We can see; we must begin
To honor all who came before…
I am like you and you’re like me.
Saw a world no eye should see
Which I as yet may not forget.
I’m in Holland for the week, my 4th time to join Hannie Voyles for a bike & barge trip across this beautiful country. Knowing that Hannie intends for this to be her last bike & barge excursion, I think it’s important that this time I document her insights into the history of Holland, the impact of WWII, and how targeted populations can move forward from the past.
Day 1 – June 8, our start date, was the rainiest, windiest day I’ve ever spent in Holland. No matter. Hannie was already on board the Liza Marleen barge when my Sacramento travel companions Cathe Petuya, Marianne Deming, and I arrived.
We dropped off our suitcases and headed out with Hannie and the rest of our bike & barge team for a rooftop lunch at the beautiful Amsterdam Library.
We were back at the barge in time for our first dinner on board. Dinners on the Liza Marleen are a wonderful dining experience and an opportunity to get to know your fellow travelers, to reflect on the day’s adventures and to plan for the next day.
After dinner, I joined Hannie, her granddaughter Jennifer, and fellow traveler Carol for an evening stroll. Although I’ve walked past the landmark Basilica of Saint Nikolas on every trip, this was the first time to enter the Basilica – just in time to hear a beautiful performance by a choral group, made even more spectacular by the acoustics, domed ceilings, stained glass windows, and carved arches. No photos allowed, so thank you, StephenCDickson for sharing the one below.
Day 2 – Following breakfast, we were off for our first day of biking across Holland. Our destination was Leiden, via Haarlem, where the barge would be waiting for us. Change of plans. Due to a draw bridge malfunction, the Liza Marleen could go no further than Haarlem.
Our guide, Anita, quickly came up with another bike route: a 50 mile trip through Haarlem, up sand dunes, out to the North Sea, and back through Harlem.
Day 3 – Off to Leiden – It’s always a toss up on a bike & barge trip between the beauty of the next town and the equally spectacular stretches of villages and pasture lands in between towns. According to the tag on my iPhone, this fun-to-climb tower is located near Zandvoort.
This trip was also my first ride through the outskirts of Alsmeer and then crossing the Ringvaart Canal by ferry en route to Leiden.
You can feel yourself stepping/riding back in time from the minute you enter Leiden through its historic gates.
Leiden’s history dates back to the 15th century. Its university was founded in 1575, a right given the city for its role in helping end the Spanish occupation. The pilgrims lived here for a short time in the early 17th century before sailing to the New World. Leiden is definitely one of my favorite cities for biking, walking, shopping.
Day 4 – Delft – Today, rather than bike, I stayed on the barge with Hannie, who, unfortunately, had a bad fall coming into Leiden and needed some recovery time. Els, our barge captain, announced the night before that the canal ride from Leiden to Delft was her favorite part of the tour, as we would be sailing down the Vliet Canal. From windmills, to a wedding procession, to draw bridges – our deck provided lovely close-up views into village life.
We sailed into Delft ready to enjoy the magnificent Old Centre. In addition to outdoor cafes, restaurants, and shops to explore, a talented band from a local high school entertained and energized all who were fortunate to be at the Centre.
Oh, but the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), second tallest church tower in Holland, beckoned to/challenged all passers-by to climb the steep and narrow winding staircase (376 steps) to the top. Four of us could not resist (thank you fellow travelers Michelle and Joan and bike & barge tour leader Anita for leading the charge). Wish I could have captured the breathtaking views with a 365 degree camera.
I passed on a visit to the Delft factory, as I had been there on a previous trip. Having the day to kick back in the Old Centre, do a little tower climbing, check out the shops, and snack on bitterballen made for an amazing day.
On to Rotterdam.
Day 5 – Rotterdam / Kinderdijk / Gouda – Today’s route started with a ferry ride through Rotterdam. This major port city was heavily bombed by the Germans during WWII and has been almost completely reconstructed. Rotterdam is now known for its bold, modern architecture, which includes skyscrapers, a rare site in Holland. Although I’ve biked through Rotterdam before, the ferry boat ride provided a glimpse into the hustle and bustle of Europe’s largest port. Even Noah’s Ark is moored here.
