Ouwerkerk - Watersnoodmuseum (Flood museum)
‘Watersnoodmuseum’ (Flood Museum or Flood 1953 Museum) is dedicated to the most devastating natural disaster in the recent history of the Netherlands, caused by a huge flood after very heavy storm during the night of February 1st in the year of 1953. During the ‘watersnoodramp’ (flood disaster) died 1.836 people, more than 100.000 lost their homes, complete villages were wiped out and the land was spoiled for many years. The flood changed forever the landscape of the province of Zeeland.
When staying a couple of days in Zeeland one of the must see’s was the ‘Watersnoodmuseum’ nearby the village of Ouwerkerk. Although I could remember the days of the disaster and often had seen images in papers or on TV, the visit to this museum was very impressive.
The museum is housed in four huge concrete caissons that closed the last of the many breaches in the dikes of southwestern Netherlands. In the first caisson we could read lot of information and see many pictures and videos about the days of the flood. For us the second caisson was without any doubt the most impressive one. Here is a list with the names of all the 1.836 victims of the disaster. By speaking out one of the names loudly we could hear the personal story of that man/woman, told by family or a close friend.
The third caisson shows exhibits around the reconstruction of the land and about the 244781/Delta Works, which should ensure the safety of the people. The last part of the museum is focusing on the future of climate change and the rising of the sea level. Here is also a shop with quite a lot of information, books, pictures and so on about the ‘1953 Flood’ and the area around the museum.
All together we were very impressed after our visit and ‘happy’ we had seen more of this part of the Dutch history. A ‘must see’ sight when visiting that part of the Netherlands.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Vrouwenpolder – Deltapark Neeltje Jans
Neeltje Jans is an artificial island in the Eastern Scheldt. It was constructed as a base for the main elements of the ‘Oosterscheldedam’, a storm surge barrier, It is the absolute highlight of the famous Dutch Delta Works, a series of projects to protect the southwest part of the Netherlands from the North Sea.
Deltapark Neeltje Jans is a water theme park with a lot of water related activities. We were ‘just’ interested in the exhibitions about the Delta Works and the Flood Disaster of 1953. At the entrance we were recommended to visit first a movie about the Flood Disaster and the construction of the Storm Surge Barrier in the Eastern Scheldt.
Have to say that was a right recommendation, because the movie shows the great impact of the flood in 1953 on people, society and the landscape. Images of the construction are amazing and for me it is still a miracle that they succeeded to built such a ‘world wonder’.
Afterwards we walked around the exhibition about the Delta Works with many interesting exhibits, models, pictures and videos.
Being there in winter we couldn’t use most of the outdoor activities (only did take a look at the show and feeding of seals). It is also possible to visit the inside of the huge and impressive storm surge barrier. With a beach, water sledge, play castle, boat trip on the Eastern Scheldt and much more it is quite easy to spend a (half)day at Neeltje Jans. Although in my opinion that part of the park is especially suitable for children.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Broek op Langedijk - Broeker Auction
Broek op Langedijk is a beautiful rural village in North-Holland. It is famous for its ‘Broeker Veiling’. This oldest sail-through auction in the world is quite unique and can not be compared with any other building. The wooden structure was built in the year of 1912 with details in late Jugendstil-style. Auction room and mooring halls are built on 1900 poles over the water, which makes this building very special and unique. The ‘Broeker Auction’ was used till 1973 for commercial auctions.
Start your visit to this national monument in the Future, a modern building exhibiting the origin and the use of the ‘realm of the Thousand Islands’, the area where the vegetables were grown. The museum gives a good impression of the work and lives of the farmers, who were involved in the auction.
Continue through the outdoor part of the museum: see a copy of a boat that was used for transportation crops to the auction, some crop fields, a boat ramp and a forge.
