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|The Dutch Canals 2010
A Journey round the IJsselmeer and Frisia on 'Klein Schip'
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This was our first visit to the Dutch canals and we were guests of some close friends on their boat 'Klein Schip'. Klein Schip is a 40.9 foot Linssen Grand Sturdy, a luxury cruiser made in Holland with a steel construction. She is very well equipped with both bow and stern thrusters for easy manoeuvring in the confined spaces of Dutch marinas and a large GPS chart plotter for her crossings of the English Channel. The extent of the Dutch waterways came as a complete surprise even after some preparatory reading. The IJsselmeer is huge and it takes many hours to cross even at 6 or 7 knots. The IJsselmeer has an interesting history - the Zuiderzee was a small lake until a storm swept much of the surrounding area away in 838. At the end of the 13th century storm tides caused enormous breaches and the Zuiderzee was born. Finally a decision was made to enclose this dangerous stretch of water and a long barrier dam was constructed between Nord-Holland and Friesland. This took the 14 years up to 1932. After it was completed large scale land reclamation commenced and the Zuiderzee changed into the Ijsselmeer and Waddenzee. Saltwater became fresh, fishing diminished and the ports declined in importance although many had started life as historic Hanseatic ports. The IJsselmeer although large is shallow, much of it is only a few metres deep. We spent time in ports round the IJsselmeer and also had a trip into the Province of Friesland, the part of Frisia in Holland, which took us as far as Groningen. The contrasts to the English Canals was considerable - they are on a massive scale - we were often sharing locks with ships of 2000 or more tons and on one occassion we counted over 40 yachts in a lock with us.
We went across to Holland by car with our friends who had made a booking with Norfolk Line from Dover to Dunkirk, departing at 1600. However we arrived at Dover just as the 1200 ferry was departing; we had been slowed down by a police car straddling two lanes of the dual carriageway on the approach to Dover else might have caught it. We were first in line for the next ferry, at 1400, and our ticket for the later ferry was easily changed a no extra cost. The Dover ferry terminal for Norfolk Line had toilets, a small waiting room and two automatic machines for snacks and drinks. The building near Sea France next door was better, with Costa Coffee W H Smith, and Burger King. We bought a large bottle of cold Diet Coke for £2.35 to share.
We sailed on time and had a good view of Dover behind us. It was a very smooth crossing and we reached Dunkirk just after 1600. There was a slow exit to the motorways, and then it was a fairly easy drive via Antwerp and Breda, missing Amsterdam to reach Enkhuizen where the boat was moored. It was just getting dark as we drove along the N302 and over the dyke from Lelystad , separating the IJsselmere from the Markermeer – it was a complete surprise being about 15 km long. The boat was on a hammerhead mooring in the Buyshaven, alongside the railway stablings. Enkhuizen is just over 60 kms north of Amsterdam and there is an hourly train service. Most of the marinas have piers with moorings in what are described as ‘box’ moorings down each where you moor bow or stern into the pier with poles on the outside forming the ‘box’. Often they have little stub piers to get on and off easily. The ‘hammerhead’ moorings are on the end parallel to the main access channel with a separate walkway.
It was very hot and humid but we still had to go shopping for provisions. There is very little parking, so we walked with a trolley and rucksack. The guide book is proud that there are over 100 shops and much of the centre is pedestrianised. There are two small supermarkets in town, Deen and Aldi, and lots of other useful shops. Deen prices were 50% higher than Somerfield/Coop in the UK, although Aldi had some very cheap but limited bargains. The butcher (Slagerij Groot), the fruit and veg next door, the bakery (Bakkerij Rood) and the cheese shop ( de Graaff van Enckhuysen) were all excellent and we bought a couple of old (2 year) and very old (3 year) local cheeses.
Enkhuizen has beautiful Renaissance houses and warehouses dating mainly from the 17th century. Then it had the largest herring fleet in Holland, and the town coat of arms proudly displays Three Herrings. Shops in the main street, the Westerstraat, are limited to two or occasionally three stories in height and gives the town a pleasant rural atmosphere. Holland and Spain will be playing in the final of the World Cup in Cape Town on Sunday, and many of the pubs, cafés and shops were dressed in orange flags and bunting; orange is the Dutch national colour.
In the afternoon we had chance to see the town properly, starting with the Railway station and then admiring the many yachts and Dutch barges in the Municipal Harbour. We walked into the free Visafslag Museum with its displays and video of old fishing boats. The building is mainly a café. Next door is the Almanak Museum. The skyline is dominated by the De Drommedaris Tower, and as we approached we saw a group of young school children carrying two arches of blue and white balloons and the girls wearing white veils. On enquiring, the celebration was for the wedding of their schoolteacher, and was a special treat for her class of children. We crossed the lift bridge and turned left along the Oude Haven, before diving down an interesting side street. We had promised to do some more shopping, but this was quickly achieved and we were free to explore again.
Another dominant feature of the skyline is the Gothic spire with the onion-shaped top of the Zuiderkerk, the church of St Pancras, built between 1423 and 1524. We had just missed the organ concert, which generally takes place on a Friday. The present organ dates from 1799, although the organ chest is dated 1737. It is believed that pipes from the original organ were used in the present organ. Entering the church the first impression is of the brown ceiling and white walls with damaged plasterwork. The walls are not vertical and we were told that recent, expensive, stabilisation work meant that new foundations for the pillars were made which had to be dug some 20 metres. Hopefully the church will not move any further. The church is special because of its painted wooden ceiling. Dating from 1484, the paintings were covered with paint in 1609, and then only uncovered some 300 years later. The ceiling is now restored and although the paint has lost much of its vibrant colours, it is still very impressive. Just one part of a roof panel has been restored, costing 200,000 euros. During recent restoration some parts of the original wall paintings have also been uncovered.
The other main church, the Westerkerk, was closed, so we walked back along the Dijk to the lifting road bridge. We were fortunate, and watched the bridge being raised and lowered. We were finally back at the boat at 1700.
Next time we must spend a day at the Zuiderzee Museum, with the open-air Buitenmuseum and the indoor Binnenmuseum. The latter is housed in old warehouses built by the Dutch East India Company.
After a quick walk to buy lots more bottles of fizzy water, we set off. Everyone in Holland stays up late and then leaves late in the morning. Crossing the IJsselmeer took almost 3 hours, at a steady 6 knots, and we were pleased to get a hammerhead visitor mooring at the Marina in Hindeloopen, although it cost 25.95 euros. The Marina had good facilities, including fuel, brokerage, café and shop as well as the usual free water and electricity at the berth.
