Monday, October 10, 2011

TEXEL: Heaven on Earth 2

So, to continue the story from my last post, you really had to be there. I was one of the lucky ones!

Texel Island, just 15 minutes by ferry from Den Helder, is 9km wide by 25km long. Easy breezy if you know it like the back of your hand, which Astrid does, after 29 years. All 8 of its little hamlets can be seen in one day, as well as the lighthouse at the northernmost tip. But to have 3+ full, lazy days to take our time was just what the doctor ordered.

(Click map to enlarge. And yes, they even have an airport.)

Before the lighthouse(s) and windmills and seashells, the bikes, the kite and koffie met appeltaart, we first drove south to nearby Den Hoorn and walked through its sleepy little burgh of approximately 500 residents.

I fell in love with their church and its slanted clock tower.
It was a great start to the long weekend.

While driving from here to there, I started seeing these little barn-like structures out in the middle of the fields.
They supposedly exist only on Texel Island and are called schapenboeten = sheep sheds.
They store hay but the flat side protects sheep from the southwest wind off the North Sea.

Look at what wasn't protected!

But as houses on Texel go, there are some beauties.
Even the one in the bottom right corner is still being lived in...with dilapidated thatch.
Astrid says it's been that way for years!

I knew the Texel lighthouse would be a highlight of the island stay, so we went there twice, to the tippy-top-north of the island:

It was built in 1864 with 8 stories.
We were allowed to climb to the 6th floor observation deck where we saw the bullet holes from WWII.
It's a long story but the Germans occupied the lighthouse when the Georgians from Russia fought to rescue it at the end of the war...., of course, we had to stop by 1 of 2 war memorials in honor of the Russians.
165 Russians were killed trying to protect the Netherlands while on Texel Island.
The Georgian uprising on Texel against the Germans at the end WWII, April-May 1945,
has been described as Europe's last battlefield.

Our spirits were lifted when we drove south again to the commercial fishing harbor in Oudeschild.

On Saturday and Sunday, the boats are in harbor for repair and rest.
If we had gone on Monday, all of them would have been out to sea.

My guess is there is work for anyone who wants/needs it!
Even fishing boats need to be cleaned, inside and out.

Besides climbing the lighthouse tower, and getting the lay of the land, we had the chance to climb the church tower in Den Burg, Texel's largest town of 6K+ inhabitants...the size of the town where I grew up in Michigan. Almost half of Texel's population lives there.

I love these old Dutch Reformed churches. This one is from 1400....

...but its tower is from 1604!
I love seeing the world from this perspective.
See the church in the middle right image? That's the one from Den Hoorn above.

And see that windmill in the middle left image? That's Het Noorden in Oosterend, north of Den Burg, built in 1878:

This is a polder mill, which means it's used for pumping out water.
That large "drill bit" is a vijzel/waterschroef, which pulls the water up out of the ground.
See what Granny Towanda learns by looking and listening!

We got our education, too, when we asked what this gentleman was doing next door to the mill.
He was drying beans for winter storage...which would later be hydrated and cooked.
So THAT'S how we get our dried beans!

We saw so many things on Texel. As Astrid says, we were short of eyes!

You already know from last post we ate some of these.
Astrid has made jam out of the two middle berries in her past life.

All kinds of fungus among us...except for the red ones with white spots.
Astrid wanted so much for me to see the red ones...but none were to be found this time.

But we did see highland cows and llamas, horses and belted cows,
and enough sheep and rabbits to shake a stick at...

...edible chestnuts (left image), acorns, and honey clover...but NO STORKS.
Just minutes after asking Astrid if the island had storks, we saw the fake ones (above).

I saw 5 churches in all and was mesmerized by the blue clock faces...

...and everything else that is just so Dutch!

When it was time to leave the island and go back home, we took time for one last bit of sightseeing in Den Helder, after getting off the ferry... see the water tower from 1908,
and the Lange Jaap lighthouse from 1878.

Now you know why I did this trip in 2 posts...and why I'll now go back to England's trip to finish 2 more posts from there. The thing is, we don't want to forget or have the memories relegated to the archives somewhere.

And all this while preparing for our annual trek to Atlanta to see the kids on Thursday for almost 2 weeks. And I thought retirement was supposed to be...relaxing!


  1. It always amazes me what we do and see in 'a weekend'.
    Of course it helped that I know a little bit about Texel.
    To me, Texel is the place to get restored, the moment I am on the ferry, I am an vacation, the fresh air, the wind, the dunes to takes long walks, the bike-rides, things to see, yes I still see the beauty of it all, even after all these years.
    Your post is again one, to be seen for people that want to have information about the Island, it tells them everything.
    We had a great weekend and I hope that we are able to go next year again, even if it is only for 2 days, it is worth the trip.
    Thank you for this wonderful rememberance.

