The special sides of West Zeeland-Flanders
A ‘country apart’, of sorts, that’s us. Our own flag, and anthem, rub home our Dutch-ness: we shall never be annexed into Belgium. It’s a kind of feeling that you’ll sense in the endless contrasts and singular vibes of our culture and tradition in age-old towns and villages. Enough said?
The superlatives start at the sea. Ours are among the cleanest beaches around, certainly in the Netherlands – all 17 kilometres of them. Stretching from Breskens to Cadzand, as far as your legs will carry you, great sands, dunes, dikes, seashells galore on the seashore. No more words on the seashore.
Coastal bike path
You’ll always be near the sea air when you cycle or walk along the outer dike of the Panorama route on the trans-border ‘Lage Landen’ (low countries) coastal bike path. It opened a decade ago, running from Breskens to De Panne on the Belgian-French border. Or you can take a more inland route. A sight for shore eyes, it is, with massive ocean-going freighters close by on the North Sea and the Westerschelde. Are they bound for distant destinations, or Vlissingen-Oost, Terneuzen or Antwerp? Or leaving there? Who can tell? This is one of Europe’s busiest estuaries – and most vibrant areas of nature, with riparian marshes and mudflats and their rich salt water plants providing shelter and sustenance to countless birdlife. No wings to fly? Take a ride along the bike paths of West Zeeland-Flanders.
People have made their home and their living here in West Zeeland-Flanders for more than two thousand years, leaving farms from yesteryear, former defences, churches, windmills and listed buildings in their footsteps. In many places, much looks like it used to centuries ago. Around the towns, you’ll see the walls built to deter invaders. And in the countryside, old farm complexes with their coach house, bakery shed and pigsty still intact. And no village is a village without one or several churches.
Towns and villages
Sheltering behind broad dunes and lofty dikes are our historic towns and villages – real charmers. In the south-westerliest village of the country, Retranchement, its ancient walls and the small Fort Berchem shelter, or ‘redoute’, were built in the Eighty Years War. Our culture goes back further, some two millennia in all. In Sluis, lift your head above its famed retail stores and gaze at the unique medieval church belfry or bell tower.
Folklore still rules today in such villages as Aardenburg, Eede, IJzendijke, Sint Kruis and Waterlandkerkje with benign past-times like ‘krulbollen’, a curling ball which you throw and roll up to a stake. In ‘gaaischieten’, the model bird has to be dislodged from a high wooden roost, in a tame equivalent of the English clay pigeon shoot. All the towns and villages of West Zeeland-Flanders.
Cooking up a norm
Food is never far from our thoughts. Take our mussels, our battered fish chunks of kibbeling, as legendary as they are lekker, our meat cuts and other local dishes. Our restaurants, from our five Michelin-starred establishments to stylish family eateries and homey bistros, have an amazing range of menus. The ‘starred’ chefs have inspired flights of fancy, but they source most ingredients locally. Admired the world over, their pure dishes, sober of sorts, are an utter joy. The way it should be, down West Zeeland-Flanders way.
The air we breathe, the soil we toil, the sea we farm, they all define what we eat and what we take delight in serving you. Locally sourced fish, sea aster and glasswort–even the occasional eel—all come from our waters, and only here. Our sturdy beers come from local grains, our asparagus and our (brown) beans from our farms. Read more about our local produce.