zondag 23 juli 2017

GR91 Rosans, France

Arrived yesterday with Judith and kids at our holidays house in the medieval village Rosans in the Haute Provence, France. Please believe me when I say I didn't pick this place because of its location along Grand Randonnée 91. See the red-white marker on the pic, of what is our terras.

Of course I spend full days at our terras spotting GR91 hikers. Till now: none.

zondag 16 juli 2017

Wadden Sea salt marshes at De Zwarte Haan

Yesterday made a short walk at the hamlet De Zwarte Haan (translated as: The Black Rooster) in the 'far' north of the province Friesland. This is the western corner of an extensive salt-marsh area in The Netherlands (and of the whole the UNESCO protected Wadden Sea, for that matter).

I saw a sign of the local environment protection foundation (it Fryske Gea) indicating entering the salt-marsh area is allowed outside the bird breeding season (concrete: outside 15 March - 15 July). That is good news! My impressions was it was not allowed anyway. So, my plan is to see if a hike is possible through this area.

Also, De Zwarte Haan is a crossroad of two ultra long distance trails in Europa, namely the Jabikspaad, start of trail to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (more info), and the Europe coast trail E9 (more info). Being a crossroad, together with the fact this is a spot at the salt marshes of UNESCO Wadden Sea ànd its local, cultural history of the 'mud workers', makes it a unique point.

Interested in walking this area? Read my blogs and website Frisia Coast Trail.

vrijdag 5 mei 2017

Day of departure

Today I am leaving for the Highlands to hike the Cape Wrath Trail. It going to be challenging. For me it does, because I do not know what to expect exactly. It is pushing the limits for me in the sence it is a trail on the map/ in the books, but not really on the ground. Na paths often or sometimes, no signs, just roaming empty mountains. And the weather, of course. But all is in order: maps, GPS, compass and SPOT device for emergencies. Food with me to last a day or five. So not enough at all and thus I have to rely on what the trail provides. All equipment adjusted to wet, cold and windy circumstances. This for more than two weeks hiking. But it is pushing a limit for me. Not the disctance, but especially the new aspects of it. Yesterday it made feel a bit like 'what was I thinking?' Anyway, I am off and the whole experience will at least keep me busy with other things than the daily stuff at work. Reload and happy to hike again since last year my planned trip was cancelled. And it is exactly five years ago I was in Scotland. Together with Judith doing a road trip through the Scottish Highlands.

zaterdag 29 april 2017

Only toilet paper and construction tape

Only toilet paper and construction tape are the things to buy. Then I am ready for hiking the Cape Wrath Trail in Scotland. Hope the gods will grant Scotland some reasonable weather I can enjoy as well. The weather forecasts this week are reasonable for the coming week. Average 12 degrees and not much rain. That will be the week before I arrive.

I fly to Ingverness. Direct flight. The next day a bus to my starting point of the trek, Invergarry. Thus cutting the CWT with 2 days. Was necessarry too since time slot was a bit too tight. So guess I will be walking around at least 17 days. That is 17 days wet feet. For this I bring the construction tape. Sealing off blisters.

The thing I look must forward to, is pitching my tent in the totally deserted landscape for the night. Being completely alone with no habitation for miles and miles in the darkest of nights. Must be fantastic. And of course the incredible landscape where I am allowed to roam freely. Without a doubt, the first 4 or 5 days will be hell mentally and psysically, but I am confident I will pull myself through!

donderdag 27 april 2017

A failed state at the Wadden Sea coast

When it comes to the deradicalization of foreign terrorist fighters, we Frisians have not a good track record and not much expertise to offer. The only thing we can contribute to todays challenges is by illustrating its destabilizing and destructive effects, abroad and nationally.

Fighter off to foreign lands

Pope Urban‘s call in 1095 AD for battle against the Turks and Arabs to conquer Palestine had not been in vain when it came to the young men of Frisia. It got the intended effect. Many radicalized and became a foreign fighter. From 1097 until 1270 they fought in no less than seven crusades. Sometimes in Frisians fleets of fifty cog ships. Crusaders cruising the Meditteranean. They conquered and sacked cities, like Akko, Antakya, Damietta, Lisbon, Santiago and Tunis. And of course they fought in Jerusalem. Sparing no Muslim lifes, not even those of civilians.
Converted to Christianity only recently, the opportunity to join an army and to fight again was a big pull for young men of Frisia. Just as they had done before when volunteering the ranks of the Roman army to fight the Picts on the British islands and later again, joining the fleets of their cousins the Vikings causing havoc to the coasts of Western Europe. During the crusades the Frisians once again were known for their impatience and eagerness to fight and kill. To mark their barbaric heroism the Church of the Frisians in Vatican city was enlarged in the year 1141. And to this date its pious Romanesque tower is the oldest in the Vatican and Rome.
Hayo de Violgama 

