September 18, 2019
There is evidence of inhabitation in Zwolle (meaning ‘hill,’ a cognate of ‘swollen’) during the Bronze Age, circa 6000 bce. The Franks occupied the area during Roman times. The city dates from 800 CE. In the area around the hill upon which the city there are four rivers, IJssel, Vecht, Aa and Zwarte Water. The city center still shows its octagonal defensive formation. Zwolle joined the Hanseatic League in 1294. In the 15th century its wealth grew exponentially from trade. Thomas à Kempis, noted religious author, spent most of his life at the Augustan monastery that once stood here.
The city’s center of 125,000 is a superbly crafted mixture of the old and new. There is new construction that blends in well with the older brick structures. It is a shopping zone with residential areas nearer the edge. It is surrounded by the moat, where we sit on our boat just a moment away from the scene below, where there is much of the construction in brick to match the old.
Zwolle at night, followed by a day shot of the same general area:
Then there is the really old:
Another example of the new but this is outside the old center.
Like everywhere we have been, there is a friendly and often festive atmosphere, the festiveness pronounced in the summer when people more readily enjoy socializing outdoors. The restaurants are busy, with lots of outdoor seating. Few people use tobacco so one is not bothered. Bikes galore run up and down the streets except in pedestrian only zones, which most bikers respect. The young, the old, the in between, the infant, all come to town on one type of bike or another.
There is easy banter with the people you meet. The Dutch not only understand American humor they gave serve it on their own terms. A waiter came to ask if we needed help with the Dutch – we have become fairly well versed on the menus – and I said I could translate into English for him. I pointed to something labeled “Mixed Platter” and I said, “Now in English we would say “Mixed Platter.” That’s a subtle joke (I am not claiming it is a good one), but he got it. Peg ordered that very thing. I commented, “You will need help with that,” referring to what looked like a large order. He climbed in next to me and said, “I’ll be glad to help.”