We were very impressed by the interior of mooring halls with several channels where farmers had to moor their boats before entering the auction hall. But the absolute highlight of our visit to the ‘Broeker Veiling’ was the auction room. During a presentation we could take part in an auction of fruit and vegetables ourselves. As a 'real trader' I could buy a bag of apples for € 1,-
Depending of the time of the year and number of visitors there are a couple of these auctions during the day. Be sure to visit one of them, because they are the ‘heart’ of the Broeker Auction.
We were quite lucky with the weather and could enjoy the boat trip through the nature reserve ‘Oosterdel’, the remaining part of the ‘Thousand Islands’ area, getting an impression how vegetables were grown on the small islands.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel: 6,76 below sea level !!
Lowest point of the Netherlands
The Netherlands is well known as a ‘low country along the North Sea’. Main parts of the country do exist of polders and are protected by dikes. But to realise what it means to live in a country below the sea level one has to go to the lowest point of the Netherlands.
This point is located nearby the town of ‘Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel’ in the province of Zuid Holland. Close to the motorway is a monument which indicates clearly how deep below Normal Amsterdam Level (NAP) this point is with: - 6,76 metres (although the monument still says it is – 6,74 metres) !!
If you are by car drive over the dikes in this part of my country and see again what it means to live below the sea level. You will understand why ‘we’ are a little bit scared about the global warming and rising of the sea level.
Turn off at the motorway A20 (between Rotterdam and Gouda) to Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel,
straight on at the roundabout (Europalaan), first left (Kroonkruid), first left again (Parallelweg Zuid), pass the viaduct and follow the road for about 900 metres.
Turn off 'Moordrecht' of the A20, left at the roundabout, pass the viaduct and turn right into the Parallelweg Zuid and follow this road about 1800 metres.
The monument lies in front of Van Vliet Trucking Company.
'Nederland' - ultimate destination for foreigners
This little hamlet - it has about 25 inhabitants - should be the ultimate destination for foreigners visiting my country. Nothing 'cooler' than saying, you have visited 'Nederland' (= the Netherlands).
'Nederland' is situated about 5 km's from Blokzijl, the nearest town. Nowadays there are just a couple of farms and houses, surrounded by typical flat Dutch scenery of meadows, water, waving reed and it is very close to the National Park 'de Weerribben'. In the older days 'Nederland' was much bigger and even had an own school.
On the moment you will not find the original place-name sign, because it has been stolen very often. Due to this the council decided not to replace it any longer. But there is a 'surrogate' sign, so you still can proof you have been to 'Nederland'.
Alkmaar - inevitable cheese market
When having holidays in the Netherlands and you are somewhere around Alkmaar/Amsterdam on a Friday (April till September) you really should consider visiting the most famous cheesemarket of the Netherlands.
For us it was a ‘new’ visit after about 30 years and we enjoyed it very much.
Of course it is quite a touristy sight and during our visit with splendid weather there were crowds in the city and especially on the Waagplein. There were rows of spectators, but with a little bit patience - perhaps 5 or 10 minutes - we got a place at the fence.
We arrived at 10.45 am and the square in front of the beautiful weighing house had still a lot of cheeses (the later you come, the less cheeses are left !!). White dressed cheese carriers pick up 8 cheeses on a wooden barrow and are (almost) running - the cheese carriers dribble - with this rather heavy load of about 125 kilos to the Waag, where it is weighed on a special cheese scale. Once it is weighed the carriers bring the cheese to a vintage cart and from there it is transported to a modern truck, waiting in one of the side roads.
If you do want to buy a (piece of) cheese it is possible from a cart on the square or in one of the stalls or shops around the cheese market. The Waaggebouw (Weighing House) houses also the Dutch Cheese Museum (www.kaasmuseum.nl).
The cheese market takes place from the first Friday in April until the first Friday in September: 10.00 am - 12.30 pm. There are two verbal presentations to visitors, in Dutch, German, English and French.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Noordwijkerhout: biking along blooming bulbs
A very Dutch tip: biking along blooming bulb fields.
