On an informative walking tour with Pablo, our Spanish guide, we learnt about Belgium’s capital, Brussels! We start our tour in the Grand Place, the gorgeous central square. Our friendly small group tour included Jack from America & Louise from France.
The amazing 15th century gothic City Hall is a focal point. It managed to survive the 1695 French bombardment – even though it was their primary target!!
Fabulous, antique guild-halls that surround the square are adorned with fine gables, gold statues and symbols.
There is a trail of 50 “street murals” that can pleasantly surprise and amuse you as you head down a small laneway! . . . . “Tin Tin” famous boy and dog cartoon among them.
Have you heard of ”Manneken Pis ?!” This fountain statue of a little boy urinating is comically tiny and is said to be a “perversely perfect national symbol for surreal Brussels!” The statue is often dressed in costumes to celebrate national days or local events. Eg footy jumper if their teams wins! He has been a national icon since 1618 !
Somehow we lose Bev . . . . but then we find her testing out this “groovy” bike . . . . exhausted she then collapses onto the Brass Deck-chair and falls asleep in the sun !!?!
On the way to Zeeland (the west coast of The Netherlands) to visit the “The Delta Project”, we stop at small towns. In Middleburg a procession of vintage tractors parade past Bruce.
This house was built in 1582 (you can see the numbers spread across the front).
Walking around the old town is interesting & Mark is puzzled by this shopkeepers message!! Other than Nectarines . . . . its all double-dutch to us!! Hang-on . . . . we do know that kersen means cherries!!
Traveling the N57 highway, you are ON the front-lines of the Dutch war with the sea as you traverse the massive developments of The Delta Project: a succession of huge dijks (dykes), dams and flood gates designed to prevent floods. This project is listed as a Wonder of the Modern World.
“Begun in 1958, The Delta Project consumed billions of Guilders, millions of labour hours and untold volumes of concrete and rock before it was completed in 1997. The goal was to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic floods of 1953, when a huge storm surge rushed up the delta estuaries of Zeeland and broke through inland dijks. This caused a serial failure of dijks throughout the region, and much of the province was flooded and nearly 2,000 people killed……. Although the entire, enormous project was finally completed 18 years ago, work is ongoing to strengthen and heighten portions to deal with rising water levels due to climate change. (Lonely Planet – The Netherlands)”
The original idea immediately following the flood was to dam the entire coastline – prevent the sea from entering the delta and control the release of water from the rivers (Rhine being the main tributary). But by the 1960’s this kind of sweeping transformation became unacceptable – and the cost would have been prohibitive also – so with Dutch public opinion becoming more environmentally aware, the largest part of the delta was left open to the sea – and a 6km causeway with 65 huge flood-gates was installed. When a flood tide is threatened, the gates are closed to prevent the excessive water making its way inland. We spent the entire day on Sunday being informed and entertained at Waterland Neeltje Jans (www.neeltjejans.nl) – the visitor information centre combines now with a Water Theme Park!
The entry to the harbour of Rotterdam is protected by two massive gates that swing into position on a threatened tidal event – preventing traffic moving in and out to sea – and protecting the country from another flood. It was necessary to close these gates in February this year!!
On advice from fellow travelers, Nick and Ada, we park Bruce in a prime position overlooking the Maas River, in historic Maassluis!!
Maassluis is another beautiful old town with many boats and cafes.
Maurice and Mary, Stu and Macca, are fellow Australians with whom our paths have crossed in the past few days – on their own cycling adventures!
Maurice and Mary from Brisbane, have completed 2 months and have clocked up 3,500 km !!
Stu gave Macca a 10th birthday present of cycling from the start of the Rhine in Swiss Alps, along its complete length through Rotterdam to the sea!! Switzerland, Germany, France & Netherlands – 17 days – good birthday present – just the two of them!!
Cycling along the canals to Dordrecht there are many picturesque scenes!
Our next overnight stop is . . . . beside Noah’s Ark!! See photographic evidence !! . . . . complete with giraffe!! (there was one at the other end also, of course – two by two!!) The Ark is life-size!!