City no. 2 – Augsburg

“Augsburg’s Water Management System documents the 800-year development of the city’s water supply system, which is unparalleled worldwide.”

We also visited Augsburg with our local Bavarian friend Richard, who used to go to both beautiful Bavarian destinations with his family as a child. Our first stop in Augsburg was coffee on the Rathausplatz, the impressively big main square dominated by the grandiose town hall building, after which the square is named.

This location is also said to be locals’ favourite spot for a cup of coffee when they are in the area, so we felt that the break was necessary to truly immerse ourselves in the local (coffee) culture.

But the city’s impressive main square or its coffee aren’t reasons the city is a UNESCO Heritage city. It is actually its water management system. Water is undoubtedly one of the most noticeable features of the city. It is present in almost every street while walking through the old town and gives it a kind of a fresh, vibrant and breezy feel even during the hot summer days that we visited.

There is also a UNESCO Heritage information centre on the main square, but we were too late to visit it and just decided to stroll around the city and enjoy its impressive and innovative way of building the city centre on top of numerous water streams

The city of Augsburg is actually located on the northernmost point of a glacial deposit that stretches between the Lech and Wertach, two Alpine rivers, although the canal system also incorporates spring and river water sources. Regensburg’s earliest water supply system was built by the Romans and included a number of canals that brought water to the settlement.

Today, it is made up of 22 separate components that work together to form the entire system. It has been developing for more than a thousand years and has been operating for the benefit of the population until this day. As far back as the 15th century, drinking water and process water have been kept separate. In addition to providing drinking water,  the system’s primary tasks include providing process water for energy production and hygienic disposal

After admiring and learning about the water flowing through the city centre, we quickly drove to the system’s most important water monument, the Hochablass, where the Lech River is redirected to the majority of the canals.

Catching the last moments of daylight, we admired the huge water monument that made us understand the scope and importance of the water system better and ended the day off in the best way possible. 

Saying goodbye to Richard, his family and their lovely home in Forstinning, which is always hard because of all the Spezi (Bavarian soda drink), pretzels and especially their kind hospitality, we made our way to the airport and with that our third OWHC destination – Istanbul.

City no. 1 – Regensburg

“The only authentically preserved large medieval city in Germany”

We started our journey in Regensburg, a city in Germany known as “The only authentically preserved large medieval city in the country”. It is also where the Northwest Europe and North America Regional Secretariat of the OWHC is hosted. This meant that we got an unforgettable private tour of the city from a World Heritage Coordinator, Monika Göttler, which was especially focused on the city’s world heritage. And it was in German. But luckily for us, she spoke Hochdeutsch or High German and not the incomprehensible dialect, or more accurately, the foreign language called Bavarian that they speak there.

The reason the tour was done in German was that we actually had another “tour guide” accompanying us during our time in Germany, a family friend of Amadej’s, Richard. So we had a local Bavarian driving us around the sights from his point of view, which was an exceptional opportunity since one of our main goals, as seen in our travel motto, is to experience world heritage through the eyes of the locals. We were also lucky enough to stay at Richard’s family home in Forstinning, which is truly the best way to get a unique insight into local life.

Having Richard as our companion on the journey through the German heritage meant that our first stop in Regensburg was a legendary sausage joint, a local favourite without which you cannot start a visit to the city. Located right at the start of the old town we enjoyed charcoal-grilled sausages served on the most delicious sweet and sour Sauerkraut accompanied by amazing views of the historical bridge and the Danube river.

Joined by Monika, the OWHC coordinator, we made our way through the old city of Regensburg. The rich and diverse architecture immediately demonstrates that the city was once an affluent medieval trading centre. It connected important trading routes, from east to west, and facilitated the transfer of goods, information and knowledge. Some of the buildings are reminiscent of prominent Italian trading centres, and like those places, the wealthy merchants wanted to demonstrate the significance of the city by building the tallest buildings, even though the upper floors were purely ornamental and empty.

We also got to closely examine the city’s cathedral, an important gothic piece of architecture, with breathtaking frescoes which survived both world wars as they were somehow removed and protected from the bombing. There is also a restoration team that is always taking care that the building is kept in great shape. 

 

Regensburg was not, however, only an important trading centre but also had an influential political role as a meeting place for Imperial Assemblies as well as the Perpetual Imperial Diet from 1663 to 1806. The Imperial Chamber, where the Imperial Diet met and discussed matters in the Holy Roman Empire, is located in the impressive Old Town Hall.

