Bunkerdag or Bunker Day is the one day in the year when WW2-era bunkers are opened to the public, and I happened to be free when it occurred this Saturday. Scattered over the western coast of The Netherlands, I’d seen them on many occasions but rarely had the opportunity to get close enough to appreciate even one. Honestly, it was the first I’d heard of Bunker Day ever – I even thought it was a joke – though this wasn’t really so strange as I’d read later on that it only started in the last few years, and middling interest aside I thought it would make for an interesting day out.
After picking up a friend in Rotterdam, we started the day in calm and lovely Noordwijk for breakfast by the shore. I can’t recall ever passing by Noordwijk so it was a surprise to see beautiful houses and a pretty stretch of the North Sea dotted by cozy-looking restaurants. After a nice, quiet breakfast at hard-to-find Witsand, it was a five-minute walk to the English Sailors Museum and then a bit further to the Atlantic Wall Museum, both configured from large bunkers.
Will definitely want to come back to Noordwijk again soon.
Next stop was IJmuiden further north on the coast. The bunkers there were close to where cruise ships and large yachts docked in the harbor and it was a bit eerie this time as they were completely empty, weathered out by the elements and littered with garbage and graffiti from trespassers. Seeing kids being kids around the concrete structures made the atmosphere a lot lighter but it wasn’t hard to imagine how it was back then when they were neck deep in Nazis, guns, and cannons. It was easy to feel some historical envy given how much this country appreciates its past and takes care that its younger ones know about it.
In contrast with Noordwijk, however, IJmuiden was the pits, and had the most unappealing harbor I’ve yet to encounter in this country, which says a lot given practically every town has one. After the Bunker Museum and a walk through the dunes, it was a late lunch at Zandhuis nearby before calling it a day.
Despite my best efforts, I became my misanthropic self at the end, a bit exhausted from the traveling, relative heat, and nonstop socializing. Some troubles with lunch – I seem to have temporarily forgotten how to use a fork for some reason – and the consequent mess I made on my clothes made the terse, ugly Gemini come out.
I’d like to say it was because of IJmuiden but that’s taking the easy way out. I do hope that’s a theory that won’t need proving anytime soon.