The Netherlands will open again on Saturday. Then we can get rid of each other again, let ourselves be filled up in the pub, and we can take off that soggy mouth cap almost everywhere. Netherlands liberated. Whole the Netherlands? No, there is one village where nothing changes at all on Saturday.
Because I want to stroll through the streets of Genoa carefree at the end of July, I recently called the GGD. If I could please get my first injection as soon as possible and therefore also my second injection on time. Amsterdam: too long waiting time. Purmerend, Badhoevedorp, Haarlem, Almere, Utrecht: that didn’t work for my holiday either. I asked the patient call center agent if she wanted to look further afield. The Bible Belt, for example, they were not too keen on vaccinating, I had read somewhere. And yes, I could go to Urk almost immediately.
On a weekday afternoon I drove to Urk. My eight-year-old daughter wanted to come on the condition that we eat hamburgers on the way back. After an hour of driving, the route planner gave a stop sign in front of a sports hall. During curfew riots, the Urker test street had burned down; since then this bare hall has been the place for PCR tests and vaccinations in the village.
Also read this article: Arsonists corona test street in Urk ‘was promised money’
Upon entering, I inquired whether more people were coming from far away. “Daily,” said the girl behind the registration desk. There was no queue, within a few minutes I had a needle in my arm.
My daughter did not immediately want to get back in the car for another hour. “Then we’ll go into the center”, I decided, “have you seen Urk.” I wanted to show her the fishing boats in the harbor, but she wanted to go into a shop where they seemed to sell everything, as long as it was made of brightly colored plastic.
The store was packed, many women and even more children. I was the only one wearing a mask and instinctively pressed my daughter close to me. Inhalers in the narrow aisles constantly scraped our shoulders and backs. “Don’t you take corona measures?” I asked a passer-by. “No, and we’ve never done that here.” I showed her my upper arm with bandage. She laughed out loud: “We are immune to that sort of thing here.” At the register another woman started talking to me, four children dangling from her arms and legs. “The Hague measures are not for us. We have been open here for months. Everywhere in Urk.”
Outside we walked further, to the harbour. There we met the first Urker men. They stared and groupe at a fishing boat on the dock. “What do you think about corona?” I asked one of the men, an oldie. He pointed up and mumbled something I didn’t understand. We walked on, past shops and bars that were overcrowded. We didn’t see mouth caps anywhere. Like it was still 2019.
Urk is a place where election after election wins the SGP, usually with an absolute majority. ChristenUnie and CDA follow at a good distance. Parties that are praised for their law-abidity. I also knew former SGP colleagues from places like Krimpen aan de Lek or Tholen. I also had to think of Mark Rutte, who had regularly praised the Dutch Reformed Party for this characteristic in recent years. “The SGP is a party of clear principles and a positive basic attitude towards sensible proposals from others,” Rutte also said at the anniversary congress of our oldest political party in 2018.
A virus apparently radically shook off its law-abidity within a year of the small Christian right. Riots for curfews, shooting down a test center, attacking journalists and completely ignoring government measures. It is also starting to shift electorally. D66 members, PvdA members and GroenLinks supporters remain extremely rare in Urk. But the PVV and Forum together scored more than 20 percent on Urk in the recent parliamentary elections, (mainly at the expense of CDA and ChristenUnie). Thierry Baudet was welcomed as a hero on the former island in April. The shaking of hundreds of hands and the many hugs eventually earned him a fine because they were caught on camera.
It was now after five, women were giving way to men in the streets, and my daughter started whining about the promised hamburger. In the car back, one question did not let go of me: has the Christian right finally fallen from its political faith, or will law-abidity return after corona? Will Urk become even more populist in a political sense in the next national crisis? At home I googled in vain for the answer to the question which has an effect earlier: a corona vaccination or a corona infection.
Also read this interview: This Flemish writer lived in Urk for half a year: ‘A high price has been paid for that plaice on your plate’
Aylin Bilic is an entrepreneur and publicist.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of June 24, 2021