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A Rollercoaster Ride On A Pancake??? (Or Just Because There Are No Geological Hills Doesn't Mean The Land Is Completely Flat!!!)
I am always amused when people tell me that The Netherlands shares its characteristics with a pancake (totally and utterly flat).  If that was the reality the country would not exist at all (apart from part of the province of Limburg which is distinctly less flat due to it being the location of "Drielandenpunt" - or "Three Countries Point" - the hill where The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany share a third each).  You read that correctly - The Netherlands would be seabed!!!

In fact, if you want to know where the lowest point of The Netherlands (and all their territories) is I would take you to a place near Rotterdam called Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel.  It is a quaint little village which is kind of overshadowed by the town which is the next stop on the Railway line heading out of Rotterdam - Gouda.  (A family friend lives in Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel.)

During my recent trip to Holland I decided to go to another place I have had a family connection with - this connection was over 30 years ago.  We had relations living in a place called Lekkerkerk - to be perfectly honest all I could really remember were a jigsaw (made by Oom Aad), a cobbled road which shook you to bits as you drove along it, a ferry, and a kind of double decker pavement which you had to climb up to see over the river wall.

I love water and boats.  Especially large barges which you can see going along the larger Dutch rivers.  (In fact, had I put my brain into gear and got the bus to the next place along the river, I could have gone to the riverside cafe in Schoonhoven which my parents and I went to a few times with Oma when she was alive/)


A barge on the River Lek (the river Lekkerkerk is situated on the bank of).  Please accept my apologies for the quality of the photo but I was on a bus at the time.

The above photo was what I could see out of the window on the driver's side of the bus.  What I saw out of the window on the other side of the bus was more than just a bit scary (it is what gave this post the first part of its title).  It was a sheer drop covered by grass.

Yes, I know I have got problems with angles which can make them appear steeper than they are but - trust me - when the bus is near the edge of the road with nothing preventing it from tumbling down the side of the dyke as it drives round a particularly narrow and winding bend in the road - even those with good vision will tell you it is scarily steep (if you don't believe me you could always ask my Dad - who has experience of driving on that dyke, as well as better sight than me).  I have felt safer in my Dad's car as it drove up mountains in Switzerland with hairpin bends in them (with nothing preventing the car falling to the next bit of road below us).

Although - I must admit my favourite road in The Netherlands (and also my favourite bit of railway which is nearby-ish) can be even more dangerous.  At least Lekkerkerk has only got water on one side of it.

If you go from Rotterdam down to the Dutch/Belgian border following the North Sea - you will come to a spectacular road which feels like it could feature on an episode of "Ice Road Truckers" (the desolate routes where all you can see for miles around is snow).  Just replace the snow with water for as far as the eye can see.  This is near the Delta Dam which was built in 1953 (after the floods).  It is not advisable to drive on it towards Belgium if it has been snowing!  My parents and I tried that journey once in exactly those circumstances - I was relieved when we were back on roads with visible ground around them, I can tell you.

However, the best way to experience that stretch of water is to travel from Rotterdam to Breda on the top deck of a Double Decker train.  You feel like you are floating on the water.

I have a more than vague memory (which I am still trying to erase from my brain after all these years) of a ferry between Vlissingen (sorry - Flushing) and Breskens.  This was before the solid boat which I saw a few years ago when I went down to Vlissingen.  The one I remember rolled from side to side so badly that - one minute I could see sky and the next minute I could see underwater.  Miraculously I wasn't seasick.  Even more miraculously our car (which was also on the ferry) survived the trip as well.

It is amazing what sort of places you find yourself in when you don't stick to the Tourist traps.



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