We had a very important trip to do after we left Belgium. We were so close to where John’s father was born, we had to drive up and see it. John’s grandfather was commissioned to engineer the upgrade to the Leerdam Glassworks, and lived there between the years of 1911-1918. The glassworks are still there, keeping the village alive. There is a glassworks museum too, that is in two houses: the house that John’s grandfather had built, and another built by his employer at the same time. That they didn’t get along very well was very well known back then, but today the two houses are joined in harmony by the museum.
We spent some time watching glass blowers working in a studio built for tourists in the village. It’s always amazing to see what they do, and how long it takes to form a single piece. It was a hot day, and we didn’t envy them their hot work.
It was great to get back to Holland. We immediately noticed more bicycle paths, very well used by the natives and tourists. It’s a flat country, and last time we were there (in Amsterdam) we found it impossible to take a picture without a bicycle (or 10!) in the picture.
We did a big loop in our drive that day, and drove along some of the dykes and dams they have constructed to keep the sea out of this low land. It seems the country would be half its size without these dykes. Kinderdijk is a real tourist trap, and we stopped only to snap a few pictures. It was overrun with tourists from the river/canal cruise ship parked nearby. These windmills are used to keep the water flowing out and the dykes have been built to do the same thing. We were driving below the dyke at one point, metres below the river level.
Vincent van Gogh was born in Zundert, Holland, and they have a statue of him and his brother on the main street.
On our way back to Belgium, we drove along the outer perimeter where technology meets the sea. The Dutch embrace all kinds of natural power (as well as the normal kinds). We saw modern windmills everywhere – they have a long history with harnessing the wind – and also drove over the dams that keep the salt water away from their land. This is part of what’s known as the Deltaworks, an absolutely huge endeavour which was only just completed in 2010. The sluices open during low tide, so the water can drain out, and close during high tides, so no saltwater can enter. It is a very effective (and costly) way to keep their land intact.
The weather is wonderful, warm and sunny. It could have so easily been rainy and cold, so we’re thoroughly enjoying it. The next part of our journey is to World War sites in France. We plan to do to the Canadian monuments of WWI and WWII to learn more about our country’s contribution.