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2021 blog

Antwerp, Lier and Dendermonde

At a population of 500,000, Antwerp is the biggest city in Belgium, not Brussels, which is the capitol. Antwerp is known for its diamond industry but more so as a port city, being the second largest in Europe . This made it a target of WWII bombing, with much damage done by the Nazis after the liberation. There are still many historical buildings remaining but much is post WWII, especially around the harbor, but given how inaccurate bombing was at the time, the damage was widespread.

The city lies on the River Scheldt just 15 kilometers south of the border with Netherlands. We came in on the canal as the river is tidal. This makes timing important, as coming with the tide saves fuel.

After you cross the border from the Netherlands you are required to check in at the first bridge. Our VHF radio calls were unanswered so we proceeded to Willemdok, the downtown harbor named after William I of the house of Orange. We arrived in the rain. The harbor master met us in a dingy, his head uncovered in the downpour, and guided the boats to their berths.

I spent the next two days replacing the heat exchanger after I noticed antifreeze pouring out the exhaust pipe. The harbor master referred us to Evers Herman, a retired mechanic. He helped us get the job done for a reasonable price. Unfortunately the hoses still leaked, as I learned after we left several days later. I had to do a bit of disassembly to resolve the problem. This was the second serious issue to occur during the journey south. Over the winter the hydraulic pump started leaking. I added oil to get it working again at the beginning of the season, hoping to find someone to replace the seals later on. I did just that in Papendrecht, getting a name from a fellow boater. They replaced the seals for me. However the steering failed completely on the big river not far from them. Fortunately I had hydraulic oil nearby and added some, restoring the steering. I got back to them. After several efforts they finally bled the air from the system.

After a few days in Gent, my daughter and granddaughter joined us. We walked to the castle that sits on the river, taking the convenient tram to other parts of the city.

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Antwerp’s castle

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The Cathedral

The city was alive with pedestrians, bikes, with comparatively little motorized traffic in the center. The cafes were generally busy, mostly with people drinking one or more of the hundreds of craft beers produced in this country. It is the best beer in the world, with many Trappist monastery beers leading the way. The national dish is moules frites, mussels with fries, served natur (plain) or with one of several sauces.

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Guildhauser
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Grote Markt

With the cooling system repaired, we set off for Emblem, a small marina in a rural area to the south of Antwerp. We called ahead to the marina and were greeted by a friendly Canadian born retiree. He and another kindly gent helped us moor. We had drinks with them and the others in the clubhouse, located in an old push barge. I spent an hour or two reinstalling the hoses on the heat exchanger to stop the leaks. My daughter and grand daughter swam in the river off a floating pier with a group of local teens. They found it quite pleasant, and both are half fish so I was happy they got some time in their element.

We set off for Lier the next day, a small town a few hours away. Dating at least from the early 8th century, Lier lies on the River Nete. My daughter and I visited the town on the bikes. It has a famous beguinage. A beguinage was housing for women who lived a religious life without taking vows. There are a number of these in the Flemish section of the country, all Unesco World Heritage structures.

Gent was next. We waited for the ride. This almost doubled our speed, from 7.5 to 14 kph, quite the boost. Had we been able to wait the previous day our 6 hour journey would have been 3, but would require night travel. This is too dangerous.

Brugge is a very popular tourist destination and was an important port until the 15th century. Then the Zwin silted up and commerce transferred largely to Antwerp. Sugar imports were hugely important to the economy. The city developed a stock exchange, which drew European bankers. Antwerp became the richest city in Europe and the second largest north of the Alps. It’s reputation of tolerance attracted Jews, who remain heavily involved in the diamond trade to this day. Skilled workers processed wool, sugar and other imports. It became the capitol of the revolt against Spanish rule. The city was sacked in 1576. The Spanish gave citizens two years to settle their affairs, at which point many influential citizens moved to Amsterdam, helping it become an important center of trade and initiating the Dutch Golden Age. Belgium was part of the Netherlands between 1815 and 1830.

