Imogen's travels - Part 1: Wijk bij Duurstede - The Netherlands
I am a travel fanatic. Always have been. Whether it's going to a small town in the Netherlands or across the world towards Hong Kong; I love exploring places and learning more about their history and cultural background. Please, join me as I record some of the places I have seen. We will start close at home, in the Netherlands where a dull company outing turned into an wonderful surprise.
***The Windmill by Wijk bij Duurstede - Jacob van Ruisdael
Dark clouds are gathering above this river landscape. The sunlight occasionally penetrates the clouds, casting a dramatic light upon the mill towering above all else. The buildings in the background are the castle and St Maarten's Church of Wijk-bij-Duurstede. The river in the foreground is the river Lek. Jacob van Ruisdael was one of the most famous painters of wind and water mills in the seventeenth century. This painting depicts an utterly Dutch landscape: flat, lots of water, sky and mills.
Time and place
We know from archive material that a clock was added to the tower in the background in 1668. Since a clock can be descried in painting, this picture is dated at around 1670.
A pun has been made in this painting. In front of the mill there used to be a so-called 'Vrouwenpoort' or Women's Gate. Instead of painting the gate, Ruisdael has painted a group of women. He had also painted a man beside them, but later painted him out again.
Text from The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam where this magnificent painting is displayed.From painting to reality
Several years ago, hubby had just started a new job when his boss cheerfully announced that the yearly company day out was at hand. Now, I hate that kind of obligation with a passion. Being forced to dress up, smile and pretend to like people you've never met is not my forte. But alas, it was hubby's new job and sacrifices had to be made, so I didn't grumble overly much but put my game face on, smiled and went.
The day was an unexpected success, not in the least due to the location: Wijk bij Duurstede. Hubby and I bought a city tour plan and hiked through town, admiring the many remains of days long gone. Not only were there many gorgeous houses from the 16th century, and the Flour Mill "Rijn en Lek"
built in 1659 (often mistaken for "Ruisdael's Mill" which had been built a little further west), but the ultimate treat was Kasteel Duurstede where dinner would take place. The food was set out on long tables in buffet style and minstrels, jugglers and fools amused the audience while we enjoyed a high quality meal. Later I learned that the location is also used as a backdrop for several LARP events. I believe I can imagine why!
If that is not enough to put Wijk bij Duurstede on the map of 'places to see', there is the fact that this small city's history dates even further back. Evidence has been found that even in the roman era a castellum has been build near Wijk bij Duurstede, and in the early Middle Ages Dorestad used to be an important trades center in Northern Europe. One of the finds from that time period is the "Fibula of Dorestad"
, a colorful broche of cloisonne from the late eight century found in an old well.
Van Ruisdael's Mill unfortunately has been demolished, but Wijk bij Duurstede has enough places of interest left to make a visit more than worthwile. And for the real hardcore art fans: the walls and floor of the original mill still remain and can be viewed, unfortunately through a gate.