As small as The Netherlands is it has a surprising amount of regional dialects, from the more slow southern Limburgse accent to the rather snooty Haarlemse accent. There is a province called Friesland which is supposed to have an altogether different language called Fries so that is where we´re visiting today. The language is described as a fusion between Danish and Dutch. Leaving Amsterdam there are two options. The rather long farmland route across reclaimed land – Flevoland – or across one of the world´s longest dams. Ofcourse I chose the dam – better known as the Afsluitdijk. For centuries thousands died and villages were washed away by the tidal surges of the North Sea and the Dutch government decided mid 20th Century to construct the dam to protect the coastal inhabitants of the Ijsselmeer. The plan worked but unfortunately the fishing industry declined in the villages – like Marken – which were cut off from the sea.
It is possible to drive 130km an hour here on the highway as the road is straight for 30km. There is no toll to cross the dam. After the construction of the dam and the reclamation of land villages that were once on islands were suddenly in the middle of miles and miles of farmland. I plan to visit some of these villages in the future. Once you get to Friesland the first town is called Zurich and then Bolswaard. We stopped off in the fishing town of Harlingen which would be paradise for boat and yacht lovers but we got bored quickly and moved on after 20 minutes.
Our destination was the capital of Friesland province called Leeuwaarden. I pretended to be lost and asked an old lady for directions and to my surprise she spoke in very clear standard Dutch. We went in a shop…same thing. Another Friesian told me that they only speak their language behind closed doors! How bizarre and what a let down. I thought people were trying to save cultures and languages so people of Friesland please don´t keep your language a secret anymore and be proud of it!
Going to Friesland for the day was an enjoyable experience, especially learning about the dam and the turbulent history of the Ijsselmeer. Leeuwaarden was interesting and had some nice shops and buildings. Alot of Dutch towns have horrible high rise suburbs but Leeuwaarden didn´t. Friesland isn´t any different from other parts of The Netherlands though so don´t get your Fries phrasebook out just yet.