THE Dutch city of Hoorn has two claims to fame and both are linked to the settlement’s rich maritime tradition.
Two of Hoorn’s favourite sons did things on their voyages around the globe, back during the days when the Dutch were master mariners discovering new lands and trading commodities from the far east and west, that put the place on the map.
Williem Corneliszoon Schouten named Cape Hoorn in honour of his hometown when he sailed around South America’s wild southern tip in 1616 and Jan Pieterszoon – a sea captain known for making violent raids on the land we now call Indonesia – established Batavia for the Dutch in 1619 after burning the original settlement of Jakarta to the ground.
Hoorn was founded in 716 and during The Netherlands’ “Golden Age” it was a base for the legendary Dutch East India Company with vessels departing the spot on long trading voyages to the other side of the globe that would bring valuable goods like spices and tropical wood back to northern Europe.
The destination’s decline started in the 18th century – Hoorn became nothing more than a fishing village when the trading ships disappeared – and commercial seafaring was abandoned in 1932 when Holland’s “Great Enclosing Dyke” the Afsluitdjik was completed and removed easy access to deep water.
While the tall ships are gone the beautiful old houses and warehouses remain with the heart of the settlement a delightful place to wander on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the weather is warm, the ice-cream shops are open, and locals are packed into pubs.