Today we did a massive road trip starting in Enkhuizen in the north to Neeltje Jans in the south (with a few places in between) covering a distance of over 500 kilometres.
Our first stop was near Schiphol Airport to charge the car up. This was a short 20 minute stop but we had time to relax in the sun and enjoy a stropwafel. We then headed to Den Haag, the political capital of the Netherlands where the government sits, there are also several international courts there as well.
After parking the car we wandered through the Parliament House courtyard which is quite impressive and made our way to the Mauritshuis. The Mauritshuis is officially known as the Royal Picture Gallery. It has a collection of almost 800 paintings dating from around 1400 to 1800. The majority however are Dutch works dating from the 17th century, this was the Dutch golden age and boasted famous painters such as Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Vermeer. We were amazed at some of the paintings and really enjoyed this museum. The painting I most enjoyed was 'Apelles painting Campaspe' by Willem van Haecht, the detail in this painting is amazing. We also saw Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', this is a very famous painting but it didn't do much for me. I guess it's a bit like the Mona Lisa which I also thought was unimpressive when I saw it as well. They are both very famous paintings and obviously mean a lot to people who know much more about art and painting than I do so I will defer to their expertise and be happy to have seen such famous art works even if I don't really understand their significance.
We enjoyed lunch in the town square opposite the Mauritshuis and then wandered a bit more around the town finishing up at the Noordeinde Palace which is one of three official palaces of the Dutch royal family. This was another impressive building. When we walked around town Maikel pointed out the Dutch coat of arms located above several shops around Den Haag, this means those shops supply goods and services to the king. Something to be very proud of I'm sure for these shop owners.
We then drove to Deltapark Neeltje Jans which is located at the foot of the largest storm surge barrier in the world and tells the story of the construction of this amazing piece of engineering. The Delta Works were built to keep everyone safe and to prevent a recurrence of the 1953 flood disaster which resulted in 200,000 hectares of land being flooded and the death of 1835 people and the evacuation of 72,000 people.
We saw a film as well as wandered onto the storm surge barrier itself to gain an insight into the construction methods and investigations that went into this major project that by the time it was completed in 1986 cost around €2.5 billion. One of the fascinating aspects of the Netherlands is its management of water through the reclamation of land from the sea. The first dikes were built in the 11th century and the techniques and extent of dike building continued throughout the following centuries culminating in an extensive and complex system of water control and management. The most elaborate project being the storm surge barriers. Without this water management and the system of sea and river dikes around 65% of the Netherlands would be under water. It's an amazing feat by this country and the worrying thing for the future will be the potential effects of sea level rise due to climate change not to mention the fact the land is actually falling at a rate of 1.5 centimetres each century due to tectonic movements. Im sure the Dutch will come up with an ingenious solution to this issue just as they have for almost a thousand years already.
It was starting to get late in the afternoon when we left Neeltje Jan's and we needed to charge the car up to get home problem was there isn't many charging points in the south of the Netherlands. But Maikel had planned it to the centimetre as we got to the closest charging point with no kilometres left in the battery. We cut it very close indeed but thankfully the car was able to be charged up and we were able to continue our epic road trip.
A few of the things that really stood out for me during the road trip was firstly the number of wind towers, they are all across the countryside as well as in cities and towns. They are everywhere. I loved them, Maikel not so much, but we did agree on the need for more solar energy and better technologies for battery storage. We also chatted about the electric car technology and the fact many car manufacturers in Europe are already making electric cars or planning to do so. You can only envisage the technology for these cars getting better very quickly.
Another thing I noticed across the Netherlands was you get to see every shade of green, everything is green, this is a nice change to the Australian landscape. I must also mention how great the road and highway network is and the fact on many roads the speed limit is 130km/h (however many cars appeared to be going in excess of 150/160km/h). I have been advocating for higher speed limits in Australia for ages (especially since our nanny state seems to be slowly pulling back speed limits across the country) and you can see in the Netherlands that it certainly can occur and is safe, if the Dutch can drive at 130 on roads much busier than some of our country roads then surely we can too. Anyway, I will get off that soap box for now.
The day was certainly a long one and finished with a late tea at Purmerend before getting home to Enkhuizen. Another great day in the Netherlands thanks to our excellent tour guides Rosemarie and Maikel.
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