zaterdag 18 februari 2023


Friday February 10, I was invited to a poetry evening in Kampen. I gave some background information to a South African friend as to where I was going that day. Let's use that information for this blog.

Kampen is a small old historic city, near Zwolle. There used to be a university, which was connected to our church (later the institute merged and moved to a larger city). Even at the age of 8, I had decided already I wanted to study theology there, to become a pastor. A goal set too high. Now I realize at the age of nearly 68 - so, 60 years later! - that I have never been to the city, that sounds so familiar to me. 

The train station of Kampen, where I arrive by bus, because the regional trains are on strike all week, is located accross the river IJssel. From there one has a beautiful view on the city and the quay along the other side of the water. That I have never been here, isn't quite true. In the early 60s, when I was still a school boy, we would pass this quay and the old iron bridge actually quite often, on our way to the family in the provincie of Friesland in the North. Later we took the new freeway, that didn't even come near Kampen. The old bridge since then has been replaced by a modern version. 

In the Middle Ages Kampen was an important city at the Zuiderzee sea. It was an important member of the Hanze, a trade treaty of cities along the coast of the Zuiderzee (which is now IJsselmeer), Noordzee and Oostzee. German cities like Hamburg, Bremen and Kiel were members of that pact. You can still recognize the Dutch influence, because even the Germans use the Dutch-sounding names Nordsee and Ostsee, in stead of Ostmeer as you might expect (since the German word for open sea is Meer, and a lake is a See, just the other way around as in the Dutch language). 

Towards the end of the Middle Ages the governors of Kampen didn't put enough effort in keeping their harbour and the entrance to the river IJssel open to the bigger ships, the river silted up by sand sediment, and the city gradually lost the competition in trading. From then on a small and far younger fishermen's village around a dam in the river Amstel, called Amstelredam, took over it's leading position, and later became the capital of the nation. Kampen could have been the capital. Centuries later Amsterdam got a direct canal to the North Sea and in 1932 the Zuiderzee was closed by the Afsluitdijk, and during my lifetime a new province was founded at the bottom of the sea. When I went to school we learned eleven provinces, the twelfth province Flevoland didn't exist yet. Now my parents are buried in the soil that was still sea bottom when I was born.

So having known Kampen since childhood, I've never really been there, it's a shame. For me the name has always been connected to the theological faculty: pastors of our church had either studied in Kampen or at the 'Free' Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam. Our church since then has merged into the larger Protestantse Kerk Nederland, and the university in Kampen doesn't exist anymore (there's still one of a smaller somewhat similar church denomination, it's in my pictures). Also the black South African pastor Alan Busak  studied theology at 'our' former theological university in Kampen. Our small Reformed Church (presenting around 8% of the population but with a much louder voice) was rather activist, and its history has been connected both to the founders of Apartheid - suggesting grounds for the idea of a god-given separate development of nations - as well as the opposition to Apartheid - the belief in righteousness and equality. Hence the fierce debates in Dutch Parliament in the 70s and 80s, that I remember well, causing several political crises, with politicians from this Christian background pushing for more support for the Anti Apartheid movement, and therefore almost toppling the Dutch government. 

This day in February it was beautiful sunny winter weather, I had a long walk through the city, made a lot of pictures, and I will certainly visit Kampen again. Soon. 

Geen opmerkingen:

Een reactie posten