Sunday, November 16, 2008

Elburg, a little fortied town

Elburg is a fortified little town shaped like a square. The blue surrounding the town plan is the moat.

The little preserved medieval town of Elburg is a perfect example of Dutch old glory. Elburg, once a wealthy town during the Middle Ages, a member of the Hanseatic League with a flourishing fishing industry, is nowadays a peaceful town in Gelderland province that mainly survives through tourism, which mainly is coming from local tourism or from neighbouring country, Germany – saw quite a number of Deutschland plate numbers.

This is the little main square in the Centrum.

Built only for 4 years, from 1392 to 1396, this fortified beautiful town is still in tact, in the form of a square with defensive walls which are now in ruins, and surrounded by a moat with stone bridges that connects Elburg Centrum to the rest of the Elburg municipality.

It’s a picturesque place that will bring you back in time. The streets are straight and in the main square is a tea house and small canal with an impressive row of trees, its branches cut and formed to align together with the help of wooden trellises.

This is the main street in Elburg with rows of shops. On the left foto are two pretty bicycles that caught my attention. They were parked in front of this art gallery - hmm, the owners are definitely artists.

It was a pleasant experience to walk in this town’s cobbled stone streets and see charming little shops and cafes. I saw a couple of local tourists shooting fotos of some of the monumental buildings. And while I was tempted to stop and shop, I reminded myself that there is more to see before I can do the deed.

One of the pretty old characteristic Dutch gabled trapgevel buildings in Elburg now a fine dining restaurant and this is the main street leading to the Vischpoort, as you can see in the picture.

The Vischpoort is probably the most celebrated monument of Elburg as it’s very striking; an exemplary reminder of the grandness of this once wealthy town.

More fotos of Elburg here: Elburg - Gerderland, The Netherlands

Me standing near the Vischpoort. Dutchman complained that I was not looking into the camera. I like those fishnets though.

Walking through the Vischpoort will lead you to a small haven. There was a nice open-air terrace across it just by the stone bridge but helaas November is already a cold month so you don’t see people sitting outside. It must be lovely here during the summer!

The small haven in Elburg just outside the fortification gates. Some boats are old traditional boats like this one in th foto.

By the haven, we saw a couple of boys fishing, and oh boy, they just caught a huge fish! The fish, which is more than a meter long, was whisking itself trying to set free from the hook but the boys were strong enough to hold on and pin down the poor thing. I asked the boys, who are now measuring their catch, the name of the fish, but too bad the name escapes me now – I have a terrible memory!

The huge catch of the boys in the haven. Later, one of the boys released the fish back to where it came from.

A group of people already gathered to witness the great catch when the boys announced that they are returning the fish into the water. They took the hook off the mouth of the fish and one of the boys carried the worn-out fish and slowly placed it under water. Aw, so sweet of the boys to have returned the fish back to where it belongs! But I wonder -- how on earth could these boys find such a large fish in such a small pond of water?

The moat surrounding Elburg Centrum and two boys playing, sailing on a raft, hah nice pastime for these kids! This stone bridge is connected to the haven entering Elburg through the Vischpoort.

Dutchman and I returned back to the Centrum and decided to walk along the fortification dikes. We reached the corner of the pathway (Elburg is shaped like a square so there are 4 corners), which is where the Sint Nicolaaskerk is built nearby and we saw this old cemetery nestled peacefully in its own spot, right in the corner.

Sint Nikolaaskerk flanked by two buildings and next foto are wooden shoes hanged on the wrought iron fence just outside the home - locals really wear them but mainly when they are doing outside chores such as gardening.
On the other corner of the town further ahead is a nice place for picnicking under a huge tree with tables and benches and the ground is sloped all the way down to the moat. It’s very picturesque, very country, and tranquil. I love especially the colors of the leaves and that they have fallen and scattered loosely on the ground. It brings an added twist of mystery into the setting and you can easily picture yourself back in the 14th century.

It was a nice walk, something we both enjoyed. Walking is a cheap and healthy regimen.

The nice and peaceful walk along the dike surrounding this square form little town. You can see the moat on the left side.

I told Dutchman that I could live here, well nearby just in the outside, not in the Center of course as I need my space and some idyllic country views. He said he could live here too, but helaas Elburg is too far away from Amsterdam where we both work, so we junked the idea.

Yummy hot Chocomel with generous amount of slagroom on top and speculaas cookie.

We retreated back to the Centrum for a cup of warm drink in one of the café restaurants in the main street. The café restaurant I was eyeing on in the corner of the small square was full so Dutchman suggested we try the other café across it.

It was a bit cold outside so we were thinking of ordering hot tea but we saw the other diners drinking a cup of Chocomel. Oh, a great idea -- a nice warm cup of hot chocolate when outside is cold is just perfect. So we ordered two hot Chocomels with slagroom on top. I’m not really a fond of hot chocolates (I’m afraid of the calories lol!), but this one is really yummy.

I also got curious what an Elburger Botje is.

The local specialty in Elburg -- Elburger Botje

Normally, when we take a warm drink, we always have something together with it, like an apple tart or something, however we were not hungry, but the Elburger Botje stood out in the menu. I am always curious to try anything local! So we ordered just one Elburger Botje to share with and when it arrived, hah, I had a good laugh!

The puff pastry is formed like a fish (botje means bones, perhaps it is supposed to be fishbone) and it tastes like it has some butter, the typical spijs Dutch filling which reminds me of amandelspijs.

This white house is literally built on the fortified city walls (the ruins) of Elburg, and next foto is the view from the cafe.

We decided not to have dinner in Elburg and when we left the fortified town walking towards the outside parking lot, we saw many people walking into the Centrum and wondered where they are going. The church bells rang; it is a few minutes to 6PM. “Ah...” Dutchman said, “They are going to mass.”

Dutchman being a Catholic, although I doubt him being a practicing one since I have never seen him go to church or given interest in this subject, added that the people are from the strict reformed protestant church. I could tell, at least from the church that it’s not Catholic because the design was relatively eenvoudig – simple.

Although I myself am an agnostic, it makes me smile when people still practice their own religion and tradition.

Travel Period: November 2008
Destination: Elburg (Gelderland), The Netherlands

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