Wandering about the Netherland east, part 1

It’s been more than a six weeks since we returned to the Netherlands. Since then we have been to one charming, prosperous looking village and lovely quiet countryside mooring after another. I have come to see why so many Dutch boaters have little need to take their boats to other countries. You walk or bike past rows of Golden Age (17thc) houses, their tall peaks and false fronts sometimes leaning forward. Each town has a church with a tall tower and a town hall with brightly colored wooden shutters contrasting with the brick construction. Water scenes from the thousands of kilometers of canals,lakes and seas. Boats, barges and ships push through the waters and moor in towns, canals and lakes. And much much more. Then there is the friendly bi-lingual often tall and blond people, who switch to answer you in English, often seamlessly. And it’s a hearty cuisine with lots of fried fish and fried potatoes, sate (peanut sauses), white asparagus, mustard soup, meat balls, hearty seedy breads and crackers, appelgebak mit slagroom (apple pie with thick whipped cream) and other excellent sweets. (Photos mostly by Peg)

We came first to Doesburg, which I mentioned in a previous post. Doesburg has been an important fortified city for a long time due to its position near the intersection of the Ijyssel and the Oude (Old) Ijssel. Martin Kerk (church) has a tower that measures 94 meters tall. Doesburg was a fortified city until 1923.

Martin Kerk
The old City Hall

Near the Old City Hall we ordered mustard soup, a regional favorite. There are many versions of mustard soup. Mustard, cream, stock, maybe bits of ham. Our favorite had bits of serrano ham. You gotta like mustard though! The town is home to the Vinegar and Mustard Factory, which has a small exhibit. It was founded in the early part of the 19th century and looks it in a well preserved way of course.

Many of these small towns have sculptures similar in style to this one.
Mustard soup with a bit of flavorful although not super crusty bread. The bread in the country is generally quite hearty, tasty and often seedy.

Deventer came next, also on the Ijssel River, a town dating from around 750 CE. It was looted and set afire by the Vikings in 882, after which they added a defensive earthen wall where now you find Stenen Wal  street. You can seem the remains of the wall. Deventer was home to the Bretheren of the Common Life, a religious philosophy that had some lasting influence. It was among the first to house a printing presses. A Latin School became internationally renowned, and remained in service in changing forms until 1971. Erasmus attended the school.

We approach Deventer, a great view you can only get from the water
deventer city hall
Deventer’s gorgeous City Hall

We stayed a night in Hasselt, after one on Lake Streng, a lovely rural spot just outside of Zwolle, which we stopped in twice last year. Zwolle has much more to offer but we’d not seen Hasselt, and besides Zwolle’s finger piers are risky plus you have to climb a ladder to get to the street. We stayed in the marina in Hasselt, there being no alternative. Like the other towns, Hasselt has been around for 1000 years or so, getting city rights in the 13th c.

From our boat you see this as you enter Hasselt
Lovely downtown Hasselt

Meppel is the newest town in the area, coming into being in the 16th century as a result of the peat trade, the norm here.

mepel windmill
Entering Mepple you get a glimpse of the old windmill
mepple boats
Harbor in Mepple

We met up with Kees and Ada in De Alde Feanen National Park , after spending a night in Lauwersmeer at a nice spot near the dike at the northernmost part of the country. Just us and two other boats were way out here.

boats in the park5
Watercolor sketch of our mooring in Lauwersmeer at sunset

Kees and Ada were waiting for us a bit off the Queen Wilhamena Canal, on a side shoot of a side shoot. We enjoyed great conversations and always get boating tips from them. Ada is excellent at spotting flaws with our lines and fenders. Kees knows these boats well, having owned one for about 60 years. We enjoyed wonderful meals and snacks with them for the next 12 days. Ada is a very good cook. One night we had whitlof (Belgian endive) wrapped in ham, topped with a cream sauce. Another time we had white asperagus.

After two days on this lovely rural spot we took the Queen Wilhamena Canal to Goredijk. I’ll start there with the next post. I wrote about Arnheim here https://garyjkirkpatrick.com/arnhem/. It came just after Doesburg.


Arnhem is perhaps most famous for the WWII battle made famous by the movie “A Bridge Too Far.”  It sits with a few kilometers of the German border and on two rivers, the Nederrijn and the IJssel.  The Allies sought to cross the Rhine (Nederrijn) there.  The bridge became the focal point of the battle.  Near the bridge is the Airborn at the Bridge Museum, which briefly recounts the battle.    Below is the rebuilt bridge as seen from the museum.  There is a larger version of the museum outside the city.

We entered the Rhine at the end of the Rheine-Herne-Kanal and thence north to Doesberg, famous for its mustard factory. I will cover that and our scare near Arnhem at the bottom of this article.

After the battle

Arnhem today is one of the country’s larger cities at 160,000 residents. Between Arnhem and Nijmegen, also enveloped in the battle, house some 700,000. It was beautifully rebuilt after the war.

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it
Eusebiuskerk aka the Grote Kerk
The magnificent organ in the  Eusebiuskerk.
The Musis Sacrum, theater and concert hall

As you no doubt expect, settlement in the area dates from way back. Neanderthals lived in this part of Europe. Two firestones (fire resitant stones) are dated to 70,000 years, of Neanderthal origin. A hunters camp dates to 5000 BCE, grave mounds to 2400 BCE. The earliest settlement dates to 15000 BCE. The first written mention is in 893. It’s location near the two rivers makes it very convenient for shipping and transport. It entered the Hanseatic League in 1443.

It was occupied by the French from to 1795-1813. Later in the 19th century it became known for its city parks, which remain a major feature today.

After entering the Rhine at the terminus of the Rheine-Herne-Kanal we proceeded north. We were not alone. Huge barges came along with us, at times squeezing us close to the shore line. Several times I had to cross to the other side to allow them room, each time trying to determine what side of the river they wanted, as they would choose the side with less current, which was running at 5 kilometers per hour, boosting our speed by 50%. One double wide barge kicked up 1 to 1 1/2 meter waves, not a problem for the boat. They lasted just a minute or two, just enough to remove the large fender we’d just bought and nearly getting a second. We should have lifted them to the deck.

Horse and cattle came to drink along Rhine’s edge. There was a heat wave, up to 34c!

Doesburg has a mustard factory that has been around since circa 1800. It has a small museum and shop. Of course we had to try to the local mustard soup. It’s basic ingredients are stock, mustard and cream. I figure every chef has their own version.


Doesburg became a city in 1223. It was fortified until 1923, if you can imagine that.

One of many charming buildings and houses in Doesburg
Many towns have small lovely sculptures.

We continued north to Arnhem. As we approach a large barge was going slowly as we approached. Perhaps the river was too shallow so he had to reduce speed. As we neared his stern he swung toward us, sucking us in with his large prop. Fortunately the pilot noticed and cut his prop so we were able to move past him. It was a bit of a scare. We entered the harbor with ease.