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©: Marica van der Meer
The southwestern tip of the Frisian mainland is an intriguing region. By the car, it is an area hard to reach. And the Sneek - Stavoren train also doesn’t carry large crowds of people either. It is therefore a beautiful, tranquil area. The soothing peace of today stands in stark contrast to the turbulent and busy past.
Already in 991 Stavoren was looted by the Normans. Apparently it was already a prosperous, rich city at that time. Thanks to its strategic location on the Zuiderzee, Stavoren had even become the most important city in Friesland in the thirteenth century. When the Dutch count Willem IV wanted to conquer Stavoren in 1345, he ordered a part of his fleet to land north of the town. The rest of the army landed at Laaksum and would advance to Stavoren via Warns. The battle that ensued later became famous as the Battle of Warns, which ended in a miserable defeat for the Dutch and the death of Count Willem. The road from Scharl to Warns, along which the Dutch knights faced their demise, was called ’the ferkearde wei’ (the wrong way) until well into the twentieth century and is still popularly referred to this among the locals. At the monument on the Red Cliff a boulder with the text "Leaver dea as slave" (rather dead than slave), the battle is commemorated every year on the last Saturday of September.
Stavorenexperienced periods of great wealth, but also of decline and downturn. The latter is the subject of the beautiful saga of "het Vrouwtje van Stavoren". (the lady of Stavoren) At the old harbor there is a statue of this haughty, rich widow who, as the story goes, has the origins of the Women’s Sands on her conscience: a shallow area off the coast that hindered shipping and would, therefore, be the cause of the decline of the town.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Stavoren was little more than a minor fishing village. A new impulse was the rail connection with Sneek (1885) and especially the ferry service at Enkhuizen, which started a year later. In 1888 a collision took place between the two steamboats "Friesland" and "Holland". This time ’victory’ was for Holland: the "Friesland" miserably disappeared into the waves. In 1899, the first of three steam ferries were put into operation onto which train wagons could be driven. In 1916, a peak year for the ferries, no fewer than 340,000 passengers and 43,000 freight cars were transported.
Nowadays Stavoren is a dormant, beautiful IJsselmeer town that comes alive especially in the summer thanks to water sports tourism. But also for non-boat people, the town is more attractive. Taste the unique atmosphere while walking. Come and visit Atelier Basalt, Kunsthuis Stavoren or Galerie De Staverse Jol. Or take a look at Toankamer ’t Ponthûs. And if you still want to get on the water, make a crossing to Enkhuizen with the current tourist ferry service. Also, the neighbouring Molkwerum and Warns used to be prosperous places thanks to trade and shipping. Because of the "islands" on which it was built, Molkwerum was long known as the ’Frisian Maze’ or ’Venice of the North’. Another nickname was "Heksenhol", which refers to the women whose men often stayed at sea for a long time. The village was known for trade in swan-brine meat and had its own representation in Amsterdam. Since 1916, the famous Molkwarder Koeke has been made in the village, a specific Frisian delicacy. Nowadays there is an Antiquity room with a tea-house in the original bakery Warns still has a number of so-called ’big skipper houses’. Nowadays, it is mainly pleasure boaters who have the village as their home port. There are various tourist accommodation options and a number of studios and galleries.
Besides the rich and turbulent history and the current tourist facilities, the area is also, and perhaps especially, worth a visit because of the beautiful landscape, nature and tranquility. The high-lying Red Cliff, the picturesque harbor of Laaksum, the low-lying Sudermarpolder, the former sea dike, the Mokkebank nature reserves and the "Bocht van Molkwar" and the vast IJsselmeer, which the locals still call "the See" for good reason. All that forms the beautiful backdrop in which you can enjoy a wonderful time.