Today we took a short jaunt to Schokland, the Netherlands’ first UNESCO World Heritage Site (there are now several others). It was pretty sad compared to some of the other UNESCO sites I’ve been to, and I got to wondering just how many that was and whether I was just remembering the spectacular ones so I compiled a list. Turns out I wasn’t – pretty much all the other ones I’ve been to are better than Schokland.
Schokland is a beautiful place, and it does have a cool history and I think I would have liked it a lot more had I not been expecting something in the order of the other UNESCO sites I’ve been to. Schokland was an island in the Dutch Zuiderzee, and in the Middle Ages was a thriving community. But with the rise of the sea, the island became increasingly threatened and the islanders restricted to three elevated parts with a wooden walkway only wide enough for one person to walk along – this led to the Schokland dance, a sort of dos-si-do to get around each other on the walk. The island flooded badly in 1825 and in 1859 the King, tired of expensive emergency relief, ordered the islanders to move elsewhere and destroyed most of the buildings, I guess so no one could go back. In the early 20th century the sea in that area was reclaimed, and now the former island is surrounded by some of the flattest land you’ve ever seen, flat even by Dutch standards.
The lack of awesomeness comes mostly from the fact that most things were destroyed as the island was abandoned. There’s a museum there which is reasonably interesting though, and there’s a bunch of archaeology stuff. And the landscape, the former island raised just slightly above the seas of grass, is pretty. It was a nice afternoon, but it was not awe-inspiring the way some of those other UNESCO sites were. However, we did get to go eat at my favourite restaurant in Lelystad, the vegetarian Chinese place, afterwards, and that made the day great! Pictures are available by clicking on the cow sculpture below.