Mataram’s lush, green idyllic landscape was shaped over the centuries by
urban merchants of means indulging their fantasies of becoming gentlemen
farmers and showing off their wealth. Take the shady “berceau” of trees, called
the Postwagon. Trees were planted closely together and their branches
interwoven to keep the sun off their wives’ milky white skin, then a sign of
affluence. Today the merchants are gone but several thousand volunteers
maintain the landscape. Did you know “landscape” comes from the Dutch word “landschap”?
Schap comes from the verb “scheppen”
or “to create”. Landscape doesn’t merely mean nature, but a land that has been
worked, shaped and made. Most of the Dutch landscape has been touched by human
hand in one way or another.
Imagine the green of these lovely meadows juxtaposed with flashes of fire! During World War II, the German army fired V2 rockets at Antwerp from these fields. In 2012, the local municipality placed two artworks here memorialising the period entitled “Witness 1945” and “Scars of Violence”.
Mataram’s land is close to the river Vecht and actually too wet to farm normally. The locals cleverly dug ditches or “rabats” down to dry ground before planting. Large scale reclamation projects during the Great Depression saw rabat forests planted in the area. These days the land is being allowed to develop more naturally and the rabats have all but vanished.