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  • Writer's pictureHans & Frans

Introducing the Frisia Coast Trail

Why did we create the Frisia Coast Trail in the first place?

Do you know that feeling of having more hobbies than time? We do. We suffer from multiple areas of interest. Here are two examples.

We both like hiking

A lot. We did some cool hikes and visited all the continents, except Antarctica. We tramped in Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Greece, Nepal, Peru, Scotland, Wales, Corsica, Portugal, Turkey and Spain. But we never hiked our own soil… The Frisia Coast was high on our bucket list.

We both like Frisia

Little did we know about our own roots. Shame on us. High school was not even covering the juicy facts, except from a peculiar geography teacher.

  • The States of Province Friesland, one of the republics of the Seven United Republics of the Netherlands, often shortened to Dutch Republic, was the second country in the world to officially vote to acknowledge the USA in the year 1782. Yes, Mister President Trump. America first, but Friesland certainly second.

  • And Mister President, while we are at it, the Frisians were the founding fathers of Capitalism nearly 1,500 years ago.

  • Nowhere in Europe has been dug up more silver and gold than here. Frisia coins and money all over western Europe.

  • Two bad-ass kings from Frisia challenged the wicked emperor Nero on his own turf in Rome, visiting the great Theatre of Pompeius. And they lived to tell it another day!

  • The epic of Beowulf, the Superman from around AD 450, is about “Game of Thrones-like” battles between the Jutes, the Danes and the Frisians, with king Finn of Frisia and his son being slaughtered.

  • In Ostfriesland, Frisians defeated an army of more than 10,000 Vikings and established afterwards world’s first farmers co-operative.

  • The Frisian fighting skills were renowned in the Vatican, the Mediterranean and the Levant during the Crusades. The oldest church tower of Rome and the Vatican is even that of the Church of the Frisians. A stone’s throw from the also interesting Saint Peter’s Basilica.

  • Some of the oldest runic writings have been found in the marshlands of the Wadden Sea.

  • And then, there is the definition of beauty: Doutzen Kroes, Luisa Hartema, Mata Hari, Jane Fonda or Audrey Hepburn, to name only a few. They are Frisian (descent). But we do not blame high school for not educating us there. There we took the responsibility of self study in our own hands. It came naturally ;-)

It started at university and continued in bars drinking beers

We decided to take courses at the Frisian Faculty of the universities of Groningen and of Amsterdam. And continued to explore facts for fun ever since. In the years to follow, we usually shared fun facts when drinking a beer or a Beerenburg (local liquor) and when done with the gossip. The stupid. The funny. The bold. The unknown. The amazing.

Then August 2016 came, I still remember what I was wearing…

Hans dropped a whats-app message somewhere in 2016. Since we have more hobbies than time and multiple areas of interest is killing us. Hans proposed to combine the two them: hiking and (the history of) Frisia. The genius! Frans immediately understood the unrealistic ambition, but gave his support. The diplomat! Then again, if you do not dare to dream, how else can we be creative? Overconfidence is, as we all know, one of mankind’s driving forces.

And, if we still value to the ideas of the hiker and philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche, hiking and creation and writing should go hand in hand. It was Nietzsche who said:

Remain seated as little as possible, put no trust in any thought that is not born in the open, to the accompaniment of free bodily motion - nor in one in which even the muscles do not celebrate a feast. (Ecce Homo, 1908)

To answer your question, yes, Nietzsche was a fanatic walker.

This is how we started to develop the Frisia Coast Trail. We are adding all the fun stuff we learned over time and frame it into tracks and hikes that wander through a beautiful landscape.

The name of the trail was clear from the start: The Frisia Coast Trail, or as hikers love to do, the FCT. Already it got a nickname too. Since its a trail through the grass- and marshlands of cows and milk, its nicknamed the ‘Milky Way’. Furthermore, it was non other than Charlemagne who said that the Milky Way started at the Wadden Sea in Frisia and ended at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, illuminating the most famous pilgrimage.

Milky Way

Outlining the trail

We have divided the trail into nine stages, also to accommodate section hikers. Each stage is an area that can more or less be distinguished from the other by landscape and/or by history. You will see that rivers play an important role in the history of these areas. Regional history and rivers are very much LinkedIn (click the stage-links bellow to get a visual impression).

Historically, Frisia is subdivided into 4 areas belonging culturally and, to a lesser extent, politically to each other.

