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If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

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(Not the real)
Delft op Zondag


9 OCTOBER, 2016

Delven t/m Delft, From 'to dig' - to and including Delft

DELFT - The first canal may have been dug around 1000 and was for trade. The Visbanken is located between the Prinsenhof/Old Church, the one with the tower lean like in Pisa, and the Big Market/New Church. The Visbanken were the place to buy fresh sea and lake fish.

Vishbanken is plural, and it shows in the medieval style building which is broken up into adjacent stalls. These days, fish is displayed now as it might have been in 1342: ready to eat, fried, sea, and slab along with eel on the side. Customers mill at distinct counters and call out their order; a row behind the fish mongers has the vats for frying. It is fast food which can be enjoyed on a bench nearby. It even features a public toilet down the alley.


"The Visbanken has been in business, in Delft, for a long time. It's sign tells you it has been selling fish since 1342. Wiki lists a population of about 6000 in 1360 for Delft, and they bought their fish here."

Canals were connecting places inland to ports while there was ongoing drainage of wetlands. That opened up land for grazing or farming. You had food products of all kinds to buy; life was good. And it was amazing. It must have seemed a time when mankind harnessed wind and tamed water. The landscape was remarkable for the number of great, groaning windmills that moved water, ground seed and powered construction.

Coastal ships and shallow water boats were regularly improved increasing trade contacts. The citizens of Delft must have had a steady rush of information about other places. At home, advancement could be had through the many apprentice programs of the established guilds and the trading houses of venture merchant associations.

If you are eating your raw herring, smothered in onions, on a bun, you are right by the back of the Old Church. You can sit on a bench, on the canal bank or down some steps to the water. Plenty of cafes are close for a 'cold one' after a snack.

Today's customers have much of the same view that a customer had back when fish mongers got together and began to sell from one market. It was a time of guilds, and some of the buildings nearby are guild halls. Others are for a single commodity.

Delft may not have been very populous, but it was prosperous. And that was before they began to trade in blue-patterned pottery. Delft even today gives a feeling of prosperity - of the kind that has its feet on dry ground, albeit it is under sea level.

Imagine you are chewing on a bit of fried fish, by the canal in front of it. If you were doing that in 1342, you probably felt you lived in an age of technology, of knowledge, of opportunity. You even had fresh fish from the sea delivered to Delft.

I think once Delft got the habit of 'optimism', it just stuck. By that, I mean take a look at the new train station, which put the city into bankruptcy. But it was built for a Delft that looks very much like this one, does not yet exist and is certainly coming.

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved -
In memory of Herb Caen