The biggest shock of the day was definitely hearing and then seeing that Monika’s and other OWHC offices are also located in the same building, right across the hall from the chamber.

 

Seeing how seriously world heritage is taken in Regensburg, how passionate the OWHC employees are about it and how they literally live and work in harmony with the city’s heritage made us look forward to other OWHC cities even more!

A Brief Description of Six Places in Warsaw

Stare Miasto

After being almost entirely and intentionally destroyed by the Nazis in response to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the Old Town of Warsaw has been reconstructed. To an untrained eye like mine, it cannot be distinguished from the well-maintained old town of say, Prague, which managed to come out of the war comparatively unscathed.

The people of Warsaw are proud of their Old Town: every time they catch me wandering into an outer district they seem confused and point me back in the direction of it. Stare Miasto! Stare Miasto!

This pride is more than understandable. The history of their city (and their country) is a never-ending story of occupation and destruction. So rebuilding an entire part of the city that has disappeared and claiming back the right to one’s own past is a form of resistance and admirable stubbornness. It’s the very same stubbornness that I’ve seen in the faces along the country roads that lead to Warsaw. 

In the old town, next to a small side street where a black carriage horse is sleeping, a hat seller waves me over. He smiles and reveals one long, yellow tooth. He tries to sell me a fur hat. They are beautiful, but I already have one at home in Canada, I tell him. He doesn’t understand English, so he takes my hand and leads me over to his neighbour, a young woman selling magnets. She translates for us. Canadians are some of my best customers, he says. Much better than the Spanish.

The Spanish generally don’t have a great need for fur hats, no?  He considers this for a moment, shrugs, and pulls out his identification card. He points to his birth year: 1935. Then he pulls a calculator out of his pocket and punches in his age: 87. Wow, I say. He passes me the calculator and I punch in my age. Wow, he says. Then he takes his age, and minuses my age from it. We both marvel at the number. We stand, grinning at each other and not saying a word. Then we shake hands and part ways.

Muranów

Muranów was once home to the Jewish ghetto. 460,000 people lived there. 390,000 of them were murdered. 460,000 minus 390,000 leaves 70,000. Nowadays in Muranów there are some Soviet-era apartment blocks, unassuming parks, and small restaurants. I takes me a good half an hour to find the synagogue (the only remaining pre-war synagogue in Warsaw) but I finally find it tucked in between a parking lot and some new glass buildings.  Nobody is around, and the synagogue is locked. The only person that I’m able to find is the old owner of the kosher grocery store. He wakes up when the door jingles open and greets me in Hebrew, Polish, and English. He reminds me that it’s Rosh Hashanah. Then he nods off again. His eyes are tiny and distant behind a pair of the thickest glasses I’ve ever seen.

Krochmalna Street

“We reached Krochmalna Street and the stench I recalled from my childhood struck me first— a blend of burned oil, rotten fruit, and chimney smoke. Everything was the same— the cobblestone pavement, the steep gutter, the balconies hung with wash. We passed a factory with wire-latticed windows and a blind wall with a wooden gate I never saw open in all my youth. Every house here was bound up with memories. No. 5 contained a yeshiva in which I had studied for a term. There was a ritual bath in the courtyard, where matrons came in the evening to immerse themselves. I used to see them emerge clean and flushed. Someone told me that this building had been home of Rabbi Itche Meir Alter. In my time the yeshiva had been a part of the Grodzisk house of prayer. It’s beadle was a drunk. When he had a drop too much, he told tales of saints, dybbuks, half-mad squires and sorcerers. He ate one meal a day and always (except on the Sabbath) stale bread crumbled into borscht…”

(An excerpt from ‘Shosha’ by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated from the Yiddish by Joseph Singer.)

Krochmalna Street has not been rebuilt. How could it? In order for something to be rebuilt its inhabitants need to say: we survived, we remained, we want to fill this place again. But in this case, the people are gone and so is Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Krochmalna Street. At one end of the street there’s a tiny, dirty patch of grass (apparently a park) named after the author. At the other end, the only remaining old building stands with boarded-up windows. Between these two ends, modern buildings have popped up beside ones from the fifties and sixties which are starting to turn grey. I find this street unbearably sad and move along.

