stage 1: West Frisia
Zwin, Gent (BE) - Lek river, Wijk bij Duurstede (NL)
This is the first stage, stretching from the Zwin creek (early-medieval: Scincfal or sincfalam) near the city of Ghent in Belgium to the Lek river (a branch of the Rhine river) at Wijk bij Duurstede in the Netherlands. There's also a 't Zwin in the Netherlands which you'll pass during stage 4 near the village of Elahuizen. So, check you're at the right Zwin.
According to the early-medieval law code the Lex Frisionum (law of the Frisians) this area belonged to the sub-region West Frisia, the area 'inter Fli et Sincfalam' (between the river Vie and Zwin).
This stage covers the Netherlands' Delta of the 3 mighty rivers the Scheldt, the Meuse and the Rhine. First hiking close to the coast of the North Sea and get an impression of the enormous Delta Works with the huge storm surge barriers in the river Scheldt. Then walking northeast, leaving the North Sea coast, via National Park De Biesbosch through the river-land area in the direction of the city of Utrecht.
In the Roman Period the area along the coast below the river Rhine (present-day provinces Zeeland and Zuid Holland) was the territory of the Frisiavones people, a to the Frisii (Frisians proper) related people living within Roman or Romanised society.
After the fall of the Roman Empire and after the Migration Period, the new Frisians from above the Rhine extend their influence below the Rhine till the Zwin in the course of the sixth century AD.
When you cross the river Scheldt you enter the former island of the Walcheren. A place that has been during Roman and early-medieval times an important stepping stone for the trade with the British Isles. It was even filled with Vikings receiving the benefits of the control over the river Scheldt. Read our blog post about the Walcheren and its heathen history.
In the early Middle Ages, especially during the seventh and eighth century AD, in the river-land area where the river Rhine splits into the river Waal and river Lek, the magnificent trade emporium Dorestat was situated and where today the city of Wijk bij Duurstede is standing over its remains. Strategically connecting the trade with the North Sea and the Frankish hinterland on the border between Frisia and Francia and for a long a cosmopolitan town filled with Frisians, Anglo-Saxons, Norsemen and Franks. It's here where the Frisian king Redbad (also Radbod) fought its battles with the Frankish empire at the beginning of the eighth century AD, read our blog post about this king.
For a visual impression of this stage, click here.