Lee and I joined a local meetup group one fine weekend day to explore the Netherlands. We took a train and spent the day exploring Bergen op Zoom and Dordrecht.
Bergen op Zoom
Bergen op Zoom originated in the Middle Ages. In 1330, it was walled. In 1347 it officially became a city. Over the next couple of centuries, the town developed as a trading center. It was even a major trade competitor for Antwerp. However, as all good things must, this too came to an end.
In the 16th century massive flooding made sea trade more difficult. Top this off with the decline of traditional medieval fairs and you get the (simplified) picture of how the city gradually lost its economic importance.
Nowadays, Bergen op Zoom is a quiet village with an extensive history. And it's perfect for a quick day trip from Amsterdam.
Grand Hotel de Draak is the oldest hotel (1397) in the Netherlands and is located in Bergen op Zoom.
Dordrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands (and a very short train ride from Amsterdam.) The earliest reference about it was made in 846, in the Annals of Xanten, where the author noted that the Vikings had attacked and burned it. Dordrecht recovered from this and went on to become the residence of the Counts of Holland for 200 years (1008-1203). It was granted city rights in 1220, making it the oldest city in the present province of South Holland.
In the 18th century, the importance of Dordrecht began to wane and Rotterdam became the main city in the region. It managed however, to keep a key position in the defense of Holland, and is still one of the main economic centers of its region. Nowadays, Dordrecht has almost 120,000 inhabitants, making it the third largest city in the province of South-Holland.
The Grote Kerk of Dordrecht is the third largest church in the Netherlands. Its tower was built about 1182 but was never finished. Dordrecht's position in between rivers made the ground very wet and spongy, and unable to support a structure so high. The tower started leaning... a lot, which is very visible as you view it today.
We had a great time visiting both cities. If you get the chance to travel outside of Amsterdam, go check them out!