Pocket-sized Kampen, just ten minutes by train from Zwolle, strings along the River IJssel, its bold succession of towers and spires recalling headier days when the town was a bustling seaport with its own fleet. The good times came to an abrupt end in the sixteenth century when rival armies ravaged its hinterland and the IJssel silted up – and then Amsterdam mopped up what was left by undercutting its trade prices. Things have never been the same since and, although Kampen did experience a minor boom on the back of its cigar factories in the nineteenth century, it remains, in essence, a sleepy provincial town. It only takes a couple of hours to explore central Kampen: its medley of handsome old buildings spread over six streets that run parallel to the river – and are themselves bisected by the Burgel canal. The logical place to start exploring is the IJssel bridge, which crosses the river from beside the train station to hit the town centre about halfway along.
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