Zeeland is much more than just a beach destination. It’s also a province with rich traditions, its own dialect and ancient customs that its people are proud of.
Traditional folk costume
Until as recently as the 1950s you could still see people in traditional folk costume in this traditionally-minded province. While you’ll now rarely see women wearing traditional fan-shaped bonnets, you’ll still be able to spot folk costumes all over the place.
There are a variety of museums dedicated to showing the different styles of regional dress on the islands and you’ll be amazed at the surprisingly rich variety of colourful styles and beautiful fabrics. You could even find a local photographer who would happily take a picture of you dressed up in traditional costume. You´ll feel just like a true ‘Zeelander’!
Making a come back
The Zeeuwse knop was a traditional decorative button used on folk costumes. It has a round, wreath-like shape with a raised centre. While this iconic object was nearly lost with the disappearance of folk dress, it seems to be making a revival, in jewellery and cake tins, or as chocolates and soaps.
You can spot which villages in Zeeland have a history of farming by looking at their shape. These types of villages are called ‘ringdorpen’, a circular form of settlement with a central, circular village green, complete with church and a ring of houses and farms. A few villages still have a travalje or trave in the village square – a wooden frame in which the farrier or blacksmith used to shoe horses. You’ll find particularly well-preserved examples of these traditional farming villages on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland, which makes a great day´s cycling. The villages of Dreischor and Noordgouwe are also lovely destinations, as is Biggekerke on the island of Walcheren. Biggekerke is another well-preserved ringdorp with a horse-shoeing trave in the centre of the village.
When walking or cycling through Zeeland’s countryside, you are bound to come across a vliedberg, or earthen mound. People used to think that these mounds were used for refuge during floods, but we now know they were the foundations of motte-and-bailey castles used for defence. The castles have long disappeared from the landscape, but there is still one left; a ten-metre-high replica at Terra Maris natural history museum.