Wed. July 20 Lay over day at Fort Bakkerskil
The sunset and moon rise over the canal was spectacular last night. Ed took some shots from up the dike above the fort.
This morning we got the full scoop on the Waterline Forts. This one was built in 1887 and restored with our hosts help about 8 years ago. It has 2 bunk rooms with 6 beds each, 2 apartments, 4 double rooms, a café and a terrace. It’s now a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes all of the new and old Waterline fortresses. Many of the forts are now education/ conference centers, B & Bs, or part of a nature park. The Waterline was a line of defense that runs from just east of Amsterdam to just east and south of Rotterdam. It’s an ingenious system of engineering made up of floodgates, dikes and canals that is 85 Kms long by 3-5Kms wide. It includes 60 forts, 85 casements, 2 castles, and over 700 bunkers. The first plan of defense was to flood out the enemy. That didn’t work so well after the invention of bigger and better longer range cannon, etc. We’ve seen several forts and many bunkers as we’ve ridden along this area. It’s been in use since 1672 and was decommissioned in 1940 when the Netherlands fell to the Germans.
The fort alohhng wit our hosts was such a cool place to stay that we decided to spend another night and ride the countryside south and east of it. Our hosts
served a mean breakfast including eggs to order. We tried to follow a route but soon lost it, so made up our own and rode about 60 Kms. with half of it into a very stiff headwind. It was another hot and sunny day with few villages that had any services. We didn’t find anything open to get lunch and drinks until 1pm. This area is comprised of large fields and of course many waterways. About ¾ of the way around our loop we came to the river and ferry port where we crossed the day before so stopped for coffee near the castle. By the time we got to the town of Werkendam, we were tired and dripping with sweat so stopped for a cold Coke, bought groceries for dinner and headed back to our oasis at the fort. When we got back we met our new neighbors in the other 6 person room which had been where explosives had been stored. They were a couple of 70 plus women who have cycle toured together every year for 1 wk for the past 10 years. They’re from Germany. We enjoyed the evening sitting out on the terrace together. We decided to enjoy the Kaffie un Kuchen (coffee and a sweet) so had our hosts homemade appletart after our picnic dinner.
Thursday, July 21 Fort Bakkerskil-Dordrecht
Last night’s sunset started our as well as the night before, but the sun went behind some low clouds and what had promised to be every bit as awesome, actually fizzled but good as far as it went.
In the morning, we said goodbye to our hosts who were super nice and took off for Dordrecht, but not until we took some pictures of a regal pair.
It was windy and warm, but not so hot as the last few days.. It was a 2 ferry day with the first being tiny, a bike and person only craft. The second ferry was larger and could haul perhaps 15 vehicles. One of them was a tractor.Life is sure different when you live with water all around! We had lunch at another Waterline fort turned waterfowl/wildlife sanctuary immediately after disembarking from the second ferry. We had planned to eat last night’s leftover cheese, but we forgot it at the fort as we were preoccupied with wearing crowns and taking pictures.
The ride of 40 kms. was through flat terrain up and down and along dikes. (This is Holland after all.) The fields were all in grains except for a few acres planted in apples, potatoes and pears. There were no signs advertising roadside sales of fruits or vegetables and no stands. We pulled into our B & B in Dordrecht about 3:30 where our host, Sebastian, gave us maps and detailed descriptions of what Dordrecht had to offer the tourist. The “old city” is quite large, about 2 kms. by 1 km, with no car traffic allowed anywhere. We rode into the old city and walked around to familiarize ourselves with it. The city is the junction of 3 rivers. There is a medical museum, a Holland 1940-1945 Museum, a large public market on Friday and a larger public market on Saturday, a very large church and an hour long boat ride through the canals that cris-cross the old town. We decided to try and do all of the above the next day.
We did visit a communal living enclave in the old town, but were not sure what we should do or how we should act when we were there, since we felt like we were intruding in the living space of the residents. We left quietly with no pictures.
Friday July 22 Dordrecht
Armed with the map, we rode to the TI and gathered additional information. What a cool old canal city. It’s Holland’s oldest city. We bought the walking tour map and deposited our bikes in one of the 2 free, underground, attended, bike parking garages in the old city. Since it was market day, we headed there first. One was right by the market square. What a marvelous service. There were hundreds of bikes underground there. You get a ticket just like the car parking at Vail’s garage, but without the price tag! With no cars in the old city they have no need for auto parking.
After a cappuccino, we headed down a small narrow alley which opened at a canal where we got the 11am tour boat. The boat seated perhaps 20 people(There were 4 of us.) and went through the canals and the junction of the 3 rivers for an hour’s intimate look at the old city from the “inside” so to speak. Some of the bridges we went under were only a couple feet above our heads. It was a pretty nice way to learn about the history, rivers, canals, bridges, houses, and buildings. Next we went to the medical museum which was developed and run by a couple who had an interest in teaching. It was attached to their home and held examples of all sorts of things about anatomy, surgical instruments, old and new medical devices and was mostly aimed at teaching children. The woman is a nurse.She teaches at the local medical school. It was a little basic, but interesting none the less.
We had energy for one last museum so chose to visit the Dordrecht 1940-45 Museum. It was, of course, located in an old house along a canal and run by volunteers. It held memorabilia and stories from the years leading to and during the occupation of the city by the Germans. There were really nice staff members that helped us with the interpretations. One woman told us stories of her family during that time.
