Monday, March 30, 2009

The eels of Harderwijk

It was a sunny, if cold day on Sunday, perfect for getting out into the countryside and exploring a new village.  I’m not sure that Harderwijk made the list of 50 Mooieste Dorpen, but it seems like a particularly good family destination.

Harderwijk NL 34 Harderwijk is an old port city along the Veluwemeer, the broad river-like extension of the Ijsselmeer extending east from Amsterdam and separating Gelderland from the Flevoland polder.  The map, left, is from the local Admiraal restaurant: south is, artistically, towards the top.  The city is surrounded by the Veluwe, wide rolling pine forests popular with bikers and campers.  It’s a beautiful drive on a nice day, as trees extend for miles to give the area a very different character than the traditional flat, open fields and rivers that are common across the Dutch landscape.

The city dates back to the 13th century when it was a busy fishing port on the Zuider Zee, completely surrounded by a brick wall that protected it from man and sea. Cut off in 1932, that heritage is mainly captured today by the restaurants lining the waterfront and the Dolfinarium.  While reconstructed bits of the seawall remain, together with bits of the old city and the Grote Kerk, the overall impression is more of a New England seaside town, with colonial brick and white buildings and gas-lantern posts at the corners.

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The inner harbor has a wonderful collection of Dutch barges and sailing boats framing a historic windmill, while the outer harbor is filled with sailboats and yachts framing the blue dome of the Dolfinarium.

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The street vendors are advertising paling at every turn.  ‘Not related to the US variety (left), this is a local smoked eel (right).

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I didn’t have the courage to eat one off the cart, but the ample bones on the street suggest that the Dutch slurp them down much as they would a haring. The local restaurant served it sliced on bread, the smoked flavor was more delicate than I expected and the meat had a stronger texture .

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The town sounds popular with tourists in summer, and it looks like there are lots of opportunities for dingy sailing and racing, full of potential as a nice day trip from Amsterdam or Utrecht.

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Unknown said...

I hadn't even realized during that whole 2008 election that Sarah Paling's last name was in fact the Dutch word for 'eel.' Good one ;-)

Great coverage on Harderwijk! I am there at least once a year, so it was nice to read something well-written. And also a great shot of the windmill there... I always miss it with my camera, even though we pass right by it each time.

Dave Hampton said...

It made me smile; there couldn't be a nicer word to remind me of my friend from Alaska. I pulled the car over in a rush when I found the windmill to grab a few pictures, then walked into town along the harbor. It was fun to discover it all: I don't spend enough time in winter dropping in on random villages.