After a quick lunch we set off to visit the pretty village with its network of little canals and bridges and picturesque old houses. This is a village for tourists with no ordinary shops. There were souvenir shops and cafés, and craft shops selling the famous painted furniture and souvenirs. The style of decoration was similar to canalware but the prices were much higher, with a painted milk churn priced at 165 euros. We bought six plastic placemats at 10 euros to remind us of our visit. A glass of diet coke in a cafe was 2 euros, and a half pint of beer was 3.5 euros – such a contrast to Wetherspoons!. The one interesting building was the Grote Kerk, whose leaning tower was a landmark on the peninsula as we approached. It was built on the site of an earlier building in 1632, with a south nave being added 25 years later. The church was restored in 1892, including the removal of the dilapidated south nave, and then again between 1970 and 1975 when the tower had to be raised as it was no longer upright. There are Allied graves from WWII in the cemetery. This summer there is a special project with 250 churches in Friesland open on Saturday afternoons.
The forecast was for thunderstorms and heavy rain tonight, and the first shower arrived after our BBQ, followed by a spectacular light show just before midnight and very heavy splats of rain. The thunder, lightning and torrential rain continued for much of the night. At least the humid weather was reduced.
Stavoren is another historic Hanseatic port, just one hour south from Hindeloopen, back towards Enkhuizen. Although the journey was short the sea still had a nasty short chop left from the overnight storm – the effects of storms and wind are much more pronounced due to the shallow water. There were many of the classic Dutch barges out as well as a lovely old ‘steamer’ which was obliviously riding the rough water much better with its vertical stem than the modern boats with an angled entry.
We entered between two large red and green entry lights and for 15 euros moored in the Municipal Harbour next to the Fishing Harbour. The town, which celebrates its 950th anniversary in 2011 has many useful shops, including a large Coop within easy walking distance. Many tourists visit Stavoren from Enkhuizen by ferry boat, and we watched the Veerboot Enkhuizen – Stavoren arrive at the commercial moorings alongside the railway station. The celebrated statue of the lady of Stavoren is close to the lifting bridge and a small lock which is normally not used. We walked along the main street, then along a small canal passing the Doopsegezinde church, the old Stadehuys which is now a hotel, and the PKN Nicolaas church, before reaching the lifting road bridge and Johan Friso lock. Boats were passing through the lock and we spent time watching as it was tightly packed with mainly yachts. Our circular route took us alongside the Binnen Haven and back to the Oude haven.
Back at the boat, the moorings were getting busy and we soon welcomed a yacht alongside. They were only staying for a short time to go to the fish shop, De Visboer van Staveren, which they said is the best in Holland. We went with them and purchased some local raw herring, smoked eel and a smoked mackerel. The herring was prepared fresh for us and is eaten by holding it up by the tail and eating the fillets from the head end. The locals seem to eat them whilst waiting for their fish and chips to be cooked. The eel is also local, from the IJsselmeer, the last locally available, whereas other shops sell eel from Poland. The postcard of the herring fleet of Stavoren had a picture of the grandfather of the owner of the fish shop.
After an early shopping expedition to the Coop and the butcher we were off towards the Johan Friso lock, and were lucky to join the end of a line to enter the lock. The traffic light was green and we were the last boat to enter. The road bridge was raised for us all and a line of boats sped out. Some turned left into the Binnen haven whereas we continue straight along the Johan Friso Canal. The canal is shallow and there is a dredged channel so everyone kept close to the right hand side green buoys.
We soon reached the lift bridge at Warns, and our little convoy from the lock passed under it. We continued through the middle of De Moarre and then over the aquaduct of the N359 and into De Holken and then De Fleuzen. We had been listening to the rumble of thunder, and it was now that it decided to pour with rain. All the sailing boats around us turned sharply left and went to moor. We continued. The area had many schools of little sailing boats, as well as areas marked with yellow buoys for water-skiing. We passed the entry canal to Gastemeer, another village which traces its eel trade back for over 200 years until 1933.
Our destination was the next village, Heeg, which gives its name to the Heegemer Mar. There are several mooring places in Heeg, but as passing traffic we went into the Passantenhaven. It was not an easy entrance, especially in the rain, and we were followed by a row of other boats who were all heading for the same place. On the immediate left, on the wall, was a suitable spot, sheltered by a row of low trees, and we rushed in to moor. When we explored there were still a number of vacant places, and several much larger cruisers found good moorings near the harbourmaster’s office. Just behind us was a tall metal sculpture – shaped like a spike, with cutouts in the shape of eels, and surmounted with a golden eel. Heeg is another eel village, trading with London from 1743. The Passantenhaven also has a camping ground, with good facilities.
The village had some nice historic houses, and a pretty church built in 1745. In the main street, HarinxmAstrjitte, there is a butcher, hardware shop and chandlery, as well as cafés and icecream (Australian!). We turned along De Syl, passing the Jonas in den Walvis restaurant, then crossed a little rotating bridge, displaying a red traffic light. The road led to Skatting, and the Coop and bakery. As we retraced our steps the bridge keeper arrived. The bridge was available for opening four times each day, including from 1630 to 1730. She unlocked the mechanism and sat to wait. It was not busy. One yacht approached, saw the bridge, and turned around. The bridge is narrow and only small boats would be able to pass through; it is also on a sharp right-angled bend.
Back at the boat the wind was starting to come up, and the water in the main channel behind us was getting choppy. We were glad to be nicely cosy on board, especially when it rained (again!).
The weather was so rough overnight we had wondered whether we would be forced to stay an extra day in Heeg, but it was much calmer in the morning and after doing the chores and running the washing machine we were ready to depart. Water had to be paid for (1euro per 100 litres) but after the tank was full there was still some left and we washed off all the leaves that had blown onto us overnight – it must have been even worse than it seemed.
