Historic Delfshaven, with its ancient maritime traditions, strong associations with the Pilgrim Fathers (were there no women on board?) and lovely harbour filled with barges and sail boats, is the perfect place to have a festival of traditional Dutch culture. Ketels aan de Kade is a celebration of traditional crafts, clothing, industries, food and music…but mainly food.
Thanks to Google Translate we almost didn’t go. Ketels aan de Kade translates as Boilers on the Quay, a less attractive name I can’t imagine. Luckily we’d been given the inside track by a contact at the Scheidam Guild of Porters, who were demonstrating the traditions of the Guild at the festival.
Although only small, the festival draws a sizeable crowd, hungry for culture and food from the stalls spread out around Delfshaven harbour. When we arrived the first people we bumped into were the Scheidam Guild of Porters who were just beginning a demonstration of their skills. Throwing dice as they would have done hundreds of years ago to decide who got the work.
This proved unfortunate. I was immediately co-opted to throw some dice and then to carry a bag of grain down the street, much to the amusement of the gathered throng. To be fair, it wasn’t my carrying technique which drew most laughs but the ridiculous headgear I was forced to wear – for my own ‘safety’. I looked like a badly dressed ghost at Halloween.
Although it was only half full, the bag was pretty heavy and I was glad when someone finally took it off me. After that ritual humiliation I was liberated to explore the rest of the festival, and to sample some of the many types of food on offer.
I’ve been to Delfshaven a few times, it’s one of the few historic areas of Rotterdam to survive the bombing during World War II. On previous visits its main attraction, the church in which some of the Pilgrim Fathers (really, no women?) prayed before departing Europe, had been closed. Today it was open so I got to crowd in there with dozens of other people to take a peek at a piece of history.
More interesting was the Pilgrim Beer on sale in a nearby microbrewery, which helped wash down some tasty Dutch cheese. Around the corner from the bar was a street filled with people demonstrating traditional fish smoking – and gutting – as well as various crafts that have all but died out. In the case of the fish guts this is a good thing.
I wandered around the streets exploring the intricacies of Dutch traditions – many of which seem to feature fish – before finally heading to the food stalls. Here a whole roasted pig had seemingly been attacked by wolves. The microbrewery was plying its wares, and I decided that supporting local businesses was a good thing. The beers were delicious.
Food, drink, age-old crafts, music and street theatre all make Ketels aan de Kade a fascinating taste of Dutch history.