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Report 121: Three Months in Holland

By Marta (Moderator) from Washington State, Spring 1996

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Page 7 of 8: Appledorn and Kinderdijk

May 22, 1996 Well it has been a while has it not? The past three weeks have been very busy. We are quickly realizing the time is growing short and we will be leaving soon.

During the past weeks, we have had visitors. George's parents and his sister visited for 4 days early in May. Holland was new for them. His parents have been to Italy, Israel, and Egypt, but nowhere else in Europe. His sister had never been outside the US. George's family took this opportunity to visit both Holland and UK. We got a hotel and let them stay in the apartment. This worked out very well. We got to stay in the hotel with a bath for a couple of nice long hot baths. They got a chance to spend sometime in a Dutch house. George took them to Amsterdam to see the Anne Frank House and the Museum AmstelKing which is a Catholic church hidden in the attic of a house in the red-light district. No, it's not hidden because it's in the red-light district! The church is from the 1700's when Protestant revolt was going on in Northern Europe and practicing the Catholic religion was banned. They also got a chance to see the red-light district which surprisingly did not shock them. He also took them to the Keukenhof garden and antique hunting in Leiden.

Our weekends have been busy. Three weekends ago, we went to Appledorn to visit Het Loo. Appledorn is on the edge of the Veluwe. The area the train traveled through was very different from the green fields and canals of the Raanstad. The Veluwe is an area of heath, woodland and sand dunes. We could see many people on bikes touring the woods.

Appledorn is a quiet town. Its main attraction is the Palace Het Loo. This was built around 1685 for William III of the House of Orange-Nassau and his wife Mary Stewart. William and Mary also became King and Queen of England in 1689 and ruled over the American colonies. I believe they started the William and Mary College in Virginia.

The palace is a self-tour that winds through the different rooms from hunting rooms full of animal trophies to bedrooms to the staterooms many with elaborate ceilings and chandeliers. But our main reason to visit the palace was the gardens. The style of the gardens is formal with par-terre hedges forming a design, gravel paths and large gold fountains much in the style of the French formal gardens. It is a very good example of the style of gardens from the late 1600's.

Two weekends ago, we visited Kinderdijk and Dordrecht. We had seen pictures and read of Kinderdijk which has the largest concentration of original windmills in Holland. Being that it is in the country, we knew it was going to be a little harder to get to. We knew it was about 10k from Dordrecht and biking or the buses were options. Dordrecht is one of those towns you seem to always pass though on the way somewhere else. It is about 1 hour from Leiden by train on the way to Belgium. We got there about 11am and it was cold, overcast and windy. Not my idea of biking weather so we headed for the VVV (tourist office) to find out about the bus. The bus went to Albasserdam where you transferred to a second bus for the town of Kinderdijk. I was glad we didn't ride not only due to the weather, but the fact it was pretty industrial outside Dordrecht.

When we got to the end of the bus line at Alblasserdam, we could see the windmills and the bike path signs said it was only 2K. We decided not to wait for the next bus and to walk instead. Every Dutch town will have a town map near some of the bus stops. We checked out the map and found a shortcut up Molenweg (Windmill Way) to the dike between the windmills. It was a wonderful walk. It was through the country and fields with sheep, cows, goats and chickens. The windmills were built in 1740 to drain the polder around Albasserdam and are still in use. Many are now homes for the farmers in the area and one is open to the public.

We returned to Dordrecht and walked around the town. There is a large church from the 1600's. We climbed the tower (300 steps!) for a view over the city. We could see Kinderdijk in the horizon. On a clear day, you can see Gouda. Dordrecht is on the river Maas and was an important shipping port in the 1600's and 1700's. We walked around the wharf area and viewed many of the older houses.

We've also spent time walking and touring Leiden where we are staying. May 5th is Liberation Day in Holland. At 8pm on May 4th, a moment of silence happens throughout Holland for soldiers who have died in war. Everything stops. The streets were pretty deserted and I took the time to walk around Leiden and take some photos. I discovered several hofjes or almshouses. A hof is a courtyard. In the late 1600-1700's, housing was built around a courtyard especially for the poor and widows. Wealthy citizens would donate some of their money to build these houses and provide for needy. Leiden has the largest remaining number of these hofjes. It was really nice to discover different ones. To enter, you open a door that looks similar to a door to a house, walk down a hall and into the courtyard. It was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday evening in the setting sun.

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