Sunday, April 16, 2017

Middelburg The Netherlands

     We left Ghent during the night and arrived in Middelburg early in the morning on Friday, April 14. Overnight we had left Belgium and we were now in The Netherlands. We sailed down the Ghent Canal into the Westerschelde (estuary of the Schelde River) and up another canal to Middelburg. Middelburg is the capital of Zeeland (the settlers of New Zealand came from here), and is one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands. It was an important trading city for the VOC (Dutch East India Company) and very wealthy during the Middle Ages and into the 1500’s. It is located in the middle of the island of Walcheren (since drained and diked to become a peninsula) and was the middle of three cities built to fortify the island. After the island was flooded in the 1950’s they began the Delta Project to build watergates, dikes, locks, and other special formations to close off the rivers and inlets from the sea and to control the water flow over the land.
     We walked with our guide into the city through the east gate. Everything in the city is circular – it is surrounded by a canal and dikes and the streets circle around the main square which is basically the site of a tenth century abbey. The church has a tall spire which has been nicknamed Long John and is a landmark. We walked by row houses which were clean and beautifully kept. Most of them have been designated historical landmarks and the owners are subsidized for taking care of them. They have a special plaque indicating this and the name of the original owner is often attached to the house.  The current owners may have their name over the doorbell, but not on the house! Another fun thing is that they have a sign for their mail box which says what kind of mail they want and do not want i.e. No junk mail, please! Wouldn’t we love to have that privilege?
     The town square was dominated by an extremely ornate, 15th century Gothic town hall.
It was covered with statues of counts and countesses of Zeeland. The building was completely destroyed in WWII and rebuilt using the existing brick and stone. What a marvel!

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