The Hotel in Goedereede
The Hotel in Goedereede

Holland is flat, flat and low. Most of the land we were walking on today is below sea level, the water kept at bay by dykes and ditches. But today the element most on our minds was not water, but wind. We had to jag southwestwards in order to end up somewhere with accommodation, which took us straight into a headwind across some of the flattest, most exposed terrain that Holland can offer.

This morning we trekked across grey, wintry landscapes, huge vistas of grey clouds sweeping across the skies above us, while we passed humble, unadorned houses and smallholdings of goats, sheep, horses and hens – and even a few deer and rabbits. The terrain was bleak, and we just had to be grateful that it wasn’t raining, as the wind would have hurled the raindrops painfully into our faces. Settlements were few, and lunch was eaten quickly as we hunkered down in the one sheltered spot for miles around, in the lee of a park café closed for the winter.

This afternoon we had to cross a bridge across a dam, a huge feat of hydraulic engineering that left me feeling faintly scared of the gargantuan machinery, and the bridge seemed to go on forever – well, half an hour at least.

After a final stretch alongside a canal lined by leafless poplars we arrived at Goedereede, by far the prettiest place we had been since leaving Breille this morning. Narrow streets lined with old houses led us to our accommodation for the night – the Hotel de Gouden Leeuw, which we recognized by the eponymous golden lion projecting from its front wall.

With relief we dived out of the wind and into its main hall, a double-height room with a minstrels’ gallery, beamed wooden ceiling, iron chandelier, black and white tiled floor, and wooden wainscoting topped by a shelf along which are arranged assorted antique bric-a-brac – paintings of local scenes, a model boat, old-fashioned hotirons, woodcarvings, and a few traditional Dutch tiles. A huge ceramic beer pump dominates the bar. Up the narrow tiled staircase my spartan but clean little room on the top floor has a glorious view across the red roofs of the old town, and I can hear the church clock chiming the quarter hours. I feel like I have walked straight out of the 21st century and into a Vermeer painting.

Other Stuff:

It’s not easy being green….

One of the challenges of this venture from Big Ben to Brussels has been how to reconcile priorities that occasionally conflict. This morning was a good example.

A few days ago the team was falling apart – physically, not figuratively, I mean. Between us we had a list of injuries including blisters, swollen knees, potential stress fractures of the foot, and a couple of dodgy Achilles tendons. As the instigator of this whole crazy enterprise I had to think hard about how best to keep the show on the road.

13 Comments

  • Hi ladies
    How heavy are your packs?

    If that landscape is below sea level, how high are the levees? How much sea rise will swamp the land (assuming storms don’t make a mess of the levees first)? Is the land use exclusively farms and urban development or are there (relatively) natural areas too? You said a few days ago that you got advice from some locals along the way; do the rural locals in Holland speak enough English to help you out or express an interest in your cause (or do any of you speak Dutch?)

    I wish I could do a day’s walking with you.
    Chins up.

  • Roz, I have seen images of the bridge and dam (Haringvliet sluices) and now, with your description and seeing them on Google Earth, I have a clearer understanding of their immensity. Here is a photo that was posted on Google Earth mid-span. As windy as you describe, no wonder there are wind turbines everywhere, including th half dozen along the northern approach to the bridge.

    The past couple days, I have been following your progress on Google Maps (zoom out to get a broader perspective) — at least the general area of your trek, not knowing which roads and paths you actually take. Google Maps helps by drawing lines along roadways at least. After “seeing” and reading your descriptions, I wish I were there trekking with you. If only … Without the RozTracker, Google Maps is the next best thing.

    Hoping all your ailments heal quickly.

  • UncaDoug…thanks for the post from Google Earth…great idea to track Roz and her band of merry women…yes that was a long bridge…as long as you are viewing Google Earth each day, keep posting photos if possible…nice complement to Roz’s photos…and stories which are always entertaining and so descriptive–thanks Roz…helps us appreciate their trek…assume no news is good news about your various ailments…maybe you are “hitting your stride”???

  • In the past decades, the rivers turned out to be much more dangerous than the sea. There are two reasons for that. 1) After the last big disaster in 1953, 1700 people got killed in Zeeland, the very same area where Roz is walking now. After that, massive works were constructed the protect against the sea. Not nearly as much effort has been spent on river dykes. 2) The other problem is that a river can rise enormously in a relatively short period of time. Sea levels are sort of predictable, the amount of water in a river depends on the amount of rainfall in other countries, but also on the structure of riverbanks, etc. which is very hard to predict over a long period of time.

    The deepest part of the Netherlands (which is not in Zeeland) is 6.76m below mean sea level.

    Oh, and foreigners often complain that they can’t learn speaking Dutch because everybody is also talking in English to them.

  • Hi Everybody! Thanks for the continuing comments on Roz’s blogs. It is true that so many people in Europe do speak English now; I don’t suppose anybody in her group speaks Dutch. Roz’s great-grandparents (my mother’s people) were from Amsterdam but sadly language is not passed on in the genes.
    Picture of the hotel courtesy of the internet! It was the only one that I could find, as Roz was unable to send a photograph.
    Update on the bookmarks: I will soon be mailing a package to a contact in the USA who will be mailing them out. Hope you enjoy them – when they do arrive. Rita.

  • Roz, I’m hoping you and the team get some relief from the swells, aches and chores. I’m thinking of you every morning as I’m spending the holidays at my Mom’s house, reminding myself not to go epping the sugar spoon.

  • Dear Roz and Crew:
    I cannot imagine doing what you are doing and for such a good cause.
    You guys inspire all of us, and *WOW* us all as well.
    I do hope your injuries subside. They are very bothersome and sometimes horribly debilitating!
    WOW. What a journey. Try to enjoy every moment, even thru the blisters on the feet….
    You are bringing enormous attention to our WORLD as we know it.
    Thank you so much for doing that! Erin in Wisconsin, USA

  • Brad, I will continue to update the google map, but realize that the blue line is only an approximation of their route using the clues in Roz’s blog. I just realized that there is a series of photos of the area where the BB2B team walked, including three or four at the bridge (Haringvliet sluices), a few around the town Brielle where they stayed last night, and several in the area closer to the Hook of Holland (bridges they may have crossed) at this link. Click the right arrow at the top of each photo to advance through about a dozen photos.

  • Hey Roz. amazing, once again. Hiking and standing up to the wind. You are a constant inspiration.

    Thank you.
    Laurey in Asheville

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