Outside the harbour there were dozens of small yachts swarming in the shallow part of Hegemer Mar; we hugged the edge of the channel continuing east. Heeg is obviously a busy tourist spot, with lots of little summer houses, many with moorings on the network of little canals. We turned left at a water junction, whereas most of the traffic ahead of us turned right towards Woudsend and south. All the channels across the Meers are buoyed and the junctions have buoys with red and green stripes where they are on the corner. The canal to IJlst is straight but first we had to pass under a toll bridge. Although it was for a road it still only cost the same price as the little rotating bridge in Heeg – 1.25 euros. The bridge master had a fishing line on the end of a rod which was suspended a small blue clog with a red heart (the symbol of the region) into which we dropped our coins. He wished us a pleasant holiday. Everyone in Holland seems to speak excellent English.
We continued towards IJlst and just before the next toll lift bridge there was a turning to the right marked Passantenhaven. Instead we continued under the lift bridge, again paying 1.25 euros, and moored at the Skippers Club. It was not expensive, at 1.10 euros per metre, but being a hireboat base moorings were not available on turnaround days – from Thursday afternoon until Sunday. Tuesday night was perfect for us and it is close to the Poiesz supermarket. The moorings are in the shadow of the windmill De Rat, and not far from the centre which has just a few shops and cafés.
The steamer Johanna Jacoba was moored close by the lift bridge; she does tourist trips each Thursday morning in the summer. IJlst is famous for its ice skate manufacturing works, principally those built by Frisia and Nooitgedagt. The founder, Jan Jarigs Nooitgedagt, began by making wooden ice skates for himself in the attic of his house in 1865 and then expanded into making a full range of woodworking tools. He has his name on the tall chimney alongside the old factory which now contains the Visitor Centre Nooitgedacht with an exhibition of ice skates, tools, wooden toys and advertising material. In its heyday IJlst had 20 ice skate manufacturers.
The building is alongside a narrow canal, and there are many pretty historic houses along the Eegracht and the Galamagracht on either side. There are two churches, the Doopsgezinde and the Mauritiuskerk Prof. Gem. IJlst, as well as several large captains’ houses. The cemetery at the turn of the canal had two war graves.
In the distance we saw a large group of young people and they were at the ‘Watte Abma’ fierljepschansen, where fierljep (jumping pole) contests are held. A number of them were trying to cross the water using a long pole, and some managed to land safely on the sand on the other side.
The sawmill Houtzaagmolen De Rat is an important local historic building, and the daily walking tours all visit it. The mill is open for visits on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We were at the entrance just before 1000 and were able to watch the two staff set up the mill into the wind by rotating the cap, and then release the cloth sails and spread them in turn onto the wooden framework. Soon the machinery below to cut wood was in action. We were able to walk round freely and the only restriction was in the area where the blades were rotating. The mill was originally built in the ‘Zaanstreek’ and in 1828 it was broken down and rebuilt in IJlst. The mill deteriorated, but then it was renovated and finally in 1978 was opened to the public. It now has a professional miller and there seemed to be about half a dozen staff having coffee when we arrived. When we visited they were cutting a small yew log and recycling wood from an old bridge. They also cut elm.
Bridges in this area close for lunch at 1200 so we had to rush our visit in order to get to Sneek, 2 kms away, before the bridge closed. However the old bridge and its canal indicated on the GPS have been replaced by a new aquaduct over the A7 motorway, so we had not needed to hurry. We led a procession of similar boats towards the Watergate and the town moorings. We were lucky and there was a double length mooring with a good view of the Watergate and free electric points. Although there were no water points along the quayside we could see one opposite next to a pump-out machine, in the shadow of the lift bridge. At the mooring we found there was free Wifi – it seems many people just open up their network for visitors as there were three networks with gratis or similar in their names.
The Watergate was built in 1613 and is one of the most important and photographed places of interest. The town is ahead and to the left of our mooring. Again there is a network of small canals and little boats buzzed around and under impossibly low bridges, as well as sailing boats who sped along until halted by the red light on the bridge.
We visited the Great or Martini Church by chance en route to the VVV Tourist Information Centre. Named after Martin, the Bishop of Tours, there was a catholic church on the site in the 11th century, replaced by a new church built between 1498 and 1530. At the Reformation the church became Protestant and the interior was re-modelled. In 1681 the central tower of the three old Roman towers collapsed and the others were pulled down and in 1795 the stained glass was replaced by transparent glass. The interior changed over the years too. About 1925 the church was found to be subsiding and the foundations had to be replaced, and the interior restored. This was all completed by 1994. The sacristy, which has been used for Church Council meetings since 1580, has carving on the ceiling dating from about 1760. Pictures of the Presidents are on the walls.
The VVV Tourist Information office provided maps and information and we identified the 15th century Stadhuis (Town Hall) opposite. The Marktstraat led us into the shopping district which had lots of general stores and chain stores, including C&A. It was a disappointment because there was very little of local interest, either to purchase or for the architecture. It is obviously a major shopping destination but could be anywhere in Europe. Of useful shops we found several bakeries, fish shop, fruit and veg, butchers, and two supermarkets. The Poiesz supermarket was on the Singel and was the closest to the mooring.
Also on the Singel is Saint Martin’s Roman Catholic church. After visiting the original church of St Martin, this was very different. It was built between 1869 and 1871 by P J H Cuypers and is neo-gothic with an interior in the late Medieval style. When we visited it was 1600 and the sunlight through the stained glass windows illuminated the pulpit and columns. The latter appeared to be made of a variety of different coloured bricks, but on closer inspection it was all painted block by block. The work involved, as well as all the stencilling on the walls and ceiling, must have taken years to complete. It was so stunning and beautiful, and such a contrast to the Protestant church.
We took some food back to the boat and then went out to search for Lidl which is near the railway station, not far from the National Model Railway Museum.
We were glad we had paid to stay two nights (10.80 euros per night) because overnight there was thunder, rain and wind. This morning was spent visiting the Frisian Maritime Museum. We spent over 2 hours there, and it was very interesting and only cost 2 euros. The museum is having major building extension work so of the 32 rooms there were only 25 which were able to be visited. The entrance hall had the boat ‘Jannetje’ which we admired because the side boards were exactly the right shape for the new coffee table. There is an extensive display of model yachts, together with other objects of the area including a stack of five funeral biers from Stavoren and Makkum. There is also a showcase of tools, each proudly marked Nooitgedagt, and made in IJlst. To continue the links with IJlst, there was a reconstruction of the 19th century office of the IJlst timber merchant Oppendijk, who used to supply many shipyards. He was the owner of the De Rat wind sawmill, as well as a steam powered saw mill. Another room contained the dining room of the house of the Oppedijk family, dating from 1891. Near the entrance, the silver room displayed many objects from the 17th to 20th centuries, made by silversmiths living in Sneek. Elsewhere we had admired a number of silver prizes, won in the sailing competitions.