Names of Frisian foreign terrorist fighters have been recorded: Aylva, Beyma, Botnia, Cammingha, Fatema, Galama, Hermana, Hettinga, Joulsma, Liauckema, Martena, Ockinga, Popta and of course the famous Roorda van Genum. The coat of arms of the family Roorda bears a Moor's head to this day. This, because Roorda van Genum had the habit to decapitate his enemies. But the most brutal fanatic of all was without a doubt Hayo de Violgama, also known as ‘Hayo with the flail’ (see image: Hayo leading the attack with his flail).
Hayo came from the village of Wolvega, now in the current Friesland province in the Netherlands. He had fought in the Fifth Crusade of 1217 and became a legend for seizing the banner of the enemy during battle against the Turks and Arabs. Apparently banners were a highly valued commodity. Moreover, he did not fight with a sword or spear. No, the trading mark of this radicalized fanatic was his flail he had taken with him from home.

Fighters return from foreign lands

But all ‘good’ things come to an end. After the last crusade the Frisian foreign fighters too left the battlegrounds of Palestine behind in 1270. For them the fighting and glory was over and those who had survived returned to Frisia. But it was not over for the people living there, though. Almost eight centuries later the region is still infected by ransacking foreign fighters from all over the world.

The reintegration process of so many foreign fighters into the Frisian society became a real concern. The Catholic church too became slowly aware of the downsides of their radicalization programmes. It was the patriarch in Palestine who in 1218 pointed out that the crusaders -as he euphemistically called the foreign fighters- had experienced great difficulties. Not only in getting to Jerusalem, but also afterwards. You can imagine. This bunch of outlaws were radicalised, war-traumatized men who had to be fit back again into rural society. Home meant nothing more than a modest living in a hamlet and doing humble labour. No glory, no status. Working the land in summer. Strengthening dikes to keep land and houses protected from the sea in autumn and winter.
And the Frisian society was exceptional vulnerable as well. Frisia then being a loose federation of republics, stretching from the current province Friesland (the Netherlands) to Ostfriesland (Germany). Unlike to the rest of Europa, the feudal structures were totally absent. So deradicalization programmes could not be organized. On top of this, the returned foreign fighters fuelled the myth of the ‘Frisian Freedom’ granted to them for their heroic deeds: that Frisians were free and not subordinated to any count or lord. This way tipping over the fragile balance between a republic and anarchy.
Turmoil and civil war followed soon. The fight between the ‘Schieringers’ (speakers) and ‘Vetkopers’ (fat-buyers) started a few decades later, around 1500. Flails, pitchforks and alike were not solely working land anymore. First relatively small scale and locally, but a century later it had developed into a full-fledged civil war with warlords (‘haadlingen’ in Frisian language) from the river Vlie to the river Weser, lasting a century: The Great Frisian War. Leaving Frisia as a prey for its hostile neighbours that would soon feed on it. Cynically supported by the same church that praised to the sky for their achievements during the crusades.

When hiking stages 4 - 6 of the Frisia Coast Trail (FCT) and everything looks peaceful and is quiet, remember this used to be the failed state at the Wadden Sea. Just like Somalia in the 90s.

Click here to read more blogs about hiking the FCT.

zaterdag 22 april 2017

Hiking the FCT and how to keep a poker face hearing Frisian names

Bellow I explain that Sake Saakstra from the hamlet of Saaksum is very normal in the northern coastal area of the Netherlands - and to a lesser extend Ostfriesland in Germany - and is not something to make fun of.
Recognizing a Frisian name is easy once you got the hang of it. ‘A child can do the laundry’, as they say in Dutch. And understanding it is a bare essential if you want to achieve a seamless flow hiking the Frisia Coast Trail (FCT). Once you get it, a Frisian, an Ostfries (Germany) - or a Dutchy with roots in the area to the west of the river Lauwers for that matter - is easily recognizable by both his or her first and last name. Do not say it loud, but it also applies to the people from the province of Groningen (more exactly the Ommelanden region), east of the river Lauwers in the Netherlands.

