by Camilla Rapone
Southern Italy and Spain are far away and – at least for many – reaching them is not possible now. Thus, while those locals enjoy the beach and the sea, in the Netherlands, the Dutch and its expat community hope to find their own freedom from behind the desk. Although Holland is not renowned for its seaside resorts, it is much more than the mills and Rembrandt (and coffeeshops and shop windows); there is a maritime region, overlooking the North Sea, particularly rich in lakes and rivers. Thus, entering into an unusual image of the Dutch territory, we discover that Zandvoort, the island of Texel and Vlissingen will certainly not be among the wonders of the world but are a different kind of sea spot (for those coming from the south) with strong identities.
On the subject of clichés, Zandvoort is known mostly for its Circuit Park. Fans of motor racing and Formula 1 go to watch the races. Few, on the other hand, know its history and development. Since 1828, Zandvoort has been a renowned seaside resort, much frequented by locals, Germans, Belgians, and recently also by international tourists.
During the World War 2, it suffered the German occupation, with incalculable damages. The ancient part of the city ended up in ruins, but in the 70s an attempt was made to rebuild it. Zandvoort has thus become the protagonist of a process of modernization, which has reshaped the appearance of the city, adapting it to the taste of the era. Today, Zandvoort is a seaside town, much loved by the Dutch with a long waterfront and shameless buildings (especially with regard to the construction of concrete blocks in front of the sea that is a legacy of a past period, when the landscape attention was practically absent).
Nowadays, it has a pleasant and a compact historical center, designed on the model of the seaside cities of southern Europe, where shows and events of all kinds are easy to find. Between sea and dunes, Zandvoort looks like an extraordinary natural area, enriched by the colors of surf kites and the panoramic terraces of its beach clubs – a white beach, surrounded by the nature reserves of Zuid-Kennemerland, one of the twenty national parks in Holland.
On the subject of beaches, from the list of Dutch seaside resorts we cannot exclude the island of Texel, the largest of the western Frisian islands and in general the largest island of the Netherlands (European side).
Texel is a concentration of simplicity on the historical and naturalistic level: the industrial tradition of the island has now been replaced by tourism, but with just six villages and mostly rural territory, it remains an ideal place for beach walks and sporting activities. Texel also has the Red Lighthouse, a structure dedicated to the famous Antwerp owner Nicolas Joseph de Cock. A popular name in the Dutch tradition, he built a dam indispensable for local life. The island is also famous for its sheep: their meat is sold all over the world and is low in fat. A food product found in all supermarkets, from the United Kingdom to the United States and New Zealand.
To the south, difficult to reach by public transport and rather isolated from the Randstad routes, Vlissingen is the capital of Zeeland, the least known and densely populated province of the Netherlands. Unlike many other places, here you can reach the beach directly from the Boulevard. The city, in fact, comes along with a troubled history, as well as a rich cultural offer. Various foreign peoples have conquered it: under the Spanish rulers during the Eighty Years War, Vlissingen became part of the English properties with Queen Elizabeth during the 16th century until the French hegemony under Napoleon. Just like Zandvoort, the town of Zeeland was also destroyed during World War 2.
Vlissingen also links its name to Michiel de Ruyter, one of the most famous (and controversial) navigators in the history of the Netherlands. Among the 300 city monuments, one of its most characteristic is a watchtower, 65 meters high. If Het Arsenaal offers a glimpse of the ancient vicissitudes of the city between pirates and rulers, the largest marine aquarium in Holland and the vast number of works of art make the town very interesting. Among the international events, you can joy the Film by the Sea Festival, which annually brings together cinema enthusiasts and internationally renowned Dutch artists.