Just a few houses down the same street was the Widow Joustra, an off-licence with an interior dating from 1864 and an original ‘drankorgel’. A group of tourists went inside, so we followed. Prices for nice wine are expensive with Cape Mentelle white at over 17 euros.
We then looked back through the centre of town whilst we waited to get a better look round the Great or Martini Church when it opened at 1400, attracted by the sound of organ music. It was not live, but was recorded music and the LP recording could be purchased. After we had looked round we worked our way towards the railway station intending to do some more shopping at Lidl and to also have a look at the National Model Railway Museum. By now it was raining, but looking at displays of little model trains did not seem very interesting to us when we looked in past the desk and also realised it would be 5 euros each.
We filled with water and did a pumpout – you are now required to have a holding tank in Friesland and they have installed lots of free pumpouts at every marina and many water points. We unmoored from the pumpout at 0900 then when the bridge opened we departed. We had been told by the harbour-master that we needed to leave our mooring by 1200 because a large boat was due to arrive. This was no problem but meant we did not get out to the supermarket.
The price to pay at the first bridge was 2 Euros, but this was the payment for all three town bridges. We were soon leaving the town and joined a steady line of boats in procession towards the Snitser Mar (Sneek = Snits). We identified our first Marrekrite rural free moorings as we left Sneek. The wind was Force 4 from the south, and there was a pretty chop of white water as we went through the open lock at the end of the Mar. The water quietened immediately. Joining the Prinses Margriet Kanaal we went under two bridges which only needed to be raised for sailing boats.
Burgum is famous because of Hendrik Bulthuis (1892 – 1948) a local hairdresser who created the BM – class of sailing boats and the 16m2 between 1922 and 1924. These were manufactured using only a lathe and hand tools so the boats were cheap and opened up the sport to ordinary people. There is a statue in his memory at the yacht harbour. The Maritime Museum in Sneek had displays about his life and models of the boats.
The town of Burgum is not historic although there were many nice detached houses and a good selection of useful shops – hotel, cafe, bakery, butcher, fish shop, fruit and veg, Hema general store as well as two Poiesz and one Plus supermarket. If we had stayed for the weekend then on Saturday evening there was going to be a pole-jumping competition. Instead we were planning to travel to Groningen.
After a very early walk into town to buy bread from the bakery and some final shopping from the Plus supermarket we set off almost immediately as Dugald had already filled up with water whilst we had completed the shopping. It was very quiet and 0900 is early for most touring boats. We passed an island in the Burgumer Mar with rows of the free De Marrekrite moorings. The locals seemed to come into the yacht harbour to do their shopping, because there is no charge for mooring between 1000 and 1600, and then go out to free moorings overnight. Another boat joined us and we waited together to go under the Skulenboarch, which swung to let us through at the same time as a large commercial barge arrived from the other direction. Then the next two bridges, at Kootstertille and Blauwverlaat, were high and we slipped beneath them. Stroobos was too low and we waited.
The Prinses Margriet Kanaal became the Van Starkenborgh Kanaal. We reached the Gaarkeukensluis lock at 1115 which has a road bridge combined. Large barges are still travelling on Saturday, they rarely travel on Sunday, and one came behind us. They have priority. By the time the lock had emptied and filled there were four more cruisers behind us. The lock is 190m long and the barge Linda was 110m so there was plenty of space for everyone. The barge was probably the biggest we had seen and was marked as 1980 tons and had two cars on its parking space on the back deck, a BMW and a run-about. We were clear just before 1200. It is good that there are not many locks and low bridges on our route. Kilometre markers indicated we were at 20 kms from somewhere, presumably Groningen, and reducing. The land here is very flat with a few pretty traditional windmills as well as the modern ones. We hugged the tail of the barge in the hope he would enable us to go through the bridges without waiting, but at Zuidhorn the bridge keeper let the barge through and gave us a red signal. Curses. It was the right decision because another large barge was approaching from the opposite direction. Commercial traffic always has priority. Now we accelerated and ran after the barge that was escaping towards the next bridge. It was all good fun. The pity was that the next three bridges here are 3.8 metres high and the boat is 3.9 unless the mast and cover are lowered. In pouring rain there was no enthusiasm for this activity, especially by the skipper who would get very wet steering. In addition, these 3.8 metre bridges only raised horizontally to 6.8 metres whereas all the other bridges lifted or swung, so yachts with masts could not pass through on our route. The same happened at Aduard and Dorkwerd bridges and we wondered whether the bridge keeper thought we were low enough to go through without raising it. Groningen has a canal ring and we had to go around on the north side, then along the east to reach the Municipal Passanten Harbour. This meant passing under a really low bridge at Paddepoel.
We arrived at the Oostersluis lock to find two large barges, Tesco 80m and Linda waiting. The lock was again exactly 190m long so both barges just fitted. However the smaller barge was narrow and there was plenty of width for all the tourist (sport) boats to go alongside. Having been at the front of the queue we found ourselves 4 out of 5 in the lock, alongside the smaller barge. From the lock we turned towards the Passanten moorings just beyond the Oosterhavenbrug. The harbourmaster helped with ropes and we paid 1.25 euros per metre plus 1.60 per person in the 12 metre moorings. The standard boxes were again too small.
Groningen is a University town, about the same size as Bath. Unfortunately much of the centre was destroyed during 1945, but some of the old buildings still remain. Much dates from the 17th century as well as more recent Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Groningen is encircled by the canal and as well as the Oosterhaven there is another harbour on the southern corner.
There was still time to explore and we followed the Oosterkade into the shopping streets and to the Grote Markt, which is a wide open space in the centre of the town. Here is the VVV from where we collected a free map. On the corner the Martini church was still open so we went inside; we had just missed the special afternoon organ concerts but the stall from the Stichting Groningen Orgelland Foundation was still manned and we collected their information sheets. The Groningen area contains many beautiful old organs, with over 300 organs and organ cases from six centuries. The original organ in this church was built about 1450, and rebuilt in 1628 to respond to the Reformation as a singing accompaniment. Important experiments in 1831 here resulted in a clarinet stop, based on free reeds, which was a success. The information sheet also included a picture of the organ at the A-Kerk and we planned to visit that too.
