Day 1 Saturday Amsterdam, embarkation between 1 PM and 2 PM; sailing to Uithoorn; roundtrip, 15 km
When you arrive on board the ship, you can put your luggage away in your cabin and then enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. It is also a good moment to become acquainted with the guide, skipper and crew and of course your fellow passengers.
Amsterdam is a city to be explored on foot and we recommend the following places of interest: the rings of canals; the Jordaan area, with its many pubs, outdoor cafés and quaint shops; Vondelpark with its open air concerts; Leidseplein; Rembrandtsplein; the antique shops in the Spiegel district; Museum Square with the Rijksmuseum (National Museum), Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art), Van Gogh Museum and off course the Anne Frank House. Other typical features of Amsterdam are its numerous 'hofjes' (almshouses), the floating flower market, and the hundreds of houseboats lining the canals. Amsterdam is inextricably related to the diamond-cutting industry, which has brought much fame to the city since the 17th century.
During dinner aboard the ship, the program for the next day and the global planning of the week are discussed.
After dinner you will make your first kilometers on your bike.
Day 2 Sunday Uithoorn – Gouda, 45 km
From Uithoorn, we will continue our tour over country roads, banks and channels through the Green Heart and polders to the city known for its cheese: Gouda.
Who thinks of Gouda, not only thinks of cheese, pipes, ‘stroopwafels’ (treacle-waffle) and pottery, but also of stained-glass windows, a fairy-like town hall and atmospheric canals. Gouda is beautiful Old-Dutch city with a mostly intact city centre.
The ‘St. Janskerk’, Gouda’s 123-metre-long church, with its renowned ‘Goudse Glazen’ (leaded light windows), the beautiful gothic town hall and the ‘Waag’ (a building once used for weighing cheese) are absolutely worth a visit. Furthermore, one should not forget the Goudse Kaas- en Ambachtenmuseum (Museum of Cheese and Crafts museum), the Museum of Dutch Resistance, the ‘Weeshuisplein’ (famous square), the Catharinatuin, patios around the city and the Museumhaven, a harbor where historical ships are moored.
As on most days, after dinner we will take a walk through the city.
Day 3 Monday Gouda – Alblasserdam and ferry to Dordrecht, 39 km
Today we will cycle along the Dutch Ijssel, through the deepest lying polder of the Netherlands: Krimpenerwaard and over narrow cycling paths to the river ‘Lek’. Here we will cross the river by ferry to Kinderdijk, a unique and renowned monument where Holland’s largest number of historical windmills is found.
From the embankments of the river Lek, we will witness an amazing view of the 19 windmills, which are now listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage site. This is where we will take a break and visit the interior of a windmill.
After a beautiful tour through the Alblasserwaardpolder we will arrive at the banks of the river ‘Beneden-Merwede’.
A modern, fast ferry will take us over to Dordrecht, one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands, situated at a busy crossing of fairways. Dordrecht was known as ‘Thuredrech’ in the eleventh century. In the year 1220 it received its municipal laws from Count Willem I of Holland. In the Middle Ages, around the year 1350, Dordrecht grew to be an important port town with Staple rights, allowing ships to transport and sell their goods in its harbor. The fifteenth century was a time of disasters for this city: siege, flooding’s and the city fire. The city survived all of its troubles and played an important role in Dutch politics. The first open State assembly with representatives of Holland was held here in 1572 in the ‘Hof’, a former Augustine monastery. This assembly can be seen as start of Holland as an independent country as the resistance against Spain was formed here. In the sixteenth century Dordrecht loses its leading position as trade city to Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Day 4 Tuesday: Dordrecht, sailing to Willemstad, cycling to Zierikzee, 54 km
From Dordrecht we will sail to the Delta area of the Dutch greater rivers during breakfast. Years ago, an open connection existed with the sea due to the many tributaries in this area.
After the disastrous flooding in 1953, the Deltaplan was developed and most tidal outlets were closed from the sea by dams. Most parts of Zeeland were, and still are, under sea level and in 1953 the embankments were too weak and too low, causing this area to be at risk for flooding’s once in every 80 years. Now, because of the flood barriers, that chance is reduced to less than once every 4000 years.
In Willemstad, an old fortified town, we start our cycle tour and ride over the Volkerakbrug (with beneath it, one of the busiest locks in the world) to the former island of Goeree-Overvlakkee. Nowadays, this land is easy to reach by embankments and bridges, all part of the Deltaplan of 1953 now protecting the southwestern part of the Netherlands against the rough sea.
Just before reaching our destination of today (Zierikzee, on the island of Schouwen-Duivenland) we will visit the ‘Watersnoodmuseum’. This museum tells the tragic events of 1953 and is built in recently renewed caissons, once used for the last closure gap. This was done in November 1953, ten months after the storm surge which broke through more than 300 embankments.
