Monday, January 24, 2011

The Europe Adventure for Jan & Me - Holland 3

Time to complete our Holland journey. It is amazing how much can be done or seen in just ten days. We were very glad to have our own vehicle, as this helped us in going to those places we wanted to visit.

One of my wishes was for us to explore the province of Friesland in some detail. However, time got the better of us and we had to be satisfied with one full day of travel around the area of Smallingerland and the Friesian lakes. Smallingerland is the area where the Petrusma forebears came from, especially around Drachten and Beesterzwaag. Having done a lot of work on the Petrusma Family Tree, I was especially keen to see in greater detail this part of my heritage and at the same time give Jan a glimpse of this lovely part of the world. With only a full day available, there was little hope of covering everything, let alone contact people with the name of Petrusma.

Thankfully, we had a reasonably early start and headed north on the free-way. Our intention was to visit the towns of Sloten, Hindelopen, Sneek & Drachten. A big ask!!!

Of these places, Sloten was a delightful surprise.

It isn't the official crest, but is interesting
- found on the wall of a house.

Sloten is recorded as the smallest of the Friesian cities - yes it is known as a city, but has only a population of around 760! It received its city status in 1426 and during our visit we saw only very few inhabitants, including an older man, a widower, who had a small bric-a-brac shop with some delightful old dutch/friesian wares. The prices were extraordinary cheap and the old man told us that modern dutch folk were not interested in these collectibles any longer, which seemed rather sad. Items included delightful Royal Delft. If we had private plane, we would have been tempted to take the lot!!! (DON'T THINK SO!!) Our Friesian friend seemed lonely and was happy to engage in conversation. What a pity we had so little time.

As to Sloten as a township, we were entranced. It is compact, neat and tidy and we enjoyed our walk. Let us share a small sample of our photos:A view of the connecting canal, giving a great perspective of Sloten.
How quiet! We are about to enter the little antique shop.
The old Friesian cities were protected by city walls and gates,
including this watergate.
Slotermeer. This is a lovely scene and would make a great painting!
How some live! Love this house boat. And look at the 'hills' hoist.
A bit of Australia?

From Sloten, we drove to the township of Hindelopen. Hindelopen received its municipal rights in 1225 and is one of the eleven Friesian cities. It is a gorgeous town, very village like, and is located along Het Ijselmeer, or the Zuiderzee in the past. Because of its proximity to the Zuiderzee, it was very much a fishing village. Wikpedia tells me that it must have been quite some town in its heyday around 1650 to 1790 when Hindelopen possessed a fleet of more than eighty vessels.

The harbour as it is today. No doubt, a very busy place in summer!
Looking from the bridge over the locks.

Jan & I very much enjoyed walking around this town, noting the dyke that protected it from the sea - something we do not see in Australia. Looking from the top, we had a great vista and tried to imagine what it would have been like centuries ago. I love the photo below of the 'fork in the road' (my Hobart friends will know what I mean), showing the entry into the village from the waterfront. You can see just a little of the dyke on the right side. The main church is a dominant feature and can be seen in most places:

Much is now modernised, but there is plenty to remind visitors of the lifestyle years ago.

Sneek is one of the larger Friesian cities and boasts a population of approximately 33000. It is dominated by the beautiful watergate, which in the past was part of the city's fortification.

We did not have a lot of time to explore Sneek - would have liked to, but enjoyed the little we saw. Another place to go back to!

Before we left the Netherlands, and while we still had the car, we drove to the delightful windmill extravagance of Kinderdijk!! AND IT WAS EXTRAVAGANT!! I knew of the place and seen photographs, but had not been there before.

The scene that met our eyes. Great, despite the weather!

It was a wet and somewhat miserable day, negotiating the heavy dutch traffic, especially around the city of Rotterdam. But with GPS, signage and helpful dutch folk, we safely arrived in Kinderdijk. This must be one of Holland's great tourist attractions. Thankfully, and perhaps due to the weather, there were not all that many people around.

Million dollar views!

Having travelled all morning, we were ready first for a cuppa and found a little cafeteria at the parking lot. We were somewhat taken aback by the poor attitude of those who served us. A very much, 'Oh not more tourists to serve! Go away' The coffee and service was terrible. The weather did not help. But.......all was forgiven when we took in the views and ambiance of this amazing place.

The tourist brochure will tell you that
'Nowhere around the world you can find a place like Kinderdijk. It is the only place in the world where you can find so many windmills concentrated on such a short area. This is one of the reason why Kinderdijk has been added to the UNESCO world heritage list.'
Our time was spent walking along the footpaths that take in the most incredible views of the windmills. There are some 19 windmills to look at, dating back to 1738. There was another windmill built in 1521, but burned down in 1997. It has been restored and is operational. Clever dutch people!!

Despite the rain and dark day, I was thrilled to take some great photos!
The above photo has to be my favourite.
I love the way the windmills look with water reflections and
clouds providing a great balance.

'Kinderdijk is the final pumping station that control the waters of the Alblasserwaard, an area that is approximately 10 by 20 miles wide, before the river Lek takes it to the sea. Since the 1950's the function of the windmills has been taken over by the pumping station which is one of the largest in the world.'

Above: The windmill replacement!! Do I say more?
No doubt very efficient, but not in the same category as the beautiful windmills.

The information tells me that the windmills can be again operational in case of emergencies.

Thank you Holland for providing such variety. A wonderful visit that we both enjoyed. So to finish, let us leave you with just a glimpse of another great town in the low countries - Brugge in Belgium. I have always loved this place and wanted Jan to see and experience it:

Our hotel on the left 'Koffie Boontjes' (Coffee Beans)
close to the city square as can be seen down the street.

Still close to our hotel with the Belfry dominant.

1434 and in excellent condition!
Above: A little building with a big impact.
While we did not indulge in Brugge chocolate,
we DID indulge big time in Brugge waffles. Irresistible!

Walking around Brugge and taking a canal cruise is always a pleasure.

Thank you Brugge! We highly recommend you.

The next chapter will take us to Jersey in the Channel Islands.