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Beguinage

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Town hall in the main square
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The gorgeous Zimmertoren

This tower was built in the 14th century.  The clocks were added in 1930 by Louis Zimmer, an astronomer and clock maker.  There are 12 clocks surrounding the main clock, which is 1.4 meters in diameter.  They show time on all the continents, moon phase and tides, and other such natural occurrences.

The next day we started our journey to Ghent (Gent in Flemish), with a stop about halfway in the historical town of Dendermonde.  We would now be going against the tide, dropping from 10 kph to 7.5 at first.   You moor on the river so you need to come in against the current.  In this case we were going against the current already.  A couple of locals were there to give us an assist, not needed but always welcome.  One turned out to be the harbor master. 

Dendermonde sits at the junction of the Scheldt and Dender rivers, and  is another delight to visit.  It’s a 10 minute ride by bike from the moorings on the Scheldt, over a bridge and along the river a bit until you turn left to enter the town.

 

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Dendermonde town hall

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Dendermonde town square at dusk

Traces of human settlement date well back in pre-history.  Graves show activity in the second century and Merovingian times.   The Treaty of Verdun (843) references Dendermonde.  It received a city charter in 1243, having at that time a thriving cloth sector.  In 1384 it came under the control of the Dukes of Burgundy.  It suffered along with the rest of the low countries under Spanish rule.  A the beginning of WWI the town was heavily bombed by the Germans.  There is a Unesco beguinage in addition to the prosperous looking buildings of the town square.

The next day we went to Gent (Ghent is the English spelling), some 48 kilometers.  We go with the tide this time, taking our speed from 7.5 to 13, a huge boost.  Had we been able to do so for the journey to Desdemonde we would have saved almost three hours of the six hour journey.  However this would have required night time travel.

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2021 blog

Den Haag

I’m on my own as Peg flies to Valencia for a ten day visit. I am staying in the small village called Leidshendam, which sits between Leiden and Den Haag, The Hague, as its known in English. It’s a short walk to the bus. I flick my chipkaart at the reader as I board, feeling like a real pro at public transit, where you are charged by distance. The cost is determined and flashed on the screen when you check out, if you remember to do so. If not they have a website where you can do so and avoid a large charge. I know these things now.

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Leidshandam

My destination is the Escher Museum, on embassy row in Den Haag. However I follow my talking pocket first to the Academiewinkle, looking for art supplies. I unexpectedly find myself in the Royal Academy of Art, which together with the Royal Conservatory form the University of the Arts The Hague- that’s how they write it on their website, no comma. Founded, my goodness, in 1692. They must have been wearing Pilgrim outfits. They’ve been in this building since 1839, as I found out later. That’s what the old paint and total lack of decor suggest as I walk down the dingy corridors in the basement where they put the store.

So it’s not a stand alone art shop but one that primarily serves students- no problem. They always serve non-students as well so I went in with confidence. The friendly guy switches seamlessly to Engles (English), and found what I was looking for, hidden behind some just arrived inventory. I never would have it on my own. I leave with my stuff, expecting to see scantily clad models around running to the next life drawing class. Instead there were just students, no doubt some of the best the country, and even the world, has to offer.

After that longish walk from Den Haag Central I make another to Embassy Row. The Escher Museum is in what was once a royal palace. The Dutch still have royalty, strangely enough as democratically run as they are, all 17 political parties worth.

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Escher Museum

I start in the basement. That’s where you have to leave your backpack. The way down and up are via separate servant staircases, and climb the latter you have to walk through the MC Cafe. Not the McCafe, the MC Cafe. I’m mighty glad I did so. The woman at the counter said there was a special on, coffee and a cake for 6.25, not exactly cheap, but I went for it as it was well past tensies. Pushing early lunch even. I am glad I did. The caramel cake is out of this world! A crunchy – is that the word?- top and a creamy inside. My my.

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Tensies with Queen Mother. She made that fab caramel cake I bet.

Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898-1972) was Dutch – I did not know that – and one of the most famous graphic artists- that I knew. He worked wood block for black and white high contrast effects, and lithographs for shading. His big thing was the play with perspective and creating mathematical themes, despite not having any but basic math skills. He explored infinity through transitions and the art equivalent of “…” (dot dot dot). Tesselations – I’d never seen that word before. It’s a tiling, in this case a graphic tiling using geometric shapes, called tiles, and it’s a mathematical concept as well. Think of the geometric designs in Islamic art and you can get a good idea of what a tesselation is. It’s also found in quilting. Escher’s art became well known among scientists and mathematicians, and in popular culture, especially after it was featured In April of 1966 by Martin Gardner in Scientific American. It was in the Mathematical Games column.

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Coast of Amalfi
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Day and Night
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Convex and Concave

Escher attended the Technical College of Delft (1918) and then the Haarlem School of Decorative Arts (1919-22), where he studied drawing and woodcuts. He became enamored with the tile work in the Alhambra after a journey there, following visits to Italy, living in Rome afterwards from 1923-35. Mussolini repelled him so they left. He and his wife moved to just outside Brussels after a brief sojourn in Switzerland. In January, 1941 the war forced his move to the Netherlands. All this and more I am learning from the excellent written commentary.

The lovely palace that is home to the museum was finished in 1764. The Hope family bought in in 1796. Mr. Hope was a financier of royal families. Perhaps this is why Napoleon once stayed in the building. Queen Emma bought it in 1896. She added a beautiful staircase that appears to go to the second floor, but as I found out, you have to use the old servant staircases to and from that level. The Queen never went to the second floor (third floor as counted in the US), as it was for the servants. She also had them install hot running water, rare at the time.

The exhibits are excellently explained in very good Engles (although on their website ‘aloud’ is confused with ‘allowed.’ English. It is so difficult to spell). I learn a bit about lithographs. A special ink or chalk is used to make a drawing on a special stone, (thus ‘litho’) made to be water and ink repellent. Only the oily drawn lines absorb the ink the artist uses to draw.

Afterwards I wander a bit around town. It’s seem so cool to me to be in the Hague. It is so famous, so important, so lovely at least in the good weather. The pedestrian streets and bike paths are alive, cars and trucks demur at crosswalks. People sit outdoors having snacks or lunches. I join them for a light lunch, having already had dessert and, oh I’d forgotten, I had a tensie before I left Leidshendam. The slices of local cheese with bits of lettuce and whatnot sprinked on top, the bread and the beer left me a bit overstocked.

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In front of the Palace of Justice

Den Haag is one of the most important cities in the world. It is the seat of the Netherlands government, although Amsterdam is the capitol. Here the Prime Minister and the Cabinet meet, and you find the States General, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State.  Den Haag is the home of the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Europol and some 200 other administrative bodies.

It’s an old city (circa 1320) replete with many fine examples of Golden Age, Art Deco and other architectural styles. It is the country’s third-largest city, with a population of 800,000.

We took a walking tour the other day, one of those where you tip the guide and otherwise there is no fee. We started at the Mauritshaus, now a museum, walking around it to the natural lake, once a source of fish for the inhabitants. There you see the Binnenhof (meaning Inner Court), now housing the Parliament, where the nation’s 17 political parties meet, and the PM’s office, which is in a small tower. The PM can be seen bicycling to and from work often, with a hundred thousand or more other residents doing the same, the guide explained. Parliament’s home is a large Gothic structure dating from the 14th century. It was begun by William II starting circa 1248 and finished under his son Floris V. There were four others name Floris? This I do not know.

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Binnenhaus. That little tower on the left is the office of the PM, next to the Maurithaus
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Binnenhof

You might wonder how a nation can govern itself with so many parties. Perhaps the key is the country’s long term common enemy, water, lots of it very near, going by the name North Sea. The control of water is complicated and it’s always beckoning. With this common concern compromises and peace keeping are at the top of the agenda.

Perhaps you have also wondered how The Hague became the center for peace making. If not, start now.

