The bath culture in Domburg flourished two centuries ago. Dutch and German nobility, leading artists, rich people from all over the world and even Empress Sisi went to the atmospheric place. In that respect, little has changed; the light of Zeeland still beckons.
It was in the year 1834, at the very tip of the Walcheren peninsula, when two Middelburg families were launched in a carriage, on the advice of physicians who had declared 'sea baths' to be beneficial. Doctor Mezger, the butcher's son who is seen as one of the founders of physiotherapy, treated the European nobility at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam and Des Indes in The Hague.
Via his wife from Middelburg, Mezger ended up in Domburg, where his clientele followed him. Dutch and German nobility, Empress Sisi and rich people installed themselves for a cure. Occasionally a lost American appeared: the wealthy Beach Vanderpool - nomen est omen - was a loyal guest and is repeatedly mentioned in the Domburg bath history. A flourishing bath culture in Domburg was born.
With carriage and all the elite went water. Such a bath-coach, pulled by a horse or a bath-servant, was a Victorian invention. They dressed in the body in a body-covering bathing suit, while the carriage was driven into the sea. With the entrance of the coach to the open sea, the ladies and gentlemen could go to the water unperturbed. From the heyday of the cures dates the beautiful Villa Carmen Sylva, located on the Noordstraat near the coast, with a veranda on the beach side.
“Auch damals wussten manche schon zu leben…”German admirer
The Mondriaan route is a varied walk of five kilometers. From the old center of Domburg follow the route towards the sea, where you will see the Belgian coast from the top of the Hoge Hil. The walking path leads you through the dunes, past Villa Carmen Sylva to the Badpaviljoen. Take a rest on the angular Mondriaanbank in primary colors alongside an image of goddess Nehalennia, to continue to nature reserve De Manteling, where erratic trees, exuberant rhododendrons and castle Westhove form the setting. The walk ends again in the center, at the Museum of Marie Tak van Poortvliet.
In the wake of the wealthy people and attracted by the Zeeland light, prominent artists such as Jan Toorop and Piet Mondriaan also found their way to the atmospheric coastal town. Mondriaan even made an important artistic development; his paintings of Domburg's church became increasingly abstract. Jan Toorop lived around 1900 in a house on the Domburgse Markt. His exhibition room was diagonally opposite the Badpaviljoen, but was not resistant to the sea breeze. In a reproduction of this building, located on a narrow path from the main street, the Ooststraat, is now the Museum of Marie Tak van Poortvliet established (the 'kotje van Toorop, so they used to say).
Meanwhile, it is two centuries since tourism started in Domburg and the center of restaurants, cafes and lifestyle shops is running. Yet you feel like you are in the old days: you only have to look at the Bath Pavilion, Villa Carmen Sylva or Museum Tak and you see gentlemen walking with hat and elongated ladies. The bath seats have now made way for wooden beach cabins in candy colors, but Domburg is still the pearl of Zeeland.
Picture: Jan Toorop (1858-1928) Sea and dune at Zoutelande, 1907, collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. This painting can be seen until November 18 in the exhibition Aan Zee in Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.