The picturesque village of Goedereede

Island Stories #34.

You may remember that I wrote in June about the small town of Goedereede, and I ended that post by saying that I hoped to write more about this charming old city later this summer. I haven't forgotten, nor did I forget that I had stopped there because of the pain caused by the neck hernia; expecting a walk would help and get me in shape to be able to drive the last 25 minutes to home.

Now, six weeks later, I'm happy that my health is improving, albeit slowly. I can write more than a few lines, and I have also learned to make the best use of moments during the day when I feel better. So it is time to take you back to beautiful Goedereede.

Most of what I have shared with you this summer in the 'Island Stories' is about the island Schouwen-Duiveland. You may remember the short video of the city of Zierikzee, the pictures of Burgh-Haamstede, the dunes, or the beach. Goedereede is situated in Holland, just one island to the north of Zeeland, called Goeree-Overflakkee; originally two islands, connected by a dam in 1751. These names may sound strange for those who don't speak Dutch, but our geographical terms often make good sense. 

The oldest town on this island is, for instance, Ouddorp, meaning old village, in the middle of the island of Goeree. If you have read more of my posts about the towns that Zeeland has lost to the sea, you will understand why it made good sense for the first villagers a millennium ago to build far from the mighty waves of the sea. The downside was that the village did not have a harbor. The local fishermen had to pull their boats onto the beach for many years until they built a small port. Since the crushing storms come primarily from the west, they made the harbor on de east side of the island. They gave it another logical name; Goedereede means good anchorage.

The small harbor soon became more important than Ouddorp, mainly due to its favorable location for shipping to England. Trading ships also liked Goedereede to wait for a fair wind before sailing out to the North Sea. As a result, the town soon became more important than Ouddorp and, in 1312, even received city rights. With these city rights, the local government could draw up all kinds of rules and laws, regulate the administration of justice, and residents received various benefits. The city also built a wall with gates, including a harbor gate. 

Although these walls and gates are no longer there, you can still see the harbor gate on the municipal arms of Goedereede, and you can see where the gates used to be in the street work.

But like Zierikzee, Westenschouwen, and so many other cities and villages in this region, Goedereede's prosperity came to an abrupt end when shallows in front of the harbor blocked ship's access to the sea; it hindered trade and fishing. As a result, people left, and those that stayed behind increasingly focussed on agriculture, like most villages on the islands of Goeree and Overflakkee.

Zeeland is another geographical name that makes good sense, a province where sea and land have constantly changed. The fortunes of the people who lived here have often been directly influenced by that dynamic. Access to the water brought prosperity through fishing and trade, but the water also took villages, land, and lives. After the last flooding disaster in 1953, a massive investment in waterworks brought safety and a boost in the accessibility and prosperity of these islands. 

Goedereede is a small picturesque village by any standard, but it is proud of its history as a city. If you ever come to Zeeland, it is a short trip across a dam to visit this most southern island of the province of South Holland. It feels like it is part of Zeeland and is often depicted on maps of Zeeland in a slightly different color to remind you that it is actually Holland. 

Supporting this newsletter by subscribing doesn’t cost you much, but that also means that it only works if many people are willing to contribute a little.

I know that nothing is for free, but this newsletter is an exeption; it is free for many readers who can’t pay. I want to continue this, but it does require enough kind people, like you, that are willing to make this newsletter possible.

Give a gift subscription


And there is more (1):

(This is the new ‘extra’ section, for any last thoughts, pictures, or anything that I think is interesting for those that scroll to the end of the post. It won’t always be here, but today I have some more thoughts and some more pictures and a video for you. If you know a better name for these leftovers let me know)

If you are still here, let's leave Goedereede, the pictures, and the history. Instead, let's take a moment to look at the future because there is no 'end of history' in this delta.

The dynamic system is still at work; dunes and shallows still change all the time. And there is more to come, much more. Sea level rise will someday change everything in this region.

We have the best water experts in the world, and we have stable governance and finances. Still, if we don't urgently stop the rise in greenhouse gas emissions that causes climate change, the melting of the ice sheets will lead to such high sea levels that we can't defend our land against the water anymore.

Likely, the collapse of ice shelves on both east and west Antarctica is unstoppable. That will ultimately lead to seven meters of sea-level rise (not counting all the other melting elsewhere, like on Greenland), and that is much more than we can handle. 

In Zeeland, we don't worry about tomorrow; the sea doesn't rise overnight. But we do worry about the long-term future. We should all worry about leaders worldwide who focus on short-term gains for tomorrow, those who lack the vision and bravery to provide leadership for their grandchildren.

And since we all share this small planet, we should work together to stop climate change and help those that need to adapt to it. We may still have time in Zeeland and Holland, but today, like every day, thousands of people elsewhere in the world will pack their belongings and move away from the rising seas. If we don't help them now, they won't be around to help us when our day arrives.

And there is more (2):

Some more pictures of Goedereede

And there is more (3):

I put those pictures in a short one minute video to use on Twitter, nothing new since you saw the collage, but here it is if you want a Zen moment to dream away

(ps: you can follow me on youtube)