Have you ever heard about a Dutch island called Schokland? This used to be an island in the Zuiderzee and it’s a great place to learn something about the history of The Netherlands.
The history of Schokland
Not a lot of people know that there was an island called Schokland in The Netherlands. That’s not strange, because it hasn’t been an island since 1942. A little bit of history:
Schokland was located in the Zuiderzee, a bay of the North Sea in the Netherlands. It was connected to the mainland with a small strip of peatland. However, there were a lot of storms and the strip of peatland got smaller and smaller and disappeared completely at some point. In 1450 Schokland became an island in the Zuiderzee. Back then, there were four mounds (‘terpen’) where people lived.
Schokland became a divided island in 1660. The growing city of Amsterdam bought the small fishing village of Emmeloord in the north of the island. And from then on, the northern part of the island belonged to Amsterdam. The southern part of the island still belonged to the province of Overijssel.
Not only was the island divided because of a different government, but also by church. In the northern part, Catholicism was the main religion and the south was Protestant. They both had their own churches.
Life on the island was really hard. The inhabitants had barely any income because the fishery was in decline. It became the poorest municipality in The Netherlands. Also, the island flooded on several occasions because of its location. It became a dangerous place to live. The government decided that the island of Schokland was a lost cause and had to be evacuated.
In 1859 the 635 inhabitants of Schokland had to leave the island and most of them moved to special neighborhoods in Kampen on the Dutch mainland. Only a couple of people stayed behind, like the lighthouse keeper.
The island becomes part of the mainland
The Zuiderzee was quite a dangerous bay. After another horrible flood, the Dutch government passed a law in 1918 to change the Zuiderzee into a lake (IJsselmeer). The Afsluitdijk (a major dam) was built and some parts of the lake and a part of the lake were drained, which made polders (new land). Since 1942, Schokland lies in the middle of the North-East Polder, so the former island is surrounded by land. The main city in this polder was named after the fishing village Emmeloord. When you look at a map of the North-East Polder (satellite view), you can easily spot the former island.
Are you intrigued by this little piece of history and you would like to visit Schokland? You can! Right now, Schokland is even on the UNESCO world heritage list. A great start of your visit is Museum Schokland. This is located on one of the former mounds, called Middelbuurt, in the middle of the island.
When you enter the museum, you’ll get a flyer with information and a walking route. Make sure to follow the correct numbers of the walking route, because this is the perfect way to learn about the whole history of Schokland.
There is an exhibition that tells you about the history of the island, but you can also see some remains of the buildings on the island. There are also artworks to be found around the museum. The artists who made them were inspired by the history of this interesting place.
The museum is very accessible by car, from the A6 (between Lelystad and Emmeloord) or from the N50 (between Kampen and Emmeloord). Unfortunately, you can’t reach Schokland by public transport.
Would you like to know more about the museum, opening hours and prices? Check the official website.
All the way in the north of Schokland you can visit the place where the small fishing village of Emmeloord was located. A reconstruction of the port was made, so you can see clearly what it used to look like.
You can also see the house of the lighthouse keeper (the last one lived here until 1940). Right next to the house you can see a memorial, with the most common last names of the former inhabitants of Schokland.
Cycle or hike around Schokland
Would you like to see the whole island? You can go cycling or hiking. The trail around the island is about 10 kilometers, so you’ll be done in a couple of hours. You can visit all of the four mounds and the Schokkerbos (a small forest on the island, which also has a visitor center where you can get more information about nature in the North-East Polder). The trail is very easy to follow, but you can always get a map and more information at the museum.
Schokland is a unique place in The Netherlands with a very interesting history. A must visit if you’d like to know more about Dutch history. Have you ever visited Schokland?
Would you like to explore more interesting places in The Netherlands?
Or check out one of these great guidebooks: