Franeker and the incredible planetarium

Harlingen, end of the dike trip and departure to Franeker

On the way to Harlingen, a farm road did not always lead directly along the dike, in between I was also guided to the next village. The huge areas of reclaimed land are very fertile. The mud, as the mud is called here and in which one sinks at low tide in places ankle- to almost knee-deep, is full of nutrients. The most cultivated plant of the estates are white flowering potatoes. A field with pink potatoes in front of the village Nes just before Wierum I found especially pretty.

Country estate Potato field in front of Nes

Another village I passed on the way to Harlingen, Oudebildtzijl, was the first time I felt like in Holland. Canals, closable by lock gates and boats in front of cozy houses, these pictures I had actually made of Holland and here they came true. Stones are rare here, there are no rocky outcrops and the silt does not contain any stones. So you burn bricks. The bricks are used everywhere, for house building, lock building, road building. The bricklayers are true masters of their trade. The very precisely laid brick roads stretch for kilometers.

Oude Bildtzijl Boat Oude Bildtzijl

Land reclamation in Friesland

In Oudebildtzijl there is a small museum about land reclamation. There I found an impressive presentation about Friesland about 600 years ago. Leeuwarden was a harbor, today it is in the middle of the countryside. In other words, the whole area of the Middelzee was wrested from the sea. Almost all the distance I have traveled so far along the present coastline I should have sailed earlier.

Land reclamation The village Oude Bildtzijl

Arrived in Harlingen, I saw the first time sandy beach behind the dike. And the entrance was even free. Because in East Frisia I very often drove along fenced beaches, in between ticket booths. There is actually an entrance fee for the beach by the sea!!

Therefore the free access seems to me worth mentioning here.

Harlingen Steenmann Harlingen

In the middle of the dike stands a statue with a Janus head very Spanish style. The inscription says that in 1574 the dike broke here during a flood and was rebuilt under the Spanish occupation.

Cosy Holland

Harlingen is an industrial and port city, which is especially noticeable when you enter the city from the northeast along the dyke path, as I do. The old town, on the other hand, is picturesque, as you know it from the Dutch towns. Water canals crisscross the town and people make joyful use of them. They sail for their pleasure not only through the city, but also far out into the countryside.

Free time on the canals Leisure on the canals

The oldest working planetarium in the world in Franeker

The next destination a bit inland is Franeker. A small town that keeps the oldest still functioning planetarium in the world. But in Harlingen they are building, the navi despairs and finally leads me far out into the flat land to the south and from there to the east. On adventurous roads, partly with max. 2,20 meters written and over several bridges, whose load-carrying capacity I critically examine, I succeed nevertheless to reach Franeker. In the old town, near the planetarium, I find a place directly at a canal. Probably because of the rain few people are on the road. Hopefully the wall of the canal is stable. At a parallel canal stands adventurously crooked an old baker's cottage built 1643. Inside a small museum about the threshing, painting and processing of the grain into bread.

Franek canal Franek baker's cottage

The Franek Planetarium is just opposite the town hall with a beautiful carillon on the other side of the canal.

Franek City Hall Franek Planetarium

The history of the planetarium is very curious. It took place in the time of the Enlightenment, around 1770, when the sovereignty of interpretation of the world, which until then had been the exclusive preserve of the church, was wrested from it. See also Diderot. On 8. May 1774 several planets of the solar system are almost in a row and there appeared a writing of a catholic priest about 10 years before, who preached therefore the end of the world from the pulpit. It caused some catastrophes like suicides, panic sales and the like.

In Planeker there was Eise Eisinga, who had already attracted attention as a young man because of his mathematical talent. He had never studied, but educated himself as an autodidact and in parallel took over his father's business as a wool comber at a young age. As an enlightened man, he fought against the sermons of the priest and decided to build a planetarium to explain to people what nonsense they were hearing in church. In 1781 his planetarium was ready. It still works perfectly, only the board that shows the year in a small section had to be replaced several times with the new year numbers.

The planetarium is not a modern one, projecting stars onto a domed dome. It shows only the solar system known at that time with the sun in the center and the planets orbiting it in true to scale distance. The whole thing is suspended two-dimensionally from the ceiling of his living room and is driven by a clockwork mechanism and countless "cogwheels. Gears in quotation marks, because the gears are made of wooden discs with nails hammered into them. The precision of these "gears" is unbelievable; every nail fits so precisely that only the leap years have had to be corrected to this day.

Franek Pendulum Franeker gear train of the planets above living room

In the meantime, the planetarium was inspected by scientists from different universities, who all admired and confirmed the incredibly accurate performance of the self-taught Eise Eisinga. In 1841 King Willem II visited this living room, which still exists in its original form today. One sees that at that time in the living room also the bed was inserted. Much too short according to our today's terms. People slept half-sitting at this time, they were afraid to die if they lay down.

Franek housing Franek living room ceiling

Deeply impressed by the violence of this man's intelligence in a time when superstition was still common in the uneducated part of society, I leave the museum and roam a bit more through Franeker. A well-kept town with canals, cozy squares and houses that tell of wealth. On a house I find a notice that Otto the Great spent the night here. Probably to collect taxes, I think for me. That must have been around the year 950. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was "invented" during this period of the Ottonians.