Just another way to see these stunning flower fields in the Bulb and Dune Region in the western part of the Netherlands. We started our bike trip from the Tourist Information Centre (VVV) of Noordwijkerhout, more or less in the heart of the Bulb Region. They offer a couple of bike tours with different lengths (ours was about 45 km’s) through the bulb fields; just ask at the office. It is possible to rent bikes in Noordwijkerhout.
We had a wonderful day with a lot of sunshine and were at the right moment (April 23th) to see the fields in bloom. As soon as we left Noordwijkerhout we pedalled through the bulb fields, mostly on special bike paths and very quiet side roads.
Our route passed the Keukenhof, so it is possible to visit this famous flower garden. Otherwise take a look at the Castle Keukenhof (built in 1642); its park can be visited free of charge.
Living in the Netherlands of course we had seen a lot of blooming bulb flowers, but biking along these colourful fields was a completely different experience: the colours, the smells, the shapes, the patterns.
But be aware: you are biking in the western part of my country and the bulb fields are surrounded by many villages, bulb sheds, power pylons and in some spots advancing new built houses. Not always the most inspiring scenery.Related to:
Kinderdijk, on a stormy day
The nineteen windmills of Kinderdijk - built in 1740 - are one of the most well-known tourist sites in the Netherlands. It is the largest group of windmills standing more or less together in my country and a perfect place to visit and to learn more about the everlasting fight of the Dutch against the water.
To be honest the views of the windmills, the water and the meadows are typically Dutch as long as you don’t turn around seeing the houses and factories coming closer and closer. But since the year of 1997 the windmills of Kinderdijk are an UNESCO World Heritage Site and I hope the scenery will not be spoilt even more.
Mostly tourists hope to have nice and sunny weather when visiting an outdoor site, but during our (last) visit with relatives from New Zealand to the mills of Kinderdijk we caught a rainy and STORMY day. This really bad weather has it own charm in a Dutch polder: walking (or trying to walk) against the wind, fighting with your umbrella and the frightening noise of the wind around the mill; additional advantage is the fact we were alone visiting the mills.
You can walk around and just see the nineteen mills, but try including a visit to the Museum Windmill(s), in fact the main attraction in Kinderdijk. See the inside of a mill, the small house of the miller, climb the steep ladders to the upper floor and enjoy the view of the mills (my ‘first’ pic has been made through a window of the top floor in the Museum Mill Nederwaard).
For openinghours and entrance fee (about € 7.50 for adults) see website.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Dwarsgracht - bike or boat trip
The hamlet of Dwarsgracht is a real alternative for the famous, but very touristy, town of Giethoorn. Although just 3 km's away it is a complete different world.
The same canal(s), small bridges, boats and thatched roof houses. But in Dwarsgracht you will hardly see any tourist.
There is just one café restaurant ('De Otterskooi') and this is an ideal starting point for either a boat trip with a so called 'whispering boat' or for a bike tour along the canals and lakes. At 'De Otterskooi' you can rent them both.
Or just walk along the main canal through the village and enjoy the views over the water, the houses, the flowers, the birds and further away waving reed.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
Vaalserberg: 322,7 meters above sea level
The southern part of the province of Limburg has a lot of hills (for us Dutchies it is almost mountainous) and close to the town of Vaals, near the border with Germany, on the Vaalserberg is the highest point of the Netherlands.
This point is 322,7 meters above Normal Amsterdam Level (although there are sources saying it is even 322,5 m) and is marked with a plaque, just in front of border post number 1. Another sign is referring to the lowest point in my country: Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel.
Just a couple of meters away lies the so called ‘Drielandenpunt’ (Three Country Point), where the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany intersect. From 1830 till 1919 it was even a ‘Four Country Point’ with the mini state of Neu Moresnet (in the meantime belonging to Belgium).
The boundary lines of these four countries can be seen in the cobbles.
The whole area on top of the Vaalserberg is a touristy hot spot with cafés, restaurants, panorama towers, playground and a labyrinth; so don’t expect to be alone when discovering the highest point of the Netherlands.
