Exploring Tjalleberd | Friesland, The Netherlands
We spent the weekend at the Dutchman’s family home. His parents have lived in the same house since he was a little boy, located in a tiny rural village in the northern province of Friesland in The Netherlands. The Frisian people are an interesting sort. While the Dutch in general aren’t patriotic folk outside
QueensKingsday, the Frisians fly their Frisian flag with pride everywhere you look. The towns often pay homage by hanging decor in the shape of a red waterlilly leaf (pompebled) which is found on the flag, and looks very similar to a heart.
Friesland is the only province in The Netherlands that has it’s own official language. If you come over for coffee with the Dutchman’s family they will likely not be speaking Dutch, but Frisian. (There are other language-y dialects spoke around The Netherlands, and while many are recognized, none are widespread enough to be official.) This, admittedly, made learning Dutch more difficult. (Luckily, I have had five years of reading Dutch stories to The Kid to pick up enough.)
Of the 645,000+ residents of Friesland, 94% can understand, 75% can speak and read, and 27% can write it. The Dutchman falls into the former two categories.
The town of Tjalleberd, Friesland is nothing special, but still very beautiful. It is a small town in the countryside, not too unlike what you would find in most places in the world. There are large fields of green, even in the dead of winter, laced with flowing canals and dotted with typical Frisian cows and horses.
Tjalleberd was founded in the early 17th century by a Mennonite community. It remained a very religious village up until the 20th century. There is a small church, which I have always loved, called the Aengwirder Tsjerke which was built in 1867 and once served as the local meeting house as well as parsonage. It was named after Aengwirden Martinus van Bouricius, a mayor of Tjalleberd who lived from 1707- 1755. These days it doesn’t see much action, but remains a beautiful central point in the tiny community.
The tombstones are just as everything else in The Netherlands. Perfectly symmetrical and bizarrely tidy. Cemeteries in The Netherlands are the opposite of what I see in England. Although they both receive a lot of rain, the tombstones in The Netherlands aren’t covered in mossy green. In fact, even ones that are 300 years old look like they could have been put there in the last decade.
At least in this area, you see much more weeping willows on the tombstones than you do crosses. I love the symbolism behind a mourning tree to remember the dead. The script they used was incredibly beautiful and poetic as well.
There are wonderful walking paths around the village in the woods. It is a protected area called the Friese Wouden, Frisian Woods.
My absolute favorite thing in The Netherlands, also happens to be in Tjallaberd. There is a field behind the house of some guy that transforms into an ice skating rink every winter. It is straight out of the 1960’s. Strange Frisian music plays over a loudspeaker, and there is a small room where you can get coffee or hot chocolate for 50 cents. All of the families in the neighborhood bring their ice skates and go for a spin around the field. Unfortunately, we Europeans have had a mild winter compared to the Americans, so I was not able to show you. Maybe next year!
I am not going to tell you to book a flight to Tjalleberd, but I would recommend getting out of Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague and venturing to the Dutch countryside. I don’t mean the touristy windmill attractions either! While the tiny village of Tjalleberd won’t likely be making any ‘Must See Lists’, it is a very special place to my family, and an authentic Frisian town.
Do you have a favorite ‘not a must see’ destination?