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As I watched my beloved Seinfeld, I was reminded of a riddle from my youth that I have never quite managed to solve. Thanks to the late hour, I had the house to myself – with only the occasional sounds of Hubster and Lola snoring in unison from another room. I also had access to a large amount of sugar, which can fuel a curious imagination for days. Tonight I would finally solve the mysteries that have eluded me for so many years.

Who are the Dutch? What is Holland? Is Flemish a people, place, or thing? Why are the Swiss neutral… and exactly how did they become the bodyguards of the Vatican?! 

I’m not sure my brain will ever untangle itself.

A teal/green owl that says

I decided to turn to my trusty Wikipedia, where all the answers to life are waiting to be found. I thought I could read a quick page or two and really get a handle on this subject once and for all. While world geography is not my strong suit, I figured a quick glance at a map should suffice if the articles were long-winded.

No map can ever answer the questions that I have.

Three hours after I started reading, I can tell you a few things with confidence. I can also tell you a few things that I may or may not have made up in an effort to bring the subject to a close. Those things should never be talked about in a group setting, lest you find yourself being mocked relentlessly by your peers.

Holland is the Netherlands.

But it also… isn’t?! I’m going to make a really long story short for you all – there was war (a lot of wars) sometime in the distant past and some kings and queens traded land like it was a lunch box dessert in a room full of school children. No one wanted Holland, and then suddenly everyone wanted Holland, and eventually the Netherlands won. I think.

The Dutch are a people.

Whew! Relatively simple and straight-forward. Yet not simple or straight-forward when you actually read about who the Dutch are. I’m not a genealogist so I gave up on solving the mystery once I moved onto my second sheet of paper trying to map out what groups moved where and when. Just remember that they created WiFi. A fact that feels very at odds with the windmills I envision when I think of the Dutch.

Searching for Flemish leads to chaos on Wikipedia.

They may be a people, a place, and a thing – all at the same time! Yes, I am as confused as you are. Things got so bad on Wikipedia that I ended up somehow redirected to an article on Flemish pudding and I now know the 10 favorite desserts served in Belgium – some of which I need to taste as soon as possible. Oh, and Flanders is a word that exists and is somehow related to either Flemish or Belgium. I dare you to fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole to solve this, your family will never see you again!

I have it on good authority that the Swiss are people.

And mountains. I gave up on research and decided to just take the Pope’s word for it that the Swiss are an honorable people who protect him diligently. I’m not sure I would pick a neutral people to protect me from crazy people with weapons, but the Pope also has the big man in Heaven on his side so I guess he doesn’t need much more than that. I, personally, would choose the Canadians to protect me. They seem scrappy enough to hold up in a fight, but also solicitous enough to apologize to me should they step on my toes while protecting me from an angry mob. What more could I really ask for?!


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