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.