The story starts with Tobias Asser, who initiated the first global Conference of Peace in 1899 (and again in 1907). These led to the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which served to settle international disputes. Andrew Carnegie funded the Peace Palace as its home. Following the founding of the League of Nations, The Hague housed the Permanent Court of International Justice, replaced by the International Court of Justice under the U.N.

Royal Dutch Shell is the world’s 5th largest business revenue producer, head quartered here. The Hague is the second most visited city in the country after Amsterdam. The King and Queen live here, and are of the House of Orange as in the once English king. He (the former, not the latter) gives an annual statement of the country’s goals at the Summer Palace, just a short distance from the Winter Palace, each built to allow maximum comfort from the season’s harshest weather, both on the tour of course.

The Hague has its share of museums, most notably the Mauritshuis, built by the governor of the Dutch colony in Brazil. We went there. It is not a huge museum but has some very famous paintings. There are a number of Rembrants, including perhaps his most famous self portrait, and two Vermeers, including Girl With a Pearl Earing.

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Girl With Pearl Easing, Vermeer
rembrant self

Aside from Maurithaus: the Bredius (art and restoration of the building), Museon (science), Kunstmuseum (modern art), , the national postal museum Museum voor Communicatie, , Louis Couperus (novelist), Museum Beelden aan Zee (modern sculpture), the Gevangepoort, former prison, Haags Historisch (history). I went to the superbly done history museum, which sits across from the Binnenhaus. The introductory graphic alone is worth the price of admission. It shows the map of the city and points out what happened in what area along with the dates, starting with prehistory. The coastline was closer in then, to about where the city now stands. Sand and peat bogs extended the coast. Well before the time the Nazis blazoned an antitank ditch through the center of the city the coastline came to where it now lies. The RAF mistakenly bombed a neighborhood, the rubble salvaged for construction. The museum has an corona collection and charts the ethnic changes brought about by immigration.

Den Haag. Garybob says check it out!

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Stumble across this street market in front of Palace of Justice- band, food stands, fruit and veg and cheese
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blog Blog 2021

Leiden

We spent a week on the hard in Aalsmeer, applying anti-fouling paint to the hull, rebuilding the toilet pump, installing a depth meter, and performing other repairs and maintenance tasks. To install the depth meter I had to fit a through hull fitting. Never having installed one, I was a bit nervous, as you have to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat. I was glad to have the advice and tools of the repair facility that caters to the do it your self boaters. The facility was recommended by our long time Dutch friends who moored their boat there for many years. When we finished we set off for the Doeshaven marina in Leiderdorp. From there it is a 20 minute bus ride to the famous city of Leiden. The weather was prefect and my through hull fitting did not leak.

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Downtown Leiden
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Hooglandse Kerk

Leiden is a lively place that sits on the junction of the Nieuw and Oude Rhin rivers only 20 kilometers from The Hague and 40 from Amsterdam. As the covid restrictions are lifting, everywhere there are shoppers, walkers, bikers and those seated outdoors enjoying a beverage or a snack while chatting happily with a colleague or lover. It’s a very young crowd, given the student body of 35,000 in a city of less than 200,000. We were there in perfect weather, adding to festive atmosphere.

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By Rembrandt, age 18, Leiden Municipal Museum, a well worthwhile visit
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Lievans, Man Tuning His Violin, shows the powerful influence of Caravaggio, Municipal Museum

Leiden is called ‘City of Discoveries’ for the many important scientific developments that occurred here. The University of Leiden (founded 1575) boasts 13 Nobel Prize winners. It is the country’s oldest university and a member of the League of European Research Universities. It is twinned with Oxford, the UK’s oldest. Modern scientific medical research and teaching started in the early 18th century in Leiden as a result of the activites of Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), famous in the annals of medicine. He pioneered clinical teaching and academic hospital, helping medicine take the turn into science. He isolated urea and started the use of thermometers.

Rembrandt was born and educated here.