Although the above photo (shared by nschaten) shows the port on a sunny day, our ferry boat was crossing the Nieuwe Mass, a distributary of the Rhine River, during a downpour that pretty much followed us throughout the day. As we approached Kinderdijk, it was time to put on rain jackets and grab our bikes.
Throughout Holland’s history, managing water has been an essential occupation in a country that is surrounded by water and below sea level. Canals and windmills initially served this purpose; today electric pumping stations are taking on the task. Stepping into one of the Kinderdijk windmills and seeing the multilevel, compact working and living quarters of a miller and family members is a window into an occupation critical to much of Holland’s early history.
From Kinderdijk, we headed out on our bikes into the rain en route to Gouda. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, my front tire got caught in the rear tire of my Canadian friend Shirley’s bike. I don’t really remember the fall, but I might have outdone Hannie, whose wounds were quickly healing. Nevertheless. within minutes, I was back on my bike headed to Gouda, one of my favorite cities.
Thank goodness for flesh-colored bandages that kind of/sort of made us both presentable for dinner on the barge.
Day 6 – Gouda – Gouda is known not only for its cheese, but also for its stroopwafels, stained class windows, fairy-tale-like town hall, and iconic canals.
Understandably, Gouda is a top tourist destination. Thank you, Wikipedia, for posting the historical highlights and photos of Gouda.
Day 7 – Oude Wetering – The good news about day 7 was that Hannie was back riding again. The bad news was that, due my fractured right hand, I would not be riding. And our tour guide Anita informed us that Oude Wetering had absolutely nothing of interest to see and to prepare myself for a boring day. Even Wikipedia has nothing much to say about this little town, summarizing it in 3 sentences.
Waving good-bye to my fellow travelers, I set off on a walk. I pledge to find out more about the tiny historic building, the only photo I took, and then upload it to the Wikipedia page.
Oh, but the boat ride from Oude Wetering to Amsterdam was wonderful, with a full day of sunshine. It was also the last day to travel down the canals on the Liza Marleen.
Day 8 – Amsterdam – Day 8 was the icing on the bike & barge trip: a tour of Amsterdam with Hannie. I have walked the streets of Amsterdam with Hannie before and every time is a personalized learning journey. Her insights into the war years are through the eyes of a Holocaust survivor, who, as a child, lived on the 2nd floor (above the Brood sign) in an apartment building just around the corner from Nazi headquarters (formerly a girls Catholic boarding school). The apartment entry staircase still has the step down at the top where, as a youngster, out foraging after curfew, Hannie often hid from Nazi patrols.
She played in the same neighborhood as Anne Frank and, for a time, attended the same Montessori school, a few years behind Anne.
We stopped at the 1st Montessori School to remember the children who did not survive the war – and are now honored by a plaque inscribed with Hannie’s commemorative words.
Not far from the school, a monument stands in honor of 100+ Dutchmen, ages 15-50, who were executed during a razzia (Nazi round up of Jews) in retaliation for the burning of a home occupied by a Nazi officer.
There is a peacefulness about Holland’s WWII monuments. They are beautifully maintained, in plain site, and stand in honor of and as visible reminders of the past.
As we headed back to the Liza Marleen, we made one more stop, our last chance to share a plate of bittenballen and toast to the beauty of Holland and a fantastic trip. We ended the evening with a boat tour of Amsterdam.
I love Holland.
I don’t think there could possibly be a better way to tour Holland than with someone who was born and raised there, witnessed and survived WWII, returns annually, and is also a gifted poet and writer. To bike & barge across Holland with Hannie Voyles is an unforgettable opportunity to experience the past and to celebrate our shared humanity.
Holland with Hannie
Under sun-filled skies, ever-shifting clouds, downpours, soaring grey herons
Across bridges, through fields of flowers, cattle, and sheep, village lanes, and city roads – we ride
Down boats ramps, into city squares and shops filled with savory cheeses, rich, rich chocolates, espressos, cappuccinos, and blue & white treasures – we walk
Over spicy hot bitterballen, steaming bowls of soup and more, freshly made just for us, sharing stories of the day’s ride, and with glasses raised in celebration of an extraordinary journey – we bond
One last…photo opp, trip to the Flower Market, puppy snuggle, sunset over Amsterdam