Monday, January 17, 2011

A Zaltbommel Joyride

Some Dutch words you just have to twist your tongue around and then go on from there. Zaltbommel, a town just 11 miles away, is one of them. We've passed it often on the freeway and every time, seeing the tall church tower, have said we would stop one day. That one day was yesterday.

We've had so many rainy days since the New Year, not conducive for photo hunts. Taking advantage of being at home is nice know us...we were getting antsy. When Sunday chose to be partly sunny on a windy, mid-40s day, we didn't have to ask twice. It was time to go. Because of all the rain, Astrid wanted to see how high the river was. The Merwede River borders one side of our town and is one of the freighter routes to Rotterdam. We had heard that the locals were going out to see how high it had risen, with unusual amounts of snow melting into the country from Germany, Austria and Belgium. Remember, God created the world but the Dutch created Holland! Holland is HERE because of the technology that keeps the water out. Think windmills...and the dijks.

Basically, a dike is a man-made raised stretch of ground, just wide enough to drive along, keeping the water from a river away from the 'dry' land on the other side. The Dutch have been reclaiming their land and building onto it for centuries. They don't talk about Dutch engineering for nothing!

So as we drove along the dike, from one small town to the next...on our way to Zaltbommel...we saw just how high the water had risen. Granny Towanda fell silent. She never once chided me for all the times I got in and out to take pictures. She knew this was important.

The narrow dike roads, as you see, are not just for cars! So whenever I get out, I have to always pay attention. Lucky for me, I caught this group of cyclists out of the corner of my eye and was prepared for them as they flew by. The top image above gives you a good vantage point for seeing the sea level on the right side of the dike. This is what they mean when they say much of Holland is below sea level: approximately 27%.

Life goes on as usual, of course, for those who don't have a clue....

...but trust me, those who do are diligent in their work to keep the system going.
These huge piles of willow branches are the subflooring of the dikes, giving them a solid foundation. They're also used for fences. It was comforting to see the supply...for the demand.

We're still trying to figure out what in the world this guy was thinking!
If you have a clue, please let us know. Is this his lookout point over the dike to make sure no looters come by sea to take away what rightfully belongs to him?

We're still on our way to Zaltbommel, remember, on this side of the river. Our side, that is. Just before it's time to cross the big bridge to reach Zaltbommel on the other side, we stop in Haaften to see what that ruin of a tower is all about, near the windmill (above collage). Once home, Astrid discovered it's the Goudenstein Castle, built, they think, at the beginning of the 14th century.

Then we see it: the big tower of the Zaltbommel church, across the river, and the bridge we will need to cross to get there. This is my first time, from this vantage point on the dike, to see there is also another tower. Once in town, I was able to get these close-ups (above) and then found out at home it's the Gasthuiskapel, the chapel from the hospital built in 1316. We didn't visit it this time...maybe the next time.

Our destination this time was the Sint Maartenskerk in Zaltbommel...St. Martin's Church, built in the 15th century. It's closed to the public in January and February, so we will have to go back, and will. We'll want to climb the tower as well, maybe during the springtime.

And so it was that we had our first Sunday joyride of 2011. Another windmill or two, a castle, a spire, a church clock and tower, some sheep, and even another weather vane and water tower. Noord, Zuid, Oost of West. North, south, east or matters not to us. A joyride is a joyride and it's much of what makes us tick here in this dynamite of a country.


  1. Another marvelous collection of images... the collages are such a good way to share more at no loss to the beauty of the individual images in each... I particularly LOVE old buildings and recall taking LOADS of images on my first trip to Amsterdam... wandering the canals and seeing all the really old architecture was made especially nice in that I had a 'local' good friend as my guide and he knew a LOT about the history of the buildings and styles of architecture.

    But I digress... your architectural collage makes me want to go there and see this place myself... one day! (so many places I want to go and yet I remain stuck here at home for the time being) The images of the water coming right up to nearly level on the dike are amazing... love the cyclists in their matching outfits! And of course... the windmills and the farm animals. (oblivious to it all... would that I could be so blissfully ignorant sometimes!)

    I will be off on Thursday to spend time with a sick brother so may not have a chance to post/visit as much as usual. Have a great week and know that I will be checking in when I do have a chance to see your next adventure!

