Whew, yesterday was a long day. It’s pretty much a full-day endeavor getting back home from Europe. Thankfully the plane ride was a direct flight. Funny thing on the plane, my seat mate was a guy who was a dead ringer for Scott Kelly, the astronaut who just spent a full year in space on the International Space Station. If he hadn’t had an accent (I think it was Dutch) I definitely would have believed it to be him!
I’ve spent the majority of the day unpacking, washing clothes, going through 10 days worth of mail and trying to catch up on my email and phone calls. I’m still not caught up, but getting closer. I also spent several hours today going through some of the photos I took while away. I’m looking forward to sharing Holland and Belgium with you in some upcoming posts, especially the beautiful homes and gardens.
Today I thought I’d share something a bit whimsical, something that definitely ranks as the strangest thing I saw on my visit to the Netherlands. On Thursday, April 28th, we visited the town of Enkhuizen, located in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands. While in Enkhuizen, we toured the Zuiderzee Museum, an outdoor museum that is a combination of original buildings and buildings purchased or donated from nearby areas.
This outdoor museum was created to give visitors a look at how a fishing village of this type would have looked back in the day before numerous floods led to the building and closing of the Afsluitdijk (Barrier Dam) on May 6th, 1932, forever cutting off this area from the open North Sea.
It will take another post to share this delightful village museum, but today I’m sharing the apothecary or pharmacy and the surprising collection located in the back room of the building.
Attached to the outside of the pharmacy was this starling looking figure. Our guide called him a “Yawner” but when I started doing a bit more research online, I discovered these figures were also called “Gapers.” Gapers were figureheads that were often attached on the outside of apothecaries (sometimes with a pill on their tongue) to help those passing outside recognize the shop as a pharmacy.
Our time was limited so I hadn’t planned on going inside, but Teresa, a reader of BNOTP I met during this fun trip, had been inside and suggested I check out the back room. Ummm, the look on her face had me intrigued, so I ventured inside. I was greeted by the “pharmacist” with a nice smile.
Wish I’d had more time to look around and check out the wares on all the shelves. I think some were even available for purchase.
With guided walking tours, if you dillydally around too long, you’ll get left behind. So I had to take photos quickly and move on. I headed for the back room, unsure what to expect.
This is what I found upon entering the room! It kind of takes one aback…this room full of Gapers! lol I guess it’s a “Gaper Museum” of sorts.
The ones with their tongues sticking out made me laugh with their comical expressions. From what I’ve read, earlier Dutch pharmacists had to take their business on the road to sell their pills and formulas.
Usually the pharmacist was accompanied by an assistant who was dressed as a Moor. One article I read said this was to give the assistant an exotic look that would help draw attention. Another article said the Moorish dress and appearance symbolized the origin of most medicines as being from faraway lands.
Apparently the assistant would act the part of a sick person who was very much in need of help. He would be given some medicine by the pharmacist and would begin to feel much better, often to the point where he would dance and perform for the entertainment of the gathered crowd.
When pharmacists no longer had to travel around and could work from a shop, these eye-catching wood figureheads were attached to the outside of the shop to help those who were illiterate find the pharmacy more easily.
Are these not the strangest looking things?! The one on the bottom left must have been really feeling poorly because he looks like he’s seen a ghost!
Have you ever heard of Gapers or Yawners? If you ever visit the Netherlands, keep an eye out and you may come across one, although they are rarely found now outside museums.