May 14, 2021
We entered the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine), a small winding river that moves lazily through the countryside, passing through small villages. It is lined with many older charming houses whose patios face the river. Often there are tables and comfortable chairs. Sometimes residents read as they glance at the passing boats.
We stopped for the night at a marked mooring on the river’s bank. A couple had just moored and helped us in. He even pounded in the mooring stakes, as here there is no other option. Our takes are neatly stored inside one of the two large boxes that sit on the back deck, hanging along with the heavy hammer. Half in English and three quarters in Dutch he told us about some nice places to visit along the way. They left early the next morning, before we were out on our bikes.
The road running along the river leads to Zammerdam, just a few minutes by bike. You pass old but prosperous looking farms with huge slanting roofs and smaller buildings with stilts on four sides so the roof can rise as the structure fills with hay or straw, whatever they are storing for the long damp winter. I suppose they cover the sides to keep the goods dry.
Off to the left is the Ziendevaart Canal, leading to the entrance to a national park. There is a lovely view from the bridge, memorialized by the watercolor below. Follow the canal all the way through you get to Nieuwkoop, near where we are now a few days later but on the Grecht River. We biked down to the canal’s tiny lock. We could make this journey on the boat, we were told, but it looks very close to the margins.
On the way back to the boat we stopped at the dairy that offers its own cheese for sale. There you can see the 100 cows that produce the cheese I am trying to get out of the vending machine using my credit card. I finally find a card that works but in the meantime we had found the owner, who then went to put her shoes on. She came out, tall as the roof over the barn, speaking English quite well despite living well off the tourist track. That tells you how well they teach English here and are exposed to it regularly via American and British media offerings.
She told us they produce 1 million liters a year, that’s 1000 per head, more than a calf would consume. The output is enhanced by breeding. The cows live 8 years, and they are trying to breed the longest living lines to extend that to 10. They sell their milk to an organic cheese maker. She says that the Dutch government does not favor raw milk, for fear of infections, and apparently does not have a certification process. We bought a pretty old version of the cheese, thanked each cow separately, and will check it out when the real old one in the frig is history.
We moved on to Bodegraven, mooring outside town. You get a great view of the harbor. See the drawing. Friends came by to bring us the window he worked on. The glass was cracked by a rock last year. We’d bought a new one so he could try removing the old acrylic glass. He’d never done it before, and the manufacturer, Gebo, said it was difficult to do. It just took persistence, he said.
Bodegraven is tiny, with just one main street bisecting the other at the lock, with a few dozen shops. One of the shops is a Polish grocer. In we went, as we like the cuisine. They had some dill pickles and jars of bigos. Bigos is a sauerkraut dish with bits of pork. It’s very Old World. We enjoyed a jar for dinner and the rest for lunch the next day, all for about 5 euros. We went back for a few more jars.
We went through the lock to moor in town center. We should have done this yesterday. Unlike the other, here there is electricity and water that you pay for via an app. There is no mooring fee, amazingly. So there you are with some great old houses as neighbors. Our friends came by again, bringing some lumber so we can replace the wood damaged by the leaking windows in the after cabin. Their granddaughter is working at a hotel nearby, as an apprentice, so its not so far for them to have come, as they transport her. We stayed three quiet nights as permitted.
The windmill is part of the small brewery in town. It was closed the Monday and Tuesday we were there. Their website says that they are open on Wednesday but as of noon they were still closed and as we left shortly after we never got to try it. A Peace Corps friend saw my Facebook post on the topic and said she was there several times while staying in the village. She said the beer was excellent and there were several varieties to try. I was looking forward to it and the food trailer they have near the door, offering kip sate, fries and other common goodies.
It’s several hours on the river to Woerden. There is an old castle, but it looks new somehow. The old town is surrounded by an octagonal moat of which the castle is a part. There is an old mill on a mound, so the wings tower above. The harbor is fairly large but in need of modernization, as we could not fit in between the posts. We snugged in between two barges.
It was around 1730 that the bridge opened so we headed out of town, back the way we came as there is no other choice, and made the hard right onto the Grecht after slowly, slowly winding our way through the abandoned factories outside town. At the entrance there is barely room for one boat. The wind was picking up so it was hard to hold it in place even in that sheltered spot. At 1900 or so we saw a mooring with two boats already tied up. I tried to get between them but the wind was too strong so we moved on. At 1930 we found a lovely spot that was easy to get into, by the box windmill, just like the people at the 1900 effort said.
The wind blew like crazy all night and all the next day at this spot, outside Nieuwkoop. Nonetheless we were able to remove one of the leaking windows, cut the wood and filler, then reinstall the window.
We continue on the Grecht in the next blog.