Hala Mirowska

In the marketplace next to Hala Mirowska, vendors sell plums, raspberries, massive bunches of dill, mushrooms fresh from the forests, dried, fragrant fish and pastries. It’s so crowded that it takes an hour for me to move from one end to the other. Despite this, it’s quiet. Everyone seems to speak softly. (Or perhaps I’m only remembering it like that.) The sun shines in its mild autumn way, and everyone seems to be in a good mood. The vendors are nimble, curt. They do not need to shout or advertise their goods. They have built up reputations for themselves which long line-ups at each stand attest to. Plums which are mouldy or otherwise unacceptable roll about on the ground and are stepped on, releasing a wonderful smell.

An old man steps out of this jostling, whispering mass of people and comes towards me. He is wearing an old black leather jacket and a black beret. His eyes are sharp and full of good humour. He stops before me, bows deeply, says, Welcome to Warsaw, and then continues on his way. It feels as though the city itself has sent me it’s greetings.

Praga

I somehow manage (don’t ask me how) to get some address mixed up and accidentally end up in a cellar where a metal band from Mumbai are playing. The band and the crowd are so likeable that I end up staying for awhile. I’m not at all dressed for the occasion (a beret, hiking shoes, and red lipstick) but everyone is forgiving. Warsaw, you’re incredible, they say between songs. You all have so much energy. We’ve never seen anything like this!

It turns out that they are only the opening act, and that a band from Budapest are the real stars of the evening. They open the evening with a song called “Holocaust.” Let us make sure that it never happens again! They say before they begin. To my untrained (and very sensitive) ears, it sounds like one long, sustained scream, and I have to be honest, it’s one the most articulate things I’ve ever heard on the subject.

I take the tram back to the Soviet-era walk-up that I’m renting in the suburbs. I brush my teeth in the tiny kitchen. My neck is stiff, my face is irritated (by being whipped by some long hair), and my ears are ringing, but I’m happy.

Przy Bażantarni Park

On Sunday, the same day as Rosh Hashanah, Warsaw celebrates the Patron Saint of Warsaw, Saint Wladyslaw from Gielniowo. On top of that, the Warsaw Marathon is happening, and many major streets are closed. Despite this, I somehow manage to get to the Przy Bażantarni Park in the Natolin district, where there is a kind of fair. The air there is filled with the smell of sausages, candy, fried potatoes and Polish music. There is a makeshift dance floor, and it is full with the very old (who know all the words and mouth along) and the very young (who know neither the steps nor the words). As the afternoon goes on, they are joined by mothers, fathers, and even a group of teenaged girls, who giggle nervously.

As with many parts of Warsaw, Natolin is full of hurriedly (and notoriously badly) built grey apartment blocks that loom around and press in on the park, but as with the other districts, they seem to shrink next to the people of Warsaw, who are warm, stylish, and unpretentious. (I like them very much.)

A trumpeter from one of the bands that are playing sees me standing off to the side, tapping my foot along to the music. He asks me if I’d like to dance. I say yes, and we go spinning around the stage to the music of the Warsaw-Lublin Brass Band. He patiently teaches me some of the traditional dances (which are making a comeback among young Polish people) including the so-called “small waltz.” It’s not like the Viennese Waltz, he says. You have to move your feet very quickly and very little. Imagine you’re dancing in a little box.

A waltz perfect for the tiny kitchens of those grey apartments, I think to myself.

The kitchen of my Soviet-era apartment.
Stare Miasto.
Krochmalna Street

 

Wziąchowo Wielkie

If you ask for “a small breakfast” at the hotel in Wziąchowo Wielkie you will find the following waiting downstairs for you on the table:

Fried eggs with fresh dill, sausages, ten slices of bread, a roll, ten cubes of butter, one bowl of strawberry jam, one bowl of cottage cheese, one bowl of mustard, one plate of vegetables, an assortment of cold meats and cheeses, one glass of juice, one jug of milk, one thermos of coffee and one thermos of black tea.

A cat stares from the door of the dining room. Every time you look back, a new one has taken its place. At intervals of five minutes, the Ukrainian cook, dressed in black, comes out of the kitchen wringing her white hands and smiling expectantly. You thank her every time and turn back to the task at hand: making the food disappear as not to hurt her feelings. If only the cats could come a little nearer so that you could slip them a sausage! But they are well trained, it seems. So you resort to slipping things in your coat pocket.