Outside there was a good view of the Stadhuis (City Hall) which dates from 1810, and the square in front was full of market stalls, mostly selling cheap clothing. Saturday is market day and it did not close until 1700. Just behind the Stadhuis we glimpsed the corner of the 17th century Goudkantoor, the Gold Office, now a cafe and bar. The other side of the Stadhuis is the Vismarkt which sold all sorts of food as well as lots of fish. At the end of the Vismarkt is the Korenbeurs, the original Corn Exchange of 1865, which is now a large supermarket. From here we turned south towards the famous Groninger Museum – we had been told it was closed until December 2010 for visits but we could see the six unusual buildings. The Philippe Stark pavilion is a giant disc clad in vertical aluminium plating with a vase motif on the exterior. It contains porcelain. The most eyecatching is the Deconstructivist experiment with steel and glass which jut out at awkward angles. It is all on its own island. The bus and railway stations are beyond, and the latter was built in 1896 and decorated with Art Nouveau tiles. Some of the original interior is visible in the restaurants. We walked back to the boat along the canal.
The harbourmaster had sold us Wifi access so the first task was to deal with email and check the weather forecast for the rest of the week. It was going to be OK to head northwest and then join the IJsselmeer at Harlingen.
On Sunday the centre is deserted and we only saw a few bicycles and pairs of disoriented tourists carrying cameras. Into town our first stop was to visit the A-Kerk, just behind the Korenbeurs. The full name is Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk der A – the A being a small river which forms the moat surrounding the town centre. This has been restored and is no longer a church but operates as a function and exhibition centre. The organs no longer produce music, but the cases are very pretty. We entered on a red carpet, being installed for the exposition in the afternoon and persuaded the caretaker to let us see the church. He seemed surprised that tourists were so interested and was keen to explain about it all.
At the other end of the market place, the main highlight of the town is to climb the Martini Tower. Climbing the steps of the tower costs 3 euros (paid at the VVV) and the view from the top is breathtaking but be warned there are over 300 narrow steps on circular staircases with just a rope to hold on to. Although all the shops are closed on Sunday there is a slow trade at the pavement cafés as tourists emerge.
Retracing our steps to the A-Kerk it was only a short distance to the Noordelijk Scheepvaart Museum and the Nieymeyer Tabaksmuseum, with a combined ticket of 4 euros. Principally a maritime museum there are also specialist exhibitions and this summer the temporary display was about cycling. It showed the history of the famous bicycle manufacturer of Groningen, Fongers, with a display of a number of bicycles over the ages including the one used by Queen Juliana. The main displays followed the history of shipping in the region from the 6th to the 20th centuries. The visit involved exploring a number of small rooms and climbing a lot of stairs. The final display, of boat engines, included a Lister. The Niemeyer Tabaksmuseum celebrates the local business of the Nieymeyer family who built their fortune on tobacco. We spent almost three hours there.
There were several options to get back to the boat,
and after a short walk north along the canal passing permanent moorings and houseboats we turned south to look at the University and then back to the north to find pretty formal walled gardens at the Princes Court, behind almshouses. We sat and admired the gardens and then rejoined the canal and passed the Stadsschouburg (Theatre) which we had also seen from the top of the Martini Tower. We completed our walk and were glad to get back to the boat.
We were awake early so that we could get the canopy and mast down at 0800 and then we didn’t have to wait for the bridge at 0900. We got under the bridge with lots of spare height. At the junction, where the Groningen Motor Boat Club was based, we saw a shopping centre including Praxis – is it DIY or a supermarket ? It would be very useful anyway. Then we reached the lock where two other ‘Sport’ boats were waiting. The gates opened and two large barges emerged. Behind us a barge appeared and went in first; we all followed. It was only a short wait and very good. It was worth dropping the mast and canopy to get through the lock so early. Having been the last in we were the first out, and clung to the back of the barge through the next bridges until we reached the junction with the Dorkwerdersluis (lock) and its bridge on the left. This is the other route into Groningen. Here we turned right into the Reitdiep and immediately under a bridge. Calling by radio meant the bridge was being prepared, indicated by red and green lights, and we did not have long to wait. The contrast was immediate with fields and sheep and no barges. It was still not 1000.
More rural bridges opened by magic until we reached Garnverd, a pretty village with a windmill, boatyard, waterfront restaurant, camping and another lifting bridge. Three other boats passed us; we were now into the normal starting time for holiday boating. It was very rural and bridges opened and closed, cows sat up and lay down, boats passed and fishermen and heron fished. As well as town moorings the canal has isolated single moorings with white capped posts. We passed Zoutkamp with its marinas and eel smokeries. The Municipal harbour was busy so we continued under the Reitdiepbrug and through the open lock into the Lauwersmeer National Park, hoping to find isolated moorings. The water widened into a lake and there were sailing boats in all directions. We exited in the south west corner as everyone else went north to the ocean. The Dokumer Djip quickly becomes narrow and red and green buoys were replaced by withies (tall scrawny branches stuck in a canal bed or stream and used as markers of the edge of the channel). We approached the Willem Loresluis lock as a row of small boats came out, so we drove directly in. No time wasted. The lock had a row of rubbish bins (just as at the lock at Groningen) and we stopped just ahead of the road bridge so we could rise without having to lift the bridge. A big green sign pointed towards Dokkum, to the right.
At the first village, Engwierum, we found a mooring spot without water or electricity just after the lift bridge. Engwierum only has a church, a petrol station, garage and some nice engineering and repair yards. There were no food shops although local people offerred to take us by car to nearby Dokkum, our destination for tomorrow.
Bridges do not open until 0900 and we left behind the first boats. The next bridge was only a short distance and then there was one more bridge before the entrance bridge at Dokkum, the Woudpoortbrug. The latter has facilities adjacent and there was a friendly bridge keeper. The other bridges seemed to be controlled centrally and had cameras. The payment for passing through the bridges of Dokkum is 4.50 euros.
We found plenty of spaces in the morning and moored just below the first windmill ‘Der Hoop’. The moorings all have electric supply which is not metered but is included in the mooring fee paid to the harbourmaster. Overnight mooring was not expensive at 11.20 euros, and the C1000 supermarket is easy walking distance. The town is picturesque with two traditional windmills and an encircling canal. The second windmill, Zeldenrust, was built in 1862 and is still working. It has been restored and wheat is milled regularly. This year there is a special display of photos inside and so the mill is open most afternoons, and entrance is free. We were invited to climb as high as we could, and when we got to the last set of steps the miller came up and opened the way to two more flights, so we were able to crawl up to the top floor. The viewing platform, halfway down, gave an excellent view of Der Hoop and our boat moored below.
