Zeeland-Flanders, the deep South of Zeeland, is home to the village of Biervliet. Its claim to fame is twofold: the local Geuzenfeesten festival, and being the birthplace of Willem Beukelszoon, the inventor the practice of gibbing, a method of preserving herring. The Medieval name for Biervliet was ‘Bierfletum’, loosely translated as mud-flat. In those days, the place relished in trade over water, the Braakman canal a link to the sea at the time.
Willem Beukelszoon, a Biervliet fisherman, was a man of the Middle Ages. He devised a way to remove the gills and innards from herrings, which increased their shelf life, so to speak.
Biervliet came to be known for its salt mining, lasting until the mid-1400s. A large area of turf, just east of the village, was excavated for that very purpose. The turf would then be burnt, in order to extract salt. Afterwards, the ashes would be mixed with the local clay soil, producing a wide skirt of highly fertile land around the village.
The village boasts many a monument, most notably the 1659 Dutch-Reformed (NH) church. Go, and be stunned by the amazing stained-glass windows.
Look up, and admire the weathervane of the former town hall, from the 1700s: its shape is a herring. Willem Beukelszoon and his gibbing, or ‘haring kaken’ were the inspiration. Similarly, there is a statue of the fisherman on the village market.
In 1973, a three-day festival took place in Biervliet, to commemorate the Geuzen, or Beggars, liberating the village from the Spanish forces in 1573. The festival proved a huge draw and is now repeated annually with a ‘Geuzenfeest’ on Ascension Day, with a extended version of the festival taking place every five years. This event is included in the Biervliet events calendar, as are other events in the area.