Zwolle and Kampen

Our first day’s travel went without a hitch! This might have been due to the fact that on the stretch from Meppel to the old Hanseatic city of Zwolle no locks were involved. Looking at the map it is easy to see that the city had at one stage been transformed into another one of those star shaped fortifications which there are so many of here in Holland. 

In the North of the city large sections of town wall are still in place and on the southern side stands the emblem of Zwolle, the 1406 built city gate “Sassenpoort”. We climbed to the top of the “poorts" tower from where we had a beautiful view over the city. From the stairwell we also had access to several prison cells, the cannon room and an eerie view through the “murder holes” where during attacks boiling oil and pitch was poured onto invaders. 

Three churches within the small space of the old town bear witness to the once important ecclesiastical history.

Interesting are some of the former and modern usages of the church buildings. The monastery of the Broeren Church, for example served as a prison and barracks for many years. 

Part of the building became a conservatorium, aswell as a synagogue for the once large jewish community. For many years the building also housed Thérèse Boer’s Michelin Star restaurant. Since 2013 the  Broeren Church itself is home to a large bookshop “Waanders in de Broeren” which also includes a café/brasserie, gift section and a good selection of English literature. 

The Thérèse Boer restaurant, cookery school and hotel is now located in the so-called “Spinhuis", the former Women’s prison.

One of the smaller churches of town we found transformed into a Sushi restaurant. Even though very stylish looking this seemed an almost sacrilegious use of what was once a space of worship.

In front of the romanesque/gothic “Grote Kerk” (Great Church) stands a modern glass sculpture of the Patron Saint of Zwolle, Archangel Michael. Why he is green, I haven’t worked out yet but he surely doesn’t go unnoticed!

In contrast, the inhabitants of Zwolle are known as “Blauwvingers” (Blue fingers). The story goes that when the church spire burned down the citizens of Zwolle sold the surviving church bells to neighbouring town Kampen at an exorbitant price. When the people in Kampen realised that they had been charged too much, they took their revenge by paying the whole amount in cent pieces. From counting all the copper coins the fingers of the town clerks of Zwolle were said to have turned blue.

The “Balletjeshuis” sells apart from the famous Zwolle “balletjes” (sugary lollies) also sweets called “Blauwvingers”. 

An impressive building is the visual arts museum “Museum de Fundatie” whose roof, seen from a distance, can be mistaken for a large cloud. In fact it is covered with 55000 small ceramic tiles.  

We liked this vibrant city with it’s centre full of young people. Some student groups on the day were involved in a Youth Festival. Special tents and out door stages were set up for music performances and story telling. In the evenings the outdoor cafés/bars were lively meeting places for students and tourists alike.

We also love how the Dutch celebrate their various talents and sporting endeavours.

In Kampen, our next stop, a procession of thirty odd groups of children, each group in a different coloured sports outfit, was moving through town accompanied by several music bands. It was the final of the so-called “Avondvierdaagse” meaning:" Four day evening walks" (and I thought only German has long words like that!). I learned that during those days sporting, school and scout groups walk daily distances of either 5, 10 or 15kms. 

On the final day they get a medal and, as we witnessed, are handed sweets and toys from families and friends as they pass by. Even the mayor of town made an appearance, waving to the young walkers from his balcony!

Here in Kampen we met up with our Queensland friends, Sandra and Reg, who are heading towards Amsterdam like us. Sandra suggested to catch up over dinner at a restaurant called “De Bastaard”. With a name like that, what could go wrong! It was a great suggestion! The ribs were finger-licking good!

© Austin Robinson 2019