On the other hand, Netherlands is probably the only country in the world which doesn’t need to fear the global warming and the rise of the sea level. If someone knows how to control water, it`s them. We have a feeling that one day, if they haven’t started already, they will be getting paid big money for all the hassle that they have been fighting with the North sea for eight centuries. Who would say, the sea is so pretty.
Since the Netherlands is a country of museums, whores and junkies, we decided to take the fourth road first. We would go by creating a country, in a literal way. More than 50% of the territory is under the sea level, that`s why the name is Netherlands. As years pass by, that percent is continuously growing because the Netherlands continuously creates new territories by taking them from the North Sea. They took the most fertile ones. Out of 10 basic agricultural cultures, the Netherlands is among the top 4 biggest world producers. A country that is twice smaller than Serbia. For now.
This historically very important place is usually very quiet. It`s tranquil in a way. The gates don`t exist so it`s possible to see it even when it is not working. There is, of course, an entry fee (6e), but it’s not necessary. Kinderdijk is a group of 19 windmills scattered next to the canal that has been dug by the Dutch in the middle of the 13th century. They have been forced to settle on the territories below the sea level because of the fertile land. This one is called Alblasserwaard.
They have fought for centuries against floods, heavy rain, and underground waters. At first, the main weapons against them were embankments, which were mostly weak. The flood by the name of Elisabeth proved that to them in 1420. In broke through all the dams and thousands of people were drowned. The legend says that after this flood, people passing through the area on boats have come upon several cribs and they heard a baby’s cry in one of them. Therefore the name Kinderdijk or Children`s embankment came up.
Today, the windmills are under the protection of UNESCO and are a part of the world cultural heritage. In the 17th century they were celebrated for becoming the main way to pump out underground and rain waters from areas in which people lived. For over two centuries they have preserving lives that way. Around 1886 they were joined up with steam machines. The windmills could take a break, even though they functioned just in case there is a need to demonstrate how we can fight against the North Sea with the power of the wind blowing from the North Sea.
Today, many dams down all of Netherlands completely change the looks of many terrains, as well as this one. It`s buzzing with tourists and bicycles. They even installed electricity in some of the windmills, and there are paintings on the wall, even a TV, so that the guards and the curators would not be bored. The dogs await you. Cuddly. No windmill spins. There`s no need. The fight with the North sea has been moved many kilometers to the west. It`s somewhere around Rotterdam. The main concern here right now is how to catch the ducks around the canal.
The Delta works
The Delta works is an abbreviation for a never-ending story in which hills are formed out of the islands, bays of the plows, within which the coast is being made into impressing walls and a mobile dams. A 5 billion Euros project. For now.
It all began 60 years ago by making the first barrier on the Hollandse Ijssel river near Gouda. Afterwards, 700 kilometers long dikes were pullulating around like mushrooms. Most of the dikes are flowing as not to endanger marine and river biotopes based on the perfect combination of salty and fresh water. Fishing, breeding of herrings and mussels must not be called into question.
If you ask a Dutchman living in these areas about The Delta nowadays, he will not tell you how they overpowered the North Sea. They will tell you how they learned to live alongside with it. How to mold it and allow it to mold themselves. The entire territory of the Netherlands is literally sprinkled with channels. That water, which goes up to 200 kilometers inland, is at times sweet and salty at times. This is up to the North Sea to decide, and where will it go is, on the other hand, up to the Dutch.
The largest dam of the Delta Project is called the Eastern Shield. Sounds like something from the Power Rangers. The full name has an even more powerful tone – Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier. This 2 billion Euros megalomaniac project with a length of over 3 kilometers was opened in ’86. This is the most complex thing the Netherlands has ever done. It’s impressive. Especially if you can experience it spontaneously and directly, absorbing all this incomprehensible width lying down among the windmills that power the dams, playing with dozens hunting for crabs and a few pieces of Pringles.
And while this wondrous project had not yet been fairly finished, a new one was announced. It’s not more expensive, but it’s definitely fascinating. Rotterdam, as a port city, could never be fully isolated by the dams. Europort is not only the main port of this country, but of the entire EU. A large-scale machinery, where thousands of containers float in the air, cranes move and fit in like the dominoes. As the access to the city is impossible to close, and since it’s necessary to protect it from water, a building fret has been built. It’s huge, ingenious and original. The project is so megalomaniac that it is completely possible to see it from the air.
