Spijkenisse is located 19 km from Rotterdam in South Holland, which is the largest seaport in Europe and is located along the ‘Oude Maas’ (Old Meuse). The Maas River is a distributary of the Rhine River. In early days the early settlers of Spijkenisse used the Maas primary for fishing, before they started farming the surrounding land.
Just across the Maas River is an area known as Botlek. It is a seaport and industrial area on the west side of the Maas River. The ‘Botlek’ provides employment to many of Spijkenisse’s inhabitants and my own father was no exception. As a child, my friend and I used to walk along one of the dykes until we were beside the Maas River so we could look across to the Botlek. The Botlek is home to companies such as oil refinery giant Shell, chemical industry, construction and other major companies. The area was a favorite for us kids at night when it would be illuminated with so many signs and lights.
Spijkenisse has been inhabited for over 10,000 years and has several preserved archeological sites. It initially belonged to the Lord of Putten (De Heer Van Putten) and in 1581 became under control of the Count of Holland. The Spijkenisse coat of arms became official in 1935 in honor of Lord of Putten.
The town is considered part of the Rotterdam Metropolitan area, and still has many of its original buildings. One prominent feature has to be the Old Church (‘Oude Kerk’) where every Thursday a farmers type market would take place on the Church Square. The Oude Kerk (Old Church) dates back to the 1900’s and was restored in 1933-1934 to its former glory and still stands to this day. Back when it was build the village of Spijkenisse would take its shape with the Church in the center and the rows of houses forming a circle around it. Such a dominant feature of Spijkenisse, was the church that one of its first roads was called ‘de Kerkstraat’ (the Church Street). Spijkenisse has since lost its medieval shape, but the Church still stands as a proud reminder of the past.
Another historic building that is firmly glued into my mind has to be the old windmill at the edge of town. And that is only because while I was growing up it housed the local pet shop and even back then I was crazy about animals. The old windmill is called ‘Nooitgedacht’ (Never-would-have-thought), it was built in 1844 as a flour-mill and was used well into the 1960’s. It needed restorations in 1972 and was then used as the local Pet-shop until 2009 when it was rebuild/restored and registered as a national Monument. Even today, the old mill still turns and its internal mechanisms are in good condition because it has been turning on a regular basis. The pet shop is now gone and in its place is a Pancake House. There are regular tours into the 5 levels inside the windmill and it is still a familiar landmark.
Spijkenisse has since my childhood grown into a metropolitan style small city, boasting Metro Rail systems, movie theaters, hospitals, different levels of higher educational facilities and many new suburbs being build. I visited my home town 10 years after I left at the age of 11 and found it had indeed gotten a lot bigger, but the familiar landmarks, houses and people were still there.
Spijkenisse might be big now, but in my mind it’s still the small town I grew up in.
About the Author:
Monica Toretto is a writer, painter, photographer and blogger. She lives with her two young sons in Invercargill near Bluff. She has travelled widely in Canada and the US and worked as a veterinary technician before returning to New Zealand. Her work has appeared in several magazines in the UK and New Zealand. She has also authored a book of poetry and photography called ‘Words’.