The University of Leiden is famous for its many discoveries including Snells law and the Leyden jar capacitor developed by Pieter van Musschecnbroek (1746). Heike Kamerlingh Onnes won the 1913 Nobel Prize in physics. Among his accomplishments, he liquefied helium and attained a temperature of less than one degree above absolute zero. Albert Einstein taught at the University.

Around 860 Leiden began with the formation of an artificial hill that same to be called the Burcht van Leiden, which we climbed. The hill that sits at the junction of the Oude and Nieuwe Rijn. The settlement was called Leithon. A leitha (later “lede”) is a human-modified natural river. Leiden was an important center for weaving in the 15th century.

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View from Burcht van Leiden,

The city sided with the Dutch against Spanish rule in 1572. Under seige from May until October 1574 by the Spanish, it was saved by the Sea Beggars, who flooded the area, allowing the city to be resupplied by ship. As thanks William of Orange founded the University. The end of the siege is still celebrated on October 3. During the siege paper money was issued, for the first time in Europe. The paper came from prayer books, coming into use when silver supplies dissipated.

TYhe Pilgrims who later settled in nowadays Massachusetts lived in Leiden. Johan Rudolf Thorbecke wrote the Dutch Constitution in 1848 in his house at Garenmarkt 9.

In the next post, we sail from Leiden to Alphen an der Rijn, enjoying a delightful visit of the Archeon Museum Park.

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2021 blog

Oudekerk to Oude Wettering

After Woerden we were two weeks off the grid. We entered the Amstel River, the river that gave Amsterdam (dam on the Amstel) its name many centuries ago. For several days we were in Oudekerk (Old Church), moored in front of several restaurants that had just been permitted to reopen outdoors. The weather did not cooperate so few chose to brave the cold winds and rains that plagued so much of May. We ordered borrels (appetizers). They delivered to the boat, quite the treat, and on ceramic plates with silverware, not plastic. When we were done all we had to do was call and they came with the bill.

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Across the river you are in Oudekerk proper, a town of a few streets. As the weather cleared the bars and restaurants filled, which h we noted as we biked past looking for the grocery store and the Gamma, a large chain selling paint and lumber. Their paint machine broke as they prepared our boat’s dark dark blue paint but at least we saw all the outdoor activity on a lovely day, at last.

We are not far from the larger town of Amstelveen about 15 minutes on our bikes, and about 20 kilometers from Amsterdam. Amstelveen has a large immigrant population. We learned this as we searched for grocery stores in the area. Many were Indian and other southeast Asian shops. In one Indian shop we found red chili flakes, a must for Indian as well as Italian cooking, at least as far as I am concerned. We stocked up on wine from another shop, racing home against the forming clouds.

We turned back on the Amstel, as we can go no farther towards Amsterdam due to low bridge clearances. We are again in Uithoorn, south of town. We were here the other day, moored while the bridge was repaired. Two hours turned into three, but no matter, as we had shopping to do. With these small refrigerators, found in many apartments in European cities as well as boats, you must go out often for fresh items. From our mooring we are just about 10 mGoogle maps. I went looking, The locations marked on Google maps no longer exist. I went several kilometers several times to find nothing. I headed back to the boat through the tiny downtown to check there, just in case. I saw no Post NL and was about to give up when I saw a postman. He pointed just a few meters towards the Bruna. You can get what you need there, he said. It was only then that I saw the small sign sitting rather high off the ground. This was before I learned that the Bruna was one possible outlet.

Then came Tolensluis. I think this translates as Toll Lock. ‘Sluis,’ is the English ‘sluice’ but a sluice in English is generally used for small locks, in Dutch for all however. You can see many shared words between English and Dutch, although often the meaning is different if somehow related. The movement of peoples is embedded in their languages, something I always find fascinating, these verbal artifacts just sprinkled about.

The sluis is tiny, of course, operated by the man who lives in the adjacent house. After a few minutes he comes out. I was happy to see him as the winds were pushing us about quite a bit.

