East, east and a bit more east. So close to Germany, we could spit over the border. And in fact, the route sally took saw us on 40km of Germany motorway, so we have already fitted in another country! Remember folks a world without borders is wonderful!
Bourtange is about 1km inside The Netherlands and is a fortress town dating back to the time when the Spaniards controlled the area. It’s a classic 5 pointed star when viewed from above – as design that can be seen all over the Netherlands.
It doesn’t take long to look around – It’s a tiny town and most buildings are part of the museum. So our day was mainly a chill out. It was our 26th Wedding anniversary so we decided to take it easy apart for a quick drone flight.
The campsite we have found is wonderful. It’s along a long narrow road next to a canal. There is a steep slope down to the campsite but the mothership manages it ok. (it’s more tricky getting back up the slope when we leave after two nights, but with a run-up and a little wheel-spin we manage it!) It’s a little disconcerting having the campsite much lower than the canal level, but we soon get used to it. So much of the Netherlands is lower than sea level, it’s just normal here!
We cycle into the town and the first thing we spot when we dump the bake near the central station is a bunch of university students building a house from cardboard. The doesn’t sound too exciting we hear you cry. This house is a model of a house that will soon be built as part of a regeneration project not far from the station. The model seems to be not far off 1:1 scale and will be over 18 meters tall! When we arrive in the town they have the roof nearly complete. A few hours later we come back that way to grab the bikes and they have another story finished. It is already huge! But we never did get to see the finished building.
The windmill in the town is also open on the day we visit and we are lucky enough to see it running. This mill is for flour production rather than pumping water. Although the wooden parts have been replaced, they are authentic replacement parts and the mill runs today just as it did hundreds of years ago.
One thing that we noticed about the mill here and those at Kinderdijk is that they are manually steered into the wind. A large ships wheel type affair is used with pulleys to turn the mill as the wind changes. Our knowledgeable guide tells us that self steering mills were around in the UK at that time that the majority of Netherlands mills were built, but the technology never made it across the North Sea to the Netherlands.
He also tells us that the Netherlands windmills Have non-linear sail geometry that never passed across the North sea in the other direction, so maybe WTO terms would stifle innovation as well as kill national production.
The windmill is particularly tall because it still needs to catch the wind when it comes from the town which was two or three stories tall. The stairs inside are more like ladders and are nearly vertical. It’s a fun 10 minutes climbing up the inside of the mill to the platform, which is still only about halfway up the windmill!
For our last day in Delft, we go for a long cycle ride and the weather is glorious, so rather than restaurant food, we buy picnic items and have a great meal next to the canal (only a mile from the mothership!)
We were intending to stop at Alblasserdam for just one night to let us visit the famous Kinderdijk windmills, but the site is so wonderful that we stayed for two extra nights and made it our base for visiting Rotterdam by water bus rather than cycling in from a closer campsite.
The base is a motorhome Air in Alblasserdam. It is next to the water and nestled between two huge factory buildings for the local mega-yacht company. We think that they actually make ultra-yachts as apparently mega-yachts are not exclusive enough anymore! Outside their factory is the Luna B. It’s about 100 meters long and we think is around €500M. We emailed the factory to see if they allow visits or run tours, but no response. We guess that we are not the right clientele! Not even a response. Tuggers 😉
On the afternoon of the 7th, Toby’s Birthday we get the bikes out and cycle out to Kinderdijk, just about the best set of Netherlands windmills you will find!
Built in around 1740, The main interesting think about the 19 (n-n-n-n-nineteen, nineteen) windmills, is that they were not for milling grain. Instead they powered (and some still do!) pumps for draining the polders (low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes). It’s a lovely afternoon and it’s really busy. We also treat ourselves to the wonderful Dutch pancakes, poffertjes. These lovely morsels are fluffy pancakes served with icing sugar and butter. Nom nom. Charlie already has a pan back home. We must persuade him to get it out again when we get home!
The next day, Selinas Birthday, we take the river bus downriver to Rotterdam town. Europe’s largest port, it lies at the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. Although there are boat tours of the new port, we instead stuck to the town centre. The architecture is amazing. Much of the town centre was razed over three days in early May 1940 when the Luftwaffe bombed it, eventually forcing the Netherlands to capitulate. So most of the town centre is quite modern.
We went to look at the SS Rotterdam, keel laid in 1958 and the last of the great Dutch ‘ships of state’. We also saw the cube houses, the big bridges and had (an Italian!) lunch in De Markthal which manages to marry a new market building with high class housing.
One day in Rotterdam was about a week short of what we needed, but that’s all we had, so fast river bus back down to Alblasserdam and get the mothership shipshape for the short drive to Delft.
An easy drive up from Ghent to Middelburg including the famous (and expensive in a motorhome!) Westerscheldetunnelweg which saves us about 60 km and a trip around Antwerp. It’s one of only two toll roads in the country. The tunnel gets us over(under) the River Scheldt delta and the will be more river deltas over the next few days!
The campsite (Stadcamping Zeeland) is expensive at 25€ a night but is only a 15 minutes walk from the town center. Maybe this price is normal for the Netherlands, we’ll see! The site is quite new so the hedges around the pitches have not grown much yet, but it’s already a lovely site. Super high tech with ANPR cameras raising the barrier once they recognise the number plate.
As we are so close to town, there is no need to get the bikes down on this first stopover!
A brief walk into town and we manage a picturesque town hall, a windmill and a canal, all on the first date. This is a one night stand as we are moving further along the coast tomorrow. We hope that Middelburg is a good omen for the rest of the Netherlands!