Driving through what once was the bottom of the sea

We are celebrating this year’s Christmas day with my parents-in-law and they live in Dronten, a place that not so long ago (roughly 65 years ago) used to be the bottom of the sea. This may sound a bit strange so let me elaborate a bit to put things in perspective.

During WWII, Holland experienced famine. The country is small and two thirds of the land area is below sea level. Farming at that time was small scale and labor intensive. After the war came the baby boom and the country has to cope with feeding a huge population. Thus, land reclamation became imperative in order to pursue large scale farming. It helped that the US Marsall Plan also delivered tractors to Holland which made possible the farming of huge tracts of land.

Reclaiming this huge land area from the sea called polder involved first the creation of dikes. Then the sea was eventually emptied of its water. A few years later, the land was ready for farming.

This reclaimed area now known as the province of Flevoland is Holland’s bread basket. The land with all the silt from the earlier sea is so fertile that food production here is excellent. In winter, driving through this area with that unbelievable flatness and seeming emptiness feels like punishment. The standing joke is that we already need a passport to come here because this place is so foreign.

Don’t get me wrong. This place has its redeeming factor in spring and summer. With the price of land around Lisse and Harlem in the west of the country having gotten so expensive, many flower farmers have relocated here. Thus, this area is one amazing tapestry of tulips and daffodils in spring. (The pictures were taken two springtimes back.)

My parents-in-law moved here over four years ago to be closer to us (45 minutes away) so that once a week they could babysit Francesca. They used to lived up north in the province of Friesland and that was a good three hours’ drive.

Dad Wout’s sister and brother-in-law live here in Dronten as well. Oom Jaap is a retired farmer and one of the pioneering farmers in the Flevo polder. Much has already changed in the area. When he and Tante Tineke came here over forty years ago, houses were few and there were no trees at all. It was all flat emptiness in the horizon. Dronten is now one bustling town and many city people have relocated here especially those in search for bigger houses and more garden spaces. Improvement in transportation infrastructure also means that Amsterdam will be easily accessible by train, already expected by 2012 when the Hanze line is completed.

20111226-074439.jpg

20111226-074449.jpg

20111226-074459.jpg

20111226-074508.jpg

20111226-074516.jpg

20111226-074525.jpg

20111226-074532.jpg

20111226-074539.jpg

20111226-074546.jpg

20111226-074553.jpg

20111226-074559.jpg

20111226-074623.jpg

20111226-074629.jpg

20111226-074637.jpg

20111226-074644.jpg

20111226-074658.jpg

20111226-074651.jpg

20111226-074707.jpg

20111226-074716.jpg

20111226-074735.jpg

20111226-074741.jpg

20111226-074749.jpg

20111226-074756.jpg

20111226-074806.jpg

20111226-074814.jpg

About Malou
I'm a mom to a five-year old little girl with interest in cooking, baking, traveling and photography. Castles and palaces are special favorites so when weather permits for a good walk on weekends, me, hubby and little girl are always out for a bit of adventure.

16 Responses to Driving through what once was the bottom of the sea

  1. Nice story. When I lived near Spalding (in South Holland) we lived on reclaimed land below sea level and protected by a sea wall. The soil was amazing and we could grow great vegetables. I like the tulip pictures again.

    • This land is very fertile so Holland produces more than what it needs. We went driving today to Lelystad, another town here in the polder and it was nice to see the are planted with tulip bulbs. I can hardly wait for spring again.

      There are also huge orchards here planted with apples, pears and cherries. In spring, they are so nice to see bursting with flowers.

  2. In 2008 the World Tulip Summit was held in Spalding and I had to make a speech to welcome the delegates. My research turned up the following facts:

    All parts of tulips are edible and the bulb can be substituted for onions (although they are a little more expensive and less flavourful). The Dutch ate tulip bulbs in hard times of WW2 even though the petals have little taste but can be used to garnish a dish, chop a few petals and throw them in a salad, sugar them to decorate a cake or use the entire flower for a fruit bowl, pinching out the pistil and stamen in the middle.

    During the Second-World-War the Dutch Royal Family took shelter in Canada and after the war the Netherlands sent gifts of tulips that helped promote the famous annual Ottawa tulip festival.

    • I’ve heard that story of people forced to eat tulip bulbs during the war from my father-in-law. Life was indeed very tough then that they still remember with fondness when the Americans dropped corned beef and peanut butter. You may have heard of Audrey Hepburn also experiencing hunger at that time here. Her mother was a Dutch baronness and she was a child then. Her home (which is about 15 minutes drive from our place) eventually became the final residence of the last German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm. I’ll blog about this another time.

      You are right about the royal family taking shelter in Canada. In fact, the two younget sisters of the present queen were born in Canada. Her grandmother (the queen then) was ruling the country in exile in London.

  3. My Punks Mom says:

    I am enjoying your posts so much Malou! I also loved the extra information Andrew has posted here in the comments. I find all of this fascinating, and had no idea about Droten or it’s history. All of this is fascinating to me! Keep posting Malou! I’m loving your blog!

    • I’m glad that you are enjoying my posts. There is so much to share about this country, its culture abd its people. While the perception about the Dutch is that they are very liberated, thete are for instance communities here which are still very religious, traditional and orthodox. Within cycling distance from my place is a fishing village where women still dress up in traditional clothes every day and practices age-old traditions. This is somerhing I’ll write about one of these days.

  4. Wonderful photos. and your little girl is a real cutie ! and thanks for visiting my blog :)

  5. Wow, absolutely beautiful photographs. Looking forward to seeing more ;)

  6. Bron says:

    How very interesting and informative! And what beautiful flowers – I can only imagine they would have been even more spectacular to see in the flesh!

  7. bradmaloney says:

    Your pictures are beautiful! Im jealous of your photo opportunities

  8. katherine says:

    I love tulips! Each year in Melbourne we have a tulip festival and it looks exactly like this but there is way more tulips in your area! :) lovely photos!

    • I’ve seen the Tulip Festival in Australia. A few friends of mine have posted those pictures. You’re right, we have more tulips here. In spring, we love driving around the Noordoost Polder in the north because there’s over 100 kms. of tulip fields to see.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,656 other followers

%d bloggers like this: