Friday, May 24, 2013

The Netherlands


In the morning, we took a drive to one of the nearby lakes. About ten minutes away, Sneekermeer (Lake Sneek) generally is full of sailboats plying the waters back and forth. But today, with this kind of blustery weather, even the Dutch tourists stay home. There are a few private yachts out sailing, but everything else looks closed. I did spot saw a beautifully retrofitted canal boat for sale. It was more than I could afford. We proceeded to return to Sneek.

One of the few yachts sailing in the brisk wind

A seven stateroom beauty for sale

There isn’t a whole lot to do back in Sneek when it’s rainy and cold. Diane decided to stay in and give her foot a break and catch up on email and work. Maarten and I decided to visit the much touted model railroad museum of Sneek.

One of the displays at the railway museum

The museum is located at the town’s railway station and is quite provincial. We and a few others got a tour from an old railroad buff, who gave us a good history of the railroad in the Netherlands and in Sneek while pointing out miniature trains in a display cabinet. Upstairs there were some elaborate train displays where trains chug around miniature mountains, towns and so forth. After all, it was entertaining.

We walked around the village stopping by to appreciate the architecture of the Sneek Theater with oddly-shaped windows. It lies along a small canal with weeping willow trees that have a pleasant effect on the entire scene.

The theater with its wacky shaped windows

We then proceeded to the town’s historical water tower that was built in 1908 and afterwards walked through the Waterppoort Tower (Watergate Tower). This tower is the only part left of an old defensive wall that ran the circumference of Sneek. It allowed boats to enter the canal leading into the town’s center. We watched the draw bridge next to the Waterpport open for a boat to pass through.

The 1908 water tower

The Waterpoort Tower

Nice reflection from some of the houses along the canal

The Waterpoort (Gate)

On Thursday, we went to the local maritime museum - the Fries Scheepvaart Museum. It turned out to be much more than just a maritime museum. Of course, there were model ships, boats, ship building, fishery displays and other things related to the maritime industry. But there were displays on period lifestyles, ceramics and a number of other items relevant to life in the 19th century in Sneek. We really enjoyed it.

A large model of one of the canal boats

A model of one of the popular race boats

A mock-up of the living quarters of a canal boat

After a light lunch back at our B&B we walked to the oldest gin producer in Sneek, Weduwe Joustra (Widow Joustra). The entry gives way to a comfortably arranged shop with wine casks, wine bottles on wooden shelves and Dutch gin (genever) displayed.

A sampling of the tastings

No sooner had we walked in when the shopkeeper asked us if we wanted to taste genever, to which we responded - YES! She pointed us up the narrow stairwell. Once there, we were surrounded by bottles of gin, sampling glasses and no host. The idea was to sample anything you wanted on your own. It became obvious to me that alcoholics had not discovered this little gem of a place!

Needless to say, we had a fun sampling and tasting all the varieties of gins and then decided on our purchases. Definitely a worthwhile visit.

The village of Workum

On our last day of our Friesland adventure we veered west to Workum, where Maarten had suggested going to an art museum by a Dutch contemporary painter - Jopie Huisman. Not only was the village quaint, but the work by Huisman was unusually good. Huisman went through various stages in his artistic career, including dealing with the consequences of WWII. At times he seemed to have a lot of fun with his paintings, but usually he chose more serious subjects from everyday life, often objects such as shoes, a coat or a hanging pair of pants. He also did various self-portraits that were very interesting.

We drove through a couple of other villages, including the fishing village of Makkum and then headed over to the 30 km dyke to cross over to the western part of the Netherlands.

Our last stop was Medemblik, a small town dating back to the 1200’s with a leaning tower and a castle. The town has quite a history of warfare and strikes by pirates. Eventually, to better protect themselves, the citizens built a wall around the city.

The land captains always know best 


Kids in school having fun sailing, kayaking and playing.

Today it is a tranquil seaside community with lots of yachts. We took a long walk, watched elementary school kids practicing sailing and kayaking and did a little shopping along the way. We headed back to Purmerend when it started to rain.

Lots of sheep around this place particularly along the banks of the levees. 

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