The name Zwolle comes from the word Suolle, which means ‘hill’. Zwolle was founded on a hill between the three rivers surrounding the city, Ijssel, Vecht and Zwarte Water. The hill was the only piece of land that would remain dry during the frequent floodings of the rivers. The oldest known written mention of Zwolle is from 1040. A document mentions the existence of a parish church dedicated to St Michael.
The city is a municipality and the capital city of the province of Overijssel, Netherlands, with about 115,000 citizens. Found 80 kilometres northeast of Amsterdam, it is the logical centre and link for all the different regions in the Netherlands and Germany. This is due to good accessibility via road, rail and water.
Citizens of Zwolle are colloquially known as Blauwvingers (Bluefingers). This dates back to the rivalry with neighbouring city Kampen. When the local government was in need of cash, they saw no option but to sell church bells to Kampen. To make sure Kampen did not make too much profit form the deal, the local authorities asked a high price for the church bells. Kampen agreed to the deal, on the condition that they could choose their own way of paying for the church bells. Zwolle consented and Kampen paid in cope coins of four duiten (the equivalent of 2-and-a-half guilders). Because of their distrust, Zwolle wanted to be sure Kampen had truly paid the entire price. The local authorities therefore counted the money until their fingers had turned blue from the copper.
With a variety of historic monuments, some of which date back to as early as 1399, the city is worth a visit. There is the church tower, known as the Peperbus (Pepperbox). This is one of the tallest and most famous church towers in the Netherlands. There is also the Sassenpoort, which was built at the end of the 14-th century, but wasn’t completed until the beginning of the 15-th century. The restoration of 1894 and 1897 meant that the pointed neo gothic clock tower was added. Originally the Sassenpoort was the gates to the city and part of the old city wall. It is the only part left over, but an impressive sight none the less. Other buildings include the Mosterdmakerstoren (the complex where local mustard used to be made0, a guild-house dating back to1571, a Dominican monastery, and a museum of antiquities and natural history.
© Alison Day
First published in the Connections magazine #14 Winter 2006,
a publication of Connect International
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