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Bewitched in Oudewater

BY ABBY

sunny 19 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Ben's Aunt Rina, Cousin Els, Jaco and us

Ben's Aunt Rina, Cousin Els, Jaco and us

Today being our last full day in Holland, we decided to finish it the way we started, by a last visit to Tante Rina, Els, Jaco and Igor. We showed up just before lunch and were able to have some cake and drinks in the back garden, as summer was finally showing itself again. We talked about work, summer plans and the rest of our trip, as well as just regular catching up. After our little chat we were taken on another tour by our three hosts (Igor stayed behind), to the town of Oudewater. Our first stop was the Witches Weighhouse, which, as you probably guessed, is the place where people used to be weighed.

Els and Jaco

Els and Jaco

I learned a lot at the museum, as my previous knowledge on witches had consisted of only reading a short book a few years back about Salem. It was believed that witches weighed considerably less that humans (proportionate to their size), so this was a common practice for determining if the accused was really a witch or not. Back then, if you were a reasonable weight for your size you were given a certificate showing that you were unable to be accused, as you had been proven innocent. Another way that people were tried was by tying up their hands and feet and throwing them into the river. If the person floated, they were a witch, and were burned or executed in some other manner. If they sunk, they were retrieved (hopefully before they drowned), and were not charged with witchcraft.

Getting Weighed at the Witch Museum

Getting Weighed at the Witch Museum

Being accused of witchcraft was quite common, as people didn't need to base their rumor on much to get it started. Once one person believed it, it was very hard to get your name cleared. This is why many people came to Oudewater. Getting your certificate was the only way to have your name officially cleared, and to have a life back in your town again. These certificates would cost money, but people would pay whatever the price, or else they would be killed, or have to live the rest of their life as an outcast, having everything that went wrong in their town be blamed on them. Oudewater became famous for their scales, and certificates. But all of the people that were weighed here were proven innocent, as the people who ran the scales refused to take part in the beliefs that other people had. Oudewater then became the only place where you could get an official certificate, as it was seen to be the most honest weighhouse. The original scales were still here, and we were allowed to be weighed on them. I went first, and I was unaware that after they weighed you they would say your weight out for everyone in the room to hear, but I'll let you all guess away on your own. After this, my Dad and Jaco were the only ones who went. None of us were charged with witchcraft and were all awarded a certificate, free of charge.

Ben's Aunt Rina takes us out for Lunch

Ben's Aunt Rina takes us out for Lunch

After the museum we were treated to a cafe lunch in a large square in the sun, which was then followed up by some ice cream. This concluded our visit, however, as it was getting later into the afternoon and we were leaving the next day, we said our goodbyes and many kisses were exchanged. All four of us enjoyed our day immensely, and knowing that we have to leave Holland makes me more excited to come back.

Posted by KZFamily 12:33 Archived in Netherlands Tagged family netherlands holland witches oudewater Comments (4)

Family and Emigration

by Ben

14 °C
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Ben's Grandparents

Ben's Grandparents

As I have alluded to in past blog posts, this is the second trip for me and Muriel to the Netherlands. The last visit was in 1992, almost half a lifetime ago. As a result, everything appears vaguely familiar, yet at the same time brand new. The passage of time has seen subtle physical changes in the landscape with the rise of new buildings while there have been much substantial changes on the human level.

In the late afternoon, we went to visit a cemetery in Bodegraven where all my grandparents are buried along with some aunts and uncles. The cemetery has expanded since our first visit so many years ago. We couldn’t remember where the graves were located so we spread out to search the entire grounds. We considered ourselves very fortunate to be able to locate all four grandparents’ graves and the headstone of my uncle after a fairly brief search among the numerous resting places. It is a bit surreal to see your family history chiselled in stone. I had met only two of my grandparents in my lifetime and each of them only once. The physical distance between my childhood home and my parent’s childhood homes looked immense from the perspective of this cemetery. Today travel is so much easier and so much less costly that it makes it hard for my kids to imagine that grandparents and grandchildren might never meet as the result of emigration. It underlines the impact emigration has on families. It reminded me of the huge obstacles that my parents had to overcome without the benefit of family and extended family close by. It also brought to mind that in a much, much smaller way my siblings and I have also lived the emigration experience through our separation from extended family.

Ben and his Uncle and Aunt

Ben and his Uncle and Aunt

When we were in the Netherlands the first time, Muriel and I had been married just three years, we were childless and all four of our parents were living. We return now with two teenagers and having witnessed the passing of one child and two parents. Equally momentous changes have occurred in the lives of my extended family in the Netherlands. Although, we have had contact and a few visits with these relatives when they have come to Canada over the past two decades, there still has been huge gaps between meetings. What is amazing is the atmosphere of familiarity that develops so quickly even after such lapses in time. The bonds that tie families together are neither uniform nor truly definable. What I have found astounding during my visits with relatives, is the ability of these bonds to perist, no matter how thinly stretched or worn by the passage of time. It seems that there is some sort of special grace or dispensation that allows for contact and conversation to so easily begin anew.

Ben's Father's Brother and His Family

Ben's Father's Brother and His Family

Today we visited my Uncle Floor and Aunt Ank and my cousin Mariette her husband Kok and daughter Sophie, my Cousin Frono and his wife Bep and three children and my Cousin Renata. Mariette and Kok generously hosted the gathering in their beautiful home situated right on the Rhine River in the home town of my Dad. It was amazing how quickly five hours of good conversation over great food (pickled herring, smoke salmon and Indonesian pork satay being just a few of delicacies served) passed. Hannah and Abby enjoyed a ride along the Rhine in a Zodiac with their second cousin Sophie and we were all impressed with their two and half year old second cousin David, who could speak words in English and French as well as Dutch. We were equally amazed to learn that my both my aunt and uncle who are in their late seventies continue to ski every winter in Switzerland. It was heartening know that we also have a share in these great family genes. We left this family gathering feeling a little more connected with my Dad’s roots and continuing to ponder the nature of family bonds in the light of emigration.

Posted by KZFamily 15:15 Archived in Netherlands Tagged family netherlands Comments (5)

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