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8 Things You Did Not Know About The Dutch Province Friesland

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#1: Friesland is about 2,315 years older than The Netherlands.

The Frisii began settling in Frisia around 500 BC. In Roman times, Frisia comprised the present provinces of Friesland and North Holland. The Frisians lived on terps—which are man-made hills— and lived along a broader expanse of the North Sea coast.

The Kingdom of The Netherlands however, originated in the aftermath of French Emperor Napoleon I’s defeat in 1815. In the year 1815, The Netherlands regained its independence from France under its First French Empire, which had annexed its northern neighbor in 1810, as the Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands.

Which means the Frisians were here first!

#2: Friesland is the only province in The Netherlands with its own language (Frisian), and its inhabitants are bilingual.

The people of Friesland have their own language: Frysian (Fries). The language has little resemblance to the Dutch language. In fact, it is said Frisian resembles the Scandinavian and Germanic languages more. This is because it derived from Anglo-Frisian whereas Dutch derived from Netherlandic-German.

Frysian is an officially recognized language in The Netherlands besides Dutch. It is considered the mother language of all Frisians and thus, children will be thought Frysian in school. Dutch is considered the Frisian’s second language.

Would there be a need to communicate with the authorities every Frisian has the right to do so in Frisian, or in Dutch, whichever they prefer. Practically seen this makes it slightly more difficult for non-Frisians, to get certain jobs in this province.

Visitors to the province should be aware, that throughout the province, names of cities and villages are often depicted in Frysian and in Dutch. If you don’t know this, it might become somewhat confusing where you are every once in a while.

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#3: Including water, Friesland is the largest province of The Netherlands.

Friesland is situated in the northwest of The Netherlands, west of the province of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel, north of Flevoland, northeast of the IJsselmeer and North Holland, and south of the North Sea. It is the largest province of The Netherlands if one includes areas of water; in terms of land area only, it is the third-largest province.

Most of Friesland is on the mainland, but it also includes a number of West Frisian Islands, including Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, which are connected to the mainland by ferry. The province’s highest point is a dune at 45 metres (148 ft) above sea level, on the island of Vlieland.

There are four national parks of The Netherlands located in Friesland: Schiermonnikoog, De Alde Feanen, Lauwersmeer (partially in Groningen), and Drents-Friese Wold (also partially situated in Drenthe).

#4: Modern day Frisians are presumed possible descendants of the ancient Germanic Frisii tribe.

The Frisii were an ancient Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta and the River Ems, and the presumed or possible ancestors of the modern-day ethnic Frisians.

The Frisii were among the migrating Germanic tribes that settled along the North Sea around 500 BC. They came to control the area from roughly present-day Bremen to Bruges, and conquered many of the smaller offshore islands. In the 1st century BC, the Frisii halted a Roman advance and thus managed to maintain their independence. In the Germanic pre-Migration Period (i.e., before c. 300 AD) the Frisii and the related Chauci, Saxons, and Angles inhabited the Continental European coast from the Zuyder Zee to south Jutland. All of these peoples shared a common material culture, and so cannot be defined archaeologically. On the east they were originally bordered by the Ampsivarii who lived at the mouth of the Ems until AD 58, at which time the Chauci expelled them and gained a border with the Frisii.

The Chauci to the east were eventually assimilated by their presumed descendants the Saxons in the 3rd century. Some or all of the Frisii may have joined into the Frankish and Saxon peoples in late Roman times, but they would retain a separate identity in Roman eyes until at least 296, when they were forcibly resettled as laeti  (i.e., Roman-era serfs) and thereafter disappear from recorded history. Their tentative existence in the 4th century is confirmed by archaeological discovery of a type of earthenware unique to 4th-century Frisia, called terp Tritzum, showing that an unknown number of Frisii were resettled in Flanders and Kent, likely as laeti under the aforementioned Roman coercion.

The lands of the Frisii were largely abandoned by c. 400 due to Migration wars, climatic deterioration and flooding caused by sea level rise. They lay empty for one or two centuries, when changing environmental and political conditions made the region habitable again. At that time, settlers that came to be known as ‘Frisians’ repopulated the coastal regions. Medieval and later accounts of ‘Frisians’ refer to these ‘new Frisians’ rather than to the ancient Frisii.

#5: Friesland Hosts The National Ice Skating Tournament Named: Eleven Cities Tour (Elfstedentocht).

You might have heard about the Dutch skating passion, one of the hobbies of many Dutchmen. Thanks to the vast amount of water in the province of Friesland, this is the Dutch province where the Elfstedentocht (in English Eleven Cities Tour) has taken place since 1909, as soon as the waterways were frozen well enough. The 200 kilometres long tour goes along eleven Frisian cities, all in one day. Thus, it is not for the faint-hearted!

As soon as it freezes for a couple of nights every single Dutch starts talking about a possible Eleven Cities Tours. Sadly enough the last time the tour has officially taken place was in 1997.

The eleven cities along which this ice-skating tour goes are: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolswaard, Harlingen, Franeker and Dokkum (or in Frisian: Ljouwert, Snits, Drylts, Sleat, Starum, Hylpen, Warkum, Boalsert, Harns, Frjentsjer and Dokkum).

Although the Eleven Cities Skating Tour hasn’t taken place the last twenty years, there are some good alternatives. There is for example a cycling version and a rowing version as well.

#6: The Frisians Invented Their Own Game/Sport Called Fierljeppen.

Talking about sports, another very traditional Frisian sport is fierljeppen, or in English ditch-vaulting. Contestants use a pole of about 8 to 13 meters with a disk at the bottom to jump over waterways, such as rivers and ditches. Traditionally this was the way farmers crossed waterways, making it faster and easier to cross the land. This sport began in the 18th century, when the first competitions were held.

#7: Every August The Frisians Are Hosting A Festival Called Sneekweek.

Thanks to its countless lakes and waterways Friesland is known as an active water-sports province. Every August this is widely celebrated by Frisians and Dutch alike during the Sneekweek, a fun week full of events in the city of Sneek. The highlights of this week are the sailing competitions and the fleet review, but there are also many other activities taking place, like a funfair and music festivals.

#8: Friesland consists of both mainland and islands.

The Frisii began settling in Frisia around 500 BC. In Roman times, the Frisians lived on terps, man-made hills. Other sources state the Frisians lived along a broader expanse of the North Sea coast. At this time Frisia comprised the present provinces of Friesland and North Holland.

Whereas the Kingdom of The Netherlands originated in the aftermath of French Emperor Napoleon I’s defeat in 1815. In the year 1815, The Netherlands regained its independence from France under its First French Empire, which had annexed its northern neighbor in 1810, as the Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands.

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Joël E. Crosby

Joël E. Crosby

I'm an entrepreneur, social media influencer and aspiring author.

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