Gouda (pronounced as in ‘howda’) is 45 minute bus and train trip from our mooring on the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine, part of the Rhine river system) in Alfan aan Den Rihn. Aside from being the home of the well known cheese, much more varied and flavorful than the bland version sold in the U.S., it has a superb city hall, Stadhuis, dating from the 14th century, the oldest such in the country.
Today is a market day, with loads of activity. A woman’s chorus sang in front of the Stadhuis, a couple played a calliope while passing the hat. It was excellent. We made a contribution.
Aside from the rounds of Gouda cheese, much of the merchandise is the same from market to market. We did see a wooden shoe maker selling his wares in Delft. It is not an item the Dutch use much these days, although they do wear leather clogs, so the wooden version are marketed mostly to tourists.
The cheese is sold in several varieties. Jong Gouda is young, that is, aged just four weeks. There are various states of aging up to over 12 months. They become increasingly hard and sharp. They are all encased in a plastic coating to keep them from drying out. Most are industrially produced, however there are several hundred producers using traditional methods using unpasteurized cow milk, called Boerenkaas. Boerenkaas, Noord-Hollandse Gouda, and Gouda Holland have Protected Geographical Indication status in the EU.
Here’s another charming Dutch town, dating from the 13th century, important historically as well as being to this day the home of technological R&D in the Nederlands emanating from Delft’s University of Technology. It is also famous for Delft pottery, porcelain made using Chinese techniques developed in the 14th century and much prized in Europe from the moment of its arrival. Delft pottery came to be in the 16th century. It remains popular. Sales last year were in the $36M range.
Delft is a popular tourist destination, for its charming architecture and the excellent Delft porcelain museum, as well as shops galore. There are weekly street markets, at least in summer, like in many Dutch towns of this size.
Willem the Silent, the first of the House of Orange to reign in the country, is buried at the Nieuwe Kerk in 1584, where there is a monument to him. The succeeding members of the royal family are also buried there, the latest being Queen Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard. The church, dating from the 14th century, has a magnificent spire.
The Oude Kerk dates from 1246. It has a noticeable lean that builders tried to correct as it rose, without success. Its most massive bell dates from 1570. Due to its nine tons and the resultant vibrations, the ring it only on special occasions, such as the burial of a Dutch royal family.
We toured Prinsenhof, Willem’s residence during the revolt from Spain. Aside from some excellent portraits, it is also the interesting as the location of his assassination, ordered by the Duke of Alba, King Phillip’s representative. You can still see the bullet holes on the staircase, enlarged by probing fingers before it was protected by a plastic cover.
Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) was born in this city. Delft streets and home interiors were the subject of his fabulous paintings. We visited the Vermeer Center. There are no original paintings, while the reproductions are of modest quality. The narrative is excellent, however, and all the explanations and the short video are in English.
The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602. Delft then became a trading center, producing its wealth of architecture.
This is Willemstad, a neat small town with a brick clad windmill, as well as a lovely old houses. l. There was an army of large vessels on this beautiful day. Below you will see a traditional sailing barge, not particularly large but lovingly restored.
In the morning following our arrival we were looking for a place for our guests to try an uitsmijter, a hearty Dutch breakfast. Nothing was open, the only sign of life being those headed for work by bike, bus or car, and a man walking his dog. I asked him if there were any cafes open. “Nay,” he said. Realizing we were tourists, he explained that the town was a major naval port until the 1950’s. This explains the octagonal shape and the bunkers. They built the large bunkers in the middle of the 19th century, so my speculation that they were part of Hitler’s WWII defense system was wrong.
The brick clad windmill still works, grinding wheat, I think he said.
From Willemstad we back tracked about 5 km then headed north to Oud-Beijerland on the Spui River. It’s narrow entrance on the Spui River is a bit of a challenge as the current is about 3 km per hour, so the boat crabs towards the entrance. You have to straighten out at the last moment, once the river releases its grip. It was lunch time, so we found a lovely place on the harbor. On the menu: mustard soup. Sounds odd, I know, but the cream, onions, garlic and leeks make the mustard just a tangy addition. We all loved it! Salmon with various lettuces on dark bread, fries (the Dutch can’t have a meal without them), thin slices of smoked tuna. Not a English menu in sight, the waitress had limited English, so the chef came to the table to help where our restaurant Dutch was inadequate.
