Stalking Sinterklaas

This Saturday Sinterklass and his Zwarte Pieten helpers arrived in Holland to prepare for December 5th when they give out presents to all the good boys and girls and drag the bad ones back to Spain in a sack while beating them with twigs.

Since I was in town when Sinterklass arrived I had the opportunity to take a few photos. I found the perfect snapshot taking location. Since they were going to be arriving by boat I was standing on the rivers edge at the entrance to town where it was less busy. The boat would have to pass right by me in order to reach its destination and the thousands of hyper children that awaited it.

A short while after I arrived I saw the boat approaching in the distance. I started to take photos as it sailed closer and closer while the Zwarte Pieten danced about in what almost looked like a strange re-enactment of a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.

As the boat sailed past me I continued to snap away. Then, I suddenly saw him, the bearded white one, the pope hat wearing one, the one who should never be called Santa Claus unless you want to invoke the rage of the Dutch people, none other then Sinterklass himself. He was standing on the deck of his ship and he was actually waving to me.

This was great for two reasons. Number one, he was waving and not pointing at me while screaming to the Zwarte Pieten, “Get him boys! He’s been naughty this year!” Number two, I was about to get a great Sinterklass photo for this blog.

I quickly took up my camera and zoomed right in. It was going to be the kind of detailed photograph that would allow me to see what he had for breakfast by identifying the crumbs in his beard. I was just a fraction of a second away from pushing that button and capturing Sinterklass’s image in the photographic medium when disaster struck. The batteries in my camera suddenly died!

I started cursing, using the kind of language that might have had the Zwarte Pieten chasing after me with twigs if they had not been just out of hearing range. I was about to go home, beaten, crushed and a failure but then I was gripped by determination. I was not going to give up that easily. I would be victorious. There was still time to get that mug shot.

I searched for the nearest place I could find that sold batteries and restored my photographic equipment to fully working order.

I sprinted back to the river as fast as I could. I knew I could cut Sinterklass off by taking one of the other alleyways that would bring me out farther down the river. As I reached the end of the alleyway I could hear the excited cheers of children. I had made it and was about to see Sinterklass’s boat again. However, I only saw the back end of Sinterklass’s boat as it disappeared behind some buildings.

I was too late and even worse; the bridge I needed to cross to get ahead of the boat again was up so the boat could pass through. I was cut off from the main land but I still had another chance.

I knew of an alley way farther down that gave a view out onto the river. I dodged and dived my way through the crowd to my secret photo snapping location. This time I arrived just before the boat. There was nothing that would stop me getting that photo this time. At least that would have been the case if someone had not blocked off the end of the alleyway with wooden boards. Since I did not have an axe with me I had to watch as the masts of the boat passed by.

I had come so far. It would have been insanity to give up at this point. I knew I had one last chance, the boats final destination, the dock where Sinterklass was going to disembark. Once again I rushed through the streets and alleyways that would bring me farther along the river.

When I arrived I realized that I was still cut off from a good view point. This time by a large group of Pepernoot hungry children and their parents. It was only my English sense of politeness that stopped me from pushing a few children into the river so I could claim my prize.

My chance to get a photo of Sinterklass on his boat was lost. However, I could still get a mug shot of him during the parade around town. The crowd was too big to get through so I had to go around it. After some more running through streets and hidden alleyways I finally found a good spot over looking the parades route, just behind a group of children whose heads I could easily see over on account of me being a grown up and all. Finally victory would be mine. Nothing would make me give up my spot so I waited.

And waited…

And waited some more…

Then suddenly, out of no where the man himself was standing in front of me. He was so close that I could almost reach out and touch him. He had his back to me but my heart leaped with joy and I felt butter flies in my stomach as I turned my camera on.

Then I realized it was a child dressed as Sinterklass, sitting on his mother’s shoulders. I felt kind of stupid.

Finally the parade started and I began to snap photos. First to pass by were Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook. I don’t think the Captain Hook costume was very authentic, not because it was actually a girl in costume but because she was clearly in possession of both her own hands. That did not really show much dedication to playing the part really.

Then I spotted him, the great white beardy one, riding his horse. He was just behind Harry Potter.

Maybe Harry Potter was acting as his magical body guard or the students of Hogwarts had be rounded up for performing naughty magic and were being paraded around town as an example to other children before being dragged off to Spain in a sack by Zwarte Piet.

As Sinterklass got closer I started to snap photo after photo. I was not able to get the quality photo that I had had the chance to get earlier but I still considered myself the winner. I allowed myself a small victory cheer which made several children look at me in confusion but I did not care. I finally had the photo I had been working so hard to get.

I now realize that if Sinterklass had seen me at every location where I tried to sneak a photo of him he might have become worried and thought I was some kind of strange obsessive stalker who never got over the fact that Sinterklass did not give him the fire truck toy he wanted as a child. I guess I will know if there is a restraining order in my clog on the 5th of December.

