December 11th 2010–Marken and Volendam

The weather today is cooperating with our plans to travel to Marken.


Marken has a fascinating topographical history.  Today the former island is surrounded by the “Gouwzee” and the “Markermer”.  In the old days Marken was a part of the Waterland, a peatery in North Holland located on the border of water and land.  Around 1200 a violent storm separated Marken from the mainland, and turned the town into an island in the South Sea.  It wasn’t until 1957 that the island was connected to North Holland again, by means of a dike.

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The first residents of Marken were monks.  They gained possession of the island around 1235 and they lived on agriculture and cattle-breeding.  The monks built and kept in good repair dikes to protect the island, however in the 14th century Marken fell into the hands of count William IV and the monks were tossed off the island and the dikes fell into disrepair.

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As a result of this the residents of Marken frequently suffered floods.  They build homes on artificial platforms (yard).  The homes were built very close together and eventually they ran out of room.  Later they built homes on piles and these can still be seen here today. 

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What the island is currently known for is its colourful costumes and it’s people.  The costumes are all hand sewn and they are truly remarkable.  The people too are very distinguishing.   I’m not being unkind but when I first saw photos in a book, I actually thought it was a man in a bad drag costume.  The younger generation do not wear the Marken costume and I truly believe that the needle work they have created through the centuries will be lost in this century.  Children still learn to knit at school; but the beautiful sewing and colour work was always done at home and taught by the mothers, who are no longer practicing the art.   At certain times of the year all the residents dress up – “Queens Day” being one of them.  The men’s costumes are also very beautiful – knickerbocker pants with a woollen shirt with wood or silver buttons.  The woman’s costumes always change depending on circumstances (if they lose a husband or child) they will go into mourning for the rest of their lives and wear a black and white costume.  Young brides wear a very beautiful and traditional costume in a bright red colour.  The rest of the women depending on circumstances will wear the red costume and the appropriate headdress, the colour of the chin strap depicting the time in their lives. 


Unfortunately, because it is the heart of Winter the museum and church  was closed.  We did, however, take a 4 kilometre hike around the dike.  Wow – blustery but a great walk.  We passed the light house (still in use today) and many of the long-horned cattle very suited to the environment. 

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A truly lovely visit back in time.  We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant and Gerrit and DeDe has copious amounts of Smoked Eel while I had the Mustard Soup – just awesome!


Next we drove up to Volendam.  This is a lovely village (which can be accessed from Marken during the summer via short ferry ride).  Volendam is a small fishing village on the Ijselmeer – an inland lake which joins with the North Sea.  It is an extremely picturesque village.  Volendam was the scene of a fire in 2001 where 14 young people died in a fire.  The fire was started by a young man lit a sparkler and unfortunately was too close to Christmas decorations.  Over 300 young people were attending the New Years party when this happened and over 214 young people ended up with serious and life threatening burns.

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The village itself is very picturesque and a huge tourist spot even in Winter.  The harbour showed it’s Volendam fishing vessels and many fishing boats.  We are just amazed at the number of Christmas decorations going up.  It’s very pretty.


A lovely day.

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