The owner enters. He is sixty or so, tall, handsome, carries himself like a Polish aristocrat. He tells you the history of the place: how it was a manor of some nobility, a spa, a school during the communist times, a ruin, and now his hotel. Have you enjoyed your stay? He asks (in perfect high German). Oh, you live in Bavaria? He has a friend, an old guest of his, some Von-Somebody who also lives in Bavaria and happens to be turning 100 this week. He really ought to visit one of these days…

After you’ve drunk your coffee and eaten what you can, you can take a stroll (only strolling, not walking, is appropriate here) around the large pond.  Only, every time you come to a bridge you find that it has collapsed. The grass is long, the elegant white benches are rotting, and tiny green frogs hop out of the gazebo when you come near. Nonetheless, it is charming here—  straight out of a Chekhov story. The sun shines mildly. The huge linden trees shake their leaves. A cat jumps up on your lap. In the nearby pine woods, people are walking along sandy roads in search of mushrooms. It is a perfect day. The news of Putin calling up hundreds of thousands of more soldiers seems as if it were happening in some other, far away world. But near the back door, the cook and her teenage son have their heads together and are whispering, and it’s clear that it’s happening here, in this one.

 

The Elbe

I cross the Elbe on a little wooden bridge so narrow that before I drive across I get out to take a look if the car will fit. For all it’s historical significance, here it resembles a common little creek, brown and a little swollen from all the rain.

I swear something feels different on the other side of the Elbe. Grey geese pick through the mud next to abandoned factories. Many of the houses are made from dark, horizontal wooden beams with white chinking. Roofs seem larger and droop farther towards the ground. Rather than oak and apple trees, rowans line the narrow streets, and in the dusk they look like so many red matches.

I stay overnight at the Hotel Alpský in a bare yellow room. The television is broken, perhaps for the best. I go to bed early. Cold air from the Carpathians blows in and I sleep well for the first time on the journey.

When I wake up, I notice for the first time that there’s a picture hanging over my head. At first I think it’s a scene from the American West: a well, a dusty shack, a desert with a few bare telephone poles. When I look closer, however, I realise it’s a picture of the source of the Elbe. When I look it up on a map, I discover it’s only a few kilometres away, and that there’s a road leading there directly from the Alpský which continues on to the Polish border. Perfect.

Only, ten minutes in I almost run over some Czech tourists and realise that I’m driving on a hiking trail. So I turn around and take the regular old pass to Poland and skip the source of the Elbe. Some things are better when they keep a little of their mystery about them.

 

August 24-26

Lübeck

Day 1

Finally, it is time for the “Queen” and “Mother of the Hanseatic League”: Lübeck. The founding of Lübeck in 1143 is closely interwoven with the emergence of the Hanseatic League. As one of the first German cities with access to the Baltic Sea, its favorable location enabled trade between the resource-rich areas of northern Russia and the Baltic Sea. The old town of Lübeck is surrounded by the river Trave and channels which connects the city to the Baltic Sea.

Like so many Lübeckers on this warm summer day, I took a trip to the Travemünde district. Travemünde is not only an important port at the confluence of the Trave river and the Baltic Sea, but also a popular recreation area and health resort.

Left: Beach chair on the Baltic Sea; Right: ship Passat, which is now a museum

In the afternoon, I met friendly locals with ambitions as tourist guides. They showed me around Lübeck’s old town and the Willy Brandt House, where you can even see a part of the Berlin Wall. Willy Brandt, the former mayor of Berlin and later chancellor, was born in Lübeck. Many thanks to Silvia and Eva for showing me around their home town!

Left: Willy Brandt Haus; Right: Tour with Silvia and Eva
Left: Typical brick houses in Lübeck Right: Bar in a shopping street

Day 2

On day 2 in Lübeck, I continued to explore the old town, which is completely located on an island and is also partly an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lübeck’s black-glazed brick town hall is one of the largest medieval town halls in Germany and testifies to the wealth of the Hanseatic city. Over the years it has been extended again and again, which is why it combines many styles. Unfortunately, the historic Hansa Hall, where the Hansa Days (a meeting of representatives of the Hanseatic cities) were held, is no longer preserved.