Borger - walk or bike along the Dutch Dolmens
The Dutch province of Drenthe has 52 of the 54 remaining Dutch dolmens, or better megalithic tombs. These huge stone graves were built by farmers belonging to the ‘Funnel Beaker Culture’. They started building these tombs more than 5.000 year ago. They used the boulders, scattered around in this area, which were transported to Drenthe during the last ice period.
Borger, a small village in Drenthe, is more or less the capital of the Dutch Dolmens. In and around the village are 16 of these ‘hunebedden’ (Dutch for megalithic tomb) and just outside Borger is the ‘Hunebedcentrum’ (a museum and megalithic tombs information centre). Here you may find more information about the people, who made these tombs, their way of living and much more.
The best way to see the dolmens in the landscape is to walk or bike. In the museum or Tourist Information Centre in Borger are several brochures available with cycling and walking routes.
We did the ‘Flintenroute’ (flint = boulder): a bike tour along the major tombs and through the typical landscape of Drenthe. That means forest, heathland, sheep and small quiet villages. The route is 35 km’s long and it will take 2 ½ hours biking.
Renting a bike is no problem in Borger.Related to:
Arnhem - Winter in the ‘Open Air Museum’
On one of the coldest days of the year (2006) we went to the Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum) to experience ‘the Winter in the Museum’. Since a couple of years the museum is also open during the winter season, which means from early December till mid January (see for openinghours the website of the museum).
During this time there are special winter activities in the museum. The most remarkable is the outside skating ring, where one can enjoy ice skating and it is no problem if you don’t have your own skates, you can borrow them free of charge.
Every day there are different (winter) activities like demonstrations of old Dutch crafts, singing of a choir in a church, a procession with lanterns for children and baking bread on open fires. We saw also a movie with pictures of some real Dutch winters.
Of course a lot of the old buildings, farmhouses and mills are open and can be visited during the opening hours. Walking around we met some ‘inhabitants’ doing their daily jobs. The old grocery shop was open and in the bakery we had an ‘oliebol’, a Dutch delicacy during this time of the year.
!! Be aware on Boxing Day it can be overcrowded on some places !!
Opening hours and admission see website of the museum.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Paleis Het Loo: a must see sight
‘Paleis Het Loo’ was built in 1686 by Stadtholder William III and used for almost 300 years as a (summer) palace by members of our Royal family. Queen Wilhelmina lived here till the year of 1972. After a huge restoration palace and gardens are back in their original state. Since 1984 ‘Paleis Het Loo’ is a national museum and open for public.
Roughly there are four parts of the museum, which can be visited:
- Just behind the ticket booth are the Stables and Coach Houses with (royal) carriages and old cars. In one part of the building is a yearly changing exposition. There is also a Grand Café 'Prins Hendrik Garage'.
TIP: this part of the palace can be visited free of charge !
- Two wings of the palace: the East Wing with an art collection and the Museum of the Chancery of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood and an art collection (open from 13.00 hours). The West Wing always offers temporary exhibitions.
- The main building with lots of rooms to visit (guided, audiotour or unguided). Rooms are decorated with original furniture, china, portraits, court-dresses and so on. They display the lives of the members of the House of Orange-Nassau, especially the members of the Dutch royal family who lived in the palace. In the main building is another café and the museum shop with unique ‘royal’ gifts.
- The gardens; here you will understand why ‘Paleis Het Loo’ is called ‘Versailles of the North’.
Be aware you will have to do a lot of walking when visiting the palace. From the car park through the palace to the end of the Upper Garden will be a couple of km’s !!
- "Winterpaleis": with "Christmas at the Palace Het Loo", an ice rink and some special evening openinghours (see for more info website: 'Tentoonstellingen, nieuws en evenementen').
- A Royal View over the gardens: the roof of the palace is open for public on Easter, Queensday, Whit Sunday and Monday and on Wednesday’s in June, July and August;
- Monthly concert: every last Friday in the Ballroom of the palace (see for more information www.paleisconcerten.nl).
