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Dutch Invade New York With Tulips, Windmills

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Dutch Invade New York With Tulips, Windmills

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Dutch Invade New York With Tulips, Windmills

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The Dutch have landed in Manhattan again. It was 400 years ago when they first arrived in New York harbor, eventually establishing New Amsterdam. To celebrate the anniversary, the Dutch government has snuck back in and planted a windmill and village on the site of their former colony.

We sent NPR's Robert Smith down to the front lines.

ROBERT SMITH: Let me warn you: the Dutch come armed to the teeth.

Mr. JASPER SWART(ph): Two-thousand pounds of gouda cheese, all Amsterdam gouda cheese.

SMITH: So you've decided to invade America with cheese.

Mr. SWART: Yes.

SMITH: Jasper Swart says the cheese is just to soften us up. Denis VanderLinden(ph) is hauling in the secret weapon.

Mr. DENIS VANDERLINDEN: Okay, we got tulips, we got narcissus, we got crocus. These are our guns.

SMITH: Add one working windmill, tiny canal houses and hundreds of wooden shoes, and a park in Lower Manhattan is once again part of The Netherlands - finally, VanderLinden says.

Mr. VANDERLINDEN: Of course, if you bring it up, especially, you know, with my friends, we say how stupid have we been to give away New York. But, yeah, we still like to refer to it as New Amsterdam.

SMITH: The Dutch had a good 50 years on this spot back in the 1600s. They ended up giving control to the British in exchange for rights to Surinam. But as the cheesemonger, Jasper Swart, points out, New York never stopped being Dutch. There are all the names they left behind. So I would say Brooklyn.

Mr. SWART: Brooklyn.

SMITH: Brooklyn.

Mr. SWART: Brooklyn.

SMITH: I would say Harlem.

Mr. SWART: Harlem.

SMITH: Harlem.

Mr. SWART: Yes, that's right.

SMITH: The main strip, which the Dutch established here, Broadway, you would say:

Mr. SWART: Broadway.

SMITH: I won't try to repeat that one. The Dutch also, by the way, brought respect for diversity, a love of money and an attitude that they are the center of the universe, all traditions that New Yorkers have proudly carried on.

In fact, the New Yorkers that stumbled upon the village this afternoon seemed defenseless to the onslaught of (unintelligible) and these weird sandwiches.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, that's a rollmops. It's actually, it's a pickled herring, and they're rolled up.

SMITH: Rollmops.

Unidentified Man #1: Rollmops, that's it.

SMITH: The Dutch do have timing on their side. It's been a rough year in New York: recession, unemployment, property values plunging. Laurie Clark(ph) from Long Island is ready to sell the whole thing back.

Ms. LAURIE CLARK: They should never have left, and this is a very pretty piece of paradise right here. In the middle of chaos, this beautiful little park with all these beautiful Dutch foods.

SMITH: All of New York could've been like this: tulip fields, windmills, cheese.

Ms. Clark: Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Speaking foreign language)

SMITH: I have no idea what she's saying, but we New Yorkers had better get used to it. The colonization is underway. The Dutch Navy arrives next week, accompanied by the Prince of Orange and the Princess Maxima of The Netherlands. The Dutch Ambassador, Renee Jones-Bos, says it's only temporary, but a diplomat can always dream.

Ambassador RENEE JONES-BOS (The Netherlands): You know, we fought three battles with the British over this, and I have a husband who's British, and we still fight these continual battles. And I say if we had stayed here, and if they hadn't chased us out, all of New York would have been speaking Dutch, and maybe all of America would have been speaking Dutch. Wouldn't that have been a nice thing?

SMITH: Instead, you got Surinam. How's that working out for you?

Amb. JONES-BOS: No regrets whatsoever.

SMITH: And no hard feelings from our side, either. Just make sure you leave some of that gouda on your way out.

Robert Smith, NPR News in the city formerly known as New Amsterdam.

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