Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Scenes in Loosdrecht

First day of Spring! In Upstate New York, the days are getting longer and brighter, and snow is melting (not fast enough), leaving the brown earth exposed, still marred by patches of dirty gray snow. It's "unoogelijk"  --  unsightly  --  as my mother would say. But soon the crocuses will poke up from the thawing soil, and other little green things will begin to sprout as well.

Mill in Westbroek
In the Dutch countryside too, it is early spring, and tulip bulbs that have lain dormant all winter will soon wake up. A hundred years ago this month in Loosdrecht, my grandparents were probably already planning their wedding. They would marry in two months time.

The photos below, taken fifty years later by Elisabeth's nephew Jasper, show the villages of Loosdrecht and s'Graveland, respectively the hometowns of Elisabeth Daams and Barend VandenBerg, as they appeared around 1960. It is interesting to speculate how much these scenes have changed (or not) over the years.

Canal in Loosdrecht
Loosdrecht actually consists of two small villages, Old and New Loosdrecht. Today it is a vacation destination for those who like to sail on the several interconnected lakes in the area. The lakes originated in the 16th century as a result of digging out peat bogs. There are also several canals that connect the village with the neighboring town of s'Graveland and with the city of Hilversum to the east.

Of course, there is also a road between the two towns. I picture Elisabeth and Barend riding bicycles along the road, perhaps meeting halfway in between:
The road between s'Graveland and Loosdrecht

Through the wonders of the Internet, I can tell you that as I write this, it is 10 degrees Celsius (50 F.) and sunny in Loosdrecht. Check it out for yourself right here. (Of course, when you click on the link, the weather may be different!) It is muddy along the marsh in spring, but this photo looks like it could have inspired Van Gogh:

A marsh in Loosdrecht

A hundred years ago the Daams family owned a blacksmith's shop, and the family resided next door to the shop. Elisabeth was born in the family home on March 29, 1886:

The old Daams smithy circa 1960
The sign over the building reads, "plumbing supplies, stoves, oil burners."

Heading north from Loosdrecht, you might happen upon the following scenes:

S'Graveland Canal

Old house along the canal

Rear of houses along the canal

 In s'Graveland there is a Dutch Reformed Church, where my great-grandfather was organist for 40 years:

Reformed Church and parsonage

You can see the church tower behind the parsonage.

Here the s'Graveland Canal joins the Hilversum Vreeland Canal. The scene is reminiscent of landscapes painted by the old Dutch masters:

Canal scene: s'Graveland

And here the "road less traveled" leads to an estate where my great-grandfather worked as a gardener.The terrain looks much like the countryside around my own hometown at this time of the year:

Country lane near s'Graveland

The tour ends here, as the road leads into the forest where spring will soon turn the countryside green and fragrant with blossoms. One last patch of snow still remains just in front of the gate.

Many thanks to Margriet W. for digitizing these fifty year old slides.

Tot ziens! Good-bye for now!


  1. I'm surprised at how good those old pictures look.

  2. Yes, I was able to adjust the exposure and color saturation a bit on a couple of the scans, which helped quite a bit. But they were very clear to begin with!

  3. Nice to read this story about my home town.

    Greetings from Hilversum
    Taco Hansma

  4. Thank you Taco, glad to see that you found this blog! It's nice to connect with people in my grandmother's hometown.