471.The Man in Blue – The Conflict in the Netherlands under Philips II (II)

According to most historians you can only call a society a civilization when it has cities. The Sumerian civilization in present day Iraq had an efficient agricultural system. The farmers did not just grow enough food for themselves, they were able to feed cities with a non-farming population of administrators and artisans.

In the Netherlands the first real cities date from Roman times. But the cities in the Medieval County of Flanders, and later in the county of Holland and Zeeland, were ‘stage two’ cities. They were not just administrative centres and marketplaces where artisans and farmers bought and sold.

Brugge (Bruges), Gent (Ghent) and Ieper (Ypres), cities that people from outside Belgium will know, were producing textile on an industrial scale, and this produced a fabulous wealth. Just think about the magnificent Lakenhal (Cloth-hall) in Ieper, built by the guild of cloth (laken) producers.

With industrial ‘power’ also came political influence. The Counts of Flanders were looking for contributions from the wealthy cities to run their government, to run their courts and to fight their wars. The Cities paid their dues but with that ‘bought’ privileges for their ‘poorters’ (Stadspoort = City gate).

Most of states that made up the medieval Netherlands were part of the German Empire, but Flanders was part of the French kingdom. Under weak French Kings the high nobility of France, like the Dukes of Burgundy, the Duke of Brittany, the English Kings (who ruled parts of France) and the count of Flanders ‘ruled’ the King, but strong French kings tried to rule the nobility.

Towards the end of the middle ages most of the Netherlands’ Counties, Dukedoms and Bishoprics had become part of the ‘empire’ of Burgundy, and that empire was inherited by the Habsburg family. These new rulers were Counts of Flanders, Counts of Holland, Dukes of Guelders, Dukes of Brabant etc, but the Habsburgs tried to centralise government weaken the privileges of the states and cities.

The French Kings had to deal with powerful nobles who ruled parts of their country. The Burgundians and Habsburgs inherited these positions themselves. But they were confronted by powerful cities and their patricians and craftsmen.

It was in Flanders, Zeeland and Holland, where there were powerful and wealthy cities, that the religious reformation of the 16th century was most successful. King Philip II had to cope with an independent-minded population that did not want give up its privileges, and many of whom were ardent supporters of the protestant reform movements.


441.The Man in Blue – Vlissingen ~ Goes ~ Zierikzee ~ Rotterdam

No stories about family members this time, just a description of my wonderful journey ! Cousin Marie drove me the short distancefrom her house to Vlissingen – Oost Souburg station in her car. We went early as I wanted to buy an OV Chipkaart from the ticket machine at the station. The OV-Chipkaart is like a national version of the London Oystercard, valid on all Dutch public transport systems.

At Vlissingen station I took an intercity double-decker train to Goes, which only took about 20 minutes. In Goes I changed to Connexxions bus 132 to Zierikzee via the Zeelandbrug. There was a little wait but the bus left on time. Dutch buses are more comfortable than UK ones and Dutch roads have fewer potholes.

Goes is on the former Island of Zuid Beveland, connected to Walcheren to the west and the province of Noord Brabant to the east. To go to Zierikzee on Schouwen-en-Duiveland we first crossed to Noord Beveland via the short Zandkreek dike and from Noord Beveland to Zierikzee via the five kilometre long Zeeland bridge. The bad news was that due to fog I could not enjoy the view of the Oosterschelde.

Zierikzee has a proper bus station, but it also has a station used mostly just by people wanting to change to other bus and coach services. That station is called Sas, and there I got off to change to Interliner coach 395 to Rotterdam Zuidplein.

This is an express service stopping once only, but otherwise runs non-stop to Rotterdam Zuidplein. From Schouwen-en-Duiveland we went to the island of Goeree-Overflakkee (province of Zuid Holland) over the Grevelingen dike. Halfway there is a junction from where the Philips dike takes you to Noord Brabant.

We went non-stop past Oude Tonge bus station and then crossed the Haringvliet via the Hellegats dike and the Haringvliet bridge. Before going on to the bridge there again is a junction in the middle of what used to be a wide estuary subject to ebb and flood, which connects to Noord Brabant.

On the other side of the Haringvliet we were on the last island (Voorne Putte) of this trip, which we left through the Heinenoord tunnel, to the north of which you are very near to Rotterdam’s Zuidplein, a major interchange between the Rotterdam Metro and local and long distance buses.

The trip was very smooth and comfortable. We left Goes at 11.33 and arrived a couple of minutes early at Zierikzee from where the Interliner coach left on time (12.00) to arrive a bit early (12.450 at Rotterdam Zuidplein. Why the coach did not stop at the Oude Tonge bus station on Goeree-Overflakkee, which is next to the motorway, I cannot understand. The company must like running empty vehicles.

From Zuidplein I continued by Metro line D to Rotterdam Central Station and from there by RandstadRail metro E to Den Haag Centraal and finally by Tram 6 to the Hobbemaplein, near to where Jatinder Singh lives. To be continued.