Dockum

Dokkum, in the year 1601. The town is no larger than a marketplace and some unpaved streets within the ramparts, which were built in 1581 to protect it. Dockum is still connected to open sea, which is why the Frisian Admiralty settled in the city 4 years previously. Somewhere in an attic room, ten-year-old Willem is staring out of the window…

“There was a fire in town today! Lots of the buildings here are made of wood, so fires are common. It was just after two o’clock. I was wandering the streets with my friends, when we heard the town guards sounding the alarm from the Waag. When the alarm sounds, everyone has to help, so we joined in and carried buckets to help put the fire out. The back of the beer brewery on Diepswal was nearly lost, but luckily there are other breweries, so we won’t be short of beer. Everyone in the town drinks beer, that’s a normal thing to do.

Now it’s evening, and I’m looking out of the window of my room. I can’t sleep. There’s still lots of action in the street. People are laughing and talking, it’s noisy, and some men are still working. Lots of ships docked today. The goods they brought with them have to be loaded onto carts. Tomorrow, horses will be harnessed to the carts and pull them inland. I wonder if my dad’s already back from the sea. I haven’t seen him for six weeks. He’s always off on some adventure or other, and tells me cool stories about pirates and stuff when he’s back. I want to go to sea too, when I’m older and leave these streets and alleys behind. Sometimes they’reso muddy you can hardly walk  through them.

Mum doesn’t know I’m still awake. All my brothers and sisters are already asleep. There’s nine of us here, so it’s pretty busy! Sometimes, I have to look after my little brothers and sisters. Usually we go to the market, and sometimes we are given a sweet, or a bite of fresh bread from the bakery. After the market, we go to the port, where there’s always something going on. Market vendors shout out what they have for sale, innkeepers offer a bed for the night, and ships’ carpenters work hard with their tools.

After going to the sea, we wander over the ramparts. They are high, so you get a great view of the countryside around us. You can see for miles because there are no houses. Sometimes we imagine that it’s full of houses, and that Dockum is much bigger than it is today. When we go back home, we always wave to the town guards atop of De Waag watching over the city. Goods are weighed at the bottom of that building, which is why weegt en waakt(weighs and watches) is engraved on the front wall.

Now I really have to go to bed, because tomorrow I have to go back to school. Not every child in the town goes to school, because they are too poor. I want to learn a lot so that maybe I can become

 

a captain or admiral one day. Those are the really brave men of this town. If that happens, I’ll probably be home more often than my dad. Is he coming home tomorrow? I hope so. There go the bells, it’s ten to ten. Everyone has to be in the town now, because the gates are shutting. Luckily, I’m in my warm bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow; I’m sure Dad’ll be back then. Maybe he’ll have brought something nice for us all.

“What you can still see today from this story:
-Dokkum Museum, in the former AdmiraltyHouse;
– The courtyardof the school in Willem’s days, in Lange Oosterstraat;-The Great Church on the Marketplace (which used to be a small church, next to an even bigger church);
-The former shipyards between the Zuiderbolwerk stronghold and De Dijk;

-The weigh house on Grote Breedstraat;
-The numerous alleyways in the town.