Schokland

Schokland

Schokland, the pearl of Flevoland, is a former Island in the Zuiderzee. It used to be an island in the Zuiderzee but today it is part of the Noordoostpolder, one of the polders created during the Zuiderzee Works in the 20th century.

You’ll note that Schokland lies higher than the surrounding polder land. It used to be an island in the Zuiderzee but today it is part of the Noordoostpolder, one of the polders created during the Zuiderzee Works in the 20th century. It symbolizes the battle against the water of the people of the Netherlands. Schokland is 4.5 km long and 400 m wide.

The former coastline of the island has been marked by a path for cyclists and pedestrians lined with trees (ash and spruce). The village on the island was built on three terps in a row. A terp is an artificial dwelling hill, up to15m high. In old Frisian the word ‘terp’ meant ‘village’. Terps were built by man to keep house, church, people and cattle safe and dry during river floods or high tide. The artificial hills were made from a mixture of clay, reed, cow dung and water plants. In Friesland and Groningen provinces, you’ll see terps of all sizes: small terps for just one farmhouse and large terps for a whole village. In 1795 the tiny isle of Schokland in the Zuiderzee counted almost 650 inhabitants living in ramshackle fishermen’s cottages.

The three terps the village was built on were known as Northern, Middle and Southern Neighbourhoods. The inhabitants of the northern neighbourhood were fiercely catholic and the other two were fiercely protestant and did not mingle if they could possibly help it. Isolated by water from the mainland and by religious strife from each other, the two communities both developed their own dialects. In 1859, inhabitants were forcibly evacuated from their homes with threat of flooding. Most people moved to nearby Vollenhove. After the Noordoostpolder was finished in 1942, incorporating Schokland into the polder, the former island was threatened by land subsidence due to lower groundwater levels: It already lies one or two meters lower than it used to.

Wet areas are being introduced to call a halt to this process. In 1995, Schokland was the first Dutch site to be listed by Unesco as World Heritage. Schokland Museum is located in a church and neighbouring little houses built in typical Zuiderzee style on the Middle Neighbourhood dwelling terp. At the back of the museum you’ll find wooden sea barriers which were common here in the olden days. The exhibition is divided into an archaeological and a geological part. They have done a good job illustrating the fascinating history of Schokland. Visitors can rent an mp3 player for 90 minutes of Schokland’s turbulent history along the Listening Route