Staphorst Travel Guide – A Blast from the Past*.
Staphorst is a small village nestling in the middling rump of Holland, quite close to the end of the rainbow and just to the right of the back end of beyond. I’m still not quite sure where it is. I know my plane landed somewhere in Holland, after that it was all a bit of a blur. My blindfold and the heavily-tinted car windows didn’t help.
There is a great deal of secrecy surrounding Staphorst. Nobody knows where it is and it doesn’t appear on any maps, possibly. Tall reeds grow all around the boundaries and there are those that say strange things happen there.
Incidentally, I was supposed to be impressed by all this hocus-pocus.
I’d gone to Holland to see a company in Meppel. They’d volunteered to arrange all my accommodation for me, and they thought I’d enjoy staying somewhere wacky like Staphorst.
The driver, who wasn’t a company employee, told me all about the village. Apparently it was a religious community and very strictly regulated.
“Sounds like it’s going to be a laugh a minute,” I murmured to myself in the back of the car.
He went on to tell me that they disapprove of most modern things including cars, television, abortions and blood transfusions. I had no doubt that they would probably disapprove of a lot of my bad habits too.
They wear traditional Dutch costume and go to church not once, but twice, on Sundays, just for the fun of it. The roads into the village are also closed on Sundays, and no work at all can be carried out on the Sabbath. Likewise all the shop windows must be shuttered, both to ward off temptation and to stop the goods on display ‘working’ on behalf of the shop-owner.
I had a reasonably pleasant start to my stay. Rather than talk business, the owner of the company insisted on ferrying me around the village’s canals.
We eventually left the quiet waterways and houses behind and drifted silently into a huge man-made lake. This still and placid lake goes on for miles, but never gets any deeper than two feet. So there was bugger-all chance of the tedium being interrupted by us being attacked by a killer whale, or even a killer stickleback for that matter.
My room in Staphorst was interesting enough. It was a large double-room above a restaurant, in fact I think it might have been the only guest-room they had. I believe it was also the village’s bridal suite, so no doubt whole generations of Staphorsters had been conceived upon my bed. I looked for clues, but they’d obviously changed the sheets since the last wedding. Although that may have only been the night before as Staphorst has one of the highest birth-rates in Europe.
Presumably they aren’t too keen on contraception either.
The bed was unusual in that it was located in a recess in the wall (to the left of the chair). Once you’d climbed up into the bed, you closed the little doors behind you to shut out all the light. This it did, apart from two tiny pinpricks in the eyes of the portrait on the wall.
The restaurant was good, nay excellent. Upon the owner’s recommendation I had their specialty thirteen-course meal, and it was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had. He also brought me bottle after bottle of fine wine.
I was the only one dining there that evening and I’d occasionally catch a glimpse of the kitchen staff staring at me from across the room. The owner, though, never looked up from obsessively sharpening his knife on a grindstone.
I retired early as the meal and the wine had made me sleepy. The kitchen staff were silent as they watched me ascend the stairs. One of the girls genuflected. I smiled at her uneasily and, rather than return my look, she hastily cast her eyes down to the floor.
I awoke in the morning, covered in sweat, and immediately noticed that I was now missing an arm.
My shock on discovering this was short-lived when I remembered that the car-driver had told me that the nocturnal amputation of a limb is a traditional custom in this hidden part of Holland.
In this increasingly globalised world, where people and places are becoming increasingly homogenised, we should all respect local traditions. We should not complain too loudly, even when they cause us some minor inconvenience. This world is composed of many beliefs, religions and creeds and we should be tolerant of them, lest one day we lose those essential differences and thus we lose the need to travel to see them.
I wish I hadn’t brought two suitcases though.
*Blast from the Past – This is somewhere I’ve not visited recently, however I must have written about it at some point as I’ve just found it in my archive. So, now its getting an airing on this website. My apologies if any of the facilities or attractions I’ve mentioned no longer exist. Indeed, due to rising sea levels, bush fires or military invasion by one of our crazier world leaders, the place itself may no longer exist. In which case I wouldn’t bother going there.
To see my travel guides about other places in The Netherlands click here.