  2. Astrid It is YOU, of course, who is to be thanked for such a wonderful memory, mijn vrouw! If you didn't know all the back roads, I wouldn't have seen half of it. THANK YOU. I will love going back every time we can...just like going back to my family cottage in Michigan!

  3. I totally agree with Astrid - I too would be short of eyes. So many wonderful things that beg to be photographed and you complied. Thanks.

  4. I'm afraid I, too, am short of eyes, even for this post! So many wonders. I love it all. I love the two collages in juxta: the berries and the toadstools.

    By the way, I am reading the first of two volumes (and a third unfinished when the author passed away this year) of the travel memoir written by Patrick Leigh Fermor about his trip on foot across Europe when he was 18 (1933-34). He began in Holland and walked to Istanbul! I just finished the chapter on Holland, and was excited when he passed through Gorinchem! It was so fun to read his descriptions throughout Holland (which just took a few days to walk through) because everywhere he looked he saw the paintings he had studied in galleries and museums in England growing up. All the polders, windmills, dykes, and wooden clogs. Even the nuns wore them. :-)

  5. I agree with Astrid, I am so amazed how much you do in a weekend! I think the best thing about retirement is how busy you keep! And keeping going is what keeps you healthy!

    Oh boy, another trip! It didn't feel like that long ago that you were over on this side of the pond!

  6. PC: Thank you, Maria. I love that expression, "short of eyes." Just think of everything I miss because I simply can't see it all!

    Ruth: As I told Maria, I love that expression, "short of eyes." Thank you for your kind words.

    A trip across Europe on foot would be amazing. I haven't heard about that author. And to think he passed through Gorinchem. Unbelievable. Thanks for telling me about him.

    ET: For how much we keep going, Jen, we'll be healthy for a long time, I hope! And yes, July was the unexpected trip to Atlanta and Michigan. I won't usually plan on our trips so close together!

  7. So much to see, so much to do, almost too much to take in. :) But all so beautiful!

  8. I am amzed as well what you do and see in just one weekend. I loved traveling with you around Texel and getting to "know" the island a little bit. My favorites are the houses and sheds. So beautiful.

  9. Tim: I know! Thank you for taking the time to look. :)

    Carola: Thank you for stopping by here again! "Short of eyes" is such a good Dutch expression. I bet you have a good one in German, too!

  10. With all the exploring you did on this beautiful island, I'm trying to work out when you actually relaxed :-)

    My Dutch handwerken juf lived in a thatched-roof house in Vinkeveen all her life long. I love seeing the down bedding airing out on the windowsill.

    I never knew that the Russians went so far west during WWII. Thanks for sharing!

  11. DB: We often laugh about needing a vacation after coming back from one. But it does keep us young, I'd say. Next time I won't take so many pictures, though, that's for sure. :) Thanks for sharing your own Dutchness with these posts. I love it!

  12. I read the posts I missed while I was in New York. These English villages are so picturesque – I hope they never get modernized.

    Texel certainly sounds like a dreamy island. Thinking about New York – it must be so very different to be a resident of that island – so far from New York indeed. There is so much to see on Texel and you certainly showed us a lot. Sometimes it seems on a small trip one can see more, pack more in, and it looks like you did. It was lovely talking to you on the telephone. I am pleased that the weather is sunny and warm right now so you will enjoy your time in Georgia. I hope you get some good shots of the mountains – the fall foliage should start being pretty.

  13. Vagabonde: It was great hearing your voice on the phone yesterday, even though it means we'll be missing each other in person this trip. Maybe next year. But in the meantime, yes, you'd love Texel!!!

  14. Another treat for the eyes! The way you put together your collages is just marvelous... I've tried taking pictures with the thought in mind that they would look good together in a collage... sometimes the execution of it isn't quite how I'd seen it in my minds eye!

    Favorites... the Texel lighthouse, the fishing boats (such glorious colors), the berries and fungus, the farm animals, churches and oh... the everything Dutch! I simply must see about getting together at least one post before dinner... my poor neglected blogs!

  15. Whew!!! I can't keep up with you girls, not for a minute! Gorgeous images, especially the boats ... so happy you were there on a weekend.
    Hope y'all have a great adventure on the Atlanta trip ~ I look forward to those photos, too!
    Take good care

  16. Victoria: You know how to really flatter me and make me feel good. THANK YOU. I often think of you when I'm making my collages. They're part of the fun for me. :)

    WS: Thank you, Susan. We do have fun living life to the hilt. We're so glad we're still able to do it!

    So far so good on our Atlanta trip. We've already packed in a lot! We feel so lucky.

  17. So many beautiful photos. Looks like you had great weather (and great light) for this set!

  18. Karen: We had FABULOUS weather. Couldn't have asked for a better time on every level. Thanks.