We had to do provisioning for the next 3 days, so that involved the usual butcher, fishmonger and veg shop. There was also a useful laundrette. After lunch we set off again to view the town, and admire the little canals, old buildings, churches and the Museum. The Stadhuis, Town Hall, was originally built in 1610 and extended in subsequent centuries. It has a set of bells which ring tunes, as well as mark the hours.
Towering over the Markt is the Saint Martinuskerkof Grote Kerk, with an organ dating from 1688, made by Jan Helman of Groningen, and restored in 1979. There are regular concerts on Fridays in the summer. The other church, Sint Bonifautiuskerk, was built in 1872 and open in the afternoon. Originally named Sint Martinuskerk it was renamed after the relics of St Boniface were placed inside. It has been restored, and a Russian-style icon was painted in 1999, which is on display. It is strategically placed at a crossroads, with the fish shop and cheese shop on two other corners. It was near Dokkum that St Boniface was slaughtered by Frisian pagans, along with 52 other Christians, in 754, and in the outskirts of the town is the Bonifatius chapel, built in 1934. The statue of St Boniface was unveiled there in 1954, the 1100 anniversary of his death. St Boniface also features in the Admiraliteitshuis museum where one of the two buildings has a modern, and not very interesting, display of the life and death of St Boniface. The other building was showing an exhibition of bathing costumes from the 1920s to the 1970s, which was also only of limited interest. Most other visitors were there for the cafe, not to visit the exhibits, and having paid 4 euros each we agreed.
After a quick trip to the C1000 supermarket for fresh bread we set off, waiting for the Altena bridge to open. We hoped it would be at 0900, but the other bridge was opened first and the bridge-keeper arrived by a bicycle later. A mixture of twelve cruisers and yachts passed through together in a line. The next bridge was opened by the same man, and we were soon on our way into the countryside. We were second and the boat in front had to wait at each bridge.
At the next small town we paid 2.50 Euros for the two bridges, but there was only one bridge-keeper and he collected all 12 boats together between the bridges before locking his house and jumping on his bicycle to let us through the second bridge. The village was Burdaard and it had a nice windmill, good moorings, and a little Spar. It would be a perfect overnight mooring on another visit. The next bridge was on the outskirts of Leeuwarden (Lay-oo-arder) and we paid 6 euros to the bridgekeeper for the four bridges and just got through the second bridge, the Noorderbrug, before 1200. There are lots of moorings on both sides but only the east side near the old town alongside the Prinsentuin gardens had electricity. Electricity was expensive and metered, but mooring was less than 10 euros for the boat and 4 people, which was very cheap.
Leeuwarden is the capital city of the Friesland area and so has prestigious historic buildings and a large shopping centre so there was plenty to do in the afternoon. Just beyond the moorings and the Prinsentuin gardens is the tower of the Oldehove which was constructed to be part of a cathedral started in 1529 but never completed. For 3 euros it was possible to climb 40 metres to the top. It is at the end of a large open space, the Oldehoofster Kerkhof from where narrow streets extend full of cafes and small shops. We collected a simple map from the Oldehove and followed the signs along more narrow canals past the Palais de Justice to the VVV Information Centre, a modern glass box. There were a number of vintage boats dating from the 1900’s, moored along the Zuider Stadsgracht in the museum haven. Then the area became a construction site, with the Biblioteek (Library) surrounded, although there were still more vintage boats and the interesting shape of the Blokhuisspoortbrug. Our exit route does not go this way, but we were tempted to detour just to go under the bridge.
We walked back along the Wirdumerduijk to Waagplein and joined the canals again. We had the choice of going directly back but instead turned right towards a sharp pointed needle tower and the Bonifatiuskerk, with a side detour to look at the Fries Museum. Here there was lots to see, it cost 6 Euros each and it was only just over 1 hour before it closed. Perhaps we will spend a day there next time. St Bonifatiuskerk is a beautiful church, built in 1894 and designed by P J H Cuypers, who also designed the railway station and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The spire fell in a storm in 1976 and was replaced at great expensive. It is one of the few Cuypers churches left. Back towards our mooring, we visited the Grote- of Jacobijner-Kerk. It is very modern and white with some restored old wall paintings and it had very modern seating. The organ is famous and filled the whole end of the church with carvings seeming to touch the roof. There was a concert at 2000 so lots of cheap temporary seating was in place. Concerts only cost 5 Euros but 2000 was too early for us because we are all usually still eating at 2030. Outside in the square was a modern monument to the local Jewish people who had been taken away and killed during WWII. The Jewish school next door closed in 1943.
We walked past the Fries Natuur museum and then the four almshouses in St Antonius with their beautiful gardens. The area was served by a mobile food shop, which the old folks appreciated. Looking at the map afterwards, we just missed Mata Haris house. Now we could clearly see water and we passed the Keramiekmuseum then walked through the gardens of the Noorderplantage to the canal moorings.
After dinner we walked along the side of the canal to the next bridge, Vrouwenpoortsbrug, and to the corner of the Museumhaven with the Verlaatsbrug. Just after this bridge was the shopping centre with C1000 and Lidl. To our surprise there were lots of unoccupied mooring spaces everywhere.
In the morning a local boy came selling bread, and we left our mooring just before 0900 and were second in line for the next bridge. One of the series of bridges was unexpected; at 0927 we went through a novel design of lift bridge.
Franeker is west of Leeuwarden and has pleasant moorings just after the bridge. We were lucky because the bridge is only raised every quarter hour for Sport boats, but we were following a commercial barge. It was also 1100 so we were going to be OK. The highlight is the 18th century planetarium, now the oldest planetarium in the world. It was built by a local woolcomber, Eise Eisinga who was born in 1744 and built the planetarium between 1774 and 1781. He died in 1828. It is not a dome but is a false ceiling in the family sitting room.
