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 17, 2017
The history continues in the next rooms of Fort Kijkduin near Den Helder. This time the focus is on militeria: medals, awards and coins. These are just a few examples of the many here. I am also saving these as reference material for my drawing files. I find that many of the patterns in these pieces are tiny works of art in their own right.
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 6, 2017
During our 2016 visit to Texel’s Eierland lighthouse, I learned that towers and nature do not always mix.
A plaque on the wall reads: “The lighthouse offered safety to seamen, but it was very dangerous for birds.
Thousands of migrating birds used to smash against the lighthouse.
They were attracted by the light, particularly during cloudy, moonless nights. Every morning the lighthouse keeper walked around the building with a wheelbarrow, picking up dead birds.
Later on, a fence was placed around the lamp and the building itself was also illuminated.
Since then, the number of victims has dropped considerably. However the lighthouse continues to attract birds. As a result of this several local owls have learned to come here to hunt them.”
Hmmm, ok, It seems that one bird’s loss is another bird’s gain. Hopefully one day we will learn of a method that deters birds from coming to the tower at all.
It is not only birds who have met their end here, another plaque tells me: “Hundreds of wrecks have sunk in the shallow waters around Eyerland. Most of them have been documented.
The most important wrecks are shown on this map. The ships that sunk could rarely be saved: the same held true for their crew.
If nothing else, a light beacon would decrease the danger during dark stormy nights. More than enough reason to build the lighthouse on Texel.”
Of course the vast majority of these wrecks occurred in the centuries before radar, sonar and modern technology. There was generally little hope for crews because standard practice was that sailors never learned to swim, superstitiously believing that learning to do so would prolong their suffering when death by drowning became their fate.
Added to this, heavy clothes, severe weather and extreme cold usually meant that they didn’t stand a chance. This lighthouse has seen many scenes of carnage, be that of beasts of the natural world, soldiers in combat or sailors at sea. It’s possible to get ticket and walk to the top: we are warned that there are 118 steps and they are very steep. Clearly I am walking that lot in my dreams. I wait below whilst the others go up and enjoy the views. They tell me that they can see a huge amount of the island, but that the wind up there almost has them off their feet. Sheltering in the small space by the door at ground level is clearly a good idea.
February 28, 2017
February 27, 2017
The aircraft hall in Texel’s Air Force and War Museum is a delight to anyone interested in history, aircraft, militaria, local history and wartime events.
Not at first thinking that interest in these topics would apply to me, I find that in fact most of them do: I am least interested in the types of aircraft, but the more and more I learn about the rest the more fascinated I become.
I love the detail in some things too, the embroidered insignia of uniforms, design of medals and the like, and now living in Europe, have a new appreciation for the events that my parents, grand and great grandparents lived though.
These events shaped them as people, and as a nation, and explains in part the difference in mentality between them and others of their generation, say in New Zealand who were less personally touched by war.
It gives me new eyes on the events of today and the plight of others in the world who find their countries in turmoil. I am for accepting genuine people in need from war torn countries, and for making wealth, education and work opportunity in the world more evenly distributed so that migration for economic reasons might no longer be seen to be a necessity.
Realistically, I can not depose leaders or solve civil unrest, but if we all work together a little, then I can hope for a better world for my children. One of the things I learned whilst living in the Netherlands is that KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) is the oldest airline in the world, and Schipol airport the oldest airport. There is a model of Schipol in its origional from here… I love the detail of the little planes on the runway, a reminder of how vastly air travel is today. There is so much to see here, let’s keep looking…