An afternoon at the Canals of Giethoorn Koeienvervoer

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July 23rd 2013
Published: July 30th 2013
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Today is predicted to be hotter than yesterday (although our daughter Leigh will never believe it can be hot in Holland after experiencing cold weather here at Christmas several years ago) and the way the day had dawned with another clear blue sky we will need to be prepared with sunhats and plenty of water to drink as we walk along the canal paths at Giethoorn.

Wim, had wisely decided that riding bicycles for some sightseeing was not a good idea in temperatures that were set to rise to 35C and so had suggested that a short run in the car to the small rural village with a historical past and a combined cycle and walking path beside canals just wide enough for small electric motored boats to cruise along at a walking pace was the best idea for today.

Breakfast with cereal and Greek yogurt and scrumptious raisin toast with melted butter was a leisurely affair outdoors as the morning heated up.

Before we started the short drive to the countryside we checked the BBC channel to see if the royal baby had yet been named but we would have to wait until later for that to happen.

The GPS took us on a merry drive around Zwolle taking in some new housing on the outskirts of the city before we cleared the built up area and had just open, green fields around us.

W & D thought that it would be relatively quiet at the starting point of our walk along the narrow canals which were founded in 1230 by fugitives from the Mediterranean and used them to hide in such was the area's historical past.

The walking was easy as were the views of the enchanting thatched roof houses and cottages that lined the banks on both sides of the canals. The gardens of most of the houses were so colourful with hollyhocks, dahlias and all manner of summer flowers making them stand out for their beauty.

Every so often there were boat owners offering to hire an electric motorised small boat for €12 per hour which wasn’t a bad deal when you could comfortably get 4 people in each boat. There were takers but we were happy to stroll the bank taking stops every now and then to people watch in a different way to what we usually have done from a restaurant table, this time on a seat watching other people handle or in some cases mishandle the tiller on the boat causing minor collisions with other boats and their passengers.

In other spots were much larger boats capable of carrying 20 or 30 people with a ‘professional ‘at the tiller and you could take a ride on one of those if you felt that captaining your own boat was not for you or any of your party.

Everyone was in summer mode with the least amount of clothes on their modesty would allow in the steadily rising temperature although the trees did provide good shade for much of the time.

We stopped at a junction in two of the canals for some of the lunch Wim had expertly put together for us, the sandwiches reminding us of the way Gretchen’s Dad used to get the fillings correctly proportioned and evenly spread on each slice of bread. Our girls would fondly remember picnics with Granddad and his sandwiches.

The canal junction made for some interesting sights as those with firsthand knowledge of the best route to take had to often avoid the people who dithered over which direction they would take. We had even more fun watching one particular family on the walk back to the car. More about that later.

We reached the end of the walk without getting run over by any of the cyclists who have to share their cycleway with pedestrians and probably cursed us for being there in the first place. The path is in fact a designated cycleway in the first instance and pedestrians are tolerated.

W&D knew the right place for a welcome cold beer and we rested ready to gather our energy for the return walk to the car.

Before we started back we had a look through an interesting shop that sold rocks and stones from faraway places including some that had been made into jewellery or ornaments.

The walk back didn’t seem to take as long even though we had a stop at the ‘collision crossroads ‘where the junction of two canals were.

Diny had persuaded a guy who was finishing his beer and taking up more than his share of the seat to sit on the bank while we four took over the seat. She has such a gently persuasive manner!

It was here that an American family of four, regulation Mom and Dad, teenage son and younger daughter, motored up haphazardly to the junction unsure whether to go left, straight ahead or right (which was actually a no no as the canal traffic was all in one direction from that way).Their indecision caused boats crossing their indecisive path much consternation but great amusement, in a friendly way, to the crowd, including ourselves, watching from the bank. Dad tried several times to get the steering right but had real problems in realising that moving the tiller in one direction actually took you in the opposite and each time ended up hitting the bank of the canal. We think Mom knew better than Dad and so with some difficulty but without falling out of the boat, she rose from her seat and took over steering.Regretably her co-ordination was no better than Dad’s and with the kids looking worried that the boating adventure on the canal would have to be abandoned, Mom relinquished the tiller to Dad.

This time the co-ordination between the tiller and the throttle was better and there was forward movement in a, well, virtual straight line, much to the acclamation of the crowd on the bank. After minutes of worried faces Mom and Dad looked up at the expectant crowd and smiled.

The remainder of the walk back to the car was a quiet affair and we again enjoyed the group of houses along a particular stretch with the loveliest of the gardens.

It had been a most enjoyable day out in the countryside and far more pleasant for a change than driving the car through countryside that had at times become a bit too familiar.

The journey home proceeded well following Vicky’s instructions until close to the city we missed a turn and ended up on a ‘road’(we will call it a road as it did have a white dotted line down the middle)along the top of the stop bank which curved away ahead of us with no way to turn around and go back.W&D recognised it as route they had used in the past and we would be able to get to the bridge we wanted to cross the river by going to the end of the ‘road’.

After achieving a negotiation around a family out cycling the next obstacle was an approaching tractor, which we scraped by without toppling down the 3 metre grass bank.

Ahead the road was clear and Gretchen upped the pace of Cindy to get to where we could turn off before encountering any other traffic.

We almost made it! This time it was a tractor towing a farm trailer. Thankfully the tractor driver could see there were only going to be millimetres to spare to pass us and with us stopped he edged past carefully and we came through unscathed with a little bit of adventure to add to the BBA V2 annals of road trips.

With fresh steak purchased we sat down in the back yard, to a fondue dinner, as the evening started to cool slightly. With a very flavoursome bottle of Rose we each cooked our own cubes of beef and mince balls in the hot *** before Diny produced a surprise container.

Now, we didn’t have to eat it if we didn’t want to but she had purchased a small amount of horse meat to cook in the fondue as well as the steak.

Well of course we had to have a try of the first horse meat we had known we had ever eaten and we can say that it was very good with succulent flavour.

We think we are now over not eating horse meat in the future!

Like all good things, the day had to come to an end at some point and with the twilight turning into night we called it a day, and what a memorable one it had been too!

Additional photos below
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2nd August 2013

Dont believe you!
Nope, dont believe you about the temp in wasnt just Christmas that we experienced freezing temperatures there. It was also June and September! Maybe next year Holland will have a chance to redeem itself for me but until then I think you are all spinning me a giant PR story!
3rd August 2013

Nope,we are telling the absolute truth,no marketing spin here!
25th May 2015

your blog about Holland
Dear Grahama and Gretchen, I have read your travelblog about your visit to Holland and it was very interesting! I am Dutch myself and for my Geography Masterthesis I am doing research among tourist bloggers from abroad. Your blog caught my eye because you visited some less famous places in Holland, like Zwolle. It is so interesting to find out why a part of the tourists in Holland visit those less famous places next to the highlights like Amsterdam and its surroundings. That's why I am wondering if I could ask you some questions about your visit, to complement the info in your blog. It won't be a long survey, but more of a short interview-type conversation about your experience and opinion. You would help me a lot and I am also very curious to know about what you think about Holland and the reasons why you choose to visit it. I really hope to hear from you. The interview will be used in a completely anonymous and confidential way. Kind regards, Theo van Veenendaal
25th May 2015

You can ask questions via this blog and I will respond.

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