Oude Weettering was next, after a night in a marina to charge the batteries. Friends again came by to our mooring in the long stretch of houses and a few shops that line the water. Cuckoos live here too, not just in deeper countryside. Youngsters squeal and giggle as they play in the water. Girls in their early teens sing pop, wearing two piece suits for the most part. Everyone stops at a fast food shop called The Family for ice cream, fries, burgers. It sounds so American, I know, but the presentation and atmosphere is not, and besides, where can you get chicken with a peanut sauce in a fast food restaurant in the US?

Oude Wettering, Netherlands

Boaters are out in force, sloshing the moored boats, up to a dozen or so tied to the docks. The majority are day boats, meaning they have no cabin. Most are completely open, others offer some cover from the rain, not necessary in this week of perfect weather.

In the meantime we are waiting for our final covid vaccination and the Belgian border to open. As of July 1 the EU covid app is due, which you use at border crossings where necessary. Spain is now allowing visitors without testing, Italy with. Concerts and large venues can operate. Europe is gradually coming out of the long, dark winter of confinement. Spring has arrived. We all hope that there will be no repeat come next winter.

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2021 blog

Zwammerdam to Nieuwkoop

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.

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Along the Oude Rijn on the way to Zammerdamm
houses on oude rijn

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.

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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.

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Port in Bodegraven

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.

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Castle in Woerden
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Windmill in Woerden
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Squeezed 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.

Nieuwkoop windmill
On the Grecht near Nkieuwkloop
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2021 blog

Bruekelen to Gouda

May 15

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.

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One of the many fine examples of Dutch Golden Age architacture

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.

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There are several very good sculptures in public places

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At the the 750th anniversary of city’s founding in 2015, King Willem-Alexander, of the house of Orange, visited the city.

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Old city map of Oudewater

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.

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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.

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blog Blog 2021

Amersfoort to Muiden, Weesp and Breukelen

May 9, 2021

From our perch just outside Amersfoort we managed to secure an appointment for a Covid vaccination. We called the appointment line on advice from the Irish boaters we met in the Amersfoort harbor and on a second try found someone who knew how to make the database work for people who live on boats.

Our next destination is Muiden, famous for its castle, and the Vecht is lovely from here and most of the way to its source, passing through the lovely historic towns of Weesp and Breukelen (pronounced like and giving its name to Brooklyn) and small villages. It was a lovely if windy ride, with just a bit of wave action hitting us broadside so it was a comfortable trip to the lock. The friendly lockkeeper was waiting, the gate open. It’s an easy lock in and out right in the middle of town, shops, restaurants and houses on each side.

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Muiden Castle, watercolor

Muiden does not have any moorings in town center, unfortunately, so it’s either on a mooring from whence there is no land access or a paid spot in an unattractive area with neither water nor electricity, and a grumpy harbor master who did not bother giving us a receipt. So we moved on the next day to the downtown mooring in the middle of Weesp. From there we took the train to Schipol to get our digid code for the Netherlands. We will probably not ever need it, but if we need to interact with the Dutch government we can now do so online, as the digid code, as they call it, suffices for your signature.

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Weesp harbor

We spent two days in decent weather near Nederhorst, where I rewired the persnickety navigation lights (corrosion had spread through the wire for several meters), before proceeding up the Vecht to Maarsen for the night, then through the next day Breukelen has magnificent buildings on the water, easy to enjoy at the sauntering pace. We now rest in the tiny village of Monfoort, just one other boat and a few dozen houses.

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Breukelen

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2021 blog

Almere to Amersfoort

Elburg, Harderwijk and Amersfort

Elburg

After a few dreary days at the end of our stay in Almere, with its happy reunions with our Dutch friends who even invited us to use their shower and helped us with re-bedding our leaking aft cabin windows, we set off on April 25. We took the Hoge Vaart back to the northeast. It’s a boring 5 hour journey to the small, isolated mooring before the lock that lifts you 5 meters into the Wolderwijd, the body of water that separates Flevoland, the polder upon which Almere is built, and the old land masses to the east and south and where you find historic towns versus those born in the last century. The next morning we entered the very narrow, one or two boat lock.

