Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Meeting friends in Ermelo

 Ermelo, Holland

Off again then, this time to Ermelo, where we had booked in as we were visiting our friends, Meerke and Nol who had been our neighbours back in Albir. They have a static van on a campsite in the forest so it was really easy to visit them, just book a pitch on the same site.

The drive to Ermelo was fairly peaceful, although the roads were a bit narrow. They seem to be a single lane with wide shoulders each side, so if anyone comes in the other direction, you have to move right over to drive on the rubbing strips which makes a very interesting noise in our van.

Quite a lot of these

and of course they can also be quite narrow in places.
Thankfully not too many of these

As I said we were visiting friends and although we didn't want them to think that they had to entertain us all the time they did take us out. Which was wonderful as we saw a lot of places and learned a lot of things that we just wouldn't have known otherwise.

Our first day out they took us to Dronten and for a visit to the Polder. In Dronten, we visited Hank and Jenny who had been our neighbours on the other side while we were in Albir. Although most Dutch people speak pretty good English, Hank's English is exceptionally good having worked as a police interpreter. Meerke hadn't told Hank and Jenny that we would be with them so it was quite a surprise for us all to turn up. They are also going back to Albir this winter but this time will be leaving their caravan behind in storage as the journey is getting a bit much for them.

Whilst in Dronten we visited the Air Gunner's room and the monument to the Air Gunners. The original Lancaster propeller monument is adopted by the local primary school year 6 children every year and the schools take their turn in looking after the monument, polishing it and keeping it clean. They really take pride in it – perhaps something we should adopt. At the Air Gunner's room we were given a book about personal recollections of the air gunners and their times during the war. I haven't read it yet, but will get around to it.

Leaving there we went to the Polder. I remember as kids being taught something about the Polder, but I have to admit that most of my schooling seemed to go over my head, I really don't remember much. God knows how I managed to get 8 O'levels at my first go.

Now if you don't know, the Polder is the “New Land”, where dykes were built across waterways and pumps were put in place which pumped all the water out of the sea and created new land for Holland. Of course what you don't think about is that these pumps are continually working, it wasn't just a one-off exercise. A bit simplistic I know, sorry. The first picture shows the view from the top of one of the dykes across to the sea, the second illustrates just how high the dykes are.

You get an idea from here how high the dykes are

Looking across from the top of the dyke

This picture shows just how much the land was pumped out. The lock gates are the largest I have seen, you can get an idea of the size with Nol, Meerke and Iain standing on the bridge. It would be disastrous now if the sea was to break through.

All over the Polder there are sights where WWII planes have been found and also wrecked ships. Sometimes the occupants were still in them. These places are marked on maps but there's nothing left to actually see.

Most of this land is now used for agriculture, but of course there was work to be had and new towns to be built. This work started during WWII and men who chose to work on the Polder were excused fighting for the Germans. This was seen then as the easy option.

If I've got my facts right, the town of Dronten was only established about 1970 and there would have been grants for people wanting to move to a new town. Nol said that the interviews were strict and if someone was considered “unsuitable” for the new town they they would be refused the move.

Nol and Meerke had moved here in the early '70's when they had got married. Nol worked as a pile driver amongst other things – a bit more of that to come.

Leaving Dronten we moved up to Urk which was a pretty fishing village. For our motorhoming readers, there is an aire at the harbour which looked ok and well situated for the shops and views etc. Here we stopped for lunch and of course got wet again. We then visited the memorial where there is a statue of a woman looking out to see and a memorial wall engraved with the names of all the Urk fishermen who lost their lives at sea.


We visited the island of Schokland which for hundreds of years was a small island with 3 settlements in the middle of the sea. For many years they fought off the sea by building sea defences all around which of course took a lot of maintaining. In the mid 19th Century the government of the time decided that they would not give any more funding for the island and ordered the evacuation. There were about 170 people living on the island at that time. Of course now the Polder has been drained this island stands in the middle of the land. It's quite an interesting place with a very interesting museum and church. In the museum it tells you about the life of the people who lived on Schokland and also the building of the Polder and the things that were found when the Polder was drained – including some impressive woolly mammoth bones. There are also some glacial boulders to see that were left in the Polder at the end of the Ice Age although these in the picture actually came from Norway.

The image below we call “Nol's Wall” because Nol worked on the reconstruction of the sea defence wall of the island.

Nol's wall (it's much higher the other side)

Well worth the 5 Euros entrance fee.

On the way back we visited Lelystat and saw the replica of the Batavia ship. This is pretty impressive, the original was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage in 1629 and this replica was built using traditional methods.

Also looking from the shore near the Batavia, you can see this statue. It is called Exposure and is 25 metres high (5 metres higher than the Angel of the North). It was made by Antony Gormly and was commissioned in 2005 and officially inaugurated in September 2010. Apparently you can get to it although it's quite difficult.

The following day Nol and Meerke took us to Gouda to see the cheese market. This market runs every Thursday from April to August and is well worth a visit. (I believe there is a similar one in Edam) The farmers bring their cheese to market on their horse and cart and display them in the town square. Then the price is haggled over and the deal is done.

Doing the tourist bit

Say Cheese! Well it just had to be done.

Of course a lot of this is done for the tourism these days but it's still interesting to watch. Gouda itself is a very pretty town and well worth the visit if you are ever going that way. It's like a little Amsterdam but just a shame that the canals are so green.

We visited the Stadhuis in Gouda (Town Hall) built in the 15th Century. 

Nowadays it is used for special ceremonies and weddings. 

 I'll bet it costs a fortune to get married there. It used to be the courtroom and the convicted offenders had to leave the building by the left stairs and the innocent by the right stairs. Apparently due to superstition all wedding parties leave by the right stairs.

Condemmed to the left - innocent to the right - which way would you leave on your wedding day?
After lunch we visited another little fishing port on the way home, but I'm afraid that I haven't got a clue where it was. We had been taken to so many places that the name for this one escapes me. I wish I could remember as it was a very pretty place at the end of a canal and there were some interesting original fishing boats moored up in the old harbour.

What is this man doing?
A lovely evening was had, having dinner with Meerke and Nol and their grandson Tyrone and then it was time for us to wave goodbye to our friends – hopefully we will see you again soon in Albir in December. Thank you Meerke and Nol for a very enjoyable stay with you. 

So we were off again.  This time to Dusseldorf on the Rhine, via Arnhem.  Well that was the plan but hey what are plans for if you don't change them.

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