After passing through the charming riverside views of Bruekelen we spent two days near Nederhorst (May 5-6) , for us merely a wide spot in the Vecht, painting, drawing and doing some maintenance. It was more or less the same in tiny Monfoort except the morning after our arrival we had new neighbors in their 14 meter fiberglass yacht with a home port of “Antwerpen.” We made a bee line for their door, as we are planning a few months in Belgium once we can enter without spending large sums on tests.
They had some very good suggestions and made us realize how small Flanders is, and how even in Wallonie, the French speaking half of the country, English is commonly spoken. This was a surprise to us, as when we had property there we were the only Anglophiles around. The conversation evolved into boats, of course. The captain had a number of boat maintenance suggestions, as I was in the process of rewired the stern light and had run across a snag in the last few meters. He suggested smearing vaseline on the wire where it joints the fish wire. Another was to check construction dumpsters. There was one at the mooring. I did not find the block of wood I needed for the stern light, as I had to destroy the old one to get at the stern light wire to replace it, but I did find a long pole which we used to mark the air draft of our rain hood. Now when we come to a bridge with little clearance we can use the pole to determine if we will fit rather than bringing the boat to where the rain hood practically touches the bridge.
Aside from the practicalities, we enjoyed talking to the couple, our first sit down conversation in weeks and only the third or fourth since we arrived in early April. We had spoked with an Irish couple back in Amersfoort, who were very helpful with regards to vaccinations. We learned that our current neighbors’ boat came from Florida, shipped to Netherlands by the previous owner. This is a very expensive proposition. They added double pane windows, also very pricey, and removed the air conditioning. They leave their boat in Friesland every other year, in Antwerp the other for out of the water maintenance. We talked about a variety of other topics, with comments and concerns not out of the ordinary except they refuse to frequent a bar or restaurant in Brussels where they speak only French, the main language of Brussels. We were under the impression that because the capitol is in Flanders that Flemish would be the predominant language. This led to the a discussion of Dutch versus Flemish, we learned that the primary difference is in the pronunciation.
Oudewater was our next stop. It is another charming small town and a very old one. Now in the province of Utrecht again after a 700+ year hiatus, it has been around at least since 1265. There are 300 plus historic buildings, as well as nearly 230 municipal and national monuments, extraordinary for a town of this size. This wealth of architecture came from the hemp industry. The inhabitants came to be called ‘Geelbuiken,’ (Yellow Belly) from the stain the hemp made on their work clothes.
Oudewater was represented in the First Free State Assembly in Dordrecht in 1572. We visited the museum in Dordrecht dedicated to this event, at which they planned the break from Spain and where the House of Orange was established. The Spanish retaliated against the city by killing all but a handful of the inhabitants, an event still commemorated annually. The city was seriously damaged by fire as a result of the siege. Much of the historic city center dates from the reconstruction made possible by the hemp industry, the Dutch East India Company being a major customer. By the beginning of the 20th century, with the decline of the hemp industry over the past several centuries, many buildings were in dire condition, repaired and renovated since then, leaving us with this fine example of a 17th century town.
At the the 750th anniversary of city’s founding in 2015, King Willem-Alexander, of the house of Orange, visited the city.
Gouda (population 72,000) is famous for the cheese that bears its name, its fabulous 15th-century city hall, as well as churches and other historic buildings. Gouda was established by the Van der Goude family circa the 12th century. They built a fortified castle on the Gouwe River, from which the city’s name may have derived, and upon which we later traveled. The Gouwe was connected to the Hollandse Ijssel, a harbor was formed from the mouth of the latter, and Castle Gouda built to protect the harbor. The castle was destroyed in 1577, the city walls torn down between 1830 and 1854.
The famous cheese got its name from the city’s central role in its distribution, rather than its production. This came about by feudal decrees granting a sales monopoly to the city. The cheese porter guild, wearing special colored straw hats, transported the 16 kilo cheese rounds in wheel barrows to the market. The cheese was coated with wax, while now they use a yellow plastic coating. The cheese is then aged, producing final produces that range from soft to hard, the later termed Oude Gouda, which requires a 12 month period. If you know Gouda from what you buy in the US, the Oude version would be an entirely unrecognizable experience. It’s as hard as a high quality parmigiano.
From here we scooted to Amersfoort on the train for our first vaccination. It went smoothly. I had a sore arm for two days but otherwise we had no issues. We must return in June for the second injection. Doing this in the Netherlands means we avoid a trip to Spain, perhaps two. This would require exposing ourselves to the risks of infection and travel in general, plus $500 in tests in addition to the travel expenses. I’d receive notice from Salud that I would be getting the Johnson vaccine, meaning I would only need one visit. Peg has yet to receive an appointment from Spain. This could not have worked out much better.