We were unable to stay the night to participate in the many activities, including loud music (playing reggeton, one of my least favorite), so we decided to try for Delft, the home of the famous ceramics. This took us through Rotterdam harbor, one of the busiest in the world. Huge ships and lots of them, so we dodged where we had to and otherwise stuck to the shore until we had to cross to go north. Our preferred route took us further to the west than the one we ended with. After entering the lock, the lock master told us a bridge was down along the way, so we had to back out of the lock. Boats do not do well going backwards, but we managed. Then we had to scoot across the waterway, head a few kilometers towards the center of Rotterdam, then make our way across yet again. The small lock’s bridge was just tall enough for us to pass beneath, otherwise we’d have had to wait for several hours for it to open, as it was rush hour. Once through we passed through one very low bridge, then found a nice marina on starboard side. And there we rest.
Dordrecht is an island in an inland sea, less obvious now given the recovered land. However, in the 14th, some three hundred years after its 11c founding on the banks of the Thuredrith River, a huge storm created what is now called the National Park of the Biesbosch, through which we traveled from our original starting point in Eindhoven. This left the city isolated, but of course, they had boats! It was not until the 17th century that enough silting had occurred that wealthy individuals in Dordrecht began the process of making polders, recovered land. In 1953 another massive storm once again left Dordrecht surrounded, leaving thousands dead in the country. Even after the major flood control efforts that followed, there are still flooding issues here.
We are moored in the old town just off the river, where the passing barges and ships send motion through the narrow entrance to the harbor, causing the boats to rock and wiggle in their mooring boxes, tied at the front end to a post and to a small, low floating dock. We exit the boat off the rear ladder. It is just a two minute walk to the restaurants that sit on the river’s edge. From there you see the busy river traffic, as ships come from the sea, Germany and the north of Holland laden with containers of goods, and the usual sand laden barges as well. The water taxi zooms from one side of the river to another, it’s radar keeping an eye on the likes of us.
On these warm days pleasure craft head for the Biesbosch in large numbers, as there are not many days when you can swim off your boat. I took a dip on the way to Dordrecht, and planned on another in the Biesbosch. However the engine cut off switch was not working so we ended in Werkendam. I took a look below. The wire wire was disconnected. It was a simple matter to replace then clamp down the connection to prevent another occurrence. You have to be a bit of a mechanic to operate a boat.
Dordrecht was at the center of the revolt against the Holy Roman Empire. The city was walled, with thirteen towers controlling entrance.
In July, 1572 the 80 Years War was intensifying. William of Orange sought to free the Dutch from the Spanish Phillip II, the head of the Empire. High taxes and famine were motivators, as well as the persecution of Protestants by the Catholics. He sent a representative to the organizing meeting in Dordrecht, after which William was recognized as the Statholder by the States of Holland. This event is dramatized in a film at the Het Hof van Nederland museum, located in a historic neighborhood laden with grand architecture.
There is a display showing changes in the religious make up of the country over the centuries. You see the wave of Protestantism originating in Germany and Switzerland. The Canons of the Dutch Reform Church were written here in 1619, following doctrinal disputes, and remain the basis of the Church in the Nederlands, South Africa, North America and Australia. The major issue concerned predestination. Both the Remonstrants and the Counter-Remonstrants believed in predestination, but not to the same degree. They spent a year at the table before the latter prevailed.
These days the Dutch are the most non-religious people on earth. About 50% of the people declare themselves to be atheists, compared to around 10% in the US. About 48% are members of a church, although many of those join for cultural reasons and are also declared atheists. Churches are treated as museums in many cases, preserving the architecture and the art that survived destruction by the iconoclasts, who opposed artistic representations of the Christian deities. They are magnificent if not quite up to par with what you see in Paris and Rome.
This city of 150,000 offers a mix of traditional and modern architecture in its downtown area. There are restaurants, bars and cafe’s galore, most of them busy this beautiful Sunday. Meanwhile, huge silos of a defunct factory have been painted by artists in celebration of graffiti art. A break dance competition judged by three people of African origin with a black dude as announcer continues on the other side of the silos. But then it turns weird in a friendly way.
A small boat the size and shape of a grand piano floats by. Live piano player and a live singer maneuver through the harbor. Meanwhile a float with a tower holds a half dozen or so people dressed as coal miners who are then attacked by people in white outfits. Back in the canal an eight armed octopus lifts its arms while moving along, preceded by what looks like mushroom caps, followed by contraptions and what not, some of which would take long descriptions that just won’t communicate the scene adequately, so here are some pictures.
