Sunday, October 19, 2008

Middelburg's Bomb and Domburg's Commandos - WWII

Domburg, Allied Commando memorial, beach landing site, the Netherlands, WWII 
Domburg:  in the southwest Netherlands area known as Zeeland, a peninsula. It is a seaside resort, and here is someone's fine big beach house. Commandos landed here in secret, coming in on the waves.

Imagine the people inside sometime in 1945, probably suitably dressed for the evening dinner, with no idea that - just outside, at the beach, allied commandos are landing and creeping-dash-leaping from the shadows to some meeting place (blades in teeth?) and by now just outside the door. The memorial plaque says just that: allied commandos landed here.

A midget submarine, a WWII German Seehund, was found abandoned at Domburg. See

Trips and memory-triggers. For us, we think of the beaches at Highlands, New Jersey. The Twin Lights. Bay Head. In WWII, drunken soldiers coming up Portland Road, interrupting our hide-and-seek around the single street light, parents hustling us in until they passed, on their way to the Twin Lights and to the pillboxes and submarine spotting stations up further, way further if they could stagger that far, up the hill.  That area along the Shrewsbury River with the ocean beyond, used to be for bootleggers, and the docks with hidden ways. Then it was war.

Middelburg-  Nearby is Middelburg, little city, big history. Quiet, traditional.  It dates from the 8th or 9th centuries, and had been a major port for the Dutch East India Company. The town is far off the regular routes.  We came to it just for the drive in remote sections, after all the urban, on our way back, after Belgium and Antwerp.  In 1940, the city was bombed by the Luftwaffe to force surrender of Dutch forces. The city is rebuilt, but archives were lost.

In the square is a model of a big bomb, on its end, as a reminder and memorial. This site shows "A Boy's Memories:"  Read about the Battle of the Netherlands and here is a fair use thumbnail of where Middelburg is, at ://

 full size image

Down there, 'way lower right, above the white of Belgium to the south.  Germany is at the other border, east. A lovely country ride. Bridges.
Etty Hillesum:  The young woman in her 20's who wrote a diary in Amsterdam during the War, and died in Auschwitz, was born in Middelburg. See the Virtual Museum at Middelburg at

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Alkmaar - Cheese Market and Best Apartment

Alkmaar does a brisk cheese trade, but also caters to the tourists. Many photo ops.

Every Friday, as we recall. 

Alkmaar, cheese market, the Netherlands

Fridays are cheese market days - so we timed our visit to be in Alkmaar for it. The town is north of Haarlem, on the way to the big dyke, the Alfluitsdyk, across the North Sea, and do go that way. If no time, loop back to Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport.

Alkmaar's Cheese Market - see more at

Porters, Alkmaar cheese market, the Netherlands
Each of those big wheels of gouda, we were told by a porter, weighs about 13 kilograms, and at 2.2 pounds or so to a kilo, each wheel is about 30 pounds?

Color-coded cheese sleds, Alkmaar cheese market, NL

The porters are big. They have to be.  They carry the orders to the "public weigh house" on sleds, the colors matching the buyer. Here they are getting things ready, three empty sleds.

For a place to spend the night, we didn't want a regular hotel - all too far from the old town and its pedestrian mall - so went to the tourist bureau and found an address right in the old town. Most of the old town is walking only,so you have to park somewhere else and hoof. That's usual. And good for you, and why we pack so little.

World's best accommodation, Alkmaar, the Netherlands

Our spot at first look was discouraging - a large pub to one side where the overnight rental business was conducted, and since this is Holland, there is indeed overt overnight business being conducted all over.

There was an outside staircase to a second floor to rooms, and we just took it. Why not?

Indeed. It was there, and so were we.


Inside was a full apartment, fresh and fine furnishings, all the comforts, and best of all, a huge jacuzzi and also a huge shower with a million heads jetting out absolutely all over. Loved it. Best apartment.

Dan's buddy the Porter.The next morning, one of the porters came in for coffee while we were at the pub next door for our breakfast, and told us all about what was to happen at the market. The lady in the picture above did a splendid breakfast and we think Alkmaar is terrific. We have no bathrooms like that here at our house. Must go back. Remember the number up by the door there and go. See what you can do when you are not on a bus?  Porters and sleds for cheeses.  Great fun for a tourist. And the town is lovely.

The city dates from the 10th century. See the history of Alkmaar at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Afsluitdijk across the sea; and Urk - Island fishing village, now on reclaimed mainland

Afluitsdijk, Commemorative sculpture to 1930's construction, causeway separating Zuiderzee from Ijsselmeer


Dykes are everywhere; the largest is the Afsluitdijk in the northern area, finished in the 1930's. It is a 20-mile causeway to Friesland province. It holds back the North Sea (Zuiderzee inlet) from the fresh water lake, Ijsselmeer. Not clear what was saline or not before the dyke, but it appears that it was also saline but not sea-water strength. See the size of it in Afluitsdyk photos at The major highway across the dyke is close to sea level - 7-9 meters.

It has sluices that flush in and out to maintain the salt that is in the Ijsselmeer, for ecological reasons; and to adjust for storms. Would Mississippi benefit from the technology? It is a matter of will, not way.

URK- The Island that is now a peninsula

The effect of the dykes, especially the Afluitsdyke and overall reclamation, has been to turn islands into towns on the mainland.

Urk Island Lighthouse, now inland (land reclamation), the Netherlands

Urk had been a remote fishing village, isolated on its own island, in the Ijsselmeer, east coastal area. With the large Afsluitdijk, the causeway across the northern Netherlands, now across from North Holland to Friesland, land is being reclaimed.  Urk, that once was an island with its lighthouse, is now mainland. The lighthouse at Urk is listed at

Urk dates from the 900's. See the history of Urk at One of the oldest Dutch dialects is spoken there. See Urk overview at

Much of the land that had been underwater is now agricultural land. Wikipedia has a comprehensible writeup on these polders at

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Amersfoort - Wall House and Amsterdam Tiny Town House

Amersfoort, city walls, the Netherlands

Amersfoort is near Utrecht, and the old defenses are still there, with houses built into the city walls. This old fortress section has the narrow windows needed for defense, with just enough room for bows and arrows. See fine photos and history at

There is a large pedestrianized mall in the old town, as is often found, and a large hurdy-gurdy playing.

Houses squeezed in places:  In Amsterdam, see post,  a canal boat tour narrator claimed that this is the world's narrowest house, squeezed between larger neighboring town houses - and we were told it is narrow for tax reasons. Citizens were taxed based on frontage, not depth. I understand the owner makes many euro on tours. Location, location.