Monday, May 8, 2017

The Urban Hike: Den Briel

Good afternoon to you all.
I am writing to you looking out on a grey overhung sky, so I am certainly hoping that you are enjoying better Spring weather!


part of the Den Briel ramparts

The poppy was last Saturday, when it was sunny and lovely.
Anyway, I totally ignored the fact that it was grey and chilly and windy and threatening to rain yesterday, when I took another urban ramble. This time I walked around my old haunt, Den Briel (or Brielle as it is also known), to view a WWII event.


The "Americans" 


Den Briel is a famous town, and its fame is based on a long-ago battle. Well, battle...Opinions differ quite a bit, there are two versions, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle I suspect!

The official town council version: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws were defeated in the battle of Den Briel. They were beaten and chased out of the town by the Watergeuzen (noble and courageous seafaring Dutchmen who came by ship), effectively starting the end of the 80 year (!) war against Spain. Encouraged by the example of noble Den Briel, other towns followed and threw out the Spanish enemy.

The historical version now adopted through new evidence: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws saw the changing of the wind, knew they were in for a beating, and fled Den Briel, leaving the town gate wide open for the Watergeuzen (assorted rabble who came by ship)to march into the town, killing and/or maiming those unfortunate Spaniards who were not swift enough.

My version: On April 1st, 1572, Spain had a tough time hanging on to this soggy, wind-flogged piece of land, filled with a troublesome stubborn race of merchants, fishermen and farmers who wanted nothing to do with Roman-Catholics any longer and especially not Spanish ones. It came to blows when the Watergeuzen, tired of being on their ships and in search of food, water and women, decided to berth in Den Briel. The Spaniards lost.

And there you are; you can pick the version which appeals to you most.

Last weekend Den Briel celebrated another war remembrance day, namely the liberation by the American troops in 1945.
Even though I am all for remembering those days (if only to learn lessons from historical events - somehow most governments omit to do this), I suspect this is yet another ploy by Den Briel town council to draw as many tourists as possible. And who can blame them?

Quite a few wanna-be American soldiers, complete with tents, material, heavy rolling material and even anti-aircraft guns, pitched their camp on the town ramparts. I must say it always makes me smile, those earnest fanatical historical re-enacting folk. I mean sincerely smile, not condescendingly!
Piet Heine made a short documentary about the mock battle for Den Briel in 1945; this is the link: Mock Battle WWII 2016


South Gate and Bastion
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Den Briel
the historical town within the ramparts; the route shown is not ours

The ramble:
We started at the South Gate (now less than a ruin), but the actual place where the Watergeuzen entered Den Briel in 1572, and walked along the ramparts, to the "German" camp. Due to the fact it was extremely chilly and there weren't many tourists about (we were their only visitors), they were breaking up camp. 
So we rambled on, stared at by sleepy sheep. 


View on Den Briel from the ramparts, with the Catharijne church
The American camp was next to the North Gate. It was pretty quiet too, but that quickly changed when a long snake of US army trucks and jeeps slowly rumbled in. They had just done a tour of the town. 
I must say this was an impressive sight! Too far away to photograph for me with my iPhone, sorry.




"American" soldier


On the Turfkade, one of the two harbours of Den Briel, there was a war memorabilia market, and that is where we met the re-enactment parade of the troops entering the town. The documentary shows you the aptly named Slagveld side of the harbour (Slagveld means slaughter field).
Personally I thought the Wisteria on the gable of one of the buildings prettier though.


But then I am a self-professed flower geek...
We ended our ramble in one of the oldest bars of Brielle, the Kont van 't Paard (The Horse's Arse), where a band of shockingly young guys played music from the 1940's.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Kont van 't Paerd, Brielle

All in all we walked for 1 hour.
If you would like to visit Den Briel, it is 35 km South of Rotterdam, but due to the always heavy traffic in this part of Holland it will take you an hour to get to it from Rotterdam. Getting there by pubic transport will take even longer.
The town is charming, has some nice restaurants and shops, and the town historical museum is worth a visit.