A few weeks ago a friend of mine visited the cheese market in the quaint little town Woerden, and I said to myself, ‘ek wil ook soontoe gaan!’ (I do speak Afrikaans when I speak to myself). So I did, and though it was not the big annual cheese festival, the weekly ‘Boerenmark’ (farmer’s market) also was a delight, with plenty to see, eat, learn and photograph.
Driving in the beautiful rural farmland area around Woerden, was both relaxing and highly disturbing.
An international distress signal is to hoist your country’s flag upside down. The Dutch flag has three horisontal colours, with red on top. The Dutch Government recently announced they need to lower nitrogen emissions from the livestock by cutting back on farming activities and this led to widespread protest actions.
‘Dutch government proposals for tackling nitrogen emissions indicate a radical cut in livestock – they estimate 11,200 farms will have to close and another 17,600 farmers will have to significantly reduce their livestock. Other proposals include a reduction in intensive farming and the conversion to sustainable green farms. As such, the relocation or buyout of farmers is almost inevitable, but forced buyouts are a scenario many hope to avoid.’ (BBC News 29 July).
Traveling in The Netherlands nowadays the scene is marked by upside down distress call flags and messages against the planned government action.
From Woerden I drove to Oudshoorn, because my mom Susan lives in Baron van Reedestraat in Oudtshoorn. Though Oudshoorn was a town, it is now amalgamated into Alphen aan den Rijn (1918) and there’s actually very little reference to Oudshoorn. Oudtshoorn (the one with the t after the d is the town in South Africa) is named after Baron Pieter van Reede van Oudshoorn (which is the town, that’s not a town anymore, in The Netherlands). Pieter was born in Utrecht (in The Netherlands, not the neighbouring town to my town of birth Dundee in Northern Natal, South Africa, not Brazil – wow, these colonial names make accurate story telling cumbersome) in 1714. He was ‘Heer’ or Baron of Oudshoorn, Ridderbuurt and Gnephoek. Those are all now little suburbs of Alphen aan den Rijn. Baron van Reede was appointed the Governor of Die Kaapkolonie in 1772, but he died at sea on his way to fill his post in SA and never was the sitting governor of the Cape.
In Oudshoorn, van Schaik is the go-to guy for authentic delicious ‘stroopwafels’ and not the bookstore where I bought my university handbooks.
I didn’t see any ostriches.
I ended my daytrip with a stroll on the beach, where many German bunkers, which form part of the Atlantic Wall, are still visible.
The Netherlands is a stunning travel destination, and the links to South Africa is a real pleasure to explore.
It’s commonly known that on 6 April 1652, Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape of Good Hope, or if you’re thát kind of person, aka the Cape of Storms. Johan Anthoniszoon ‘Jan’ van Riebeeck was a Dutch navigator and colonial administrator in service of the Dutch East India Company, the VOC.
It’s probably not that commonly known that now for a few days a week I stay in Delft, in the Netherlands. Other than the strolling through the town, enjoying the architecture, the canals, dodging the cyclists and frequenting much too frequently the many street cafes who gladly serve a wide variety of Dutch, Belgian and French beers, the mere reality of the South African historic links to this part of the world provides me with a lot of pleasure.
I received my bachelor’s degree in 1987 from the University of the Orange Free State. (This irrelevant fact becomes relevant later on, keep reading). Nowadays it’s just the Free State, the Orange have faded away in the post-modern South Africa. The Boer Trekkers, (Voortrekkers), crossed the Orange River in the 1836 ‘Groot Trek’ to settle in a new area, which became one of two so-called Boer Republics. The Voortrekkers were basically the Dutch speaking farmers and ‘Vryburgers’ (free citizens) who were disgruntled with the system of tender fraud and nepotism practiced by the government in the Cape when it came to awarding trading agreements and supply contracts for fresh produce and some barrel aged products to the many passing ships. The Voortrekkers decided to find greener pastures and headed north with all their earthly belongings loaded onto ox-wagons, probably humming Bok van Blerk’s not yet composed ‘dis tyd om te trek’ in their beards, while spitting the sap from their chewing tobacco with disgust on the Dutch Cape soil.
57 Years earlier, in 1779, one Robert Jacob Gordon, a Dutch explorer of Scottish descent, found and named the Orange River in honour of the Dutch ruling Family; Willem V van Oranje at that stage. This Robert Jacob Gordon was truly an interesting man, as among many other achievements of his, he introduced merino sheep to South Africa, and he spoke French, Dutch, English, Xhosa and Khoekhoe, the Khoisan language.
Willem the Silent, (aka Willem van Oranje) was born in the Nassau Castle to the Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, (in modern day Germany near Koblenz, and a mere 70km from where I stay in Bad Honnef, when I’m not in Delft) on 24 April 1533. Born into the House of Nassau, the 11-year-old Willem inherited the principality of Orange from his cousin René of Chalon in 1544. Surrounded by France, Orange was a sovereign territory of about 12 by 25 kilometres, near Avignon in the Rhone basin. Willem van Oranje is thereby the founder of the Oranje-Nassau branch and the ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands.
Prins Willem served the Habsburg dynasty as a member of the court of Parma, bringing Italy into this story as well, but he became increasingly unhappy with the centralisation of power away from the local estates. Furthermore, he was opposed to the Spanish persecution of the Dutch protestants, and the the Spanish king, King Philip II’s way of evangelising with the sword.
Willem joined and then led the uprising and turned on his previous masters leading the Dutch in this revolt. Willem was subsequently declared an outlaw in 1580 by the Spanish King. He was assassinated by a Spanish assassin Belthasar Gèrard on the steps of his residence in Delft in 1584 and his remains buried in the tombs of the Nieuwe Kerk on the market square. Prins Willem van Oranje is generally seen as the father of the independent Netherlands. My daily walks take me past Prinsenhof, the residence of Willem van Oranje, passing the Stadsbakkerij which was the inn where the assassin Belthasar stayed on his murder mission and over the Marktplein in front of the breath-taking Nieuwe Kerk.
When Jan landed at the Cape of Good Hope 68 years later, and built his castle, the five bastions, Oranje, Nassau, Leerdam, Buuren and Katzenellenbogen, were named after Willem.
‘Foreshore’ a last little bit of castle trivia; did you know that the Kasteel de Goede Hoop was originally on the water’s edge, but land was reclaimed in the so-called Foreshore Plan in the early 1900s, which ‘moved’ the castle inland by about 1 kilometer?
While I’m sitting in the quaint Eetcafé de Ruif staring over the old canal in Vrouwenrecht (street), I’m reminacing over my Texels ‘Skuimkoppe’ beer (genuine, that’s the beautiful name). Its 5 April, and tomorrow its 370 years ago that Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape of Storms aka Cape of Good Hope. I suppose it depends whether you’re a glass half empty or a glass half full type of person which name you use the most often.
Jan left for the Cape of Good Hope from Texel island on 24 Dec 1651 and set foot to shore in Vals Bay on 6 April 1652. Jan grew up in Schiedam, a town just outside Rotterdam through which I commute daily. He joined the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) in 1639, and I can just presume that he either worked at or at least visited the company’s Delft offices many times. 850m from where I’m sitting is the Oost Indiëplaats and the old offices of the Dutch East Indië Company’s Delft offices. The VOC is still believed to be the biggest company to have ever existed.
Some further info and reminiscing: The VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) became so big that they, as a listed company had their own ‘military’ fleet to protect their trade. As a company, they even declared war on governments of countries. However, they became so big that the costs to protect their trade actually liquidated them in the end.
I have researched my family tree, and I know that my great great (not sure how many greats are required here) grandfather joined the VOC as a ‘dragonder’ which is basically a soldier, and he landed in the Cape in 1796, just three years before the VOC went bankrupt. I like to think his (huge) salary is therefore partly to blame for this financial downfall of the largest company ever.
So my question is; what did ‘oupa’ spend my inheritance on, cause I ‘ain’t seen nothing yet?’
The next morning was Sunday; Easter Sunday, the day of The Resurrection. We started the day with a magnificent sunrise sermon on the banks of the river Rhine, feeling the Good News and seeing His great works in nature. Pastor John and Amos were their brilliant self and fed us spiritually before the men fed us with pancakes, bacon and syrup, the way the Americans have breakfast.
Click on the photos to enlarge them
Then we hit the road.
