Zeeland (pronounced zay – land) is the southern-west-most province of the Netherlands. On the drive from Utrecht through Rotterdam and Rosendaal, I asked Robert what Zeeland was famous for.
“The flood of 1953,” he replied.
Later we learned from our friend Annelies, whose grandmother had experienced the flood firsthand, that memories of the flood stayed with the residents and future generations. It explained why the Zeeuws preferred to sleep upstairs, not on the ground floor.
It was a good 2 to 2.5 hour drive from Utrecht to our first concert in Zeeland. We took a wrong turn towards Vlissingen and then backtracked until we saw signs for Domburg on the northwest coast of Zeeland. The minute we got out of the car, we felt the force of the September wind. Some buildings appeared permanently diagonal from the wind.
For a name as grand as that, Domburg was surprisingly walkable, with a population of 1,200 (last count in 2001). It’s famous for the special light that has attracted artists such as Piet Mondrian. After our concert, we headed for the beach.
Having grown up on an island within walking distance of a beach, I expected the water to be blue not grey and white. The North Sea was nothing like the East China Sea. It was fierce, unstoppable, relentless, and not friendly. I stared at the constant pounding of the waves and wondered how anyone would dare dive into it.
After a trek through the dunes and the beach, we decided to take our dinner in a restaurant with a conservatory. We sat among the German tourists and ordered the catch of the day.
This 3-day concert tour was arranged for us by Stichting Muziekinhuis, the Dutch foundation that places musicians in places where the residents are unable to travel to concert halls. It was a treat to have everything taken care of: concert venues, publicity, payment, accommodation, meals, etc. Thank you, Nico!
We drove east to Middelburg which dates back to 8th or 9th century. Even the so-called New Church (below) is pretty old. There was plenty of time to explore the capital of Zeeland the next morning.
I should write about our concerts in Domburg, Terneuzen, Middelburg, and Goes (pronounced hoos). They were all greeted with warm welcome and enthusiasm. The Zeeuws audience wanted us back. We will have to return when the weather is more conducive to more extensive concert touring and windsurfing.
As we packed to leave the House of Lombardij, the owner of which claims to be the first Bed & Breakfast in Middelburg, I thought how nice it was to go on tour. Unlike attending conferences or speaking at conferences where you meet out-of-towners, we actually met and conversed with locals. In other words, we were able to go into a community and make a difference through our concert performances. It was a different way to travel.
Could this be repeated elsewhere?
[Below: Robert Bekkers practises before the last two concerts on day 3 in Zeeland.]