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It was cold but sunny as we navigated under the cover of our rainhood. It is a 20 kilometer trip to Elburg, a small and very old village. The earliest residents left behind Neolithic stone tools and pottery shards. There are pottery shards from the Roman era. The earliest written record dates from 796 CE.

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At the end of the 14th century they built a city wall and a mote, laying out the city on a grid, with improvements coming late in the 16th. In 1367 Elsburg joined the Hanseatic League. The railroad passed Elburg in 1863 due to the high price of land, which left the town in the backwater in which it remains. It remained a fishing and farming center until the end of WWII, dying off after the construction of Flevoland. Now it is a strictly for tourism, for which the intact medieval town serves well.

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Harderwijk

Hardewijk dates from 1231, its defensive wall from the end of that century. The Grote Kerk (Great Church) came in the next century. The wall is largely gone and only one gate remains., the Vischpoort (Fish Gate). Harderwijk was also a member of the Hanseatic League.

Like Elburg it was once a fishing village. They still celebrate Aaltjesdag, Eel day. Today people come for festivities and the Dolfinarium. Larger and less medieval than Elburg, it is nonetheless quite charming, filled with old brick houses with steep roofs and bright red or black shutters. The plaza inside theVischpoort is lined with traditional houses, another voyage into the past.

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Vischpoort, pen and ink

Continuing to the southwest, we come to Amersfoort. The city’s name means the ford (foort) in the Amer River, now called the Eem. Records date from the 11th century. The city celebraed its 750th anniversary in 2009. Of course human occupation dates much farther in the past, with evidence of settlement to 1000 BCE.

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The gorgeous Koppelpoort

The defensive wall was finished circa 1300, demolished late in the century to allow for expansion. The famous Koppelpoort is in the second wall. The houses on Muurhuizen (Wallhouses) Street sit on first wall’s foundations.

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Koppelsgate, pen and ink. This sits to the side of the gate

The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwentoren (Tower of Our Lady), nicknamed Lange Jan (‘Long John’), is 98 metres (320 ft) in height. It was the middle point of country when it was started in 1444. The church was destroyed by explosion in 1787, but the impressive tower remains with us. It is now the reference point of the RD coordinate system, the coordinate grid used by the Dutch topographical service. There are several buildings noted as national monuments. In the Middle Ages it was was an important for its textile industry its many breweries.

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Koppelpoort, Water Gate, A4, 8.5 x 11″
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Gofres (waffles) served to a disco beat. Ice cream and fries on every corner)

Of the three towns, it is both larger and generally more interesting, with more to do, although Elburg could easily serve as a medieval film set with not much effort.

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Amersfoort is nicknamed Keistad (boulder-city). The Amersfoortse Kei is a a 9-ton boulder that was transported into the city in 1661 as a result of a bet between two landowners. The nicknaming embarrassed the town, so they buried the boulder in 1672. It was re-discoverd in 1903, then turned into a monument. Boulders are rare in the Netherlands.

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2021 blog

Kampen to Almere

April 16, 2021

From Zwartsluice we navigated to Genmuiden for a short visit and a trip to the supermarkets, then we made our way to Grafhorst. This is a tiny town, so tiny it does not even have a grocer. Instead a large van drives into town, beeps the horn, and waits for people to climb in to shop for fruit, veg, meat, cheese and the like. This is now predominantly a bedroom community. Each house has a car.

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There is a plaque in the park next to the river. It commemorates the deaths of Australian airmen whose plane crashed into the river during WWII. Viking is moored nearby. We stayed the night alone at the dock other than the unoccupied work boat qft. It was a quiet night under a few stars, the long cold sunset lasting well past 8 P.M.

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In the morning, again with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, we set off for Kampen. Kampen sits on the Ijssel River, which flows into the Ijsselmeer, the inland sea that is closed off from the North Sea by locks and dikes. Kampen was a member of the former Hanseatic League, population of 37,000.

