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Why would anyone fight over Saba?

By July 16, 2017Caribbean, Saba & Statia
Saba - History - The Bottom

This week we are going to tell you about our time in the tiny inaccessible island of Saba. The island has just under 2000 residents in four towns around the five-square mile island that rises sharply from the sea. Whoever named the towns either was the most straight forward person ever or had a great sense of humor as they are called The Bottom (sits in the bottom of the dormant volcano), Windwardside, St Johns, and Hell’s Gate.

Saba - History - Path

Some of the stairs and paths around the island

As perilous as the island was it has been claimed and fought over by many European powers. It all started in 1635 when a lone Frenchman claimed the island. A few years later Dutch settlers came 18 miles from St Eustatius (I wrote about this island last week) to claim it, but they were evicted by the English in 1664. So it went over the centuries with the island being French for 12 years, English for 18, and Dutch an overwhelming 345.

Saba - History - Road

The road that could not be built!

Up until the 1930’s all movement on the island was by foot or donkey along narrow trails. Dutch engineers determined that the island was way too steep to build roads. Clearly they had not met the Sabaeans, because one of them took a correspondence class on road building and show everyone else what to do, and would you believe those hardy people built “the road that could not be built”. Even after the road was built around the island it was not until the 1970’s a proper port was built. Until then everyone and everything coming onto the island had to go up a 1000 stairs called The Ladder (I will show pictures and talk about it in days to come).

Saba - History - Dutch Museum

Looking at 300-400 year old books nside the Dutch Museum

I loved my time on Saba, but it is not because there is a lot to do. For the most part they have lots of hiking (I will tell you all about climbing the highest point in the Netherland Kingdom on Tuesday) and amazing scuba diving. After that it is more about hanging out in the postcard perfect towns and just soaking in the ambiance. In Windwardside there are two museums. The first is the Saba Museum and is the official one in a traditional house.

Saba - History - Museum

The Saba Museum

The other one is the Dutch Museum that we happened to stumble upon. We both loved this one because of the gentleman who ran it. His love for the collection is infectious. He inherited his grandmother’s antiques and his sons did not want much of it, so he shipped it from the Netherlands to Saba. As he was going through it all he learned more and more and all of a sudden, his home was a museum. If you just go with the flow he will take you through the house and tell you about all the different collections his grandmother had. As I said it was unexpected, but so enjoyable. You must stop by when you are here.

In conclusion, even though I do not have the foggiest idea why the colonial powers fought over a steep chunk of rock with no harbor, I do know that I loved it here and would like to return. If for no other reason than to simply sit in a café and enjoy tea in the adorable little towns and feel the sun on my face even though I am cool enough due to being on a mountain. It was pretty close to perfect!

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