Town hall of Lübeck

Afterwards I visited St. Mary’s Church, one of the largest brick churches in the world, built on the highest point of the old town. St. Mary’s Church represents the self-confident, economically strongly aspiring citizens and their  intention was to clearly surpass the city’s Romanesque bishop’s church, Lübeck Cathedral, in size. Furthermore, besides the picture cycle of the Dance of Death and the astronomical clock, the church is known for its fallen bells. The bells at the bottom of the southern tower, which fell down during the fire caused by a bombing raid in the Second World War, still lie in the same place as memorial. Finally, I visited the Marzipan Museum, as Lübeck is world famous for this sweet. As an important trading hub, which insured a steady supply of the exotic ingredients (e.g. almonds), Lübeck became well known for the quality of its marzipan.

Left: Fallen bells of St. Mary’s Church; Right: Marzipan museum with marzipan figures

Day 3

Last day in Lübeck and time for a real classic: The Holsten Gate, a gate of the Lübeck city fortifications and the city’s landmark. Originally it was the middle gate in a row with three other Holsten gates. Today there is also a museum in the building that shows among other things, models of the ships of the Hanseatic League.

Left: Ship models in Holsten Gate; Right: Salt stores near the Holsten Gate

To find out more about the Hanseatic League I visited the European Hanseatic League museum. The museum had a cool interactive exhibition that showed the history of the Hanseatic League from the beginning to its decline. Especially interesting was what happened to the Hanseatic League after the Thirty Years’ War. In 1669, the last Hansa Day took place in Lübeck – the Hanseatic cities had not succeeded in developing viable power structures after the war. However, the Hanseatic League was never formally dissolved, but faded out slowly. In addition, I also appreciated the livable depiction of the 4 main kontors (offices in Nowgorod, London, Brugge/Antwerpen and Bergen) abroad and their history. In contrast to the other 3 kontors, the harbour district (Bryggen) in Bergen can still be visited and is certified as UNESCO World Heritage Site (as an example of Hanseatic architecture in Norway).

Left: European Hanseatic League Museum; Right: Lübeck City Seal

The Crypt of St. George’s

In St. George’s Basilica in Prague there exists a statue of death unlike any I’ve ever seen: a small, green figure, with a hood of many sumptuous folds, standing alone in the crypt, set off to the side like something in storage. His intestines peek out under emaciated ribs, his eyes are hollow as cups, and a snake-like root or root-like snake comes out of the floor and winds it way up to his knee. 

As I gaze at him, it seems to me as if this entire basilica (Prague’s oldest) has only been built to house this strange, anonymous statue of death, though I know from the brochure that it holds the remains of an important saint and other objects of higher value.  

“If,” writes Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert, “in the white basilica of St George fire broke out, God forbid, its walls after the flames would be rose coloured… the fiery heat would make the limestone blush.” When I read these lines later in a small bookstore in Malá Strana, I picture (yes, God forbid!) fire burning down everything except this little green statue, which appears indestructible and brand new next to the peeling wall paintings and delicate reliefs.

I leave. Outside the castle and tucked into a corner near the British Embassy, a hundred bouquets of flowers are strewn in the street for Queen Elizabeth. I’d like to get closer and pay my respects but a television reporter is nearby, wobbling over the cobblestones in high heels and waiting to interview anyone who comes too close. She grins at me. Her mouth is full of menacing, brilliant white teeth.

P.S. For those confused, I decided after my failed attempt to sightsee on the first evening, that I would go for a walk in the morning before I left.

 

eight – enkhuizen-amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

The quiet of Enkhuizen is perfect to check the engine before leaving. We noticed that the engine transmission belt needed to be tightened. Therefore Gloria took her toolbox and tried to fix it. After many vain efforts, she did it !! 

Thanks to this completed mission, we were full of energy and ready to start our daily journey. 

matters of sailing

The sea was flat and there was no wind at all. Therefore, we decide to navigate without setting the sails. As soon as we left the harbour we passed through a new dike that was luckily already open. After that, we found ourselves in a magic atmosphere. All around us, the horizon line was dissolved and we could just see some light figures. 

We spent our navigation time eating grapes, dancing and singing ABBA’s songs! 

While boating, a stronger smell came out from aft. So, we started looking for what was wrong and finally, we discover there was a leakage of water in a part of the engine. After collecting some advice from a mechanic and Gloria’s expert dad, we decided to keep on and fix everything in Amsterdam, our daily destination.

