In medieval times the town of Damme was a bustling port on the river Reie. It was connected to the city of Bruges, six kilometres away, by the river and it was to here that boats would come laden with exotic goods.
Because of Damme’s strategic position as a major trading post, a protective system of ramparts, walls and moats in the shape of a seven pointed star was built in the early 1600s. Unexpected guests were not encouraged.
Luckily today visitors are very welcome and, like us, many come for a day trip by paddle boat from Bruges. The day we went to Damme though we seemed to be the only visitors there and the serenity was a welcome change from the clamour and crush of tourists in Bruges.
The only person there to greet us was Jacob Van Maerlant, a medieval poet known as the father of all Dutch writers, whose most important works were created in Damme. From his plinth in the centre of the tiny markt he smiled down on us as if to say “Welcome”.
We wandered the empty streets and explored the remains of the ancient fortifications.
We ate our lunch next to a medieval water pump in the centre of the Herring Market. In the 15th century 28 million herrings were sold here every year. In the quiet of this day we could hardly imagine how hectic the market must have been.
After several hours of peaceful exploration we boarded the Lamme Goedzak again. We had just one more half hour of serenity before we would re-join the throng of travellers in the Markt once more.