Deventer – Dutch city

Deventer is one of the largest cities in the Dutch province Overijssel, which is situated in the east of the Netherlands, in between Friesland, Drenthe, Germany, Gelderland, Utrecht and Flevoland.

Cake City
Deventer is synonym to cake, although the city’s cake is hardly comparable to the cake anyone from outside the Netherlands knows. The city on the river IJssel has been known as the Koekstad (Cake City) for over 500 years. Any visitor should therefore stop at the famous Deventer koekwinkeltje (Deventer’s Little Cake Shop) at the Brink, owned by J.B. Bussink.

Brink museums
While you’re at the Brink, you might as well enjoy the rich history of the city, since the City Museum is located here as well. The wonderful Toy Museum offers more than dreams to any child.

Fish ‘n cake
The Brink (a common name for a square in many Dutch villages by the way) also hosts the historically important house called De Drie Haringen (The Three Herrings). The building was constructed in 1575 by herring market man and shipbuilder Herbert Dapper, and is one of the most important architectural leftovers from the 16th century, as well as one of the most beautiful. The herrings refer to a product that was as important as cake 500 years ago: fish. Already in those days, stockfish from Norway’s Bergen was imported in exchange for Deventer’s cake. In this region, both were part of daily meals in the Middle Ages.

Erasmus in Book City
Besides Cake City, Deventer has been Book City for ages as well. The city owns the largest annual book market in Europe. August of each year sees more than 6 kilometres of bookstands. The interest for books is no coincidence. The Dutch scholar and Renaissance humanist Erasmus (1466-1536) went to Latin School in Deventer. One of the first printing businesses in the Netherlands started off in the city 500 years ago as well.

Middle Age
The Middle Age character of the city centre is still very well visible. To navigate through the centre of town, it would hardly be problem to use the city map made by Johan Blaeu in 1649. The tourist office has two historical city walks to enjoy all monuments to the fullest. They also have a ‘shop walk’ as well as a children’s tour with various puzzles and assignments.

Bird Island
A walk that does not lead into town but into nature, is the route to Vogeleiland (Bird Island). This city park was designed in 1888 by Haarlem garden architect Leonard Springer, on one of the five river islands that used to function as defence structures. Now the island is one of the most loved recreational areas in the region. The waffles in petit restaurant De Mandala are celebrated.

Other diversions
Deventer’s largest church is the Grote Kerk or Lebuïnuskerk, whereas the city also possesses the oldest stone house in the Netherlands: it’s on Sandrasteeg, number 8, dating from 1130.

Trains and highways
The city lies along the west-to-east train and highway route Amsterdam-Enschede, on the eastside of the river IJssel. Near Deventer, the highway crosses the north-south highway from Zwolle to Arnhem.

Deventer - city in the Netherlands

I was born in Deventer, my family has lived there for at least 150 years after immigrating from Germany. Although I haven't lived there for over 25 years, I should add what I know.

History
The river IJssel is obviously very important in the history of the city. Deventer joined the Hanseatic League early, as did two downstream cities, Kampen and Zwolle. There were as many as six 'year markets' each year, and many merchants, philosophers and religious figures came to Deventer.

Geert Groote (1340-1384) was born in Deventer and started a religious movement called Modern Devotion, which spoke out against corruption in the Church, and emphasized the individual. He also started a famous school. In the 15th century, Erasmus studied here; when he left, Alexander Hegius came; together they are the fathers of Dutch humanism. Also at this school was Thomas a Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ.

The 'Waag', built in 1528, was an important center for the markets held on the Brink square. Its name means something like 'Weigh'; weighing taxes were an important source of revenue for the city. Nowadays it houses the Historic Museum of Deventer, except that currently the building is being renovated, and the museum is temporarily moved to the address Grote Kerkhof 1. At the back of the building is the Toy Museum which I always found much more fun as a kid (although there are harnesses and killing implements in the basement of the city museum :-)).

In World War II, the train bridge over the river was destroyed - a mangled piece of metal is still standing next to the new one, in the park along the river. The road bridge survived, however.

Near Deventer along the river, you can still find bunkers that were operational until about two decades ago; they were part of the Waterlinie. This strategic defence was first used in the west of the country in the Tachtigjarige Oorlog (+- 1566-1648). This war was the '80 year war' of independence against the Spanish. Large parts of the country were flooded, and the Spanish armies couldn't advance. In the second half of the 20th century, NATO was still planning to flood the banks of the IJssel to stop the Russians!

In 1974, the old road bridge served as the set for the film A Bridge Too Far, about Operation Market Garden in WW2. The events in the film actually played in and around Arnhem, further to the south, but the new bridge and buildings surrounding it were too modern for the film. I was there when they filmed! However, I was two months old :-). When you see the explosions on the bridge in the film, you have no idea of the masses of people that were watching, just out of sight. The gliders they used in the film were ditched in a field next to the tiny airfield at Teuge, where they were left to rust for at least ten years; my father took me there several times. I don't know what became of them.

Other
If you're nearby, the book market mentioned in RubenAzarja's w/u is yearly, always the first sunday of August. Visit it if you can! The atmosphere is always great, the weather is always beautiful, there are second hand books everywhere, many of them in English. My summer is complete when I'm sitting in the park on the river bank, in the sun, with a stack of new books and a glass of beer.

I'll write more later...

I seem to remember Deventer is also mentioned in The Deeper Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams, but I'm not sure. Could someone who owns it message me?

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