Fishery Day Observance in Spakenburg

Spakenburg wooden boats and fish catch ready for smoking

Don’t we oftentimes look far beyond the horizon for many exciting things to see and miss what is right under our noses?

This would seem the case with me for having been to other places to witness interesting cultural phenomena and overlooked what was simply amazing in a place that is even just cycling distance from home.

On this post, let me take you to Spakenburg, a fishing village which to this day still clings to age-old traditions and way of life. Many of its older generation of women for instance, still go about their daily lives wearing traditional costumes. Sundays are still strictly observed as day of obligation to the Lord so apart from going to church three times, all establishments are closed for business and typical Sunday activities like football games are forbidden.

Considering that we’ve lived here in Amersfoort for almost seven years, I was never aware of the Fishery Day observance in nearby Spakenburg. Thanks to a tip from our friend Tammy, we were finally able to witness this wonderful spectacle last 1st of September (Fishery Day is every first Saturday of September so we learned).  Wooden fishing boats had the sails on their masts raised and the local men, women and children were dressed in traditional costumes. (Normally only the older Spakenburg women wear the traditional costume on daily basis.) Every aspect of the traditional way of life here was out in the open and it was amazing to see how this village is able to keep the traditions alive and well to this very day.

Raised sails on the wooden masts

The mayor and the women of Spakenburg

Laundry-drying

Thick woolen socks that go well with the wooden clogs “klompen”

The dry dock at the harbor

Spakenburg women

Francesca and me with the Spakenburg ladies

Spakenburg children

Spakenburg girl

Fish auction house

Father and daughter with smoked mackerel bought at the auction

Smoking of fish is a traditional way of preserving them in the old days but is still very much in practice to this day

My little girl playing with the fish net

Spankenburg ladies and Spakenburg textiles

The traditional way of cleaning raw herring – head is removed as well as the bones then eaten with chopped onions and pickles

Spakenburg ladies

Spakenburg

My city (Amersfoort) in early spring

Crocuses everywhere


Crocuses in various colors


Enjoying the sun


The city gate


There is nothing more exciting than the coming of spring that I look forward to every year. The long drag of winter especially after the snow or ice is gone simply gets too much that everyone here can hardly wait for the herald of the new season. Spring to me starts when the crocuses wake up from their slumber, sprouting through the ground and blanketing open spaces in yellows, whites, purples and lilacs. The Dutch with their passion for flowers and organization, ensures that spring follows a synchronized order with the daffodils following the crocuses in the blooming game. Tulips cap the spring beauty pageant.

My little girl wasn't able to resist the flowers


My advice to would be visitors to Holland is to come in spring. This country is simply awesome and experiencing this season here is the dream of a lifetime come true. Everywhere is abloom and going out is just a pleasure. If you are a photography enthusiast, you’ll never run out of subjects.

Running around enjoying spring


One early springtime almost 2 years ago, we went to the city center for a little stroll. Although temperature-wise it was still very chilly, the sun was shining and the sky was blue…just the perfect spring day for a little stroll. We had a great time just sitting on the bench enjoying the sun rays and admiring the beauty around us. And like any typical Dutch, we brought our lunch with us which we ate at the city square.

Centuries-old buildings


Centuries-old buildings in the city centre


Lunch at the city square


One of the city canals

We live in Amersfoort, a municipality and the second largest city in the province of Utrecht. It is a city with a long history having celebrated its 750th birthday in 2009. This city is known too by a few names such as the “City with a heart” and “Boulder City”. The former is attributed to the heart-shape formation of the city centre which is visible from the air.

Old map of Amersfoort (taken from Wikipedia)

Amersfoort is not part of the usual tourist route but below is a list of places to see when in the city:

1. The Tower of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwentoren) – one of the tallest medieval church towers in the Netherlands at 98 meters. The construction of the tower was started in 1444. The church was destroyed by an explosion in 1787, but the tower survived.

The Tower of Our Lady (summer picture)

2. The inner city of Amersfoort has been preserved well since the Middle Ages. Apart from the Onze Lieve Vrouwentoren, the Koppelpoort and the Muurhuizen (Wall Houses), there is also the Sint Joris Church, the canal system with its bridges as well as medieval and other old buildings, many designed as national monuments.

A canal close to the home of Piet Mondriaan

If you want to see more of the Netherlands and want to get away from touristy Amsterdam, hop into an intercity train to Amersfoort. The train ride takes just a good half an hour and you are already in this lovely city. It is also very much possible to make a side trip to Spakenburg to see those women in traditional costume (see my earlier blog about them). That is just a bus ride away from the train station.

More pictures of Amersfoort:

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The women of Spakenburg are keeping the traditions alive

Our picture with one of the women of Spakenburg


Two Spakenburg women having a chat at the market


Unbeknownst to many, there are still places in Holland where age old traditions are alive and well and where practices from centuries ago are thriving well into the 21st century.

Holland, a small country here in western Europe, looms big in the global arena when it comes to liberal approaches to many issues which are still taboo in many countries such as abortion, same sex marriage, soft drugs, prostitution and euthanasia. Against this backdrop, I’m sure that it will come as a huge surprise if not shock to many that there are still very conservative and ultra-religious communities here where the practices, traditions and way of life observed are from many centuries ago.

A Spakenburg woman on her bike

I am lucky to live close by to one such place. Within cycling distance from my home is the fishing village of Spakenburg and this place is pretty unique because the women there live up to their age old traditions. They go about their daily lives in traditional clothes. There are other aspects of life in Spakenburg which are still too traditional as well such as strict observance of Sunday as the day of the Lord. The people of Spakenburg go to church twice and on special religious holidays, even three times. All establishments are closed on Sundays, even the ice cream bar or cafes. And local football games which in typical villages are held on Sundays are held on Saturdays out there.

I love going to Spakenburg on a Saturday when there is an open market because I would normally see these women doing their groceries or cycling to the market. There is also a museum that can be visited that explains their culture and traditions. To know more about this museum, here is the link: http://www.museumspakenburg.nl/

Other useful links are the following:
http://www.dd-spakenburg.nl/
To go there by public transport, you can check the schedules of the trains and buses through this link: www.9292ov.nl

When I visited the museum some five years ago with other Filipino friends, that was the time when I really learned more about their way of life, about their traditions, about their clothing which was quite a revelation because they would for instance, have a new set of clothes for the entire family when a family member dies. They also observe a very strict mourning period and everything in the house would be painted in black.

The women of Spakenburg are resilient and strong, known for their dedication to family and for keeping their houses extremely tidy. In the old days when the men went to the sea, chances are that they may never return. It is for that reason that these women had to be strong for their families.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Spakenburg if ever you find yourself in Holland. In summer, there are plenty of cultural activities out there to see. The village is very pleasant to visit. I love the harbor with the view of the docked traditional Spakenburg wooden boats. There is also a windmill that can be visited daily except on Sundays.

From Amsterdam, you can take the train to Amersfoort and there is a regular bus connection that will take you to Spakenburg.

Here are more pictures from our usual visit to the village.

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