A shorter version of today’s route is offered by sailing to Bruinisse, from where the group of remaining cyclists can be joined to Zierikzee, after which the Watersnoodmuseum is visited.
Zierikzee is a beautiful town and the centre of the ‘mussel culture’. The ‘Zeeuwse mosselen’ (blue mussels) are a renowned delicacy.
Day 5 Wednesday Zierikzee-Middelburg-Vlissingen, 51 or 32 km
On this day we will cycle towards the North Sea, along the Oosterschelde to the Oosterscheldedam.
Enormous locks are built in this embankment, that can be closed during storms and high tides protecting the south-west of the Netherlands against the sea.
This embankment was one of the last in a series of barriers against the sea. When cycling along the embankment, one will realize why this has been one of the most difficult and costly challenges to protect the country now and in the future and to let seawater into the widespread Delta area. It is precisely why the Deltaworks are referred to as the one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
After this dam we will paddle to Middelburg, but not without visiting the picturesque port town of Veere.
Middelburg is the lively principal town of Zeeland with many old houses, churches, the beautiful town hall and a pleasant shopping. Also to be found in Middelburg is the Roosevelt Academy, a liberal arts college, located in the former late-gothic town hall on the market of Middelburg.
If possible, during dinner we will sail to Vlissingen. This lovely port town is situated at the Westerschelde and at sea. A walk through the town and over its boulevard is absolutely worth a visit!
Day 6 Thursday Middelburg-Sas van Gent, 48 km. Sailing to Ghent
The grand passing!
With the unique cycle ferry to Breskens in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (Dutch-Flanders). We are getting close to Belgium.
We will arrive at the Dutch-Belgian border in Sas van Gent, the former gateway to the harbor of Ghent, through an area with small villages, along creeks, bending embankments and beautiful panoramas.
After a short journey of 1.5 hours, we will arrive in Ghent. From the pier, we can simply take the tram to the medieval centre of this beautiful city.
The city of Ghent has approximately 250.000 citizens. Its name presumable derived from the Celtic word ‘Ganda’, which means as much as mouth or junction. Indeed: in the city the rivers ‘Leie’ and Scheldt merge. In 630 Saint Amand established the St. Baafsabdij. In medieval times Ghent grew to be one of the most important cities of Europe (with approximately 56.000 citizens in 1350) due to its linen industry. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century conflicts occurred in the city and battles were often fought with Lords of Flanders. The old city offers many well kept craftsmen houses, Patrician houses and old storehouses, the Gravensteen (medieval castle), the St. Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas’ church, dating from the year 1200), St. Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo Cathedral from the fourteenth century, with the painting ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by Van Eyck, internationally known as the Ghent Altarpiece) and last but not least, the Belfort (Bell Tower, fourteenth century). Furthermore, the city centre has many squares and pleasant pubs. Ghent is a lively town with a stunning mixture of medieval buildings, chic shopping areas with beautiful mansions, old workers districts from the early twentieth century which now house hundreds of students and busy squares where one can sit and enjoy warm summer nights until the early hours…
Day 7 Friday Ghent-Bruges, 45 km
This morning we will cycle through Ghent to the scenic countryside of Oost-Vlaanderen (East-Flanders). Characteristic for this are the woods, fields, small villages and castles.
From the Aalterbrug the last part of this route takes us over the former tow path along the canal of Oostende-Gent, the oldest canal of Belgium, to Bruges.
The impressive city of Bruges is the end destination of this bike and barge trip. We will pay a visit to the medieval city of Bruges at the end of this day and many of you are likely to stay another day in this beautiful city….
Bruges is known for its production of linen that used to be distributed all over Europe. Around 1350 the city counted more than 40.000 citizens, double the amount of citizens that live in the city centre now. During the fourteenth century the second city wall was built. Four mills still stand upon that wall today.
In the fifteenth century, Bruges was under control of dukes of Burgundy. They brought luxury and prosperity to the city: the growth of arts and banking. From this period much has remained: the town hall, the many ‘natiehuizen’ en churches, mausoleums of Marie of Burgundy (Duchess of Cleves) and Charles the Bold. At the end of the fifteenth century, the Burgundy court disappeared in Bruges, which marks the end of a prosperous period. Due to the silting of the coastal area, the city was no longer accessible for vessels, which resulted in Bruges losing its position to Antwerp. In 1584 the city was concurred by the Spanish. Religious wars and the closing of the sea caused Bruges to fall into decay. Bruges developed into a poor city in the nineteenth century and missed the industrialization. It is partly because of the novel ‘Bruges la Morte’ (1892) from G. Rodenbach, that brought Bruges back into the picture, growing into a city of arts and later into a touristic centre. Some sites of interest are: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady), Belort and Hallen, Gruuthusemuseum (museum of applied arts of Bruges) and the Kantcentrum (Lace Centre).
Day 8 Saturday Bruges
End of this trip after breakfast before 10 AM.