The exhibits continue one after another at Fort Kijkduin. I am taking up the rear of our group, enjoying it all at a leisurely pace. (“Fast” is a setting I no longer have after my accident anyway). There is however something very very different just around the corner… Looks like I am in for an unexpcted surprise…
April 19, 2017
April 16, 2017
April 15, 2017
The museum and exhibits at Fort Kijkduin near Den Helder show us many of the aspects that the fort has to offer.
One information board about World War II told us:
“When the general mobilisation was announced in 1939, the fortifications here in Den Helder were reinforced up to war (strength) standards.
Extra soldiers were housed in Fort Kijkduin. However, after the surrender of May 1940 the Germans took control.
The German navy used the fort for artillery training also because they wanted to used the fort as a bomb shelter. T
he topside of the reduit (Kiwi’s Note: FR for a fortified structure) was given a thick capping of reinforced concrete of about 60 cm thick.
Under this cap was an additional meter thick layer of sand.
The Germans used the fire control post as lookout post.” It’s natural that one army (or navy) or another has used this fortification to their advantage over the past centuries. It’s easier however to think of these places being places of the “distant past” rather than of the “recent past”. One can only hope that it is never ever needed again in warfare. The exhibits continue: this is an amazing place, so much to see and thought provoking too.
April 14, 2017
My tour of Fort Kijkduin continues, there is plenty to see…
April 13, 2017
Fort Kuijkduin has seen many changes since it’s formative days as a single story series of complex tunnels and bunkers.
Over time more layers were added, the fortifications increased and the size of the site changed as war, and the defences needed against enemies changed.
The complex tunnel system (or at least some of them) are open to the public, but accessible only by staircases, so out of reach for me and any other less able-bodied visitors.
Although I missed this section of the complex there is still plenty more to enjoy on the upper levels and if you really wanted to stop and look at everything in absolute detail, then one visit here would not be enough.
Models, diagrams, historical artifacts and more abound.
In the first hall that I enter, a mannequin figure in one of the alcove cells immediately gives me the impression of a famous painting by Goya and indeed I find out that this is no coincidence. I studied this painting in my Art History days of youth.
With my study notes long gone I found this excellent background:
“In 1807 Napoleon offered an alliance with Charles IV of Spain in order to conquor Portugal. Napoleon’s troops poured into Spain, supposedly just passing through. However the alliance was a trick: The French were taking over and Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, was now the new King of Spain.
On May 02 1808 hundreds of Spaniards rebelled. Unsuccessful, these freedom fighters were rounded up and massacred by the French. Their blood literally ran through the streets of Madrid. Goya, although having French sympathies in the past, was appalled by these events and commemorated the uprising in two paintings, the most famous of which being “Third of May 1808”.
To discover why this exhibit is here I read from an information board:
“On 02 May 1808 the Spanish people stood up against the French but their attempt was unsuccessful. The painter Francisco de Goya made a moving painting about the mass execution that followed.
Many (Spaniards) were made prisoner of war and were forced to work on all sorts of large projects throughout the French empire. One of the persons depicted being executed in this painting is a symbol for all of the prisoners of war who were transported here and forced to dig out Fort Kijkduin.” I had no clue that this connection existed. It’s a sobering thought, not just for the Spanish who lost their lives but also for those and all the other prisoners who were forced into hard labour both at home and abroad.
Fort Kijkduin, situation 1812, lighthouse removed 1822…
Fort Kijkduin, situation 1990…
April 12, 2017
Arriving in the entrance hall of Fort Kijkduin, located close to Den Helder in the Netherlands, visitor attention is immediately caught by a large exhibit.
It depicts the landing battle between the English and (Napoleon’s)French on the beaches here. An information board translates as:
“The early morning landing from 27 August 1799.
The English ships produce such heavy fire that the Bataafse army could not prevent the enemy from coming ashore.
Even worse, both of the rifle battalions (green uniforms) had to retreat to the hamlet of Groote Keeten.
Additionally, the second Battalion of the 5th Half Brigade (Blue and white uniforms) was forced to retreat to the Koegras.
The losses from the Bataafse side: approximately 1400 men.
The losses from the English side:approximately 500 men.
As a result of this landing Napoleon ordered the buildings of fortifications in Den Helder, including this fort.”
The little model figures and boats depict the battle, but are safely under a protective cover, away from inquisitive little fingers.This is how, as soon as we get in the door, we find the reason that this fort was built… and since starting at the beginning is very good idea, so in we go!
April 10, 2017
Family Kiwidutch and friends are visiting Fort Kijkduin on the outskirts of Den Helder in the Netherlands.
The day presents us with high gusting winds and dark stormy skies, but the wind has a plus side: it is blowing the bad weather away.
The sun is trying to break through the dark clouds, succeeding more and more as the day goes on, so we have been exceptionally lucky: especially considering that we packed the car on the nearby island of Texel this morning in drizzling rain.
Entering the Fort we find a series of courtyards, the first one is flanked my two small buildings, one of which looks more like a house than the other.
Then comes a bridge that connects this courtyard area with the larger one within the inner fort walls.
During our visit I never made it around the lower level courtyard (a third one, that is encircles the main Fort complex. Whilst I am taking photographs from the bridge, I happen to see a door open below me, a family come out, clearly with the intention of walking around the lower level. It only takes a minute in the cold gusting wind for them to decide to turn around and go back inside. I laugh, but can’t blame them, even the grass on top of the high wall above them is taking a battering.
