Last week I biked to Amersfoort for a mid-afternoon language meet-up at the library. Amersfoort is about 10.2 km (6.3 m) from Baarn. It was a lovely afternoon for a ride, and it was almost a complete success (save one dirty look from another biker for stopping to let a pedestrian cross at a crosswalk).
I’d been to Amersfoort one time prior for a lunch date with my friend, Jeanine. She showed me around the old city center, and I immediately fell in love with its quaint charm. With a population of over 150,000 people, it’s the second largest city in the Utrecht province, and a bustling center of activity. Yet the Dutch allure is maintained with winding, cobblestone streets, lovely canals and rivers, and countless delightful cafés and bars with outdoor dining areas.
This time I was struck with some of the interesting buildings and structures I came across. I took a slew of photos not knowing exactly what I was admiring. Later researching what I’d seen, I found that Amersfoort has an incredibly rich history. It was first settled by hunters and gatherers in the Mesolithic period and later granted city rights in 1259 (957 years ago!). The inner city has been preserved well since the Middle Ages. The Koppelpoort, a Medieval land and water gate completed around 1425, is part of the second city wall of Amersfoort.
From Wikipedia: ‘The Koppelpoort gate was opened and closed every day by the appointed raddraaiers (wheel-turners). A minimum of twelve wheel-turners were collected morning and evening by several guards. It was an extremely dangerous task; if they did not begin walking simultaneously, then one could fall, dragging the rest along with often fatal results. Before the gate could come down, it had to be raised, to pull out the iron pins that held it in place. Only then could it come down. While the gate was going down, walking in the wheel grew ever easier and faster, and many people stumbled and broke their limbs. The Koppelpoort was also never breached.’
Imagine being one of those ‘wheel-turners.’ I wonder how many times the guards heard, “Umm, no. Sorry, I can’t. I think I’ve come down with the plague,” or “I have to pick up my chainmail and mace from the blacksmith this morning or I totally would.”
I’m completely enchanted with the plethora of history all around me here. I can’t wait to do some more exploring, and I’m definitely planning a return trip to Amersfoort to visit the Museum Flehite. But first I’d really like to spend some more time exploring the wide variety of fried foods indigenous to the area. Namely cheese.
Are any of you history buffs? If you could live in (or, well, visit) any historical period, which one would you choose? Do tell!