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Bunschoten-Spakenburg (now mostly called either Bunschoten or Spakenburg) is a medieval town first named in 1294 and received it's city rights by the Bishop of Utrecht in 1383. Because of these rights the citizens were allowed to build an earthen wall around the town. The fortifications didn't last long however because a part of the town was destroyed in 1427 in a war between two rival Bishops and the wall was never rebuilt. It was originally a very important fishing villiage since it was part of a wide, open valley of the river Eem. Their main catch was paling (eel), which is still a favorite of the Dutch today.

A century after Bunschoten was first mentioned, the settlement of Spakenburg developed. Originally the two towns were separated by a river inlet but much has happened in their history to change the lay of the land. Because of the location on the coast of what was then the Zuiderzee (a shallow bay on the Northsea), many floods inundated the area which caused the towns to become isolated.

So dikes were built to hold back the sea and stay the floods, this also caused new land to be created behind the dikes, this land (polder in Dutch) was often below sealevel and needed drainage and pumps to remain dry even if the dikes held, a big disadvantage of the dikes was that it limited access to the sea.

Now the two towns have become one, with Bunschoten on one side of the port and shopping area and Spakenburg on the other side.

In the early 1900's the prosperous fishing harbor boasted over 200 ships but the closing of the "Zuiderzee" after the floods 1916 and further reclaiming of land after that period brought an end to that. No commercial fishing is now done from this area but heritage wooden vessels are still being built and repaired here It also holds a harbor for present day sailing yachts.

The picture on the right is a bell tower located near the cafes in the central area of town. It periodically plays various songs and while we were having coffee and that wonderful Dutch Apple Pie in the square it was playing "Eidelweiss", a lovely relaxing tune to listen to.

Bell Tower

The picture below shows the type of boats that are constructed even today.
Click on the picture to see larger views of the wooden boats.

Bunschoten-Spakenburg is now largely a popular tourist area with outside cafes, lovely pubs, craft shops, 3 museums, a large shopping area, hotels and even an old-fashoined green grocery which sells only fresh fruits and vegetables. No cars are allowed in the main area of the town but free parking is nearby. It is also one of the few areas in Holland where you may see people dressed in the traditional garb of Bunschoten-Spakenburg. During special events you will see men, women and children dress in these typical clothes which are still an important part of their heritage.

According to the brochures, there are still about several hundred people (mostly elderly women) who commonly wear the costumes. When we visited, unfortunately there was no-one in the traditional dress but the picture on the right shows what the dress looks like. This is the sign that is outside one of the museums. Note the shoulder covering. This is called the "kraplap" and is a stiff cotton covering which will be brightly flowered, even often hand painted, except when people are mourning. At those times it would be black and dark purple.

Hold your mouse over the photo and you will see a statue of a woman in the traditional dress. This was donated to the town by the Rotary Club in honor of the women of Spakenburg.

Hold mouse over photo


Copyright: Rollie Braam - 2000 - 2006
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