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June 21, 2021

France: Le Centre Historique Minier de Lewarde and Charleville-Mézières

Charleville-Mézières was rainy and dark when we arrived.

In the extreme north of France is the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin.  Installed on the World Heritage list in 2012, it joins the numerous other industrial sites honored by UNESCO. 


June 20, 2021

Belgium: Tournai

Tournai’s Grand Place with its UNESCO World Heritage designated cathedral peaking over the buildings at the left and its UNESCO bell tower and the end of the plaza.

As a rule we try to avoid short stops as we travel.  They can be unavoidably unsatisfying.  But sometimes a short stop is inevitable, as it was when we stopped overnight in Tournai Belgium on our way south to France.  Inevitably we didn’t acquire even a skin-deep understanding of the place or even a full appreciation of its aesthetics.  But we did appreciate a good meal and an attractive commune, enough so that we could pencil Tournai in for a return visit.


The Netherlands: Rotterdam, Van Nelle Factory

The Van Nellefabriek or the Van Nelle Factory

Along the banks of a canal in the Spaanse Polder industrial zone northwest of Rotterdam is the Van Nelle Factory.  This unique complex of buildings was completed in 1931.  Until 1996 the factory processed coffee, tea, tobacco, cigarettes, and more.  The factory’s food processing days are over now and the building currently houses a wide variety of companies and co-working space.


June 19, 2021

The Netherlands: Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout and the Beemster Polder

Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

In and near the Dutch village of Kinderdijk is a group of 19 historic windmills.  Built in 1738 and 1740 to remove water from a polder, an area of reclaimed land, it is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands.  Even today some of these windmills are used to keep the area dry, though two diesel-powered pumps now move most of the water.


The Netherlands: Afsluitdijk

The North Sea at the left and the Southern Sea at the right

Afsluitdijk, which I gather translates from Dutch unromantically as “Enclosure Dam”, is a massive 20-mile long dike in the north of the Netherlands.  This Depression-era project was finished in 1932.  The dike is 300 feet wide and extends 24 feet above sea level.  Built in water with an average depth of 18 feet it required nearly 1.3 billion cubic feet of construction material to complete.  That’s the rough equivalent of 40 million dump truck loads. 


June 18, 2021

The Netherlands: Ir.D.F. Woudagemaal (D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station)


The Netherlands is a flat and low country.  Half of the country is less than one meter above sea level.  Indeed nearly 17% of Holland is below sea level, a feat enabled by the heroic land reclamation efforts that began in the 16th century.   Today the Dutch feet are kept dry by an extensive system of dikes and pumps that serve as a barrier to the waters of the North Sea.  It is one of the most sophisticated anti-flood systems in the world.


June 17, 2021

Germany: Bremen

Details of the façade of Bremen’s old town hall

Located on the estuary of the Weser River in northwestern Germany is the port city of Bremen.  Bremen is roughly 60 miles from Hamburg and 90 miles from Lübeck, both of which are to the north and east of the city.  Population-wise, modern Bremen is less than a third the size of Hamburg and more than twice the size of Lübeck.


June 15, 2021

Germany: Hamburg, Speicherstadt

Judging by the number of photographers that assembled to take a picture at sunset the Wasserschloss has to be one of Hamburg’s most popular places to take a picture.

Located in Hamburg’s port area is the Speicherstadt or the “City of Warehouses”.  The district consists of large blocks of waterfront brick warehouses supported on timber pilings.  Separated by canals and linked by roads and bridges the warehouses are accessible from both the land and the water.  It was built so a boat can navigate into the Speicherstadt and unload its goods directly from the water into a warehouse.   


June 13, 2021

Germany: Hamburg


Some say Hamburg Germany is the “Venice of the North”.  It’s not a claim that goes undisputed.  In fact Wikipedia catalogs at least 39 places claiming the title of “the Venice of the North”.  Nevertheless, even with all of the competition, Hamburg makes a strong case for the title.  There are a lot of waterways crisscrossing the city.  Indeed, it is the water that is Hamburg’s defining feature.  So for sure, Hamburg is at least qualifies as “a Venice of the North”, even if the “the” can be disputed.


June 10, 2021

Germany: Hanseatic City of Lübeck

Lübeck’s famous Holstentor gate and its salt storehouses

A 29-hour ferry trip from Helsinki took us from Finland to Travemünde Germany.  After rolling off the ramp from the ferry’s car decks and a 20-kilometer drive through the dark we were in our next destination, Lübeck Germany.  

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