Saturday July 23 Dordrecht to Alblasserdam
We left our bags at our B & B for the morning and rode back into the old city to wander through the Sat. market and do the walking tour before riding on. The market was much the same as Friday’s event with a few more stalls, but nothing unique. The walking tour map/guide was great. It was very easy to follow the route. The descriptions were short and to the point. It took us about 3 hours to see and read about the sights around town. Lunch in the B&B garden then off we rode to catch the ferry across the Lech River and continue on Euro Velo #15 route to Alblasserdam. We began seeing more windmills along the country side. Many of them are still lived in and have clothes drying on the line and children playing in the yards.
Sunday July 24 Alblasserdam to Gouda
On our way to Gouda (pronounced locally as yowda) we stopped at the Windmill Open Air Museum near Kinderdijk. There was an interpretive center with a film about the history of the area and the 19 windmills still there. They are still in working order. We visited the two that were open to the public. Needless to say, they are very picturesque. Note the wooden shoe ditch waders.
We learned a lot from people living in and volunteering at the windmills. All of these and many other windmills in Holland were not used to grind grain, but rather to pump water up hill into the river that was above the land to prevent flooding the farm land, the polders ( bogs), the holding ditches and the residents.. Most of dry, farming land in Holland is below sea level. The land was created by erecting dikes and then draining water from the land that was enclosed by the dikes.. Since the land created was still below sea level, the water from rivers and rain had to be controlled or the land would flood and be be useless. The windmills work as ingenious pumps scooping the water from lower to higher ground until high enough that it could be drained into the rivers and go out to sea.The windmills were active until the late 18th century when they were replaced first by steam driven and then electric pumps.
When we left the museum we hopped on one of the dikes going north then west along the Ijssel River for a side trip over night to Gouda. We arrived in the old canal city of Gouda….yes, the cheese, around 6pm. Our hotel was in an industrial park which of course was closed and very quiet on a Sunday evening. According to the hotel staff, the only place near to have dinner was an Asian restaurant. When we got there we found that it was like nothing we’d ever encountered. You paid by the number of hours you stayed with a minimum price that included 2.5 hours with an additional half hour for 2.5 Euro more. It was an amazing buffet including sushi and alcohol. Very strange and expensive, but we had no other good choices. It was delicious, and we ate too much. It was a little odd all round, including the fact that it was in a deserted industrial park, but was full of hungry eaters.
Monday July 25 Gouda to Rotterdam
We spent the day taking the 2 ½ mile self guided walking tour of Gouda and tasting their delightful cheese. It was a drizzly cool day, but not bad for wondering around town in back alleys and churches. The main church in town is St. John’s and is now a Protestant church named for John the Baptist. It is famous for the 72 stained glass windows known as the “Gouda Windows” which are each about 50′ high. Some date to the end of the 13th century. They are stunning.They were removed and fortunately survived the Second World War. The church dates from 1280 and is the longest church in the Netherlands at 123 metres. It has 45 alters.It is quite beautiful. We watched as one of the locks on the canal was being used for a large boat transfer from one level to the next.We listened to the bells and watched the mechanical clock on the side of city hall do its thing.
By the time we rode out of town along the river towards Rotterdam at 3pm, the sun was trying to shine, and we were in shirt sleeves again. We rejoined the #15 route near the Rhine close to the city. Our hotel in Rotterdam is in the heart of the old city. In the online booking process we had asked that we be allowed to bring our bikes up to our room as it is not safe to leave them outdoors overnight. There is enough room left over in the room for us to get a good night’s sleep. The plus is that we could roll them into the elevator and up to our room fully loaded.
Tuesday, July 25 Rotterdam to Vlaardingen
Looking out our window, we saw that the day was bright sunshine and the temperature
easant. Both our bikes and the hotel room walls survived the night and our departure. Because there are so many bike commuters and driving in the old city is restricted, there is virtually no vehicle traffic. Almost all of the streets in Rotterdam have bike lanes in both directions and riding to work, errands, and leisure is the norm rather than the exception. As a consequence, it is quiet. No horn honking either…yah!!
We started the ride by going to the harbor and seeing the “new” harbor bridge. We took spin around and through Rotterdam’s big park and saw some of the mansions bordering the park Most of the roads in the park were paved. The park is forested with large green spaces, flowers, and a number of lakes. It’s very peaceful. We then rode past the harbor and on to the village of Schiedam about 9 Kms toward the Atlantic where we’ll catch the ferry to England tomorrow.
Schiedam is an obscure place but listed in our Euro Velo 15 guide book with at least 7 restored and working windmills on the canal through the middle of town.
These are quite a bit larger than the ones we’ve seen before and at least some served a different purpose . That purpose was grinding barley and rye into the main ingredients of gin, as in martini. We wandered around the village old town going windmill to windmill taking pictures of each along the way. Rotterdam’s harbor stretches from the city of Rotterdam proper along the waterway to Hoek van Holland on the coast, approximately 35 kms away. harbor is the largest in Europe. The villages closest to Rotterdam are slowly being gobbled up by the bigger city, but following the bike route makes it a pleasure. It’s really a beautiful ride with the port/harbor to the left and windmills here and there as a reminder of the Netherland’s past.
We took advantage of a new library in a very old building in Schiedam and brought the Blog up to date and enjoyed our afternoon cup of coffee. The local professional fire department was practicing outside and with divers in the canal.
Around 4:45 we headed out of town to go the rest of the way to our lodging at an Ibis Hotel about 20 Kms from tomorrow’s 2:15 p.m. ferry at Hoek. We are looking forward to another sea voyage as well as the accent of the British, looking the wrong way when crossing streets and cycling around the roundabouts in a clockwise direction. It is very hard for us to believe that we have been traveling for more than 2½ months.