Harlingen is said to be a more interesting place than Franeker. It is also the exit port onto the Waddenzee and then through the Lorentszsluizen in the dyke to the IJsselmeer. We went into the Pasantenhaven jachthaven, just before the lock. The daily weather forecast said that today’s tides are HW 0645 and 1920; LW is 1416, so we needed to wait until the afternoon to leave. The harbourmaster was at lunch until 1245 then gave us an information sheet to help us find the Noorderhaven. We went through the lock, which was just a stop lock to prevent fresh and sea water mingling. We turned sharp left into the Oude Buitenhaven, the home of traditional vintage yachts, next to an old lighthouse and restaurant. A large vehicle ferry crossed behind us. Our entrance bridge, Prins Hendrik Brug was 3.8 metres but even at low tide it was just too low for us. We found temporary mooring by the waterpoint, instructed by the harbourmaster. It was too high to get ashore easily and all the floating pontoons were full but at least it gave us the chance to buy the chart we needed for the little bit of ocean.
The Noorderhaven is tidal and as we moored the tide was almost at low and the extra 2 metres drop made a big difference. At high tide it would be possible to just step off the boat onto the side. Leaving Harlingen at low water we followed one ferry and a second came out straight behind. We were sandwiched, and a large white ferry went in. We had chosen a good time to leave. There were lots of boats and yachts coming towards us, but not many moving in our direction. The sea is calm, the wind is light and it is very quiet. We had no problem other than a surprisingly high tidal flow which at times was up to 3.5 knots against us judging by the difference between the speeds indicated by mechanical instruments showing speed through the water and the GPS showing the measurement over the round. The channel is well marked with buoys and as we continued the depth under our keel increased nicely. Arriving at the lock a large group of sailing boats were moving. The two bridges had been raised and everyone was steaming under, before jostling for position in the lock beyond. Sailing boats were in rows of four abreast and we found new friends in a large Bavaria yacht and sat in the middle as a yachty sandwich. We were not the last; two yachts came in behind us. It was full and we were the only pleasure cruiser amongst the dozens of yachts and a single small working catamaran, from Fleetwood and flying a Union flag, which had passed us on route.
Our hope had been to moor at the moorings beyond the lock but there was very little space and it was full. Most of the yachts with us were going to Makkum, the first town, so we decided to travel onwards to Workum instead, an extra hour. Workum is just next door to Hindeloopen so we had almost completed a watery circle. The Jachthaven was part of the ‘It Soal’ Aquaresort which also included a camping ground. On site there was a bar and restaurant, and also a Spar supermarket in the camping area. Overnight mooring in a wide box on the outside was 19.50 Euros, and there were the usual facilities including electricity and boat washing on the walkway. After a long day there was a unanimous vote for a trip to the bar and restaurant for a cold beer quickly followed by four big bowls of mussels with the usual accompaniments.
Workum seemed to be a nice small town, just over 1 km away, so we decided to stay another night to visit it. In practice it was quite a long walk from It Soal because we had to cut inland to clear some of the harbour areas. The Zeesluis lock and its bridge which we could see in the distance was half way so town must be about 3 km. There are a few moorings before the lock and it would be a good place to stop; otherwise after the next bridge there is the Kuperus Watersport jachthaven with visitor moorings.
There are a number of fine old houses along the canals and on the long main street. The tower and St Gertrudskerk dominated the central square. Unfortunately the church was covered with scaffolding and closed. It is said to be the largest medieval church in Friesland and was built in 1615 although the two parts are separate. The cafés on the central square were busy and the Hotel Restaurant De Gulden Leeuw provided a nice place for coffee and lunch. The VVV provided a free museum map of the region which showed two interesting museums.The Kerkelijke Kunst museum was at the far end of the main street, and also guarded the entrance to the church which cost 1 euro. The church was beautiful but the main attraction was the side chapel and its woodcarvings. The Jopie Huisman Museum was back in the centre and is dedicated to the work and philosophy of the Frisian self-taught painter and scrap dealer of the same name who died in 2000. The museum dates from 1986. In 2010 the theme is shoes and as well as his paintings of shoes there is a display of 14 shoes from the modern designer Jan Jansen. We did not go in but our friends rated his pictures highly.
Our maps also showed two supermarkets in the main street but both were closed and had been replaced by a brand new LIDL and Poeisz nearby – we bought a pack of the generic ‘magnums’ which are the same price for 6 as you can pay for a single real magnum and taste better, especially those from Poeisz.
We left in sunshine and with a breeze on the IJsselmeer which produced tedious short waves which were almost on the beam. It would be much easier with a yacht with a main up for damping in these conditions. After just over 2 hours we reached Medemblik. From half way across we could see all the windmills, especially the four with red and white bands. which are actually in the water. Then we could see the old windmill and the spires of the two churches in the distance and finally we saw the 13th century Radboud castle. The castle was rebuilt by P J H Cuypers, the famous architect who was also responsible for a number of churches in the region. The entrance into the harbours was quite narrow but easy to find with tall green/white and red/white poles on each side. Turning sharp right into the Pekelharinghaven just before the Kwikkelsbrug we were directed towards the last ‘hammerhead’ mooring. We had chosen a good time to arrive as boats were leaving and not many were arriving. The usual arrangement is that a boat looks for a mooring box which is the correct size and which is marked green, not red. The boxes get smaller at the end of the marina. Pete is getting quite used to the luxury of bow and stern thrusters!.
Medemblik is a favourite destination for sailing boats. The other options, the Middenhaven and the Westerhaven which is just beyond the Kwikkelsbrug, were both busy too. The Westerhavensluis lock is at the end of the Westerhaven. The town has just the one main street which has lots of sensible shops and each Saturday in July there is a special market on the pavements. Today it was selling the usual cheap clothes and jewellery alongside information stalls and even a gipsy fortune teller. The nearest decent supermarket, Deen, is outside the centre, but there was a little Spar in the main street as well as a butcher, fish shop and bakeries. One popular van was selling fresh waffles with enormous mounds of whipped cream and strawberries.but we decided not to indulge and instead bought a pack of magnums.
Medemblik is the terminus for a steam train which runs each day from Hoorn to Medemblik where it connects with the historic steamer Friesland to Enkhuizen and then a standard train back to Hoorn to complete the triangle. As we moored we heard the train whistle as it arrived, and then an hour later it whistled as it departed. The railway line passes the old windmill, De Herder (the shepherd), which was built in 1695 at Jisp and moved to Medemblik and restored in 1989. It was open and we quickly climbed up to the platform for the view, and then up one further level to view the machinery. Much of it was new and in good condition. The mill is obviously still working and grinding flour but it was static at our visit.
Another highlight is the Nederlans Stoommachine Museum which is about 5 kms from the town We had seen the tall chimney and knew it was not quite walking distance. The museum is located in the former pumping station ‘Vier Noorder Koggen’ and has workng examples of steam engines including the original pumping engine. It is steaming in summer weekends and we plan to visit next time. There are two churches, and the St Bonifaciuskerk was open to visit on Saturday and was offering a free concert later in the afternoon. The old organ, originally made by Pieter Backer in 1671, with subsequent additions in 1785 and 1862, was to be played by Bas Westerhof. The concert lasted an hour, and like Mikron theatre productions it was free to go in but then a collection was made as we went out. We bought a CD.
Dinner was at the Indo-Chinese restaurant Danny Leung on Nieuwstraat which our friends had been to on a previous visit. We had an excellent Chinese rijsstallen, accompanied by Chinese beer. It was 90 Euros for four people and the food was excellent as was the service. We would go there again.
It was an easy cruise from Medemblik to the marina in Enkhuizen. and the IJsselmeer was much smoother than the previous day. We were allocated the same ‘hammerhead’ to moor as before. In the afternoon we had a walk round as far as the main Zuiderzee Museum which has a number of buildings as well as a large park which has a number of areas with typical buildings brought together in layouts based on existing places such as Hindeloopen. We did not have time to do justice as it was after 1500 and as it looked if it needed most of a day and the entry of 14 Euros only covered a single visit. We decided to try to return the following day. We walked back quickly past the Stadthaus (town hall) trying to keep ahead of a big storm and nearly made it.
Our final day in Holland was spent round the Zuiderzee Museum. The indoor part of the museum was started in 1948 and the decision to develop an open air Museum was made at the end of the nineteen sixties. The Museum Park was completed in 1983 and provides an image of how people used to live and work around the Zuiderzee between 1880 and 1930, the period which immediately preceded the completion of the IJsselmeer Dam in 1932. The Zuiderzee was only a small lake until a storm swept much of the surrounding area away in 838. At the end of the 13th century storm tides caused enormous breaches and the Zuiderzee was born. Finally a decision was made to enclose this dangerous stretch of water and a long barrier dam was constructed between Nord-Holland and Friesland. This took the 14 years up to 1932. After it was completed large scale land reclamation commenced and the Zuiderzee changed into the Ijsselmeer and Waddenzee. Saltwater became fresh, fishing diminished and the ports declined - a whole culture was being eliminated and that led to the initial idea of the museum and the collecting of information, artefacts and ultimately buildings.
The Museum Park is divided up into a number of areas and makes use of many old building which have been moved to the site. The various areas are loosely based on real towns and ports and how they looked at the time. The major areas will be covered in the order we first visited them although one tends to walk back and forth through them.
First was the harbour which is next to the entry we used when walking from the direction of the Marina and Station. The Marken Harbour is a reconstruction of a nineteenth century harbour. There were demonstrations showing how fishermen used to mend and knit their nets. We strolled along the quay to admire the ships and houses from Marken, Volendam and Monnickendam but at times the storms forced us to shelter and look at the insides of the buildings. A replica of a slip shed has been built near the harbour.
It was then a short walk to the Church District. Churches dominated most villages, both physically and culturally. The church which proudly stands in the Museum Park was located in Den Oever for many centuries. It was moved to the Museum, literally stone by stone, in 1968. There are many buildings and other attractions to enjoy around the church including a beautiful old school, post office, photographic shop, cooper, pharmacy and a sweet shop - many were trading. We spent some time talking in the Cheese warehouse and bought an old local cheese to take back to the UK. There are normally many demonstrations in the area including a blacksmith, basket weaver, brush maker and sailmaker who enjoy showing off their crafts.
We went along the Dyke on our way to the Town Canal before crossing one of the many bridges to enter the Town Canal District. We looked in at the steam laundry with its running steam engine and boiler driving the various pieces of machinery. The canal sides were usually the central area of the towns and villages. In this case one side has been reconstructed like Edam and has the patisserie, the pharmacy, the cheese warehouse and the butcher. There is place for children of all ages to get dressed up in traditional Volendam or Marken costumes.
Our next stop was the Fishing Village which is laid out on the basis of the Groningen fishing village of Zoutkamp which we had seen in our travels. Many of the houses that were scheduled to be demolished were brought to Enkhuizen reconstructed and are grouped according to the original plans. There are also houses from Paesens, Moddergat, Vollenhove, Kampen and Monnickendam. Houses from Urk are also grouped on a slope and the residents live here just like they did back in 1905. All the styles of housing are different and even the roads reflect the different areas.
The weather looked a bit more stable so we then took the opportunity to walk out along the peninsular which starts behind the three characteristic limekilns. This largely consists of a nature area. There is a picnic spot, which was deserted today but we had nice views over the water. We took a return path through the trees and eventually found the reconstruction of a West Frisian farm from the Bronze Age. We now went along the small Polder and looked at the small real wind watermill which was being run for short periods. We were able to enjoy the breathtaking views of the IJsselmeer. We pass the fish smoker and could not resist buying a smoked herring, lots of bones but a glorious taste. And that took us back into the areas we had visited before. We walked round slowly and watched a rope making demonstration where children could make a skipping rope for a couple of Euros. We bought a length of genuine rope which we plan to use on Little Corinna when we get home.
The day seemed to have just vanished so we hastily made our way out and back to the Indoor Museum most of which we found less interesting, in fact much of it was modern exhibits tenuously linked back. The exception was the area with old boats which merited plenty of time before we left, somewhat footsore, to walk back to the marina.
All good things have to come to an end and it was time to catch a train to Amsterdam and on to Schipol Airport. We had spent the previous day collecting change to buy our tickets as we had been warned that the ticket machines only took Dutch Credit Cards and Debit cards apart from a small number which take coins - you need a lot even though the prices are much lower than in the UK. The trains are mostly the double decker style and fast and comfortable even in second class. We had a long wait at the airport as we had too much contingency. We enquired about an earlier flight and there was no trouble in changing tickets other than the cost. We would have paid an extra 295 Euros to move to a flight two hours earlier which seemed unreasonable as that was 10 (ten) times what we had paid in the first place! We settled for the wait. Terminal 5 at Heathrow was a delight and we were on an airport bus a little after half an hour of landing.
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