It is said that some 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water. While the Dutch region of Zeeland is but a small corner of the planet, the inhabitants have been successful in trying to lower that figure. Throughout the centuries the Dutch have expanded the land out in the sea, using the characteristic dikes and polders. Not least in the region of Zeeland, where the efforts of man are sometimes clearly visible.
The fact that much of the land in Zeeland (and in the rest of the Netherlands) is below the water level has left its marks. Firstly in the form of the nation’s name: “Netherlands” (or Nederlands, in Dutch), translates to “the low lying country.” Secondly, the Dutch have become quite famous for their abilities to master the force of the oceans – skills that have been developed over several hundred years, as the Dutch have faced flooding when particularly severe storms have sent roaring waves toward their shores.
The last major flooding took place in 1953, with the highest number of casualties occurring in the region of Zeeland. One of the outcomes of that flooding was the construction of the Deltaworks, intended to protect a large area of land in and around Zeeland. The Deltaworks is an advanced accomplishment, which has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is surely something that is worth experiencing when disembarking from a cruise ship in Zeeland (see below under Do Not Miss).
Still, Zeeland is perhaps not primarily known for the technological advances that have been accomplished here. The region is a paradise not only for holidaymakers from all over the Netherlands, but also for vacationing Germans. The beach at Cadzand-Bad, for example, is a true paradise for anyone looking for a relaxed day out. And perhaps it would be a good idea to go by bike to the beach? After all, you are in the Netherlands now.
Visitors do not need to despair on a rainy day, either, when outdoor activities might seem less tempting. Apart from the Deltaworks, Zeeland has a lot more to offer those who do not put beaches at the top of their priority lists. Middelburg, for example, is well worth a visit. The capital of the province of Zeeland, Middelburg dates back to the early 9th century. In Vlissingen, visitors can experience a scenic boulevard – perhaps while trying to imagine what town life was like a couple of hundred years ago when pirates and buccaneers controlled the seas.
The Zeeland cruise port is made up of the port of Vlissingen, located on the northern shore of the estuary of the river Scheldt, and the port of Terneuzen on the southern side. A new cruise terminal in Vlissingen is planned for 2012, situated next to the railway station and within walking distance from the city center.
The Deltaworks gives a fascinating insight into how the Dutch have been able to master the ocean through an intricate mixture of sluices, dams, locks and barriers.
Middelburg is the provincial capital of Zeeland. Tracing its roots back to the 9th century, this town of some 48,000 inhabitants offers a good range of shops and no fewer than 1,200 monuments. The stately canal houses tell only one part of the story about this destination. For an insight into Zeeland heritage, visit the Zeeuws Museum.
Situated close to the Belgian border, Aardenburg is the oldest town in Zeeland – and one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands. Traces of settlements have been found from as early as 4,500 B.C. Later, in the second and third centuries A.D., this small town (population: 2,438) was a Roman base.
The fact that Zeeland is the Dutch region with the most hours of sun per year is only one factor behind the popularity of the region’s beaches. Broad and sandy, they are the ideal playgrounds for people of all ages. Plus, it is possible to trace the footsteps of history at the beach: Fossilized shark teeth have been found here.
If you happen to visit Zeeland when there is a folkloristic day going on in one of the region’s towns, you will be able to watch ring-riders in action. Ring-riding is an old Zeeland sport where riders have to lance a ring hanging in the air while riding on a horse at full speed. Middelburg, for example, usually arranges two Folkloristic Days per year.
If you enjoy bird watching, Grevelingen might be something for you. Bird enthusiasts from all over Europe make their way to the Vogelboulevard (Bird boulevard) in De Prunje. Among the species that can be observed: sea eagles.
At the muZEEum in Vlissingen, visitors are able to learn about the maritime history of Zeeland.
A range of shore excursions can be available on cruises to Zeeland. Examples include:
- Visits to Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city. The diamond center of the world, Antwerp’s history is a rich one – not least in the maritime field.
- Tours to one of Zeeland’s many beaches can be on offer. With 400 miles/650 kilometers of coastline, it’s a safe bet that anyone will be able to find a place for your beach towel.
- It’s not only the mastering of the oceans that the Dutch are famous for. Cheese is also something that many associate with the Netherlands. On an excursion to a farm, the process of cheese-making is explained, and visitors are given the opportunity to see the farm and sample the produce.
- The Deltaworks (see above under Do Not Miss) is a destination on some excursions.
- At the Watersnoodmuseum, learn about the tragic events of the 1953 floodings.
The distance from Vlissingen to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is some 130 miles/210 kilometers. Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is closer: some 80 miles/130 kilometers away.
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