At that time we started being super enthusiastic about our entrance into such a big city. We switched off the music e called all the city’s harbours to find a spot.  Luckily a cosy little harbour welcomed us. It is called “Sixhaven” and is located in the centre of Amsterdam on the river ‘IJ’ opposite the Central Railway Station. The Sixhaven is situated near the centre of Amsterdam, which can be reached by a short ferry trip. Once we moored the boat, our neighbours gave us a present two new life jackets. We felt so well received. 

first steps in amsterdam

Finally, we had a restful lunch on board and a little power nap just to be more energetic. Once rested, we rode our bikes and went around the neighbourhood called Noorderhof and located in Amsterdam’s Nieuw-West district, formerly Geuzenveld/Slotermeer district. The urban design was produced in the 1990s by the Berlin office of the Luxembourg architect Rob Krier and his partner Christoph Kohl in collaboration with the housing association Het Oosten and the city district. The construction of the district, which has 230 homes, started in 1995 and was completed in 1999. 

street art and installations

Another peculiarity of Noorderhof is street art. The neighbourhood is mostly a shipyard with a lot of vacant structures. It has developed over time into a cultural masterpiece for the city of Amsterdam and has a ton of beautiful graffiti art and even a museum. Some artists continue to reside in these structures or in defunct trams. Numerous well-known artists have completed various pieces here. Edward Boer, who is well-known for his container street art, is one of them. The iconic 24-meter-high mural of Anne Frank was created by Eduardo Kobra, another well-known street artist. Last but not least, there are a variety of other painters that are highly renowned for their murals, like David Walker, Logan Hicks, and Shepard Fairy.

Getting around, we have not only seen magnificent murals, but also new installations. For example, we came across the “Barrier Tape”. With this installation, SpY, the artist, transforms a ubiquitous urban object, which is frequently used to control people’s movement, into an intriguing work of art that invites viewers to engage with the installation. The interplay between the artwork and its natural surroundings is highlighted. Visitors can round and circle around the installation, which creates a large, constantly shifting surface. The ribbons, which are suspended on parallel strings and are driven by the wind, swing together as a single unit, producing a tremendous sea-like sound and a wave-like movement throughout the music.

It has been magic to go through it.

To conclude our day, we had a slow time chilling in pub Pllek with an outdoor area on the sea. Then we enjoyed the golden hour with a panoramic view!

seven – harlingen-dokkum – navigandum per hereditatem

The sun is up and the Dutch landscapes look gorgeous from the window of planes and trains on which Allegra is travelling to reach Gloria.

ready to sail

The journey from Milan to Harlingen lasted many hours, but still, we managed to be together at midday. 

Before leaving the Harlingen harbour, we had a coffee on board with three gentlemen just met on the dock. We immediately discovered to share many interests as demonstrated by their membership in Europa Nostra, the leading citizens’ movement to protect and celebrate Europe’s cultural and natural heritage. Europa Nostra is the voice of all who believe that cultural heritage is vital for our economy, our society, our culture, our environment, our well-being and for the future of Europe. Definitely, something we agree with!

So, after these fascinating chatting, we finally started sailing and set the sails. It has been Tetide’s first time and intense emotion for us. 

Unfortunately, we had some trouble in rolling the genoa: Gloria tried to fix it while Allegra was helming, but it was not possible to solve the problem. Nonetheless, we had to navigate only with the mainsail, we were in good mood. We were extremely happy to have started finally our travel and to be together again after a long time. 

the great dike

En route to Enkhuizen, we had to cross the biggest Holland dike.

The Afsluitdijk is a major dam and causeway in the Netherlands. It was built between 1927 and 1932, and it stretches 32 kilometres from Den Oever in North Holland province to the village of Zurich in Friesland province, with a width of 90 meters and an initial height of 7.25 meters above sea level.

We were so curious about such great engineering work that we explored a bit it’s history.   

Flooding was a possibility in the Zuiderzee region. Due to this, the Zuiderzee was already going to be sealed off in the 17th century. In 1892, engineer Cornelis Lely created his initial blueprint for the Afsluitdijk. The dyke was necessary to block off the water and lessen the likelihood of floods. The potential to establish additional agricultural polders with the land was made possible by the construction of the Afsluitdijk, which was advantageous for the economy and the food supply.

