Pagare il fio

Pagare il fio is Italian for ‘paying the penalty’. More literally, it means paying the fee. It is an expression the Italian language inherited from the Barbarians from the North when they toppled the Western Roman Empire. The English word fee originates from Old English feoh, which means cattle. The Mid-Frisian word for cattle stillContinue reading “Pagare il fio”

They want you as a new recruit

‘In the navy’, is a song of village people. Of the small villages along the southern coast of the North Sea. A water people once united in the mythical Seven Sealands. And, a people who laid the foundations of two of history’s most impressive navies. That of England, and that of the Republic of theContinue reading “They want you as a new recruit”

Like Father, Unlike Son

The Battle of Tours in 732 turned out to be a turning point in the wars against the Umayyad Caliphate. The Caliphate was one of the biggest empires in history, but it lost this battle. At the confluence of the rivers Clain and Vienne, the Franks, led by statesman maior domo Charles Martel, only justContinue reading “Like Father, Unlike Son”

The Thing is…

The heart of western democracies is the joint assembly of parliament, cabinet and high councils of state. Its Germanic origin is the thing, also called ting, ding or þing in other languages. Today, national assemblies in Scandinavian countries still refer to this ancient tradition. For example, the parliament the Faroes Løgting, of Greenland Landsting, ofContinue reading “The Thing is…”

A Frontier known as Watery Mess: the Coast of Flanders

At the end of the eighth century, by decree of Charlemagne and under supervision of the wisemen Wlemar and Saxmund, customary law of the Frisians was codified. It is the Lex Frisionum. Its jurisdiction was, among other, the land inter Flehum et Sincfalam fluvium ‘between Vlie and the River Sincfalam’. The River Flehum flowed intoContinue reading “A Frontier known as Watery Mess: the Coast of Flanders”

The Raider’s Portrait of Appels

In the year 1934, while dredging upstream the River Scheldt near the village of Appels in the region of Flanders, an extraordinary ship’s figurehead was found. It is dated around the year 400. Among scholars there seems agreement it is Germanic and originates from the southern North Sea coast. Hitherto, no people has claimed beingContinue reading “The Raider’s Portrait of Appels”

Wa bin ik, wa bist do en wa bin wy?

“If you don’t care about your own history, you may as well leave the classroom.” Words from the geography teacher at high school Simon Vestdijk in the port town of Harlingen in 1988. We, the two Frisian bastards, were about sixteen years old and in the fifth grade of VWO (i.e. pre-university education). The annoyedContinue reading “Wa bin ik, wa bist do en wa bin wy?”

Yet another wayward archipelago

Peoples of islands and archipelagos do not let others dictate how to live their life. One of those archipelagos that meets these criteria as well, is the Wadden Sea. For centuries it is from here where sea explorers, tax evaders, sturdy Arctic whalers, self-righteous women, pirates, privateers, and other vagabonds came from. An archipelago whichContinue reading “Yet another wayward archipelago”

Frisia, a Viking graveyard

When reading about the famous deeds of great Viking warriors, often not much attention is given to the moments of failure. Not much is written about where and when the glorious men, and women, died. As it turns out, the coast of Frisia is one big Viking graveyard. It is here, in the (still) smellyContinue reading “Frisia, a Viking graveyard”

Rowing souls of the dead to Britain: the ferryman of Solleveld

In 2004, a unique discovery was made at the early-medieval grave field of Solleveld, just south of the city of The Hague: a boat grave. Exactly two hundred kilometers, perfectly east, across the North Sea, of the legendary boat burial of Sutton Hoo. With this one-of-a-kind found, the Netherlands joined the ranks of ship-burial-countries. AContinue reading “Rowing souls of the dead to Britain: the ferryman of Solleveld”