One of the joys of owning a barge is the ability to share our adventures with friends. Peter often comments that he never knew he had so many friends, but of course, as with a lot of his comments, this is very tongue in cheek. With the Covid lockdowns over the past few years not only were we restricted in our travels but we had no visitors. This year we have made up for it!
With the Knights on board we continued down the Meuse, which in the Netherlands is renamed the Maas. Our destination was Groningen, an old star fort situated on the Waal, (the Waal in the Netherlands is the Rhine in Germany). Not only did this trip feature some major river networks of Europe but was also accompanied by a lot of commercial traffic, deep locks and some long cruising days.
From Maastricht our first stop was Roermond. Through the centuries this town fulfilled its role as an important commercial centre and was a member of the Hanseatic League with the right to mint its own coins. Under Spanish rule in the 17th century it became a bastion of the Inquistion, holding the biggest witch trial in the Netherlands that resulted in the burning of 64 witches. Thankfully things are a little calmer today with the town now home to one of the largest designer outlets in Europe, with over 6 million visitors per year worshipping in this shopping heaven.
The next two nights where spent at what I refer to as wild moorings, one at Well on a pontoon, with no access to the shore and the following at a yacht haven in the village of Maasbommen. All along the river there are lakes and inlets that provide the Dutch with areas for recreational boating as well as overnight stopping places away from the wash of the commercial traffic.
From the Maas we cut through to the Waal via the St Andries canal. In all we transverse through 9 locks and about 189kms on this section of the journey
The Knights disembarked the good ship Joie de Vivre at Gorinchem and the Hutchings embarked at Dortrecht on the junction Beneden Merwede and the Noord Canal, which we transversed north to Rotterdam. Yes, I know the names of all these river and canals can be a bit confusing. You are probably thinking, “ but she said they were on the Waal which is the Rhine, where did this Beneden Merwede come from?” Well I will try to explain. The Waal becomes the Boven Merwede which branches into the Niewe Merwede that heads south and the Beneden Merwede that heads North. At Dortrecht we would leave the Beneden Merwede and take the Noord Canal to Rotterdam.
Dortrecht is a town full of antique shops and holds monthly antique markets. Sadly most of the shops are closed during the week but that did not detracted from this pretty town
Next stop was Rotterdam at Veere Haven, a favourite harbour as it is adjacent to the maritime museum and an easy walk to the tram and metro.
Day 1 in Rotterdam was given over to a stroll of the city and the maritime museum. We were lucky enough to discover a rooftop walk that was only open from late May to late June and with the payment of only €3.50 we were up the stairs to experience a very different view of the city.
Day 2 in Rotterdam was given over to a train trip to Den Haag with a visit to the Mauritius museum and the beach at Scheveningen. The trip to the latter was thanks to a fellow who we chatted to on the train. The pronunciation of Scheveningen is so difficult for those who are non Dutch speaking, that it was used during and after the Second World War to identify natives of Germany posing as natives of the Netherlands.
Leaving Rotterdam we headed north towards Amsterdam a trip of approximately 170kms, 34 lifting bridges but only 3 locks which took 5 days. I don’t need to remind those of you who are seasoned travellers that the Netherlands is not called the low lands for no reason. The locks control the tidal ebbs and flows of the rivers ensuring the land does not flood while the bridges allow for easy passage for those travelling on bicycles. And like the locks the bridges can have their problems. We waited at a stuck bridge for over an hour which held up boats and bikes alike.
The pumping of water was was the most important function of the windmills as 2/3 of the land mass of the Netherlands is below sea level.
Destination Amsterdam was reach after 6 days of cruising, allowing David and Joan one full day to visit some sights of the city.