Another impressive thing in the Netherlands were old towns and canals. Even though cities have mainly modern buildings (at least that was our experience), in some cities the old town is well preserved in the center of the city. We visited two such old city centers: Amersfort and Delft. You can find here everything what you picture Holland would be: canals and cobblestone streets lined with narrow old houses. We naturally took a boat tour on the canals – it’s a good way to make sightseeing fun for the kids. Here are some pictures of Amersfort:
Delft is famous for the Delft Blue china produced in town which has characteristic blue decorations. It also has a very nice historic downtown. We visited the main square with the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) and the City Hall (Stadhuis).
Delft has an important place in dutch history. The founder of the royal family, Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), was assassinated in Delft in 1584. At the time the Netherlands was fighting for its independence from Spanish occupation and Willem of Oranje was the leader of the movement. His body was laid to rest in the Nieuwe Kerk and since then numerous royals from the House of Orange has been buried here. I thought it was funny how the brochure that we got in the church gave a detailed description of what the Dutch did to the assassin, named Balthasar Gerard. Upon further reading I learned that indeed he was tortured and killed brutally, ‘even by the standards of the time’. I guess you don’t cross the Dutch!
Tim, Daniel and Panka walked up to the tower of the church (many hundreds of steps up) where you can have a nice view of the city. The picture of the Stadhuis was taken from atop the Nieuw Kerk.
Tim’s mom and dad imigrated from the Netherlands and visit there regulary. So this year we spent 10 days with them in Nunspeet, a small village in the middle of the country.
One of the most impressive things in the Netherlands was the transportation – specifically, the train system and the frequent use of bikes. We ditched the car on this trip and used trains and bikes for all of our transportation. We visited a couple of old towns (Delft, Amersfort, post on these trips upcoming…) by train, and there were always frequently running trains and convenient connections for wherever we went. Dora’s favorite was the double decker train.
When moving within the town, bike is the most convenient form of transportation. Tim’s aunt, Tante Iet, lives in Nunspeet so we borrowed her and her neighbor’s bike to move around town. Panka loved to ride on the back of Oma’s (Grandma in Dutch) bike. There are many bikers, old and young, traveling through the village (it helps that Holland if very flat). Check out the extensive bike rack that each train station comes with! Also, our base, Nunspeet, is a favored vacation spot among the Dutch and had lot of winding bike paths through the surrounding forests. We rented bikes for two days and did some short bike trips with the kids.
You might have heard about the huge floods that affected Europe at the beginning of June. Here are some pictures and our experiences from Budapest.
The Danube river flows through Budapest and slices the city into two: Buda and Pest. The Danube starts in the southern part of Germany, in the Black Forest and flows into the Black Sea, in Romania, passing through 10 countries along the way. We heard about the flooding in Germany well before the crest arrived in Budapest, so the city had plenty of time to prepare (in fact, the whole country had to prepare as the Danube runs through the middle of Hungary). Interestingly, we experienced virtually no rain before and during the flood time; it was all the rain upstream in Germany that (over)filled the Danube. The ‘flooding’ was a slow process; the river rose to its highest level for over a week and then took about another week to recede to its normal level.
Budapest has a long history of floods. After an especially destructive 1838 flood, it was decided that protective walls would be built along the river bank. So toward the end of the 19th century those plans became reality and the ‘rakpart’ (‘docks’ in direct translation) was built. ‘Rakpart’ is basically a road lying lower than the city level and is separated from the rest of the city by a high stone wall. You can see on the picture to the right what the ‘rakpart’ is.
When the Danube floods they close the ‘rakpart’ and the river can expand in those areas. On the pictures below you can see how the ‘rakpart’ looks like when the river flooded in June. The road signs popping out of the water show you where the road is (and a sense of how much water is covering it!) You can also see a floating dock where ships can be boarded . You enter the dock from the ‘rakpart’ level so that is underwater on this picture. The stop for the ship (a glass contraption) is underwater as well. All ship transportation was cancelled during the flood since the ships could not pass under the bridges.
The city can be protected from flooding up to 9 meter high water levels. The recent flood was 8.92 meter high. Phew! 8 centimeters away from disaster. You can how the water crept up to the steps of the Parliament. An underground garage is being built next to the parliament. The building site had to be flooded in advance of the crest so the already built portions would not collapse under the water pressure.