The old Zuider Zee port of Hoorn, 15km north of Edam, “rises from the sea like an enchanted city of the east, with its spires and its harbour tower beautifully unreal”. So wrote the English travel writer E.V. Lucas, who passed through here in 1905, and Hoorn is still a place that is best approached from the water. During the seventeenth century this was one of the richest of the Dutch ports, referred to by the poet Vondel as the “trumpet” of the Zuider Zee, handling the important Baltic trade and that of the Dutch colonies. The Dutch East India Company had one of its centres of operation here; The Tasman left Hoorn to “discover” Tasmania and New Zealand; and in 1616 William Schouten sailed out of Hoorn to navigate a passage around South America, calling its tip “Cape Hoorn” after his native town. The good times ended in the early eighteenth century when the harbour silted up, strangling the trade on which the town was reliant and turning Hoorn into one of the so-called “dead cities” of the Zuider Zee – a process completed with the creation of the IJsselmeer in 1932.

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