Firstly, the first names

The variations are truly endless. And they are unpronounceable as well. Yes, the Frisian name-giving culture is actually very rich. We only need think of the famous fashion model Doutzen (sounds like in cow with c replaced by d; dow-chún). This name is the feminine form of Douwe (sounds like dow-wúh) which means ‘dove’. But think also of bizarre names like Djûke (sounds like Ju-kúh), Tsjitske (sounds like t-shit-skúh, sorry), Jitske (sounds like yeat-skúh) or Sjoukje (do not even bother to pronounce). The extension -ke indicates it is a feminine name. This way you can bend nearly every masculine name into a feminine name and vice versa. For example. My name is Hans. I am actually named after my grandmother Hanske. A child can do the laundry. Rest my case.
But this rule is not always applicable. Take for example the Frisian name of the famous international Dutch actress Famke Janssen. If you leave -ke out you have not created with 'Fam' a valid masculine first name. Quite the contrary. Famke means ‘girl’ in Frisian and ‘faam’ is Frisian for an unmarried, young woman. Another example is the feminine name Nynke (sounds like neen-kúh). Like Faam you will regret to have named your new-born son 'Nyn' too. Unless you have the same strategy for raising your son as Johnny Cash with his song 'A boy named Sue', it is better to name your son Popke. Despite the -ke at the end it is a proper, cool masculin first name. ‘Poppe’ means ‘infant’ in Frisian. Therefor Popke means ‘little infant’. Or alternatively name your son Fokke (sounds like fuck-kúh, again sorry). Are you still with me? By the way, the trick that can be done with -ke may also be done with -tsje (sounds like chúh, like in church). Anyway, the advice would be to consult a native of the North first before giving your kid a name when you gonna be creative with Frisian names.
To get a little more feeling with the bizarre first names, some more examples for you to practice:
  • Fiebe (fea-búh) or Fiebke (feab-kúh)
  • Jaldert (yall-dúrt) or Jaldertsje (yall-dúrt-chúh)
  • Djurre (jur-rúh)
  • Lus (luzz) or Luske (luzz-kúh)
  • Gosse (gozz-súh)
  • Oebele (oo-búh-lúh) or Oebeltsje (oo-búhl-chúh)
  • Iep (eap)
One last tip, throw in an 'e' at the end of first names. Mostly works fine. Frisians love it. Just as Zeeuwen (people from the province Zeeland) love to do the same with town and village names.

Lastly, the last names

Now it becomes a bit more simple. So, hang in there for a while longer. Any person with a surname in the Netherlands ending with -stra (whereby 'a' is pronounced as in aaarch), -ga or -ma is a Frisian or -again- has Frisian ancestors. It is bit like recognizing Dutch with the prefix ‘Van’, such as Van Halen, Van Morrisen, Vanderbilt, Van Sand, Van Diesel, Van Burnt etc. Popular in Hollywood movies and for celebrities/brands alike. Frisians can also bombard first names into surnames by adding the -ma, -stra or -ga. And again vice versa. To give you an example. The first name Sake (sounds like saaa-kúh). Adding -stra makes the perfect surname Saakstra (sounds like saaa-ck- straaa). If he comes from the hamlet Saaksum in the province Groningen, then it is Sake Saakstra from Saaksum (saaa-kúh saaa-ck-straaa út saaa-ck-súm). No, it is not Somali language. The extensions -ga, and -stra mean something like 'from the area or place'. The extension -sma means 'son of'. Just you know. And I do not have to explain what Bitchsma means.
There is a one complication left with the surnames, though. The most common last name in the Netherlands is 'De Vries', which literally means 'The Frisian'. This is curious since Frisians make up only a few percent of the total Dutch population. Not very relevant you might rightly say. By the end of the 18th century, when the Dutch Republic was seized -without much hassle- by Napoleon, anyone who had no surname had to give or make up one. Most of them apparently called themselves 'The Frisian'. But they can't all have been. I am available for suggestions.


All the foregoing is very normal for the people of the North along the Wadden Sea. So, do not begin to smile or even worse, when one presents himself with: ‘My name is Gjalt Gjaltsma, Riemer Riemersma, Gosse Goslinga, Tsjitske Tsjitsma, Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, Aukje Aukema, Gale Galema or Popke Popma’.
No, do not blink an eye! Otherwise hiking stages 4, 5 and 6 of the Frisia Coast Trail (FCT) turn out not only to be hell for just your legs and feet.

Link for more blogs about the Frisia Coast Trail