Traditions aplenty and a very substantial history are very much part of the body Zeeland today. The heritage of our daily customs, and the messages of our monuments, make us what we are, and what you see. Tilting at the ring on horseback, making bolus pastries and babbelaar candies, and wearing traditional costumes are our pride. And our many monuments all evoke the glory days of trade, merchant shipping and the Dutch East India Company.
Our monuments are varied indeed: windmills, mills, lighthouses, town defences, churches, monumental houses and historical farms. Many look much like they did in their early days. A walk down the lanes of Middelburg and Zierikzee will waft you back, in no time. Their old town hall and Zierikzee’s Dikke Toren are imposing places to visit.
We need sea defences, first and foremost, but also defences against sea-borne attacks. Hence the walls, still standing, in many towns. In Hulst, three of the four town gates remain, and the walls make today a pleasant walk. In Sluis, the only belfry tower in the Netherlands stands arrestingly above the centre.
It takes a village
Rural Zeeland shows its past in its historical farms, still with coach house, baking shed-cum-outhouse and pigsty. Some places still have the stocks where horses were shod. Most village churches today are survivors, mainly, from the Protestant Reformation (‘Beeldenstorm’) when others were ransacked or destroyed.
Heritage lives, ok
We wear our pride in our history on our sleeve. On our special folklore days, people in traditional dress, practice crafts and play games of bygone days. Tilting at the ring, a jousting game, is perhaps the most dramatic: a bareback rider on a galloping horse has to pierce a ring with a lance. Spectators can enjoy a freshly baked babbelaar, or nibble at a bolus pastry.
The Zeeland landscape is rich in typical sights, seldom seen elsewhere. Several villages have the medieval circular layout where streets cluster in rings around the central church. Dreischor on Schouwen-Duiveland has one of the best-preserved models in the Netherlands. The motte-and-bailey castles, mainly timber, have all gone. Many of the ‘flight’ mounds on which they stood (‘vliedbergen’) have better withstood the waves of time and stand firm.
Towns of Orange
The Royal House of Orange (‘Oranje’) has close links with Zeeland. Veere, Middelburg and Sint Maartensdijk are known as towns of Orange, with inviting Oranjeroutes. The monarch Willem van Oranje was a regular visitor, as is to this day the Marchioness of Orange, the former Queen and now Princess Beatrix.