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Five metre deep lock at Friese Sluis
The Netherlands has 6 000 kilometres of navigable waterways, which given the size of the country is a LOT. The story of land reclaiming and the polders is fascinating. When we locked down from the IJsselmeer at Lemmer and back up again at Urk, you are in a lock that is 5 metres deep. You realise that you should be underwater. No wonder Dutch people do not pooh pooh global warming theories.
En route in Noordoospolder
Some of the biggest European rivers including the Rhine flow out to sea in the deltas in southern Holland and the narrow channel between Great Britain and the Netherlands funnels water from the North Sea. Heavy rains or a spring tide could be a national disaster. And that's not all.
As the reclaimed land has dried over the years, it has contracted and shrunk. You have contracting
landmass and rising water levels. The Netherlands have a complicated system of pumping water in and out. They have salt and fresh water areas that require not just water movement but desalination as well. This is all going on at differing times 24 hours a day. The Dutch people are also keen to re-introduce fauna and flora that weren't a consideration when they created the polders. Reclaimed land went toward housing and farming.
Emmeloord to Urk
I wasn't looking forward to bypassing the IJsselmeer and travelling via Noordoostpolder, but I am so glad we did. The Lemstervaart was tree lined with neat farms along the canal. Emmeloord, although new, has been created to incorporate a distinct Dutch look and feel. There was a global potato convention on the go. Noordoostpolder is THE potato growing region. The VVV gave us a leaflet with a list of all the must-do's. You can climb the clock tower above the VVV and get a panoramic view of the city for around €3. We did a day stop, wandered around Emmelooord, had lunch
Market in Emmeloord
and a coffee at HEMA, and got going again to spend the evening in Urk.
As an aspirant vegan I really don't like murdering insects, but the waterways are breeding grounds for all sorts of things that find their way onto a boat. I had to keep our bin far out on the deck so flies wouldn't come in. We kept the door closed after sunset and put up screens on the ports and hatches to keep mosquitoes out. Overnight, spiders would weave webs on our boat. Every morning boat owners, mostly men, wash and sweep their boats with buckets of water from the canals to
Traditional Dutch boat
remove spider webs and dust. It's a morning ritual. My other half would cringe with shame. He had to take it easy with his back and vigorous bends were prohibited.
After tying up in Urk, we headed to the local cafe/pub for a sun downer Afflingem TRIPLE beer. We not sure what the difference is between a single, double and triple beer. Lighter to darker or weaker to stronger? No idea, but triples always taste better and we like to think we're getting more of whatever it is.
Urk is at pains to preserve it's history as a fishing island. It
Beach at Urk
was included into the Noordoostpolder during land reclamation and is now part of the mainland. What to do? On a good day you can join the masses on the white sandy beach, have a drink or a bite the harbour side cafes or take in the museum showcasing traditional fishing and clothing.
We originally only planned one night in Urk,
Lighthouse in Urk
but ended up spending two nights. The tourist guide says you can visit the 18 m high lighthouse built in 1844. We found a PRIVE sign on the front door so it's clearly a domestic dwelling. Also visit Bethel Kerk (Church) and Church at the Sea. Neither were open when we went past.
What was poignant - was the Fisherman Memorial. Next to a statue of a local woman are the names of people who never came home. Some as young as 8 years old and as recent as 2010. Just wandering the streets is a fabulous way to see the preserved fishing houses of old. And the new - old - homes.
Read the final part of this journey on - this link.
Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.