Stories of the Zuiderzee

Scheepjongens van Bontekoe

Growing up in the Netherlands, one cannot help but be drawn to the water that surrounds you everywhere you go; as you may know, much of the country is below sea level, which is only possibly through a system of dikes and managing the water level with great care.

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Eel Fisherman in Volendam

As my mother’s family hails from the town of Hoorn in the province of North Holland, I spent quite a bit of time in that town visiting my great-grandmother during Summer during my early years.  These times were magical, as I heard the tales of her youth and also traversed the town and its annual fair with my great-uncle, which was always a lot of fun.  As a result of these wonderful times, I have always been drawn to Hoorn and the towns, such as Volendam, of the Zuiderzee, as the Ijsselmeer used to be known, and its storied history.

Founded in 716, Hoorn rapidly grew to become a major harbor town. During Holland’s ‘Golden Age’ (or ‘Golden Century’), Hoorn was an important home base for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and a very prosperous centre of trade. The Hoorn fleet plied the seven seas and returned laden with precious commodities. Exotic spices such as pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and mace were sold at vast profits. With their skill in trade and seafaring, sons of Hoorn established the town’s name far and wide. Jan Pieterszoon Coen (1587–1629) is famous for his violent raids in Dutch Indies (now Indonesia), where he “founded” the city of Batavia in 1619 (now Jakarta). He has a big statue on the Rode Steen square in the center of Hoorn.

In 1618, Willem Bontekoe (1587–1657) undertook his first and only voyage for the VOC. His story of his travel and hardship found its way into the history books when he published his adventures in 1646 under the title Journael ofte gedenckwaerdige beschrijvinge van de Oost-Indische reyse van Willem Ysbrantsz. Bontekoe van Hoorn, begrijpende veel wonderlijcke en gevaerlijcke saecken hem daer in wedervaren (‘Journal, or memorable description, of the East-Indian voyage of Willem Ysbrantz. Bontekoe of Hoorn, comprising many wondrous and dangerous things experienced by him’). In 1616, the explorer Willem Corneliszoon Schouten braved furious storms as he rounded the southernmost tip of South America. He named it Kaap Hoorn (Cape Horn) in honour of his home town.

The Zuiderzee (now Ijsselmeer)

In classical times there was already a body of water in this location, called Lacus Flevo by Roman authors. It was much smaller than its later forms and its connection to the main sea was much narrower; it may have been a complex of lakes and marshes and channels, rather than one lake. Over time these lakes gradually eroded their soft peat shores and spread (a process known as waterwolf). Some part of this area of water was later called the Vlie; it probably flowed into the sea through what is now the Vliestroom channel between the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling. The Marsdiep was once a river (fluvium Maresdeop) which may have been a distributary of the Vlie. During the early Middle Ages this began to change as rising sea levels and storms started to eat away at the coastal areas which consisted mainly of peatlands. In this period the inlet was referred to as the Almere, indicating it was still more of a lake, but the mouth and size of the inlet were much widened in the 12th century and especially after a disastrous flood in 1282  broke through the barrier dunes near Texel. The disaster marked the rise of Amsterdam on the southwestern end of the bay, since seagoing traffic of the Baltic trade could now visit. The even more massive St. Lucia’s flood occurred 14 December 1287, when the seawalls broke during a storm, killing approximately 50,000 to 80,000 people in the fifth largest flood in recorded history. The name “Zuiderzee” came into general usage around this period.

The size of this inland sea remained largely stable from the 15th century onwards due to improvements in dikes, but when storms pushed North Sea water into the inlet, the Zuiderzee became a volatile cauldron of water, frequently resulting in flooding and the loss of ships. For example, on 18 November 1421, a seawall at the Zuiderzee dike broke, which flooded 72 villages and killed about 10,000 people. This was the Second St. Elizabeth’s Flood: see Sint-Elisabethsvloed (1421).

Hope you enjoyed a little bit of history on this fine Monday!

Friday Travel Photos (Late) – vol 14

Perfect weather everywhere!

One of the factors beyond our control during our travels is the weather; you can go during the time of year when the weather is usually nice, but still not be lucky enough to enjoy sunny days.  Scotland, as it is part of an island and consists of many islands, is known as one of those places to visit where you can not count on the weather.

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Beach on the Moray of Firth

This first image shows how wonderful the weather was during our stay.  This is a lovely beach view east of Inverness in a small town, whose name escapes me at this writing.

We knew that visiting Scotland during the end of May and beginning of June was no guarantee for perfect weather.  Lucky for us, we saw just a couple of showers during the 12 days that we were there with the sun being visible during the most of our stay.

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Carriden House garden

As you can see here, this weather was just stunning!  This view of the garden at Carriden House, where we stayed for the final 3 nights of our visit, is just stunning.