Maeslantkering is a favorite destination of the bicyclists from Rotterdam. They rush to it, get to the viewpoint above the moveable dam, chit chat a little bit and go back. If we think a little bit better, it’s a spitting image of Netherlands, a country in which you can start from Groningen on the far north and get to Maastricht via the bicycle track on the far south without a problem. If you’re willing to pedal that much, that is. We, of course, went there by car. Who`s going to carry all those bananas on a bike!
Maeslantkering was closed down just 4 times for its 30 years of existing. Out of those four times, it was once closed down in front of the queen and its citizens so that they could demonstrate “how it works”. It took it two whole hours to completely fold over. It must have been one of the most boring television broadcasts ever. All that has been stated is so far publicly available and free. There are a few more UNESCO locations that should be visited if, one day, the road takes you to Netherlands. For some of them you will need to set aside a few euros as well.
Schokland – once an island, inhabited for the first time in the stone ages, today a small hill surrounded by wheat, cows and potatoes. The cows are somewhat strange, black, with a white “belt” around their waists. I guess it’s normal in Netherlands…
Breezanddijk and Houtribdijk – embankments that intersect the Marker and Ijssel seas thus calming the bursts of water towards interior territories. One can find colonies of nodes, swans and seagulls just next to the embankments. Each one of them has a bicycle track, of course. Try not to confuse them with the driveway … a two seconds-and-three and a half meters long mistake will cost you exactly 106 euros (in case you are, like us, lucky enough to commit it exactly in front of the traffic cameras).
Stelling van Amsterdam – Considering the fact that the Dutch have mastered the control of water, they have built a 135 kilometers long defensive wall around the capital, consisting of 45 towers with cannons. In case of an attack they would just release water, and sink the areas around Amsterdam forming a water ring. Not too deep, half a meter, just so that they could make the enemies progress harder, and so that they could disable the approach of the ships. All of that wasn’t of much help during the Second World War. The Germans attacked them from the air.
Ir.D.F. Woudagemaal – biggest steam station ever built. It is still functional today. It pumps out water into the Ijssel sea. The station is also the part of the embankment.
In case you are crazy about technology and construction, absolutely all the dams and embankments of Netherlands can be found here.
The Land Art of Flevoland
Sculptures have always been better than paintings, at least for us. Often, you can’t really take a good photo of a painting, much less touch it. You can even cling to some sculpture if you want, especially if you are in Netherlands. Lelystad and the whole Flevoland region is filled with conceptual statues, spreading out in all directions, which represent The Land Art Of Flevoland. The theme? The man and the sea.
So that the people would be aware of where they live, and so that the people would, from a very young age, have an idea of their nation’s centuries-long battle, the country has placed walls on many places which very strikingly and realistically show the exact level of the sea. It’s frightening to see a kindergarten right next to such wall, which would be left completely underwater if some of the dams were to crack. The walls are the work of American artist Richard Serra.
Speaking about clinging onto the statues, the most effective installation is The Exposure. The reflective man kneeling and looking at the North Sea. Anthony Gormley is the author of the most fun sculpture that we had a chance to see, and of course, climb on for a little bit.
While you’re chasing for installations all over Flevoland and other parts of Netherlands, a few things will definitely not pass by unnoticed. One of them are the robot lawn mowers which work day and night, going up and down. You will probably notice the bigger automated vehicles which drive next to the rails of the highway and mow grass on their own. You will also not miss the fact that certain gas stations operate without people. You pour your own gas, wash your windshield on your own and pay the gas that costs 1.7 euros per liter by yourself, with a credit card.
The map of all these The Land Art Of Flevoland locations can be downloaded here.
Where does it end?
There is none. The battle is everlasting, even though the Dutch have become smarter in their endeavors. The Delta project doesn’t have an actual end and it doesn’t care for global warming. It was set up for water levels higher than any that could be realistically predicted, as well as strikes stronger than predicted realistically. Although, you never know when nature might run wild and mad, destroying everything like a tower of cards.