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Published: August 1st 2019
On our way to Leeuwarden yesterday, we had decided not to go over the Afsluitdijk since it might have been too much to do. Today, we believed it was a site too important to miss. We first had coffee at the hotel, but refused to pay €13 for a buffet breakfast that some other guests appeared to have included in their costs. So we decided to go have an Egg McMuffin at the McDonalds in Harlingen, first time eating at McD’s this trip. Their coffee was surprisingly good, though not at all the same as in Canada, because I think it’s made in the same kind of Nespresso coffee maker that everyone else uses. Got to get one of those!
Harlingen had not been on our program but we were sure happy we went there. What a beautiful harbour this is, one of the oldest in the Netherlands. Several draw bridges opened as we watched several Frisian sloops (I think that’s what these boats are called) leave with tourists and bicycle tourers to go for a sail on the North Sea. Beautiful old and quite large vessels, as you’ll note from the photos.
The Afsluitdijk, loosely translated as “closing-off
dike”, was completed in 1932 as one of the largest Dutch projects ever, and closed the Zuiderzee off from the North Sea to create the fresh-water IJsselmeer. This saved many occurrences of floods particularly in Friesland, and allowed the creation of several more polders now called Flevoland, a new province. Incidentally, I heard that some environmentalists have started a discussion to re-flood these areas because of environmental concerns. Somebody tell them to get a life and focus on real issues?
Part-way across the 32-km dike, there’s a monument and a small souvenir shop and restaurant. I only mention this because you can only use the bathroom there if you buy something which will then entitle you too a non-transferable toilet ticket. Believe it or not! Actually, talking about toilets.... Elsewhere, I needed to use the bathroom and noticed something quite ingenious. Men, or boys, have a tendency to not always aim well. Leave it to the Dutch to solve that problem. Painted into the urinal is a picture of a fly. This satisfies a basic urge for males to direct their stream, thinking they can piss it away.
Next stop the Drentsmuseum in the city of Assen, capital
of the province of Drenthe, our second provincial museum in two days. The main reason for us to go there is the presence of mummified remains of several ancient people. One skeleton was several thousands of years BC and the skull had the telltale signs of three hard blows, leaving gaping holes in the skull as evidence of a quick death. But the most fascinating for me has always been the girl from Yde (pronounced ‘eaduh’. She was 16 years old when she was killed about 2,000 years ago, most likely as an offering to pagan gods. While she had a stab wound near the collar bone, the more likely cause of death was asphyxiation as evidenced by a rope around her neck. She was clad in woollen clothes and her body had mummified after she was thrown into a very low oxygen content peat bog. Unfortunately, the perfectly preserved mummy was violated by people that found her and it also had the markings of peat-digging tools. Enough creepy stuff.
The museum also had an exhibit on famous Dutch motorcycle sidecar racer Egbert Strauer, who was from Assen and had multiple world championships to his name. A modern paint
artist named Matthias Röling also had a large exhibit of his paintings. Marion liked his flowers and nature oil paintings. I liked his nudes.
After a quick walk around the centre, we attempted to get our car out of the parking garage. More stories about how to pay for things here: I could not pay with my Visa, nor my MasterCard or debit card. Initial tries with cash also did not work until I realized the automated machine only took €5 or €10 bills, not the €20 I tried at first. The other folks waiting behind me at least appeared patient.
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