1. West Frisia

  • Stage 1: From inlet the Zwin (former Scincfala) in West Flanders to the River Lek, a branch of the lower River Rhine, at the town of Wijk bij Duurstede (former Franco-Frisian emporium Dorestat). This area used to be part of the civitas West Frisia. Here the early-medieval and famous emporium Dorestat was located. This stage covers the Netherlands’ Delta of three mighty rivers, Scheldt, Meuse and Rhine.

  • Stage 2: From the River Lek to the River IJ and the town of Velsen Zuid near the Netherlands’ capitol Amsterdam, where the Romans had to accept their limits, and halted their expansion after a major defeat against the Frisians. This whole area used to be part of West Frisia as well.

  • Stage 3: From the River IJ to Wieringen, formerly an island, where once the River Vlie separated the provinces of Noord Holland and Friesland from each other. Still, this whole stretch used to be part of West Frisia too. You walk partly along Europe’s broadest beaches of the North Sea and pass through a region carrying the name Westfriesland to this day, albeit a region within the province of Noord Holland.

2. Mid Frisia (also named Central Frisia)

  • Stage 4: From the River Vlie to the River Lauwers, marking the border between the Netherlands’ provinces of Friesland and Groningen. Now you enter the (former) salt-marsh area, the area called Mid Frisia. But is also named Central Frisia or Westerlauwers Friesland. Confusingly, this part is sometimes also named West Frisia, as in ‘west of the River Lauwers’. From the River Vlie until the end of the full Frisia Coast Trail you will be walking along the Wadden Sea coast (UNESCO protected, as long as the Danish, Dutch and German governments refrain from mining activities). Do take the opportunity to walk the sea floor to one of the islands at low tide, especially during the stages 4 – 9.

  • Stage 5: From the River Lauwers to the River Ems, marking the border of the province of Groningen and the region of Ostfriesland or East Frisia. The region Ommelanden, also named Het Hogeland ‘the highland’ of the province of Groningen, used to be the salt-marsh area. This region was part of Mid Frisia too. The town of Groningen was never part of Frisia.

3. East Frisia

  • Stage 6: From the River Ems to the River Jade, marking the end of Region Ostfriesland or East Frisia, including Landkreis Friesland. You are still hiking along the Wadden Sea coast, but the track also leads to the town of Aurich where once the ‘Seven Sealands’ gathered at the thing called the Upstalsboom.

  • Stage 7: From the River Jade to the River Eider marking the beginning of Kreis Nordfriesland or North Frisia. This stage covers the German Bight, including Land Wursten, region Dithmarschen, and the mythical red rock-island Heligoland where the goddess Fosete (also Forsete) was being worshiped by the heathen Frisians. From this wider region the Saxons and Angles migrated during the Migration Age to the east, to settle in Frisia and, of course, in the southeast of England.

4. North Frisia

  • Stage 8: From the River Eider to the River Vidå (Widuu in North-Frisian language, meaning ‘widow’) marking the border with Denmark. During this stage you find the remaining mighty Haubarg farmsteads on the penisnula of Eiderstedt, and still see ancient terps of Landkreis Nordfriesland ‘in action’ when surrounded by sea during seasonal flooding in autumn and winter. “Landunter” as they say in Nordfriesland.

  • Stage 9: From the River Vidå to the River Ribe Å. Hiking the southwest of Jutland of Denmark to the town of Ribe, a trading town probably founded by Frisian merchants around the year 700. Ribe town marks the end of the Frisia Coast Trail.

Join us on our track, wish you a good hike or a fun read and feel free to contribute! We haven’t designed many tracks before. So, a little help is welcome.

The only trail we designed so far is (a one hour taxi drive) across five garages in Silicon Valley in the United States. Epic! These garages changed the world as we know it. This is where Steve Jobs (Apple, rip), Bill Gates (Mircosoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google) and Hewlett & Packard (HP) did their magic.

It may be so that the Frisia Coast Trail dates way back in time. But it is also about shaping the world we live in. Remember the old saying “Deus mare, Friso litora fecit” (God created the sea, the Frisian the coast). To prove their case, Frisian ancestors started building the first dikes the same time Jesus started spreading His gospels. The result is the world’s biggest wood- and earthwork created by the hands of men, covering exactly the Frisia Coast Trail, and what is known as The Golden Ring. The Ring that rules them all.

Further reading

Strikwerda, R., Melkweg 2000 (1998)

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