It was mid-April and the ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’ were standing tall, flowering in their full splendour and we were in the mood for some iPod ‘Ek-en-jy-en-die-highway’-family time on the road again. Thus, westward bound we took off with an initial stop logged as Lisse, the hometown of Keukenhof and the Tulip. We’ve been there before and were not interested in doing the entire garden walk again. We just needed a reason to drive a few 100 kilometers, see some Dutch ‘platteland’ (pun intended) and then see where the road will take us after that.
Keukenhof is beautiful (see my post ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’ dated 19 April 2012) but it is so crowded that one visit somewhere in your life is probably enough. However, do that one visit, if you’re in the area.
This trip was one of those ‘drive in a general direction’ type trips. No specific destination in mind, just see what you’ll find to see. And for this, you need to get off the highways and tread on ‘de smalle weg’. The thing is, we’re in Europe. Its been decadently civilised for many years. Even ‘de smalle weg’ here is a tarred road, with plenty of civil engineering ingenuity to ease up the going! And that’s exactly what we found at Deltapark Neeltje Jans.
However, before reaching Neeltje Jans, I felt quite at home with the day’s drive. We missed Amersfoort but passed Utrecht, Dordrecht, Breda, Roosendal and Middelburg. Dundee was unfortunately over the channel in Scotland.
Neeltje Jans is an artificial island halfway between Noord Beveland and Schouwen Duivenland in Oosterschelde. It was constructed as part of the Oosterscheldedam, which is actually built as a storm water surge protection. After the mega floods in 1953, this well-known civil works construction was necessitated. ‘Most of Zeeland is at or under sea level. In 1953 the dikes were in poor condition and too low. In those days the chance of flooding was once in eighty years. Thanks to the storm surge barrier, this risk has now been reduced to less than once in 4000 years. Take the opportunity to visit this construction inside and outside. You will be surrounded by concrete with a 200-year guarantee, 45 meter wide steel doors are raised to let the tides rush through below them. A must to visit – a must to have seen!’ (www.neeltjejans.nl).
We were just in time for a stunning sundowner photo-shoot, amongst those monstrous wind turbines that nowadays spoil the entire European skyline. Sometimes I believe the scenic pollution of these monsters is worse than burning a few tons of good quality Waterberg steam coal. Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the museum and construction sites, which gives the added incentive that I’ll have to go there again, with better time management this time. Though we wandered (and not all who wander are lost!) through the beautiful little town at Vrouewenpolder (I’m not sure if the town’s name is actually Vrouewenpolder), we couldn’t find accommodation that late on the Sunday evening of Easter Weekend, and had no other option than to push on.
Most of the times traveling without a plan and just driving is fun. However, we were now dead tired, it was late and dark and we still had no accommodation for the night. Only option, and I dread to admit that, was to head for the Formule 1 70km southeast on the outskirts of Ghent. Formule 1 hotels are not to be recommended as accommodation. However, if you arrive there after 23:00, need a shower and a bed and plan to hit the road by 08:00; it enables you to see places. In that case, its fine, if you can bare the smell of smoke in the carpets and duvets.
Bruges is beautiful, its clean, its fascinating and has great architecture with the prominent Belfry of Bruges being the most famous. It was famous long before Collin Farrel were even born, as this fascinating bell tower was originally constructed in 1240.
The ‘little red brickwork’ architecture in this part of Europe must be extremely inspiring for an architect to visit, photograph, copy or simply just admire. I loved our morning ‘in Bruges’. I just hate those plastic silly traveling merry-go-round fun park junk Europe allows on all its magnificent old town squares. No proper angle to take photos, the magnificence of the square spoiled completely by plastic clowns and little bumper cars with irritating continual music sounding worse than those ice-cream Combis from the 70s. I cannot believe in this day and age that there are still people who spend money on those.
And fancy that, being served at the restaurant, by a Belgian waiter who grew up in Rwanda and spent his first 35 years there. We were so intrigued with each other’s stories and political commentary that the poor man was in trouble with a few of his other customers. Here was a man who saw serious genocide and had to escape it himself, but who also saw and experienced that magical natural beauty and splendour of the African bush to such a level that he does speak fondly about the place. But, it’s the politics he hates.
1000km in 1 day 6:22 hours and a successful sightseeing family bonding weekend behind us!