On the train back to Rotterdam, I leafed through a book I had been handed at the Mayor of Amsterdam’s reception celebrating the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, called 1609, The forgotten history of Hudson, Amsterdam and New York by Geert Mak and Russell Shorto. Why this book in particular, I wondered? I flipped the book from the front to the back side only to discover that one side of the book is in Dutch and the other side is in English. I started reading it and entered the 17th century world of Amsterdam, with explorer Henry Hudson preparing for his trip to Asia. Once at sea, faced with near-mutiny, instead of heading towards the pole, he decided to change course and have his ship, the Halve Maen, sail across the Atlantic Ocean. “They encountered natives in several places, and traded with some and fought with others. They continued past Manhattan Island and on up, all the way north to present-day Albany, before realizing that the bed was narrowing and the water no longer salty. This was not the route to Asia. Hudson gave the order to turn about. They sailed back to Europe.” Years ago, during my vacation I used to stay with friends at their 18th century colonial riverside farm in Walden (New York), not far from the Hudson River. Hudson, obviously determined to find Asia, sailed right past Walden all the way to Albany (New York). It’s now easy to scroll up and down the Hudson River using Google; in those days Hudson in deciding which route to follow, relied partly upon information from his friend Captain John Smith. A couple of years before Hudson set sail, Smith had helped establish an English settlement called Jamestown in Virginia. Henry had concluded from Smiths’ letters that the channel which cut through the land mass somewhere to the north of the Jamestown colony was a path between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.Unfortunately for Hudson, it wasn’t; and he never did find a short route to Asia but discovered New York instead! About twelve years later, the Dutch West India Company set up a colony called New Netherland in this area, with its capital New Amsterdam located at the southern tip of Manhattan. When I received an invitation to a “launch invite” in New York City some days later, things fell into place. This book was actually an introduction to coming events in 2009. The Netherlands Government, NYC & Company and the City of Amsterdam, recently launched a yearlong celebration of four centuries of Dutch-American friendship in New York City. If you are just as interested as Stars & Tulips is in the deep-rooted connection between the Netherlands...
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