  2. That sounds like us, as soon as we think we need some fresh air, we're off... OUT... doing things, seeing things.
    I know the water is high and I love to see that, it makes me realise that nature does what it likes to do and I never underestimate it.
    That chair and the gun, I think the father of the family is on top of that roof every weekend and sees if his daughter is brought home in time...if not, the gun will be fired at the boy-friend....
    We will go back to Zaltbommel, we did not see it all yet.
    Thank you again for making this post, it is a very nice overview what we did on 'just another Sunday afternoon'

  3. Victoria: I don't know what I'd do without the collages! They mean I don't have to create photo albums anymore. Thank you for commenting on them. If ever you come over, please let us know and we'll be your tour guides. We'll make it worth your time, trust me.

    I'm sorry to hear about your brother. He's lucky to have you. Do your own thing and come back when you can. I wish you and him the best.

    Astrid: I know you by now and how you HAVE to be outside whenever possible. I'm seeing this as typical Dutch...and maybe am becoming like you in this regard. It feels good!

    Your stories always make me laugh...the ones you make up when you see something like the chair and gun up on the chimney. Your version makes more sense than mine. HA! And yes, we'll go back when we can go inside the church and see all those houses on the river. It's a date.

  4. Is the water level way out of ordinary? I'm not sure how much sleep I'd be getting on the left side of the road in the photo you showed. Looks like New Orleans all over again! I love the old castle tower is in two people's back yards! Surprised you didn't knock and ask to get closer - but then again, you've got your "big baby" lens with you, so I guess no need. I can't believe the photo ops you have. I'd never get anywhere - my kids already complain enough whenever I pull over for "just a minute". I like the comment about how life goes on for those who have not clue ... not so bad being a chicken or a goat maybe! :)

  5. Margaret: Yes, the water is way higher than ordinary and at a worrisome level because it's still only January! There is still a lot of snow in the countries east of us that will melt into Holland. So yes, it is a concern, especially for the people on the water side. We saw many homes that had water at their foundation, but as Astrid said, they're just stupid to build there and are taking life at their own risk. Anyway, everyone is paying attention, for sure.

    The photo ops here in my backyard often blow me away. I'm just glad I have no kids in the car to roll their eyes...just Astrid, who totally understands and encourages me. Thanks for your encouragement, too.

  6. The photo of the sea level on one side is powerful, thank you, I'll never forget it and how it helps me understand that country.

    So frightening about the cyclists coming up so quietly if you weren't paying attention. I've nearly been run over by single cyclists on campus on the sidewalk when I just start turning in, and there they are coming up behind!

    Wonderful to see your first outing of the year!

  7. it's so much fun taking a road trip with you gals. you seem to know where i wanted to go each week :)

    keep on exploring. it enriches us.

  8. I had assumed that the dikes were simply earthen strucures - quite interesting to see the pile of willow branches waiting to be pressed into service. I love the details of your posts, Ginnie - you've got a fine eye and the instincts of a historian/journalist/detective!

    Rising water would make me nervous, but I guess the Dutch get somewhat inured to that. You'd have to be, since the threat is nearly constant, I imagine.

    Now I'm off for breakfast - traveling with you has given me an appetite!

  9. Ruth: I never understood dikes until I came here to live! Having all this water flooding in makes me understand it even more, almost to the point of being worried. But I trust they all know what they're doing...and have done for centuries.

    It IS frightening to be out-n-about on the back roads (or city roads, too!) if you're not paying attention. Bicyclists are everywhere, zooming past. By now I really know I must pay attention. I hope I never forget! Thanks.

    PC: I love it that you follow us on our trips, Maria, just like we follow you. Just think of how much we get to see through each other's eyes! :)

    Deborah: You're most kind and I thank you. If I don't write everything down right away, along with the images, I'm so afraid I won't rememeber the half of it...or what goes with what. This blog has become my salvation to log it all in. Thanks for appreciating it.

    The water was never worrisome to me before this year. This is when I now need to trust they all know what they're doing. And as Astrid says, it's only January. Much more water will come into the country. Today the sun is shining, which hopefully helps?