You have also seen the weather on Skye in Friday Travel Photos – Skye, so I’m closing this post with a rather unusual view that I caught in a castle yard on Skye:

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Tub in Field at Duntulm Castle

Friday Mystery Place – vol 11

Late for lunch!

Dear Reader, last week’s challenge was a bit devilish, but clearly not hard enough, as several of you figured it out; you are impressive!  This week’s location should not be too hard to guess…

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Which lovely place is this?

This location was one that I almost overlooked in my travels, as I had not put it on the itinerary.  As my wife and I were driving to our next stop on our travels, and in truth we were looking for some spot to eat some lunch, I caught this beauty out of the corner of my eye, as it was a bit obscured by foliage.

We figured out where we could find access to the location and had a fun time exploring it; lunch was served late, and delicious!

Where are we?

The City of my Birth – Rotterdam

Sterker door strijd!

When people think of visiting the Netherlands, they always think about Amsterdam and, possibly, The Hague, but relatively few think about visiting Rotterdam.  Each of these cities has their set of attractions with Amsterdam’s museums and canals, and the beach and parks of The Hague, but for my money you can’t beat the variety of what Rotterdam offers!  And, as the mystery slide for this week is set in Rotterdam…

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Centraal Station

The best way to visit Rotterdam is by public transportation; if you’re coming from outside the city, you’ll likely arrive at the central train station, or ‘Centraal Station’.  This completely modern transportation hub combines train, street car, bus and metro (subway) in one convenient package.  When using public transportation in the Netherlands you’ll want to get get an OV-Chipkaart, which is used for all modes of transportation; as a tourist you can buy an anonymous OV-Chipkaart, which comes preloaded and can be loaded at many check-points using your credit/debit card.  Just don’t forget to swipe your card when you get off you disembark!

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Skyscrapers!

A unique feature about Rotterdam’s architecture is the presence of skyscrapers in the center of the city.  Every other city center in the Netherlands consists of older architecture.  This is due to the fact that during the early days of World War II, the center of the city was flattened by German bombs during the so-called Rotterdam Blitz.  The notable surviving building from this onslaught is the St. Lawrence Church (St. Laurenskerk), which was damaged, but was restored and still stands proud surrounded by modern architecture.

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De Koopgoot

The center of Rotterdam is well-known for its shopping district that extends along the Coolsingel and the streets surrounding it.  As the Dutch love walking in their cities, the center has been set up to minimize the need for crossing the street.  An example of this is the Beurstraverse, which is better known as ‘de Koopgoot’ or, literally, the shopping gutter; as you can see, one just walks down the incline and continues shopping at the stores below ground level, as you cross the busy Coolsingel to get to more shops.

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Delftsevaart

As Rotterdam is a major port-city (‘Gateway to Europe’), water is never very far away.  As the port has expanded over the years and ships have become larger, some of the old harbors are no longer used for shipping, such as the Delftsevaart above.  They have either been filled in to make room for building or preserved as picturesque living areas right in the center of the city.

Hope you enjoyed this little overview of the city of my birth!

Friday Travel Photos – Skye Reprise 

Beauty is everywhere

After last week’s view of Castle Eilean Donan, I’m taking you on the next logical step from our journey three years ago: the Isle of Skye.  I’ll feature some of my landscapes in this week’s post and then include some more detailed images in next week’s post.

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Skye’s Rugged Terrain
At 1,656 square kilometres (639 sq mi), Skye is the second-largest island in Scotland after Lewis and Harris. The coastline of Skye is a series of peninsulas and bays radiating out from a centre dominated by the Cuillin hills (Gaelic:An Cuiltheann). Malcolm Slesser suggested that its shape “sticks out of the west coast of northern Scotland like a lobster’s claw ready to snap at the fish bone of Harris and Lewis” and W. H. Murray, commenting on its irregular coastline, stated that “Skye is sixty miles [100 km] long, but what might be its breadth is beyond the ingenuity of man to state”. Martin Martin, a native of the island, reported on it at length in a 1703 publication. His geological observations included a note that:

There are marcasites black and white, resembling silver ore, near the village Sartle: there are likewise in the same place several stones, which in bigness, shape, &c., resemble nutmegs, and many rivulets here afford variegated stones of all colours. The Applesglen near Loch-Fallart has agate growing in it of different sizes and colours; some are green on the outside, some are of a pale sky colour, and they all strike fire as well as flint: I have one of them by me, which for shape and bigness is proper for a sword handle. Stones of a purple colour flow down the rivulets here after great rains.

