Saturday, April 17, 2021

Four seasons in one week (plus a little bit of local history)

This past week has been both bizarre and typical in terms of April weather. I well remember when I first arrived in the Oude Haven that on one particular day we had all four seasons within twelve hours. Well, this last week has been the same and particularly last Sunday. I took the photo below on Saturday as I was walking along the river in Rotterdam. Despite being quite cold, it was a lovely day with big, clumpy clouds and not hint of what was to come.

On Sunday morning, the world had changed. I awoke on Vereeniging to rain beating a fast tattoo on the hatches. When I looked outside, though, it had morphed into hail, which was then followed by quite heavy snow. I was due to head south again and as I'd left my car outside the city limits to save parking fees, I could see I was in for a frigid walk to the tram stop a kilometre from the boat. It was just my luck that due to work on the tracks, our usual tram wasn't running. The slightly skew photo below shows how it was beginning to settle on the cars and streets. However, by the time I'd driven over the Maas and onto the southern highways, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining with intent. But it didn't last. 

For the remainder of my journey through Zeeland, I was dodging swarms of angry hail showers. Although I managed to do much of the drive in dry, sunny conditions, I saw clouds heavy with hail and snow all around me and the wind was both biting and strong.

The rest of the week has been dry, but still very cold for most of the day. I did manage an afternoon's painting on the Hennie H and smartened up her derrière. I have yet to see if my paintwork has survived the below freezing nights though as I had to return to Rotterdam for work again on Thursday. Tomorrow will tell! Some of you might have noticed Koos's crane on the rear deck. For more on that and why it's there, next week's post will reveal all ...

In my ongoing attempt to beat the Covid blues, I've been doing my daily walks. They also stop my joints rusting up and seizing, something of a danger for me when it's cold unless I keep them moving. One of my favourite rambles is around the old canal arms in Sas van Gent where the HH is moored.  The waterside walls in the photo above are, in fact, one of the old locks or sas from which the town gets its name; the settlement developed around the first sas built here in 1551. 

I was standing at the closed-off end of the lock when I took this photo. These days it's only used as a free swimming pool for the local children and a place where dogs like to nip in for a dip, but I'm glad it's still there and has been preserved. The town's original 16th and later 17th century locks have long been filled in. 

And of course, this photo is of the modern canal with one of the massive sea-going ships being towed from Terneuzen to Ghent. This one was accompanied by three muscular tugs. I stood and watched them until they'd passed ... a wonderful way to waste time.

Here's a map to put all the old arms in context. It's interesting to see how the canal has grown over the years and following the path around the old cuts makes a lovely walk. In fact the modern course is also wider and deeper than it was in the 19th century. It was expanded to its current size in the 1960s and of course there are no longer any locks at Sas. They are all in Terneuzen now.

I like the fact that the history of Sas is so tied up to Ghent's and one interesting titbit I've learnt is that originally, the canal from Ghent stopped at (approximately) what is now Sas because the Gentenaars weren't allowed to dig through a dike that crossed the waterway. It was only under Charles V (he of the Holy Roman Empire) that permission was granted to build a lock through the dike so that shipping didn't have to be carried over it and transferred to boats on the other side before completing their journey to Terneuzen. This transfer was known as 'Overslag' and today, there is still a village of that name that straddles the border. 

Finding out the exact course of the earliest canal is not something I've managed to do yet, but suffice to say, the Hennie Ha's home port owes existence to my favourite of all Belgian cities.

That's it for this week allemaal. Next week's post is going to be an interesting one so watch this space!

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Rambling around Rotterdam

Last week, we had spring with a real bounce. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the temperatures were in the mid-twenties and we were shedding coats and jumpers with gay abandon. It was a short-lived joy, though. By Friday, the mercury had fallen to the early teens and overnight, we were down to low single figures. Even so, we had a lovely Easter weekend in Rotterdam as the photos below will, I hope, depict. I took them all when we decided to do a 'tour' of the harbours. The afternoon sun lacked warmth, but the cool temperature didn't stop people getting out and about to simply enjoy the bright day and the fresh air. 

Indeed, some even went so far as to have some watery fun. There's no accounting, is there? Well, at least the water they were sitting in was warm, but it must have been pretty chilly all the same.

Even when the temperatures are in single figures, there's
no stopping some people.

This little floating house here is one of two holiday apartments called Wikkelboat, and I noticed they have been fully occupied too over the Easter holiday. I think 'tiny houses' are incredibly cute, especially as these are tiny houseboats as well. I've added the link to their website to the name.

A tiny floating holiday home nestled among the boats
in the harbour, called the Wikkelboat

Our walk took us along the inner harbours of the city, which is where we often do our spuddles in the rowing boat and also on the Vereeniging. It's a never failing delight to see what is moored up along the quays of the Wijnhaven, whose name is derived from its former main trade, but that was in pre-war days.

The Wijnhaven, so called because wine was the mainstay of
the trade in this quarter of Rotterdam.

And at the end of the Wijnhaven is the largest of the floating museum collection in the Leuvehaven, quiet now because of the restrictions, but there are still plenty of people walking around and looking at the old craft from the quays.


As offshoots from the Leuvehaven, there are two other short harbours by the name of Bierhaven and Rederijhaven. In times gone by, the Bierhaven was also home to the companies trading in that all too popular beverage (beer), while its neighbour, the Rederijhaven was for the shipping companies (rederij meaning 'shipping'). The last harbour on our round is the Scheepmakershaven (literally ship makers) and this one leads us all the way back to the Oude Haven. I'm so pleased they've kept their original names and despite the modern high-rise flats, these harbours, which are now home to a collection of historic barges, still retain that feeling of the businesses they used to serve.



The Rederijhaven, also taking its name from its main function
which was home to the shipping companies (rederij)


For anyone who'd like to see where we were, here's a screenshot of the map showing the three harbours  we walked around.

Wijnhaven (at the top), Bierhaven,
Rederijhaven and Scheepmakershaven

And here it is in the context of the entire museum harbour complex. The Oude Haven is in the centre of the image.

On our way back to the Vereeniging, it was becoming quite cold, and I spotted this contented kitty sitting in the wheelhouse of one of the barges. She or he looks very happy and was probably conscious of the fact it was a much better place to be than outside.

Contented kitty

One of the big advantages about the curfew from my perspective (which is a very selfish one) is that there is no noise at night in our Oude Haven. What bliss it has been to be there at a weekend and sleep peacefully. Nevertheless, I hope sincerely that the situation improves soon and that the cafés and restaurants can get back to business again. For their sakes, I could handle a bit of noise now.

Enjoy the rest of your week, allemaal, and I hope the sun is shining on you wherever you are. We have snow, hail, showers and sunshine today, and that's for starters. It's blowing a gale as well. Happy days!! 


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

My podcast: for the record :)

 If anyone's interested, I did a podcast a little while back with Alan Parks on his show A Cup of Tea with Alan. The host, Alan Parks, lives in Andalucia, Spain and he does all these interviews from his home, which is completely off-grid. All the podcasts are with authors and he's done several other interviews with some great and very interesting writers, some of whom readers here might find interesting too. 

The connection on mine wasn't the best: an off-grid farm to a barge in Rotterdam doesn't always make for the clearest reception, but it adds a bit of interest! 

The link to the podcast is here: