Flevoland doesn’t sound like a real place. It sounds like a theme park or setting for a cartoon, not a name for the twelfth and newest province of the Netherlands.
That’s right, Flevoland is new. Some might say that Australia is ‘full’, but in the Netherlands there’s probably a bit more merit to this argument. Seventeen million people are squeezed into a place you can drive east to west in two hours, and north to south in three and a half. So after a flood in 1916, the Dutch decided enough was enough. They closed off the problematic inland sea, the Zuiderzee, and went about creating a new province.
Yep, Flevoland was created, much like if you’ve ever been to Hong Kong Airport (also created by Dutchies). They created massive dikes (man-made hills which block off the sea) and drained what was in between. This process took most of the twentieth century, and today it looks like any old part of the Netherlands. It’s also an urban planner’s dream, so Paul pointed out all of the sights.
Lelystad and Almere are the two main cities of Flevoland, but they’re not pretty. They’re stuck in the 1960s and 1970s, without any real history to celebrate. They’re manufactured, with squares and open space not used and everything in various shades of grey. A trip to Flevoland need not include them.
Instead, the real sights of Flevoland are Urk and Schokland. Urk is a fishing village, and historically an island settlement in the middle of the Zuiderzee. Today it’s merely a coastal town, surrounded on three sides by land. It’s however your only real chance to see a historical town in Flevoland, with the town’s fishermen memorial incredibly moving, looking out to the sea.
A few kilometres down the road from Urk is Schokland, a world-heritage site. Schokland, like Urk, used to be an island but is now completely surrounded by land. Nobody lives there anymore, so trickles of tourists poke around and stare out into farmland.
Urk and Schokland were actually quite sad. They’re products of an age without NIMBYs, without community consultations before development. I’m pretty sure the residents of Urk would have been against being joined to the mainland back in 1938, but it happened anyway. Now people go to Flevoland and marvel at modern technology, and pay their respects to technology’s casualties; Urk and Schokland.