— Martin Martin, A Description of The Western Islands of Scotland.
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The Storr

The Black Cuillin, which are mainly composed of basalt and gabbro, include twelve Munros and provide some of the most dramatic and challenging mountain terrain in Scotland. The ascent of Sgùrr a’ Ghreadaidh is one of the longest rock climbs in Britain and the Inaccessible Pinnacle is the only peak in Scotland that requires technical climbing skills to reach the summit. These hills make demands of the hill walker that exceed any others found in Scotland and a full traverse of the Cuillin ridge may take 15–20 hours. The Red Hills (Gaelic: Am Binnean Dearg) to the south are also known as the Red Cuillin. They are mainly composed of granite that has weathered into more rounded hills with many long scree slopes on their flanks. The highest point of these hills is Glamaig, one of only two Corbetts on Skye.

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The Quiraing
The northern peninsula of Trotternish is underlain by basalt, which provides relatively rich soils and a variety of unusual rock features. The Kilt Rock is named after the tartan-like patterns in the 105 metres (344 ft) cliffs. The Quiraing is a spectacular series of rock pinnacles on the eastern side of the main spine of the peninsula and further south is the rock pillar of the Old Man of Storr.

I hope you enjoy these vistas from this spectacular island!

Thanks to the great Wikipedia Article on Skye for this and much more background information.

WPC – The Future is Here

Potential is just starting…

This week’s theme for the DailyPost Weekly Photo Challenge is Future, urging us to focus on the potential of things to come.  I am planning to post several images throughout the week, with today’s image showing that part of the Future is here already.

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Falkirk Wheel in Action

 

The Falkirk Wheel is a marvel of modern engineering that truly opens our eyes to what is promises are held by the Future of science and engineering.

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, which have an elevation difference of 35 meters (appr. 115 feet).  Prior to the construction of this marvel, ships were required to go through a system of 11 locks, which could take as much as a day to traverse.

The wheel raises boats by 24 meters, after which they still need to go through 2 locks for the remaining 11 meters.  The lock operates on Archimedes’ principle, which states that the upward buoyant force on an object (i.e. boat) equals the mass of the water that is displaced.  This means that when a boat enters the moving part of the lock, its mass plus the mass of the water is equal to the mass of the when the boat was not in the lock.  In a nutshell both sides of the arm are always balanced.

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The Falkirk Wheel is the only lock of its kind in the world; it opened in 2002.

Technical Details

This image was shot with my Canon EOS 5D Mk III with an EF 24-105 f/4L lens.  The camera’s built-in HDR processing was used to get the look and feel in these images.

Inspired by Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge – Future

Friday Travel Photo – vol 8

An icon of the Highlands

This week, I am taking you back to Scotland, where my wife and I vacationed in 2013; we know that we will go back for a more extensive visit, as we both love it!

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Eilean Donan Castle

As we were on our way from Fort William to Isle of Skye, we knew that our trip would take us past the lovely castle of Eilean Donan, so we made sure that we had time for a visit.  The drive up from Fort William taking the A82 to the A87 was extremely picturesque, particularly the final stretch along Loch Duich.

I have included a shortened version of the history of the castle from Wikipedia here for your edutainment:

History of the Castle

It is possible that an early Christian monastic cell was founded on the island in the 6th or 7th century, dedicated to Donnán of Eigg, an Irish saint who was martyred on Eigg in April 617. No remains of any Christian buildings survive, though fragments of vitrified stone, subjected to very high temperatures, have been discovered indicating the presence of an Iron Age or early medieval fortification.

Early Origins

In the earlier thirteenth century, during the reign of Alexander II (ruled 1214–1249), a large curtain-wall castle (wall of enceinte) was constructed that enclosed much of the island.  At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: Eilean Donan provided a strong defensive position against Norse expeditions. A founding legend relates that the son of a chief of the Mathesons acquired the power of communicating with the birds. As a result, and after many adventures overseas, he gained wealth, power, and the respect of Alexander II, who asked him to build the castle to defend his realm.

At a later date, the island became a stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail, originally vassals of Uilleam, Earl of Ross.  At this early stage, the castle is said to have been garrisoned by Macraes and Maclennans, both clans that were later closely associated with the Mackenzies. Traditional Mackenzie clan histories relate that Earl William sought advantage from the Treaty of Perth of 1266, by which King Magnus VI of Norway ceded the Hebrides to Scotland, and demanded that his kinsman Kenneth Mackenzie return the castle to allow his expansion into the islands; Mackenzie refused, and Earl William led an assault against Eilean Donan that the Mackenzies and their allies repulsed.

