My mother and I set out for our Essential Holland and Belgium Avalon River Cruise knowing that our panoramic suite, discovery dining and personalized service would be spectacular. What we did not realize is that this journey would open our eyes to the dance between Mother Nature’s water and the need for human ingenuity and architecture to keep millions of people, literally, afloat. The majority of the Netherlands lie below sea level and would either be uninhabitable swampland or under water without the many creations to take care of it. These creations have led to a land of wonder and beauty.
Our river cruise started in the modern capitol of Amsterdam with its roadways of bicyclists from the babies in baskets to the grandparents peddling to the markets. It seemed that everyone had a bike and it made us wonder how anyone manages to re-locate their own bike in the seas of racks throughout the city. There are over 60 miles of canals and 1500 bridges here which date back to the 17th century. The planning was done for defense, water management and exploration. We were able to experience it through a canal tour with a local guide who explained the architecture, history and views along the way.
We sailed next to Delft which is known for its famous blue pottery and good shopping. Many garden and flower enthusiasts will sail this route in the springtime which allows them to experience the Keukenhof Gardens where 7 million tulip bulbs are planted and the seas of colors enjoyed. We could only imagine the additional beauty to sail at that time of year.
The following day we sailed our way to Kinderdijk where there are still 19 windmills from the 1700’s in operation. They were built as a water management system to prevent flooding. Each windmill housed the family of a “miller” who would maintain the windmill 24:7 including fixing paddles, putting on and off the flaps, changing directions etc. We were able to go in and imagine a life with these sounds and responsibilities as well as figuring out where they kept their large families in such a small and unique space. These windmills are still in operation today for this display with most being run by a couple with an interest in the history as most water issues are now addressed by electric pumps in our current day.
The next architectural wonder we took in was the Delta Waterworks in Veere. In 1953 a flood killed over 1800 people so this storm flood barrier of over 6 miles was envisioned and built over 30 years. To see the history of the tragedy as well as logistics of the operation was awe inspiring.
These amazing experiences were only a small fraction of the interesting things that we saw and were shared by our expert local guides. All of these paired with the luxury and convenience of Avalon’s river cruise experience made for a memorable adventure. We cannot wait for the next one!