where the term fierljeppen comes from; in other parts of the country, the sport is known as polsstokverspringen. Before you start imagining current competitors dressing in traditional costumes and everything being quiet and quaint, think again.
Nowadays, there are competitions sponsored by Red Bull, with massive crowds (I didn’t get any photos that truly give you the scope of how many people were there, but according to the Red Bull website, there were 13,000 spectators and G and I were two of those. We got there about an hour after it started and stayed to see the top eight jumpers go twice, including the setting of a new world record.
The basic idea behind the sport is to take a running jump, leaping and then climbing up a really tall pole (14 meters long in this case), before eventually (hopefully) landing on the other side of the canal. We saw a few competitors who managed to climb all the way to the top of the pole, some with better luck than others once they got up there. You’ve got to control the forward and lateral movement of the pole while you’re up there and it’s definitely much harder than it looks from all accounts.
Before they jump, they get to arrange the pole, first adjusting it to arm’s length out and then with an added distance achieve with some sort of measuring stick. To be honest, I don’t know the details on this, other than having watched all the competitors do it.
There are also divers in the water to help position the pole after each jump and to provide help to any jumpers who don’t actually land on the ground. We saw a few splashes yesterday, but fortunately, no one was hurt.
The whole event was filmed and televised, with interviewers on hand after jumps to talk to the competitors. There were also big screens on hand to show the crowd some of the different angles. I got some more photos and videos, but ultimately chose just to watch and enjoy. If the Red Bull website’s video of the event ever starts working, I’ll add a link to it. It was a beautiful day and the event was a lot of fun. I definitely recommend going to a competition if you ever get the chance. I’ll leave the jumping to the professionals, though.
And the Red Bull video is finally up and working.
Here’s a quick preview of what I’ll post more about tomorrow. This is what we went to see today.