Dutch Roadtrip: Dams & weddings (5/6)

Uploaded by rewboss on 13.11.2009

The next day dawned wet and windy, and we were in Haamstede,
one half of the community of Burgh-Haamstede.
The community website proudly claims this as a favourite tourist destination,
and then loses heart, and lists attractions that are definitely not in Burgh-Haamstede.
It’s small and trim, and probably quite attractive in better weather,
and it has a small castle, which you’d think would feature on the website, but doesn’t.
On the advice of some fellow guests, we headed out towards the town of Veere,
which meant driving across the East Scheldt Barrier, part of the Delta Works scheme.
We were in the province of Zeeland in the south of the country,
which is a mess of waterways, islands and reclaimed land.
“Zeeland” means literally “sea-land”.
It has been shaped both by natural disaster and human activity.
The flood of 1953 resulted in the conception of the Delta Works scheme,
a series of dams turning the delta into lakes and shutting out the sea, hopefully for good.
The East Scheldt Barrier is not in the east, but at the mouth of the East Scheldt river,
and is the longest:
so long, that an artificial island, Neeltje Jans, was built to help with construction.
The barrier was initially planned as a solid dam,
but environmental concerns changed that.
The sluice gates are open most of the time, but can be closed if the sea level rises or storms are expected.
There is a visitors’ centre on Neeltje Jans, but we missed it by visiting the wrong side of the island.
It did give us a better view of the sluice gates, though,
and a bracing wind that made if difficult to hold cameras.
The dam is 9km (5.5 miles) long and has 62 doors. It took 10 years to build, and is designed to last 200.
Somewhere on the island is a plaque that reads:
“Here the tide is ruled, by the wind, the moon, and us.”
“Us” being the Dutch.
We didn’t find it, but we did find a warning of the dangers of...
...jazz hands?
With double exclamation marks, though, so it must be serious.
Moving on, we found our way to Veere, located on the Veersegat,
what was a waterway between two island but, having been dammed at both ends, is now a lake.
This was bad news for Veere:
back in the 15th century, it grew rich trading wool and textiles with England and Scotland,
but Napoleon put a stop to that, leaving the town to rely on fishing.
The damming of the Veersegat in 1961 stopped the fishing industry,
so now Veere relies on tourism.
The ornate, elegant tower doesn’t belong, as you might expect, to a church,
but to the richly decorated town hall.
The church looms large on the edge of town.
It’s actually two churches, a small annexe being the Little Church,
and, by process of elimination, the rest being the Great Church.
But the Great Church hasn’t been used as a church for much of its history:
in Napoleon’s time, the French Army converted it into a hospital, for example,
and now it’s mostly used for exhibitions and cultural events.
Although Veere is now on a lake, this is no reason to dismantle its old sea defences.
You simply cannot have too much protection from the North Sea.
Veere is full of tourists; but then, it’s a very pretty place, as everyone agrees.
But real life goes on, and it seems that Friday afternoon is the time to get married here.
While one wedding was going on, there was at least one other waiting in the café opposite.
The local children, it seems, have a role to play, which involves a lot of waiting.
And waiting.
And more waiting — hold those flowers steady!
Even more waiting.
Presumably, Dutch weddings don’t involve confetti or rice,
which, given the weather, was probably just as well.