The night before, we had a tour of Dordrecht, with its canals and buildings. It is a pretty town, as usual, with its many old buildings. Tom, our guide, gave us one of his many “true” stories about the history of the buildings. In this case we were standing outside of this restaurant that used to be part of a monastery.
The story goes like this: Hundreds of years ago, a young couple opened a grocery store in a building in Dordrecht but were having a hard go of it. One night the wife had a dream and woke her husband. She dreamt that if her husband walks to Rotterdam, a long way away, all of their financial problems would be solved. She told this to her husband and he just said: go to sleep woman and ignored her. The next night she dreamt the same thing and again woke her husband, who ignored her once again. After a week of this, he finally thought that he should make the trip, just to get her to be quiet about the whole thing. He made the long walk to Rotterdam and found nothing along the way. On the way home, he met a man at a bridge in Rotterdam who looked quite forlorn, and talked to him. The man mentioned that his wife also had a dream and that in it, she saw that a chest of gold and silver was buried in the backyard of a store. This piqued the interest of the man from Dordrecht, who prodded the man for more information: where was this chest buried, he asked. The man said that it was under an apple tree in the backyard, but didn’t know where. Hmmm, said the man from Dordrecht. I have an apple tree. Now both men thought they might know where this was. The man in Rotterdam rushed home to get a shovel, while the man from Dordrecht quickly headed home. He dug under the apple tree and lo and behold, there was found a buried chest. All of their financial troubles were over. It seems that when the protestants look over the country, it caused the catholics to worry about their treasures, so many churches and monasteries went and hid their treasures, including burying them. To this day, any real estate contract in the Netherlands includes a clause that states: if any hidden treasures are found, they are the property of the seller.
|Statue of Longa Wappa|
After a tour of Dordrecht, four of us headed to a pub that, as it turned out, was the pub used by an annual pub-tour and because of that, had a proprietor who really knew his beers and was happy to share this info. Sharon was with us and is a true fan of these special beers. She was in heaven.
It seems that most Belgium beers are top-fermenting beers instead of lagers, which are bottom fermenting. The top-fermenting beers are known to be much better, have a higher fermentation temperature, longer shelf-life and allow for more unusual types or beers to be created. German and American beers are mostly lagers, which the Belgian refer to as inferior. I agree. These Belgian beers are excellent. A few that I tried were Duvel (which means devil in Flemish), Leffe Blond, and a couple of Maes beers. These were great. It seems most Belgian beers have a glass that has been made specifically for their brand of beer. Some also etch the inside bottom of the glass with a symbol. This etching causes the bubbles to be spent upwards from the etching. It allows the connoisseur to be able to see if the glass is clean or not. If the glass is not clean, then the bubbles will be shed from other places in the glass. Neat trick! Try these beers if you see them in the store, as they are available in America.
After our usual breakfast, our barge headed out up the canals with us on-board. Today was to be a shorter cycling day, only 11 miles. It was to be a mixture of sightseeing from the barge and then from the bikes. We headed up the canals on our way to Tholen, where we would start the bike ride. Tholen is a very small village with nothing really interesting. The village had its church and a town square with an old structure that was used to bring a horse into, where re-shoeing could be done. The horses leg would be lifted back and would rest on a bar where the shoe work was done.
From Tholen we headed along the waterways on the way to a very long (many miles) man-made dam, known as the Oysterdam. This dam was originally designed to be much further out into the sea, however the locals complained that their oyster collecting would no longer be possible. So, instead a second dam, this Oysterdam, was built and a section of the further out, original dam removed. This allowed the tides to still go up and down in the area between these 2 dams, which is essential for oyster growth. Hence this is how Oysterdam got its name. On one side of the dam was fresh water and the other sea water.
As we headed along this Oysterdam, we eventually came to see many of the wind-powered electric generators that are in abundance in this part of the world. At this point, we could overlook the inside canal, which is where our barge would soon be rolling into. We continued to the end of the Oysterdam and crossed the bridge to the other canal and met up with our barge.
Once we were all on board, the barge carried us into Antwerp, which is a beautiful city - one of my favorites. We are now in Belgium.
Antwerp has many plazas and beautiful buildings, one of which at first sight, looks like a church. However, nothing could be further from the truth about this building. The streets around the building are lower than usual, which was needed to carry the flows of blood down to the canals. This building was a slaughterhouse for animals to be eaten. Cows, pigs, goats and even some horses would find their way into this place. The lower streets would allow them to wash out the slaughterhouse with water to carry the blood away.
That evening Tom, our guide, gave his usual highly-entertaining, largely embellished story of the local legends and buildings. This time is it a story about a giant man named “Longa Wappa”. We had fun with that name.
We headed to the main square of Antwerp and saw the statue containing the severed head and hand of the local giant. It seems that centuries ago, a local giant extorted more and more money from the locals, until one day a warrior took case of the problem, by cutting off his head and hand. To do this, the local symbol of Antwerp is a hand and you can see many of these brass and silver symbols on many of the building and streets in this city.
Some of us took the canal way back to the barge and others took the shortcut through the red-light district instead.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings.