The village of IJzendijke – ‘Iezendieke’ in Zeeuws – is in West-Zeeland-Flanders on the main road between Terneuzen and Breskens.
Five centuries ago, the sea engulfed the original settlement and the Spanish Duke of Parma created a new site several kilometres farther to the north-west as a sea-facing defence fortification. Over the centuries, ‘Fort Ysendijck’ has been visited by Spanish, French, Belgian and German forces.
The nickname ‘Petit Paris’ is popular too, presumably because of the relatively high numbers of French-speaking settlers and the need to communicate with Walloon-farmers and their tenants during the Occupation.
In the Bolwerk museum located on the Markt, you’ll find out about how the Staats-Spaanse Linies protected Zeeland-Flanders from Spanish invaders. They included strategically designed ramparts, forts and (water) defence lines. Their remnants form an impressive part of the landscape of Zeeland-Flanders today.
A very different emblem of engineering is the De Witte Juffer corn windmill, dating from 1841. Its unique cap, and sturdy ‘stocks’ (the beams carrying the sails) almost 24 m in length, attest to its power. Nowadays, the mill is run by a volunteer: you can visit on a Saturday. Call ahead.
The Dutch Reformed Church in IJzendijke is one of the oldest churches in all of Zeeland. It is said that Prins Maurits took the initiative to have it built: work began in 1612.
Eclectic it is, IJzendijke. Just watch (or join in with) the remarkable local sports and customs. Like, when an adult bachelor reaches the age of 30, he is despatched to the local ox meadow, known as ‘de Ossewei’. He’s given the keys, in public, all amidst fun, fuss and puzzles. The idea is to assist his transition to the company of other older oxen. Message clear, kids?
Another game – krulbollen – involves rolling a flat circular mass of compressed fibres or wood chips down a track to get closest to the designated stake. It has some similarities with curling, further up the North Sea coast, in Scotland. ‘Iezendieke’ is one of the few remaining villages in Zeeland-Flanders where it is played. The vibrant local league is undergoing a revival. In 2012, krulbollen was designated in Zeeland as an ‘immaterial cultural heritage’. It is how people have fun. Come.