close to amsterdam there is a peninsula called marken. now it is connected to the rest of north holland by a dyke, but it used to be an island in the zuiderzee (southern sea). a dam was built in the 30's to stop devastating floods as well as reclaim farmland and the zuiderzee became a lake called the markermeer. still with me?
when i visited marken last week i was bewitched. spellbound by this quiet village surrounded by water. i resisted the urge to walk straight into the pasture and start talking in my cat voice to the sheep.
i found a tiny museum in a house and watched a short historic film about marken and her inhabitants. physical anthropologists and folklorists were fascinated by how solid were the traditions and customs of this island and her people. its natural isolation maintaining a perfect relic of a former time. so around the turn of the century they came to study and learn and be amazed.
the museum was quaint. i was touched by the pride and beauty on display. best of all i had the place entirely to myself except for the 2 women ticket-takers speaking rapid-fire dutch back and forth to each other. i could see how pleased they were with my keen interest in their small museum. when i left they directed me to the harbor, but not before first telling me the word for harbor in dutch – haven. i copied it into my notebook, tucked my beautiful postcards into my bag and away i went.
i ate lunch there at the haven and thought about all i had seen.
this is a living breathing village. i felt privileged to get to see it, but also a little sad. which is how i always feel when i find a beautiful hideaway that has the potential to be swallowed and eaten by tourism. i haven't figured out a way to reconcile seeing treasured places like marken and knowing that my very presence could help to destroy it. i felt torn about taking pictures. it seemed intrusive, but of course i did it anyway because in the moment (and now) my desire to share what i had seen overrode my desire to safeguard its specialness. i'm still thinking about all of this.
i recommend walking all around the entire village rather than heading straight for the harbor. you might even get lucky and stumble upon the old cemetary like i did. the caretaker pulled up on his bike and unlocked the gate just as i was walking past. naturally i doubled-back andi followed after him up a small rise. it's well hidden. that's all i'm saying. if you get there i'll let you discover it for yourself. if you're really lucky you might also find the tiny shop where i bought my tablecloth and a little gift for my sister. it had gorgeous textiles and bolts of thick dutch fabric that looked to me exactly like the kind of material i saw in some of the old clothes in the museum.
and of course there are the vintage scarves to discover. i like this one with all of the dutch provinces.
for such a tiny country the netherlands is a land of cultural riches. i'm already anticipating a return trip sometime soon (this time with my sister!) to suss out more small villages via their excellent public transportation network of busses and trains. oy. the possibilities are dizzying.
more travel journal photos coming up tomorrow.