    HA! I love how you've now got an appetite. That makes me smile. :)

  10. There is a lot of ivy or some type of vine on the roof of that old house in your collage next to the windmill. We bought a small plant and placed it in the yard years ago and there was some ivy in it, now the ivy is growing up on all the tall pine trees around the house.
    Aren’t collages great? I don’t know what I would do without them. I like to be able to see so many views of your surroundings.

    The neat thing about being in a compact country like Holland is that you don’t have to drive miles to see different landscapes and historical monuments. When I think about driving from Kennesaw to Stone Mountain on I-285 what do I see during these 50 miles? Not much. I bet your scenery is a lot more varied when you drive 50 miles or 80 kms.

  11. Vagabonde: I love certain kinds of ivy that grows like a weed. It makes a good ground cover. And yes, I don't know what I'd do without collages. They have totally changed my blogging life. :) You've been part of my inspiration, truth be known.

    I so agree about a 'compact country' like Holland. It still amazes me how close everything is. I could drive an hour in Atlanta and still be in the same city!

  12. It seems from your picture like high water is coming again to Europe - this would be the 2nd year with flood:( I liked the 15th century church, pity that it was closed but surely it is worth reterurning.
    The gun on the roof-like in the USA:)

  13. It looks and sounds like you had a great outing. Lots to see and explore. I could have fun there. :)

  14. Ola: The water levels are definitely worrisome right now. Let's hope the dikes do their job!

    Tim: You'd be in heaven here! Thanks.

  15. Granny Clampett called and she would like her shotgun back.

    All your photos are wonderful, as usual; the last two are my favorites!

    Your summary of 2010 is awesome! Those gevelstenen!

  16. DB: HAHAHAHA about Granny Clampett. I love it. It always amazes me what images people pick up on as their favorites, so thanks for adding that. And I also thank you for your comment on my 2010 summary. It was a very soulful exercise for me! :) I've decided to do it every year, if possible.

  17. Joy rides and photography definitely make me tick too! Love seeing and reading about your adventures... It was very special for me to do this in Switzerland as well. I am definitely not as motivated in Canada, but sometimes I'm sure I'll do it, especially with this year off, I hope to photograph a bit walking at least...

  18. ET: Maybe you'll have a chance to do what you want to do this year off work, Jen. I hope so. I hope you will feel well enough and motivated...and maybe even take the baby with you!

  19. So interesting! Each trip you take is like a lesson in social studies (you know, history and geography all rolled into one). I love your photos and explanations. You make the Netherlands come alive.

  20. Karen: Your comment is so soulful to me. THANK YOU. This is what my blog is all about. Thanks for nailing it for me.

  21. Another wonderful journey through some extraordinary countryside. I look at the photos of the dikes and water, and marvel all over again that the Dutch were rebuffed twice by the US in recent history - when they offered advice to New Orleans after Katrina, and when they offered to help with oil skimming after the BP debacle.

    It's just so terribly American to think we have the solution to everything. We do very well, but we don't have a monopoly on cleverness, ingenuity and success. I hope this year's waters don't require even more ingenuity for the Dutch.

    As for the chimney-chair - it seems there may be a new chimney-art movement taking place. I've searched but can't find two photos I've seen of such things. One had a fellow sitting in a chair reading a kindle, and the other had four cats, one on each side of the chimney, peering down. Very strange.

    I know you've mentioned in the comments which program you use to do the collages, but I can't find it. Is it flickr?

    I think my favorite image here is of the Gasthuiskapel. The round, onion-like dome feels unusual, as though a Ukranian on the design team insisted on having a say!

  22. SA: Your comments about Dutch expertise and engineering are not lost on me, Linda. Thankfully the waters here have been receding since I took these photos. It appears there's no danger now.

    And the chimney? It would be fun to collect all the pictures there are out there and make up our own stories. HA!

    I use Picnik for my collages and am thrilled to have it at my fingertips...worth every penny. It has revolutionized how I show/store my photos. As long as I can stay on top of things, I will leave a good trail behind us, I hope, for the day when we want to leaf through the memories! There's no other way I would be able to keep everything organized as to when and where!

    We will go back to see that Gasthuiskapel, for sure. It intrigues me, too! :) Thanks.