The Mackenzie clan histories also claim (with little, if any, supporting contemporary evidence), that Robert the Bruce sheltered at Eilean Donan during the winter of 1306 to 1307; the castle escaped any other involvement in the Wars of Scottish Independence. In 1331 Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, sent an officer to Eilean Donan to warn the occupants of his forthcoming visit. In preparation 50 wrongdoers were rounded up and executed, their heads being displayed on the castle walls to Moray’s approval. By the middle of the 14th century the Mackenzies are said to have been on the losing side in the ongoing feuding with the Earls of Ross; Earl Uilleam IIIgranted Kintail to Raghnall Mac Ruaidhrí in 1342. With the assistance of Leod Macgilleandrais, the Earl allegedly apprehended Kenneth Mackenzie, 3rd of Kintail, and had him executed in 1346 at Inverness. Through this period Eilean Donan is said to have been held by Duncan Macaulay for the Mackenzies, against the Earl and his allies. Kenneth’s young son Murdo Mackenzie supposedly evaded the Earl’s attempts to eliminate him, and on the return of David II from exile Murdo Mackenzie was allegedly confirmed in the lands of Kintail and Eilean Donan by a charter of 1362 (of which, however, no trace survives to the present day).  At some point in the earlier 14th century it is thought that the Clan Macrae began to settle in Kintail as a body, having migrated from the Beauly Firth, and there gained the trust of the Mackenzie lairds through possible kinship and an advantageous marriage. The Macraes began to act as Mackenzie’s bodyguards, acquiring the soubriquet “Mackenzie’s shirt of mail”.

Jacobite rising and destruction of the castle

In 1689, King James VII of the House of Stuart was declared to have to forfeit the throne, and the crown was offered to William of Orange, in the so-called “Glorious Revolution”. The revolution also established Presbyterianism in Scotland, although the Highlands generally remained Roman Catholic and loyal to the Stuarts. A series of Jacobite Risings followed, leading to an increased military presence in Scotland as government forces attempted to penetrate and subdue the Highlands. In 1714 while surveying fortifications for the government, the military engineer Lewis Petit made the only surviving drawing of Eilean Donan. The sketch-elevation and carefully drawn plan show a dilapidated castle, largely roofless but for a small building by the entrance.

A major Jacobite uprising took place in 1715. Led by the Earl of Mar, it was an attempt to restore the exiled James Stuart, the “Old Pretender”, to the throne. William Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth, joined the Jacobite army, leading out men of the Clan Mackenzie and Clan Macrae. The Macraes mustered at Eilean Donan, and are said to have danced on the roof of the castle before setting out to the Battle of Sheriffmuir, where 58 Macraes were among the Jacobite dead. The battle was indecisive and the rising collapsed soon after.

Following the failure of the rising of 1715, the Jacobites found new support from Spain, now opposing both Britain and France in the War of the Quadruple Alliance. The Duke of Ormonde led the main invasion fleet from Spain, while an advance party of 300 Spanish soldiers under George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal, arrived in Loch Duich in April 1719, and occupied Eilean Donan Castle. The expected uprising of Highlanders did not occur, and the main Spanish invasion force never arrived. At the beginning of May, the Royal Navy sent ships to the area. Early in the morning on Sunday 10 May, HMS Worcester, HMS Flamborough, and HMS Enterprise anchored off Eilean Donan and sent a boat ashore under a flag of truce to negotiate. When the Spanish soldiers in the castle fired at the boat, it was recalled and all three ships opened fire on the castle for an hour or more.  The next day the bombardment continued while a landing party was prepared. In the evening under the cover of an intense cannonade, a detachment went ashore in the ships’ boats and captured the castle against little resistance. According to Worcesters log, in the castle were “an Irishman, a captain, a Spanish lieutenant, a serjeant, one Scotch rebel and 39 Spanish soldiers, 343 barrels of powder and 52 barrels of musquet shot.” The naval force spent the next two days and 27 barrels of gunpowder demolishing the castle.  Flamborough then took the Spanish prisoners to Edinburgh. The remaining Spanish troops were defeated on 10 June at the Battle of Glen Shiel.

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Pre-Restoration view of Eilean Donan

Restoration and reuse

Between 1919 and 1932, the castle was rebuilt by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap. The restoration included the construction of an arched bridge to give easier access to the island. Macrae-Gilstrap also established a war memorial dedicated to the men of the MacRae clan who died in the First World War. The memorial is adorned with lines from John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”, and is flanked by grey field guns from the war. Eilean Donan was opened to the public in 1955, and has since become a popular attraction: over 314,000 people visited in 2009, making it the third-most-visited castle in Scotland. In 1983 ownership of the castle was transferred to the Conchra Charitable Trust, established by the Macrae family to maintain and restore the castle, and a purpose-built visitor centre was opened on the landward side of the bridge in 1998.

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Highlander Scene at Eilean Donan

The castle is regularly described as one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland, and is a recognised Scottish icon, frequently appearing on packaging and advertising for shortbread, whisky and other products. Eilean Donan has made several appearances in films, beginning with Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1948 and The Master of Ballantrae in 1953. The castle featured prominently in Highlander (1986) as the home of Clan MacLeod and served as the Scottish headquarters of MI6 in The World Is Not Enough in 1999. 

 

Source for the background information: Wikipedia Article on Eilean Donan.