The dyke was not only historically interesting but also entertaining from the sailing perspective. Once we arrived in front of the dyke, we had to wait for the traffic light to become green. We were not alone: a lot of other boats were waiting with us. And as the dam has been opened, everyone went chaotically into it. It looked like rush hours in the city centre!

the ancient Enkhuizen

Then, we kept on sailing until Enkhuizen, where we arrived at 8 p.m. This little town welcomes us with a parade of typical tall ships at the entrance of the harbour. They are known as the “Holland Sail fleet” and are composed of a variety of faster clippers or traditional tjalks – a dutch type of barge with a flat bottom instead of a keel. Each ship has a unique layout allowing for different numbers to stay on board.

Luckily, we found a place in the harbour that allow us to see these boats during the golden hour! 

After appreciating this view, we have taken a tour of the town on our bikes. 

There are places in Enkhuizen where it appears as though time has stopped. The ambience of the XVII century is still present throughout the city. Indeed, Enkhuizen was one of the most prosperous cities in the Netherlands in the 17th century. It gained power and influence – together with the city of Hoorn – as a member of the Dutch East India Company.

Happily, numerous stunning fortifications and monuments have survived. For instance, we had the pleasure to have a drink in front of the beautiful “Drommedaris”. It is the southern entrance to the city of Enkhuizen. The building, which was originally on the Westfriesian dike was constructed as a fortification structure at the entrance to the Old Harbor. Later, the dike section close to the Drommedaris was removed to make room for the new harbour. The building’s ground floor chamber and the artillery cellar both date to 1540 and are parts of the original structure. Both rooms have cannon holes in niches along the walls where cannons that could cover the harbours formerly stood. A rib vault is present in the upper room. There was a structure with still-existing prison cells on the roof above the building.

 

The discovery of Enkhuizen has been the perfect ending for one of the longest days ever.

six – harlingen – navignadum per hereditatem

On my last day on my own, I woke up to quite a stressful realisation.

Tides.

The Wadden Sea is one of the world’s largest tidal areas. The region stretches across three borders, from  Den Helder to Danish Esbjerg. The Wadden Sea is a one-of-a-kind see part of the UNESCO World Heritage. At least twice a day, the world changes. At one point, you come across a kilometre-long stretch of mud flats. The next thing you know, everything is submerged. The weather is frequently violent and difficult to predict. You must adapt if you want to survive. And it looks like Allegra and I will need to start our trip adapting as well. In fact, on top of the normal tide tomorrow Harlingen will experience another exceptional high tide from 10:20 to 14:40.

flat lands

Therefore tomorrow we will not be able to leave the harbour as soon as Allegra arrives around 12:30 as the two sluisen (dikes) will be closed in order to protect the city of Harlingen, its canals, and the whole countryside behind. In fact, the main characteristic of Dutch geography is the flatness of the land: about half of the territory is less than one metre above sea level and a substantial part (27% of the total area, where 21% of the population resides) is below sea level. The lowest point, 6.7 metres below sea level, is located near Rotterdam. The highest point, the Vaalserberg, has a height of 321 metres and is located in the southwest, at the convergence of the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Today, 65% of the Netherlands would be underwater without the system of dikes, sluices and canals that regulate its level: a cohabitation painstakingly built over two thousand years of complex relations between man and nature. A polder is a Dutch invention that changed the physiognomy of the Netherlands forever and has been used in various other parts of the world since. Polder is a Dutch word that originally denoted a plot of grassy land that emerged from shallow marshes, land of this kind, later reclaimed, reclaimed is now called polder. This is how the use of windmills developed, around the 17th century, which used the power of the wind to operate the pumps with which to draw water from the polders. To increase the land needed for agriculture and a growing population, the Dutch built bigger and bigger dams and canals. For the past sixty years, everyone has had their feet dry and agricultural land, nature reserves and housing areas have increased without harming the climate. If one compares two maps, one from the 14th century and the other from the present day, one realises that seventeen per cent of the country’s surface area has been claimed and obtained by water. After all, place names tell the story of centuries of Dutch engineering: ‘dam’ means dyke and the major cities have names associated with the first, ancient defence works. The Dutch have a unique bond with water, their best friend and most fearsome adversary. Economic prosperity has historically come along the waterways, a valuable element not only for trade but also for creating energy and for an agriculture that is now the world’s second-largest exporter after the United States. Water has, moreover, caused tragedies in the past, the last one in 1953. The flood came from the North Sea and eight thousand three hundred and sixty-one people died. The water swept away nine per cent of the cultivated area. 