Aside from the costumes, which allure to times ranging from the medieval to the industrial revolution, we were unable to fathom what it all meant, nor did anyone else we talked to other than one participant who said they were preparing for an event next week, suggesting this was all a dress rehearsal. We did indeed watch them towing various platforms with small outboards.
Two other items of interest are the bosche bol, a chocolate covered profiterole filled with real whipped cream, a local treat we are told are produced in the thousands by a local man, and sausage filled rolls. We shared onf of the the former in a dessert and finger food joint around the corner from the mooring. Quite the rich treat with a crunchy bit of chocolate, a thin layer of dough following by the richest cream this side of Ire;and.
Passing through the remaining seven bridges of Edam is a bit of a challenge due to the narrowness of the canal and the ever present wind. At times our boat barely fit between the small bridges. The harbormaster of the day biked from bridge to bridge to open them as we arrived, which helped. Some of the bridges required him to pull down on a rope. The last one or two are machine operated, just requiring the push of a button.
Countryside followed the last bridge, with few boats and just one large barge that came around a curve on our side just past the ferry that was loading passengers. The barge glided past while the ferry waited as both Viking and the barge passed by. Along the way we saw several houses whose front doors were well below.
At Spijkerboor there is an intersection. We took the canal that takes you through or in the canal alongside Lake Alkmaardermeer. There’s an attractive marina with a restaurant in the canal. Dozens of boats were camped, passengers enjoying the sun.
We moored a few hours later in Alkmeer, our second visit by boat to this town. This time we moored for a day in the canal, made choppy with passing boats and frolicking teens spinning their small crafts to make the biggest waves they could manage. We were fortunate to get a spot as there is a medieval festival this weekend, attracting many locals and tourists from afar. The restaurants and bars were packed and the streets narrowed with by the people sitting at the sidewalk tables. Traditional sailing barges and other boats lined the downtown harbor, where we stayed last time.
The next day the crowds thickened. Dressed in medieval garb, with makeup mimicking injuries, burns and various diseases as well, men, women and teens marched through town. Many were in character, displaying mental disorders, and there were a few hunchbacks too. Along came the well to do in fine frocks and Sunday best. Vendors sold traditional foods along the route. I was taken by the apple-cherry pie, which did not last more than a few steps.
The harbormaster moved us off the main canal the next day. We stayed two nights right in front of a restaurant, along with a few other boats. The aromas and chatter lasted well into the night. Aboard it was sausage and sauerkraut for dinner, for lunch a lekkerbek, a deep fried super bland white fish, with a bit of salad and the ever present fries. A friendly Dutch woman explained the ‘beck’ is a word for mouth. I already knew what ‘leeker’ meant. So leekerbeck is ‘like mouth’ as in ‘tasty fish.’ I disagree.
From our lonely spot on the Eem River we cruised into first the Goolmeer, which then becomes the Ijmeer, then the Markemeer, which in turn is the Ijsselmeer, an inland sea that opens to the North Sea. This is all one body of water with sections given these various names. These labels allow you to locate yourself more precisely. Nonetheless when it comes to major floods, such as the one in the mid-1950’s, when the North Sea rose leading to death of many thousands, the sea is the sea and only dikes can keep it at bay.
We picked our day based on the gentleness of the winds. The forecasters got it right. It was sunny, with gentle breezes only, nary a ripple on the surface. It was a beautiful journey at 5 knots (5.5 mph, about 9 km). The most interesting sight along the way was the lighthouse at Monnickendam.
We skipped Monnickendam and Volendam in the hopes of securing a mooring in downtown Edam. Edam is famous for its cheese, and like Alkmaar, for its cheese races during which teams of two carry scads of cheese.
The name comes from the dam on the River IJe where the area was first settled. It was called IJedam, which morphed into Edam. A small lock that helps keep the sea out leads to a small canal which leads to 7 small, low bridges, for which you pay 1.20 euros to pass through.
But what’s the hurry? This town of 8000 is packed with charm. There is a central square. On one side is a typical tall house, leaning a few degrees as happens here when the pilings can’t keep it upright. I imagine all the tables and chair legs are cut so that you can sit flat and not have things roll off the table during dinner. At the square there is a large bricked hump over which you climb to get to the other side of the street. It encapsulates the river Ej. I have seen this unusual feature elsewhere in Holland.
