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  • Writer's pictureHans Faber

Expelled from Regal Grounds

July 1987. The two Frisian bastards, both being sixteen years old at the time, went to the village of Wijnaldum, or Winaem in the Mid-Frisian language. Reason to go, was twofold. Firstly, the yearly street kaatsen tournament was taking place that day. Secondly, one of their most beautiful classmates, Gerda, lived closed to Wijnaldum. The yearly village games were a unsuspected excuse to see her. Barely the bastards had arrived at the tournament, or they were ordered to leave the village immediately.

Last week, December 2020, one of the Frisian bastards walked the Terpenroute ‘terps path’, also called it Fiskerspaed ‘the fishermen’s path’. It's an unpaved path starting at the village of Wijnaldum, just north of the town of Harlingen, leading to the town of Franeker, following the small stream De Ried. The Terpenroute is about 4 kilometres long and begins at the monument marking the historic relevance of this place. A monument designed by architect Nynke-Rixt Jukema and artist Roelie Woudwijk. Luckily, the monument is neatly tucked away in some bushes, so it doesn't distract all that much. Read our post A Terp for Choquequirao about this Inca monument (?) in the Frisian landscape.

By the way, a terp is an artificial settlement mound, most of which have been erected during the first millennium. To learn more about these artificial dwelling mounds, check our manual Making a Terp in 12 Steps.

Terpenroute 'Terps Path' along De Ried

Wijnaldum and its surroundings is presumed to be an important early-medieval region. A lot of gold has been found in this soil. And, of course, it's the area where the magnificent seventh-century fibula has been found. Read our post Ornament of the Gods found in a mound of clay for more background on this exquisite fibula. It's clear from archaeological research that this area had intensive contacts with both the southeast of England and with southern Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages. Archaeologists hoped, and some still do, to find the traces of an elite, regal and even king-like settlement structures. In the past, they even speculated Wijnaldum was the seat of the illustrious King Finn Folcwald known from the early-medieval texts: the Beowulf, the Finnsburh Fragment, the Widsith and the Historia brittonum of Nennius. However, thus far, no prove of Finn's grave whatsoever.

Etymologically, Wijnaldum derives from 'Winiwald's [name of a person] heem [home]' (Van Erkel & Samplonius 2018).

Current stream De Ried, also called Roptavaart, is in fact a remnant of a creek that once flowed through this landscape during the Early Middle Ages. In a time when there were no dykes yet and Wijnaldum was part of a huge barren tidal marshland area. Along the already somewhat elevated banks of De Ried, terps were erected from the beginning of the third century AD onward. Like a ribbon, running more or less from west to east. The village of Wijnaldum is located on the most western terp. Terp Wijnaldum-Tjitsma, wherein the famous fibula was found, lies just east of it. When walking the Terpenroute you'll be able to see the ridge of terps. Let your fantasy run wild and you see early-medieval villages, a treeless landscape, boats and sailors from the Isle of Thanet in Kent and from the Island of Fyn in Denmark. The only things left from those days, however, are sheep and clay soil.

Anyway, back to the summer of 1987.

When last week one of the bastards walked from the port town of Harlingen to the start of the Terpenroute, and entered Wijnaldum via Winamerdyk Rd, thirty-three-years-old memories came back. Back then, both bastards biked to the village in search of a girl named Gerda. In high school in the town of Harlingen, she was one of the prettiest girls in the class. As soon as they found her, all the boys in puberty of the village found the two bastards too. That two guys from the town of Harlingen would show up and steal one of their village girls was unacceptable on principle. That she was also the most beautiful one, was in any case out of the question.

church of St Andrew, Wijnaldum

The kaatsen game (see our post Donkey King of the Paulme Game if you want to have a faint clue what this exotic sport is about) was ignored for a while, and a group of local Wijnaldum guys gathered around the two bastards. Telling the bastards to better understand they were alone, and a long way from home! Gerda hastily entered the arena and prevented the Wijnaldum youngsters from starting to fight. Staying, however, wasn't an option for the bastards either. They would have ended up buried in the regal grounds next to King Finn. Gerda would not be able to prevent that. If the bastards wanted to get out unscathed, leaving was their only choice.

Needless to say that the following typical phrase of Harlingen natives was answered in the negative:

Binne jum oek su blied dak dur weer bin?

Are you thrilled too that I'm here again?

With their noisy Zundapp and Kreidler mopeds, the loud Wijnaldum possie escorted the bastards out of the village, while the bastards were walking besides their bikes. Gerda walked with the bastards. They were 'escorted' all the way down Winamerdyk Rd and Siverdaleane Rd, about 1,5 kilometres out of the village, to where the house of Gerda was. Near the hamlet of Roptazijl. It was like a World Championship Football. When during the semi-finals the Germans have lost, you still do want to check if die Mannschaft actually has left the tournament and took the plane or bus out of the country. In fact, a great compliment.

The bastards were warned never to return to Wijnaldum. Until last week, that is…

– in memoriam Gerda Jongsma (1971-2007) –


Suggested hiking

For the 6 kilometer Terpen Kuierroute, which literally translates to 'terps stroll route', check the site of Visit Friesland. For pics of the Terpenroute, check this link.

Suggested music

10cc, Dreadlock Holiday (1978)

The Beatles, Get Back (1970)

Further reading

Besteman, J.C., Bos, J.M. & Heidinga, H.A., Graven naar Friese koningen. De opgravingen in Wijnaldum (1992)

Erkel, van G. & Samplonius, K., Nederlandse plaatsnamen verklaard. Reeks Nederlandse plaatsnamen deel 12 (2018)

Heeren, S. & Feijst, van der L., Fibulae uit de Lage Landen. Brooches from the Low Countries (2017)

IJssennagger, N.L., Nicolay, J.A.W., Hattenberg, T. & Amsterdam, E., Gemeten goud. Een onderzoek naar goudgehaltes van vroegmiddeleeuwse objecten uit Friesland (2016)

Koning, de J., Trans Flehum. Wijnaldum, Den Burg, Texel, Westergo; Het Vlie als verbinder en grens (2018)

Nicolay, J.A.W. & Aalbersberg, G., Wijnaldum: koningsterp aan de Ried (2018)

Nieuwhof, A. (ed.), The excavations at Wijnaldum. Volume 2: Handmade and wheel -thrown pottery of the first millennium AD (2020)

Schroor, M., Harlingen. Geschiedenis van de Friese havenstad (2015)

Vet, de S., Nederlands Kustpad deel 3, Friesland – Groningen. Wandelen langs werelderfgoed Waddenzee (2013)


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