Some of my photographs are a little fuzzy too: even a DSLR camera could not always focus as I tried to stay on my feet, and that’s even using every wall, rail and sheltered nook I could find to stay steady. The silver lining to this blustery weather however, is that the rest of my family, our friends, and every other set of visitors I see at that moment scurry past me as quickly as they can in search of the shelter inside, therefore I have no-one walking in front of my lens as I take photographs.
The sign “Officiers ingang” translates: “Officers entrance”…
Even the grass is getting a battering…
The family literally come outside for thirty seconds before deciding that inside is a better deal today…
April 8, 2017
During the Easter weekend of 2016, Family Kiwidutch and two sets of friends spent most of the weekend on the Dutch island of Texel.
Easter Monday saw us all back on the mainland in the port town of Den Helder and about to visit somewhere special: “Fort Kijkduin“.
“Kijk” in Dutch means “look” or “view” and “duin” means dune, so a literal translation is “dune view” but like many place names around the world the literal translation doesn’t really work or sound right in other languages, therefore during our visit here I will just refer to it as “Fort Kijkduin”.
First of all we got a good look around the outside of the fort.
Part of the structure has been restored, some has been added, the most obvious part of this being a large section of roof. On a stormy, windy day like the one of our visit, this was especially welcome. There are cannons dotted around the location, both inside and outside of the imposing walls, located literally in the dunes on the opposite side of Den Helder to the Texel ferry and fishing port, it is in a lonely and desolate location. That said, the outskirts of the town are slowly creeping towards the fort, a fact of life for many historic places that were once in relative wilderness, especially in times when the fastest mode of transport was a horse.
If you visit the website (at the end of this post) you will find a little flag to represent an English translation version, but sadly for the non Dutch visitor, it leads only to a “reserved domain” where they hope to put the English translation at some time in the future. I will therefore endeavour to provide as many translations as possible and applicable, but in the cases where “a picture tells a thousand words” I will let them do so.
My “driver” (Himself) is a saint of a husband who does a slow circle of the car park so that I can get as many photographs from as many angles as possible with the least amount of walking, the kids and friends having already been dropped off so that they can burn some energy and make a head start. Regular readers will know that I love places like these: here I had an instant feeling that this visit was going to make my day.
March 26, 2017
Before we leave the “Klimmen Enzo” climbing park on Texel, I take a quick look at the two other features here.
Since we visited during the Easter weekend, only a few of the activities were open: during the summer holidays this place would be bursting at the seams, there would be extra staff and entertainers brought in from outside, and what looks like a small circus tent would be open to the public.
It’s possibly a music venue, I’m not exactly certain, but the other thing that would be popular would be the very tall climbing wall.
Although I am not particularly scared of heights, (and even if I could) inching my way up a wall on my fingernails is not my idea of fun, apparently I am in the minority because as I stood taking photographs I heard plenty of other visitors voice their excitement as soon as they saw it.
My kids were no exception, they would have gone on this in a flash if it had been possible. The De Krim holiday park definitely offers enough activities for the adventurous visitor, and maybe because of this our kids expressed invest in a return visit, something fairly unusual because usually they are “been there, done that, next destination please’ kind of holidaymakers. Concerts or circus, I liked this cute building, it has a certain charm, Texel is growing on us all.
March 25, 2017
The final section of the “Klimmen Enzo” high line obstacle course, and the highlight for Kiwi Daughter, were the “flying foxes“.
I discovered when I left New Zealand that this term was met with strange stares and puzzled expressions, and subsequently learned that elsewhere in the world these were known as “ziplines“.
Our friend went first so that Kiwi Daughter could see how things were done.
Attached by his safety harness, he sailed rapidly down the line, and when he started to become too small to make out at my shorter focal length I engaged the zoom and was delighted by how much of the action I could get into shot.
Kiwi Daughter likes to rubbish the fact that I carry around my big DSLR rather than just use the camera installed in my phone, but take that mobiles, I doubt you could zoom in this far and get photographs like these!
After being reassured that it was possible to make the distance perfectly unharmed, Kiwi Daughter exhibited an uncharacteristic measure of boldness and along with the obligatory screaming as she whizzed along the wire she added a few theatrical poses, even letting go one hand and waved an outstretched arm.
She got herself into the correct position for “landing” in the net, and once safely stopped, climbed up the net and then the ladder to an even higher level.
From there they attached themselves to the next wire and “ziplined” to the next stage: a large pole standing further out in the field.
Both landing safely on the platform, and having now completed two side of the triangle, the third and final “zip” brought them back to the main tower structure, the axis of the two main parts of the course.
The rush of endorphins and the buzz from the experience was plain to see, Kiwi Daughter was also rightly proud that she overcame her fear of doing the higher parts of the course and her doubts about her ability to finish the course. Her elation after the flying fox sections of the course clearly told us that this was not an experience that will be forgotten quickly, and the confidence she gained was immeasurable too. Of course as parents we were proud of both our kids: they each did their best and went as far as their physical abilities allowed. More importantly I think that our kids realised to some degree that whilst this may primarily be a physical obstacle course, its also a mental one too.
Naturally you have to trust your equipment but you have to calculate how to get around the various obstacles and overcome the fear factor that comes with the highest sections of the course. The zip lines are the icing on the cake: to participate is actually very reasonably priced, …but the experience is priceless.
The same net: side view…