Living Traditions -- As you explore Zeeland, keep an eye out for the local costume: a long, simple black dress with a blue pinafore, still worn on occasion in Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland. (In the latter, the women wearing bonnets shaped like conch shells are Protestant, while those wearing trapezoidal bonnets with a light-blue underbonnet are Catholic.) The gold-and-silver ornaments you see worn by both men and women with the national costume can be bought as souvenirs.
If you're lucky, you'll happen on the traditional game of ringsteken, in which contestants ride on bare horseback and try, as they gallop past, to thrust a pointed stick through a ring dangling from a line strung high between two poles.
Mussel-Bound -- The Oosterschelde's waters are ideal for building mussels. Whiplike branches sticking out of shallow water off Yerseke mark the location of "parcels" -- stretches of water where mussels lie on the sandy bottom. In April and May, mussel cutters are busy "planting" mussel-seed: young mussels that will form the next year's crop. By the time they've grown to 4 centimeters (1 1/2 in.), they've joined together in dense mats for mutual support against tidal pull. These are scooped up and moved for 2 weeks to other parcels, dubbed "wet warehouses," which have less sand, for the final growth to maturity. Once they reach 6 centimeters (2 1/2 in.) or larger, they are ready for harvesting, destined for Belgium, Holland, and France. But as any skipper of a mussel cutter will tell you: "The biggest ones are for me."
From the start of mussel season in July until it ends the following April, the cutters ply back and forth between port and parcels. On a good outing, a skipper can return to Yerseke with a thousand mussel-tonnes glistening in his hold -- a mussel-tonne is 100 kilograms (220 lb.).
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