July 1987. The two Frisian bastards, both being sixteen years old at the time, went to the village of Wijnaldum, or Winaem in 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 the village. The yearly village games were a good excuse to meet her. Barely the bastards had arrived at the tournament, or they were ordered to leave the village.
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, and 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. To learn more about these artificial mounds, check our Manual Making a Terp in 12 Steps.
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 Folcwaldin known from the epic Beowulf. 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 dikes 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, in which the famous fibula was found, 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 Kent and island Fyn in Denmark. The only things left from those days 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. At school in Harlingen, she was one of the prettiest girls in the class. As soon as they found her, all the boys of the village found the bastards too. That two guys from the town of Harlingen would show up and steal one of their village girls was unacceptable, moreover the most beautiful one, was in any case out of the question.
The kaatsen game (see our post Donkey King of the Palm Game if you want to have a 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 “you’d better understand you’re 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. If they wanted to prevent this, leaving was their only choice.
With their 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…
Note – For more pics of the Terpenroute, check this link.
- The Beatles, Get Back (1970)
- 10cc, Dreadlock Holiday (1978)
- 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)