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Kampen has a well preserved old town center. There are three lovely gates and many chaurches. Three modern bridges cross the IJssel. There is a local variation of the Sallands dialect, termed Kampers.

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The friendly and Bible quoting harbor master makes coffee for visitors. It’s a lonely job in the winter but the boating season is quite busy, especially on weekends. There is a fries shop across from it so we ordered two small fries which somehow turned into a humongous order. It’d been a good while since we had crispy fries like this.

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The next morning, after another cup of coffee and some comments about the Gospel of Mathew having everything you could possibly want to know, we were off to Almere, where we will meet some old friends and a representative from Gebo, the manufacturer of the windows on our boat. The factory is in the town and the rep lives one minute from the town’s free moorings, and the friends just two minutes more. It’s another gorgeous day with very cold mornings. You emerge from the mouth of the river into some fairly open water before entering the Ketelhaven locks. Here you drop about 6.5 meters onto the polder. We did not have to wait long for the red-green light to come on, indicating they were preparing to open the gates. The first lock drops 5.5 meters so they have ropes that descend along the walls. You just loop a line around it and down you go. It is quite easy. The second lock is not manned. You have to push a button to get things going. We saw it on the right side after we had docked on the port side.

The 52 kilometer voyage from Kampen to Almere took about 7 hours in lovely sunshine. Slowly on.

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2021 blog

First weeks on Viking

April 16, 2021

After a comfy night in a high tech shoebox at Schipol, with it’s colored lights operated from a control panel, we were greeted by our friends who live in nearby Haarlem. They drove us to our boat in Heerenveen, a 90 minute ride into Freisland. The boat was afloat and in reasonably good condition by all appearances.

Given the possibility of deep freezes, you have to drain your pipes and put antifreeze (a safe version as it goes into the canal) in the drains and the wet exhaust system. As they say in repair manuals, assembly is a reserve operation. That is what we did first thing. All went well until we tried to leave the dock to fill the water tank, as in this marina there is no water on the dock. Unfortunately the way the marina attached the electric chord to the pole made it impossible to remove the chord so we could not move the boat. We filled some plastic bottles from the rest rooms, a 2 minute bike ride from the boat, not convenient by any means, but manageable for one day. Tomorrow is Monday so they can help us out.

The next day we filled the tank. I found that the shower faucet had frozen in the deep deep freeze earlier this year. Fortunately the faucet came off easily and there are shops nearby. But here things get a bit complicated. Due to corona virus restrictions you have to make an appointment to shop in most stores, grocery and pharmacy excepted. But we have rented a car for the day so we hoped we could just get in without an appoinment. After getting groceries we stopped at one of the big stores. They would not let me in. They did across the street however and I even found the type of facuet they use here, which mixes the hot and cold together using a built in thermostat of some sort, and it was on sale. It installed easily.

However the shower drain pump was no longer operating. The shower water drain is too low in the boat to go overboard directly. It drains into a box with a float operated pump. So no shower aboard and no hopes of replacing it until we get to a marine shop.

With high winds, snow, sleet, hail and rain we were unable to make our Thursday appointment for replacing our 21 year old charger/inverter. Things gradually improved and on the 8th day we headed south in reasonably good weather. Our rain hood completely encloses us so we are protected from the still cold wind, with temperatures barely above freezing as we departed, having paid our electric bill for the winter and our week running the small heater which, along with the diesel heater, kept us warm while awaiting better weather.

After a night in the harbor near Bonsink, the company doing work for us, we were hauled out of the water and placed in a cradle. The boat was placed rather far from the rest rooms and there was no water for washing the boat. We did have electricity at least. The installations were completed the next day and the leak at the prop shaft as well, where the seal had just been there too long. We have a shower and a new Victron charger/inverter, which is about as good as they get.

We did not have the inverter for long. We used it one night. The next day it was drawing 50-60 amps. It should not draw any more than about 2 amps to operate.