Openinghours and admission: see website (Dutch, English, French and German).
If you have some spare time also visit the three nearby monuments: The Man with Two Hats (Canadian Liberation Monument), Queen's Day Attack Monument and 'De Naald'.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
- Castles and Palaces
Lemmer – Woudagemaal
The ir. D.F. Woudagemaal in Lemmer, opened in 1920 by Queen Wilhelmina, is the largest steam-driven pumping station in the world still in use. Even today the monumental pumping station ensures that the people of Friesland keep their feet dry during high water. When that happens, the ‘cathedral of steam’ pumps up over four million litres of water per minute from the Frisian ‘boezem’ (drainage pool) into the IJsselmeer.
I really have to admit that our visit to the Woudagemaal was not what we planned to do. We were rather late and there were no guided tours (visits are only possible as part of a guided tour), also because the huge steam cathedral had to be prepared for a function.
We had to be satisfied with a view of the outside of the impressive building, built in the typical Amsterdam School architecture of architect Berlage, with its sober ornamentation. We walked around the building and the high chimney towards the IJsselmeer and headed afterwards to the so called boiler room.
We were allowed to take a look inside and could make a picture of the four mighty oil boilers.
We gathered some information at the visitor information centre for a next visit. Hopefully we can make it when the pumping station is put into operation at extremely high water levels (as it was a couple of time during early winter 2013). We saw pictures and a coverage on TV and these were really stunning !!
Opening hours visitor centre: Tuesday - Saturday 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, Sunday an holidays 1.00 pm - 5.00 pm.
(January closed). There are regularly guided tours from the centre.
Admission fee (Nov 2014): adults € 8,-
See for more info: websiteRelated to:
- Museum Visits
Franeker - Eise Eisinga Planetarium
Eise Eisinga - a local wool carder – built between 1774 and 1781 an accurate scale model of the solar system in the living room of his house. An upcoming planetary conjunction - that some people said would mean the end of the world - launched him into this activity. Eisinga wanted to use his model to show how the solar system really worked.
During our visit of the city of Franeker the Eise Eisinga Planetarium was an absolute ‘must see’ sight for us. We were just in time to join a guided tour in our own Dutch language. We went with a couple of other visitors into the living room of Eise Eisinga, where we got an extensive explanation of the construction and functioning of his planetarium in the ceiling of this marvelous room.
It is absolutely stunning that this model is still working and showing the accurate and actual position of the planets, stars and our moon for about 225 years.
Depending on the number of question by visitors this guided tour takes about 30 minutes.
Afterwards we climbed a steep and narrow staircase to the first floor. Behind glass walls we had a view of the impressive gear mechanism. Eisinga used wooden hoops and 10.000 hand-forged nails as teeth. Controlling this mechanism are a pendulum clock and nine weights. It is amazing seeing the constant movement of the wheels and hearing the soft sound of the tacking of the teeth.
For us it was almost unbelievable that this self educated man was able to build such an ingenious device.
In a couple of other rooms is a small museum with an exhibition of historical astronomical instruments, other planetariums and modern astronomy. To be honest: nice to see, but by far not as interesting as the actual planetarium of Eisinga.
We were really impressed by our visit and it is absolutely well worth the entrance fee.
Next to the ‘museum’ is the Planetariumcafe, a cozy café/shop for a drink and/or lunch.
!!Be aware: the actual planetarium can only be visited by a guided tour. As far as I know they are in Dutch, English, German and French (??).
It is not allowed to take pictures inside the building. !!
Being interested in the heritage of Eisinga we also visited the small village of Dronrijp, less than 10 km’s east from Franeker. Around the village church we saw more reminders of him like his birthplace, a statue and a plaque against the church.
Opening hours: All year round Tuesday through Saturday 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, Sunday 1.00 pm - 5.00 pm Between 1 April and 31 October, also: Monday 1.00 pm - 5.00 pm.
Entrance fee: adults € 4,75 (Nov. 2014)
See also website.Related to:
- Museum Visits
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