18 responses to “Stalking Sinterklaas”

  1. Aisling says:

    Ha ha, you always make me laugh so hard!!! Thank-you! And you are very lucky to have seen Harry Potter :P

  2. Ana Luisa says:

    Lucky you! I’ve been sick all weekend long and lost my chance to see Sinter. :(

  3. Miss Evvil says:

    Heeeeelp!!!! Its THAT time of the year again!
    Sinterklas I don’t mind that much, but Zwarte Pieten scare the s**t out of me!
    It all started the first year I was in Holland… I had no clue when it came to this tradition. The night before Sinterklas was due to arrive I was at a rather “moist” party (one tequila, rinse down with one vodka-orange juice, not to be recomended!) the result was the worst hang-over-paranoia I have ever had. Well, I had to go down town to do some shopping. Minding my own business I tried to maneuver around a group of extra loud children when all of a sudden this “thing” in brightly colored clothes with a black face hopped in front of me and yelled “peper noten!”. Thats when I screamed like the paranoid little girl I was and rushed home, curled up in a dark corner and stayed there for the remainder of my hang-over…
    Ever since that incident I have been walking around with a certain uneasiness at this time of the year…

  4. zed says:

    that was very funny – and i must say thank god my kids are grown up now. ‘st nicholas’ hasn’t been visiting for years. good riddance, i say – he only scared kids to death anyway.

  5. Manictastic says:

    Oh Sinterklaas. He made his big entrance yesterday in Antwerp too. I wonder how he pulled that one off. It’s a fun tradition. Only I hate the marsepijn and I have no idea what Pepernoten are. Apparently we don’t have that. Well I hope you finally get that fire truck.

  6. sophie says:

    OMG!!! hahaha!!! this real story is FANTASTIC!!! I love to have seen Sinteklaas in real, THANKS!!! My god, you made my day, but how is possible the Dutch tradition says bad children will go to Spain in a sack??? hahaha! :-D I cannot believe it. Poor them, don’t come here, it’s too sunny and Spanish, god! we are the worse haha ;-)
    it must be because of our ruining history. but, the strange is how is possible Sinterklaas can go there from Spain, by boat! do you know where Sinterklaas is supposed to live in Spain normally (following the tradition)? on the coast? one day somebody told me he was living in Madrid, but that is actually impossible for the boat stuff!!

  7. Invader Stu says:

    Aisling – Luckily there was no sign of he who must not be named.

    Ana Luisa – Didn’t even realize it was the Saturday he was arriving until I saw all the kids running around in costume.

    Miss Evvil – That sounds almost like the time I first saw them. I was just walking down the street when I suddenly found myself surrounded by them in a parade.

    zed – Better not let him hear you say that :p

    Manictastic – Pepernoten as far as I can tell is some kind of small cookie.

    Sophie – I’m not sure were in Spain he is supposed to live but I bet Santa Claus is kicking himself that he did not think of setting up business in a hot country as well.

  8. Beebs says:

    The first time I saw a Zwarte Piet, it was knocking at my apartment door at 9 bleeping o’clock on a Saturday morning — my crazy sister-in-law, who dresses up every year like this.

    The second time they were a mob…An entire marching band of Zwarte Pieten parading down the Grote Houtstraat in Haarlem, playing Taking Care of Business by BTO…

    I hate this time of year…lol…

  9. suus says:

    yeah that’s an interesting question, why Spain? I read he (the actual Turkish Saint) was re-buried in Bari, which is Italian but was once Spanish. So maybe. Hm. Or: the Dutch are geographical morons. (I’m allowed to say this: I’m a geographical moron) (ok..and Dutch)

  10. Dragon Lady says:

    Well Stuart that proves you are as stuborn as the rest of your family. Well done. Mind you I didn’t recognise any places in Amsterdam from your photoes.

  11. BlondebutBright says:

    Absolutely hilarious! That is the best photo essay I have ever seen. :) I’ve never actually been to that parade, though I have experienced the agony of having my camera batteries die…

    Great job!

  12. Blue says:

    What a funny and quite entertaining way to learn about Dutch Culture! You know this story wouldn’t have been HALF as good if your batteries hadn’t died… ;o)

  13. Invader Stu says:

    Beebs – That’s funny it was on Grote Houtstraat in Haarlem that I first saw them. Were you there in 2001?

    suus – Then if you don’t know (as a Dutch person) we might never know.

    Dragon Lady – It was not Amsterdam.

    BlondebutBright – I had a lot more photos as well but I had to cut it down a bit.

    Blue – Hehe. I know. As it was happening I realized I had my Sinterklass post for this year :)

  14. Breigh says:

    bwahaha oh my sweet jesus did I ever laugh at this one. I just got back from a holiday in Canada and I was telling them about Zwarte Piet and of course they were all completely shocked and horrified about the black face.

    I absolutely love this time of year!

  15. ChickyBabe says:

    Loved it!! And you built up the tension rather well in true Stu-style! :)

  16. Seb says:

    You need to develop yourself a proper drinking habbit. This sintaklaas stalking is taking it too far. But this does show what lenghts the paparazis will go to get their man, but you could have tried to snap him in a more compromising position.
    I’m thinking a swarte pete going down on him and smudging the black on his overgrown belly. Something to really kill it for a whole generation of children in thsi country.

  17. R&R (Rich) says:

    I’m going to publish some Sinter/Pieten fotos this week, but the narration won’t be anywhere near as funny! Great story and congrats on snapping some quality pics, despite the bad luck!

  18. Dragon Lady says:

    Stuart, what is pepernoot?

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