It will be one of your favorite summer memories. The Zuiderzee Museum, a town within a town, is a great way to learn about Dutch culture and traditions by witnessing them come to live. The museum is located in Enkhuizen, one of the most picturesque towns in North Holland. It has a bit of everything: a small-town street, a village area, a 19th century laundry, various workshops, smoke houses for fish, traditional shops, a windmill and even several prehistoric dwellings!
Its story is connected to the great changes the area went through starting in 1932. That year, the Afsluitdijk was completed, separating the former Zuiderzee from the open seas. It was a massive project: a 32 km. dike, built over a period of five years, involving the effort of 5,000 workers. The dike brought multiple benefits to the region. First of all, it protected the towns and villages along the water from the heavy storms of the North Atlantic. It also created a huge reserve of drinking water, since the water of the former bay gradually turned sweet through the contribution of its tributary rivers. It offered the opportunity to start massive land reclamation projects: a whole new province, Flevoland, took shape in the following years, including the Flevopolder, the largest artificial island in the world. Finally, the dike’s construction provided a workplace for a few thousands men at the height of the Great Depression.
The project had however a big downside. Due to the environmental changes, saltwater fish disappeared from the area, ending a fishing industry that had lasted hundreds of years. The locals had to find new sources of income. Many of them moved to the bigger cities in the Randstad area, and the old ways of life changed forever. When these changes became obvious, people from the region started to discuss about creating a museum dedicated to the traditional ways of life around the Zuiderzee. The initiative took shape after the Second World War, and the result is amazing: a museum the size of a small town, with magnificent examples of houses and shops from the area, furnished as they used to be at the beginning of the 20th century. The buildings are authentic, transported from various Zuiderzee towns and villages and reconstructed carefully. Local volunteers play the roles of inhabitants from all walks of life, and reenact traditional activities. An indoors area, located in a former office of the East India Company, offers visitors more details about the history of the region.
The museum visit can be combined with a walk through Enkhuizen itself. A former headquarter of the Dutch East India Company, Enkhuizen has a surprisingly rich history considering its size. It has a beautiful center, with countless monuments, and its peaceful harbor with magnificent views will definitely keep a special place in your heart.
See below the museum’s site: