Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boats, Windmills and Tulips… Walcheren and The Delta Works

Day 8 - Walcheren and The Delta Works
On this day we boarded a bus and drove through the countryside to the area of Walcheren. Walcheren is a former island in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands at the mouth of the Scheldt estuary. It lies between the Oosterschelde in the north and the Westerschelde in the south and is roughly the shape of a rhombus.
Originally, Walcheren was an island, but polders and a dam across the Oosterschelde have connected it to the former island of Zuid-Beveland, which in turn has been connected to the North Brabant mainland. The two sides facing the North Sea consist of dunes; the rest of its coastline is made up of dykes. And these sheep seemed to enjoy grazing on the green grass on top of the dykes.
Along the way we saw modern wind turbines used for energy production and water management.
The Dutch reserve the term windmill for the traditional wind catchers. We saw one of those too.
This is the modern map of Walcheren. As you can see the area is exposed and vulnerable to the strong tides and winds of the North Sea.
We visited a museum built inside a caisson which was dedicated to the North Sea Flood of 1953 and the development of the Delta Works. A caisson is a watertight retaining structure used for the construction of a concrete dam. These are constructed such that the water can be pumped out, keeping the working environment dry. 
The North Sea Flood of 1953 (Watersnoodramp) was a major flood caused by a heavy storm, that occurred on the night of Saturday, January 31, 1953 and morning of Sunday, February 1, 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland. 

A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm over the North Sea caused a storm tide of the North Sea and a water level of more than 5.6 meters (18.4 ft) above mean sea level in some locations. The flood and waves overwhelmed sea defenses and caused extensive flooding. The Netherlands, a country with 20% of its territory below mean sea level and 50% less than 1 meter (3.3 ft) above sea level and which relies heavily on sea defenses, was worst affected, recording 1,836 deaths and widespread property damage. 
On the map above, the striped area illustrates the areas of flooding. On the first night of the flood, many dykes in the provinces of Zeeland, South Holland and Noord-Brabant proved unable to resist the combination of spring tide and a northwesterly storm. On both the islands and the mainland, large areas of the country were completely flooded. 
At the time of the flood, none of the local radio stations broadcast at night, and many of the smaller weather stations operated only during the day. As a result, the warnings of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute did not penetrate the flood-threatened area in time. People were unable to prepare for the impending flood. As the disaster struck, many offices in the disaster area were unstaffed. As telephone and telegraph networks were disrupted by flood damage, amateur radio operators were the only people maintaining contact with the outside world. 

They estimated that flooding killed 1,835 people and forced the emergency evacuation of 70,000 more. Floods covered 9% of Dutch farmland, and sea water flooded 1,365 km² of land. 
This museum display list the names of all the victims of the flood.
Afterward, the government started the Delta Commission to study the causes and effects of the floods. Realizing that such infrequent events could recur, The Netherlands developed the Delta Works, an extensive system of dams and storm surge barriers. 
After visiting the Delta Works museum, we hopped back on the bus and traveled to another part of Zeeland.
We came across this small ferry boat which allowed people to pull themselves across the river by a rope that was stretched from side to side.
It appeared that only sheep with long wool coats enjoyed the strong winds, cold and rain that are typical of the area.
The Zeeland flag. I'm sure that it flies openly most of the time due to the strong winds.
As we approached the village of Veere, this sheep greeted us, but could not be bothered to move or stand up.
The small city of Veere, with a population of about 1500 people, stands on the Veerse Meer lagoon on the island of Walcheren.  In 1281, Wolfert Van Borsselen established a ferry service in the area and the name Veere actually means "ferry".
Houses in this area often would have little signs attached to the house with the family name and perhaps their trade. 
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Veere was a prosperous trading city, with about 750 houses inside the city walls then, compared to about 300 today.
Sailors would frequent this house with red storm window which served as a brothel.
Now the main industry of Veere is tourism.
The Zoutelande church still towers over the small town and small houses.
Stores and cafes welcome visitors to this quaint village.
There is a Dutch word… gezellig. The word is perhaps best translated as... cozy - an upbeat feeling about one's surroundings or having company with a pleasant, friendly ambience. 

Gezellig is something that the Dutch try to achieve in their relationships, cafes, houses, gardens and parks.
Cafe menu… Gezellig
Walking stick… Gezellig 
Bench… Gezellig
The details matter
Park… Gezellig
Garden… Gezellig 
Picnic table… Gezellig
Garden wall… Gezellig
Flowers… Gezellig
Local kids returning to school… Gezellig 
I left Veere with the feeling of Gezellig.
We headed back toward the river boat, but made one quick stop along the way to view the North Sea and the Oosterscheldekering.
The Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt torm surge barrier), sits between the islands Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland. This engineered structure is the largest of the thirteen ambitious Delta Works series of dams and storm surge barriers, designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding from the North Sea. The construction of the Delta Works was in response to the widespread damage and loss of life due to the North Sea Flood of 1953.
Upon our return to the river boat it began to rain. But we were also greeted by this rainbow which gave us hope that the next day would be a bright one.


  1. Good story, You made the area sound BIG. ;-)
    Nice to see you having a good time.

    1. Interesting. The land area and the towns of Walcheren are really not that big. But perhaps because there is open land and space it felt big. It is a beautiful area.


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