We moored just a short walk from the center, enjoyed some applegebak met slagroom, and took in the culinary and architectural charms.
We have been on Viking for almost a month, making necessary repairs, learning how things work, making it more comfortable for us, going through the previous owner’s tools, nuts, bolts screws, spare parts and so on. We also had some painting to do. Our Dutch friend painted the upper deck for us. His 50 years of experience of steel boat ownership has been really helpful, not just on the painting but a lot of other matters as well. His wife Ada knows a lot too, and helped us recover our mooring skills. In our first boat we traveled over 2000 kilometers between Holland, Belgium and France but that was 18 years ago. We went through hundreds of locks, docked a thousand times or more, but still, you get rusty.
We left Weesp and turned south to the Eem River. This is where we met Kees and Ada on our second night out in Caprice in 2000. That mooring is gone as Eemdijk has grown and looks more prosperous. There is another mooring a bit further upriver so we moored there. There are fields and a bike path on one side and a prosperous farm on the other. A friendly boater helped with the lines, but left later so we spent the night alone under the stars in the relentless Dutch wind.
There are numerous bikers and some walkers as well. If you go to Eemdijk you can take a small ferry across the river into town. That ferry was not here in 2000.
Today we leave for Edam, on the IJsselmeer. This inland sea is rather like Lake Pontchatrain. It can get rough, but you pick your weather. It should be flat today.
The Vecht is a small river that looks to originate near Utrecht, terminating in the IIjmeer. Where we are moored just outside Nederhorst den Berg, a one street town. We are practically in the shadow of an old windmill, probably restored as it appears to be in good condition. There are cows to our left, water birds and fish to our right, and a bike path leading to the town. We are not alone. Kees and Ada are still here and helping out at every opportunity. As we’ve run across several challenges in addition to painting sections of the boat, for which Kees’ 50+ years experience coming in might handy, I have found several leaks, a dead fresh water pump and a few non-working electrical connections plus a bank of nearly kaput batteries.
To get here from Haarlem we took the North Sea Canal past Amsterdam. This canal carries huge vessels and tug boats. Amsterdam is a very busy harbor. There are a dozen or so ferries that transport people across the canal so you have to be vigilant.
Kees and Ada in front of us:
Amsterdam train station:
One of Amsterdam’s more lively bridges:
Here is my first sketch from the boat (digital). Once we get everything working and organized I can return to artistic painting, which I prefer to boat painting, as you might imagine. For one, there are a lot fewer muscle aches from being in odd positions, and there is a lot less scrubbing.
Weesp is not far away as the crow flies. Boats do not fly unless you are in very serious trouble so between the meandering of the river and slowness of the travel, a 30 minute journey takes 90. We made the trip there to have the boat hauled in an effort to find the source of the leak. This turned out to be easier than we feared. A few taps on the keel showed it was not full of water, eliminating the possibility of a keel leak. A through hull fitting looked odd and it turned out to be the problem. Remove it, caulk it, replace the gaskets, and voila! I’d tested the batteries with my volt meter and found them to be well less than 12 volts. I had him test them and he found that all but the starting batteries were knackered. Time for new ones. These are deep cycle marine batteries so they are not cheap but you can not live aboard without them, so in they must go. They weigh 45 kilos so this is a job for more than one man and ones with younger backs than mine.
Haarlem is a small city to the west of Amsterdam, and home to some great friends who are long time boaters. The downtown area is full of so much old world charm you will need to hand on to the nearest bar stool to remain standing. Street food, huge cheese wheels, outdoor seating if the temperature is above freezing and the skies clear. And, of course, a windmill. Once there were many but now they are monuments to a past that to us is the emblem of the the Golden Age in the 17th century in a country that vibrantly into the future.
We did some of our provisioning in town center. One day we carried a small microwave back to the boat in a driving rain. The next time we went it was on our bikes and in the sunny, chilly day. It was a Saturday and the streets were packed! In the photo below note how the girl is standing on the back of the bicycle while her father threads his way pedaling through the crowd. The Dutch have amazing bicycle skills. On another occasion two girls riding next to me shared a bike, the passenger holding an open umbrella. They carry kids while talking on the phone and balancing a 2 x 4. I think I am moving along quite well on my 21 speed, but then comes a tall blond woman in a rickety old one speed who passes me like I am standing still.
We are on our way to more rural areas. More from there.