outstanding protections

The Delta Works project defends the Netherlands from the enormous amount of freshwater they are crossed by and the salt water they are totally surrounded by. Thirteen large dykes have been built, together with sluices, tidal barriers, polders, and artificially dried land, most recently an entire province, Flevoland, in 1976. The Delta project, as far as large structures are concerned, was completed in 1997 and is characterised by its ability to give space to water when it is not dangerous. The work as a whole has been declared one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Such a high level of vigilance and protection is not improvised: the windmills, with their ability to pump water, are a symbol of the early efforts of the Dutch to protect themselves. The nineteen windmills built around 1740 near Dordrecht, in Kinderdijk, have been declared by Unesco as a common heritage site of outstanding universal value. The Zuiderzee, the gulf called the South Sea, was transformed into a lake in the last century: in 1918, civil engineer Cornelius Lely’s project was also approved after several floods, which put an end to the doubts of part of the public. 

necessary compromises 

All defence works are a compromise with nature: the dams allow, except in critical conditions, the normal flow and, in this way, clean water enters and polluted water leaves. The barriers have made room for large green areas: the Eastern Scheldt National Park has been carved out of dunes and sand and mud flats. Open dykes allow fish such as salmon or trout to migrate through special openings. More space is being created for some of the rivers to balance the impact of the works and also to create freshwater reserves that, it is estimated, will soon be precious. This is why the project involves the periodic flooding of some land considered indefensible and no longer inhabited. Living with water and even in water: a futuristic answer, but one that is very trendy, is the floating houses, usually, high-quality villas or duplexes, often designed by well-known architects, passive in terms of energy and super-technological in terms of equipment. The visual impact is remarkable. Indeed, environmental care, according to former Delta Works commissioner Peter Glas, must be taken responsibly, looking at the facts and listening to science. “We deal with, and prepare as best we can, even hypothetical scenarios. Even if the sea level were to rise by two metres.”

gezeiten

On top of that, in the North Sea, the currents are very strong and parallel to the coast. The sea is shallow and very flat, so much so that it looks like a continuum of land. The Wattenmeer (the sea between the coast and the Frisian Islands) has a depth of about 30 metres, while in the more central area of the North Sea it is about 200 metres deep. The Mediterranean Sea can be up to 4000 metres deep. The North Sea is therefore characterised by the large difference between the Flut (high) and Ebbe (low) tide. This major difference is due to the currents parallel to the coast and its shape. The tides depend on the attraction that the moon and the sun have on the earth. A lunar month lasts 28 days and is divided into four weeks in which the phases of the moon alternate: full moon, first quarter, new moon and last quarter. Each week the moon is in a different position in relation to the sun: there is a maximum tide in the full and new moon phases, i.e. when the moon and sun are aligned on the same axis. In this case, the vectors of the moon and sun add up and the tide is called a sigiziale. There is a minimum tide in the first and last quarter phases i.e. when the moon and sun are perpendicular and not on the same axis. 

why exceptional

Tomorrow we will not only have flut tide, but an exceptionally high one, a trend more and more common in the Netherlands because the sea level has risen by 12 to 20 centimetres between 1902 and 2010. The rate at which sea levels are rising has accelerated. It has risen twice as fast in recent years as it did in the twentieth century, at a rate of 4 to 5 millimetres per year. The rate at which the sea level is rising also continues to increment. The study “Effects of sea-level rise on tides and sediment dynamics in a Dutch tidal bay” demonstrated that sea-level rise (SLR) not only increases the risk of coastal flooding, but it also has the potential to change tidal regimes in estuaries and coastal bays. The study considered the impact of SLR on tidal dynamics in the adjacent North Sea. The findings show that compared to the nearby shelf sea, the bay experiences higher increases in tidal amplitude and stronger nonlinear tidal distortion as a result of SLR up to 2 meters. Tidal asymmetry during SLR up to 2 meters influences an essential part of sediment transport. The altered tidal asymmetry may result in increased export when merely taking into account sand bed-load transfer, which could have effects on coastline management.

As a result, I will simply need to leave Noorderhaven earlier in the morning and dock outside the dike on the incredibly high Waddenzee while waiting for Allegra’s arrival. Thankfully the harbourmaster will be my crew for a few minutes of support, and the Harlingen harbour authority will allow Tetide to dock right outside the dike, basically in front of the train station. Not too bad at the end of the day, but not thinking about the tangibility of climate change impact is impossible.