Day 1: Arrival/Embarkation in Amsterdam (9 miles/15 km)
When you arrive on board the ship, you can put your luggage away in your cabin and then enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. During this coffee break, you have an opportunity to get to know your guide, the crew, and your fellow passengers. Embarkation between 1-2:00pm.
In the 12th century Amsterdam was no more than a modest settlement at the mouth of the river Amsteel, with open connection to the sea. In those days fishermen and craftsmen built a dam in the Amstel (now the site of the National Monument) and Amstel-re-damme was born. Amsterdam was granted a municipal charter in 1275 and has since expanded continually. In the 17thand 18th century Amsterdamers were the most prosperous Europeans. The famous rings of canals were dug in the Golden Age, the 17th century. Powerful merchants had their abundantly ornamented mansions built here, thus manifesting their riches.
Amsterdam is a city to be explored on foot and we recommend the following places of interest: the rings of canals; the Jordaan area, with its many pubs, outdoor cafés and quaint shops; Vondelpark with its open air concerts; Leidseplein; Rembrandtsplein; the antique shops in the Spiegel district; Museum Square with the Rijksmuseum (National Museum), Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art), Van Gogh Museum and off course the Anne Frank House. Other typical features of Amsterdam are its numerous "hofjes" (almshouses), the floating flower market, and the hundreds of houseboats lining the canals.
Amsterdam is inextricably related to the diamond-cutting industry, which has brought much fame to the city since the 17th century. The palace on Dam Square is sometimes called the eighth Wonder of the World as it was built on 13,659 piles.
During dinner aboard the ship, the program for the next day and the global planning of the week are discussed. After dinner, you will make your first kilometers on your bike.
Overnight in Amsterdam
Day 2: Oude Wetering – Gouda (28 miles/45 km)
From Oude Wetering you will continue your tour over country roads, banks, and channels through the Green Heart and polders to the city known for its cheese: Gouda. This day is Sunday, the day many Dutch take out their bikes for a ride, and you can join them! Whoever thinks of Gouda, thinks not only of cheese, pipes, stroopwafels (treacle-waffle) and pottery, but also of stained-glass windows, a fairytale-like town hall and atmospheric canals. Gouda is a beautiful Old-Dutch city with a mostly intact city center.
The "St. Janskerk," Gouda’s 123-meter-long church, with its renowned "Goudse Glazen" (leaded light windows), the beautiful gothic town hall and the "Waag" (a building once used for weighing cheese) are absolutely worth a visit. Furthermore, one should not forget the Goudse Kaas-en Ambachtenmuseum (Museum of Cheese and Crafts museum), the Museum of Dutch Resistance, the "Weeshuisplein" (famous square), the Catharinatuin, patios around the city and the Museumhaven, a harbor where historical ships are moored. As on most days, after dinner you will take a walk through the city.
Overnight in Gouda
Day 3: Gouda – Alblasserdam – ferry to Dordrecht (24 miles/39 km)
Today you will cycle along the Dutch IJssel, through the deepest lying polder of the Netherlands: Krimpenerwaard and over narrow cycling paths to the river Lek. Here you will cross the river by ferry to Kinderdijk, a unique and renowned monument where Holland’s largest number of historical windmills is found.
From the embankments of the river Lek, you will witness an amazing view of the 19 windmills, which are now listed as a UNESCO's World Heritage site. This is where you will take a break and visit the interior of a windmill. After a beautiful tour through the Alblasserwaardpolder you will arrive at the banks of the river Beneden-Merwede.
A modern, fast ferry will take us over to Dordrecht, one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands, situated at a busy crossing of fairways. Dordrecht was known as "Thuredrech" in the eleventh century. In the year 1220, it received its municipal laws from Count Willem I of Holland. In the Middle Ages, around the year 1350, Dordrecht grew to be an important port town with Staple rights, allowing ships to transport and sell their goods in its harbor.
The fifteenth century was a time of disasters for this city: siege, floodings, and the city fire. The city survived all of its troubles and played an important role in Dutch politics. The first open State assembly with representatives of Holland was held here in 1572 in the Hof, a former Augustine monastery. This assembly can be seen as the start of Holland as an independent country as the resistance against Spain was formed here. In the sixteenth century, Dordrecht loses its leading position as trade city to Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In 1618-1619 an influential Protestant church meeting was held about the indifferences among believers of this church about its doctrine. The stricter believers won, resulting in the "Dordtse Leerregels," known as the Canons of Dort. Another decision made during this synod was to translate the Bible from Hebrew/Greek into Dutch. This resulted in the first Dutch Bible, now known as the Statenvertaling. Buildings worth a visit are the gothic church Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, with its unfinished tower (14th century) which has become a trademark. Another eye-catcher is the Groothoofdspoort, from which one has stunning panorama over the busy river.
Overnight in Dordrecht
Day 4: Dordrecht – Willemstad – Zierikzee (33 miles/54 km)
From Dordrecht, you will sail to the Delta area of the Dutch greater rivers during breakfast. Years ago, an open connection existed with the sea due to the many tributaries in this area.
After the disastrous flooding in 1953, the Deltaplan was developed and most tidal outlets were closed from the sea by dams. Most parts of Zeeland were, and still are, under sea level and in 1953 the embankments were too weak and too low, causing this area to be at risk for floodings once in every 80 years. Now, because of the flood barriers, that chance is reduced to less than once every 4000 years.
In Willemstad, an old fortified town, we start our cycle tour and ride over the Volkerakbrug (with beneath it, one of the busiest locks in the world) to the former island of Goeree-Overvlakkee. Nowadays, this land is easy to reach by embankments and bridges, all part of the Deltaplan of 1953 now protecting the southwestern part of the Netherlands against the rough sea.
Just before reaching our destination of today (Zierikzee, on the island of Schouwen-Duivenland) we will visit the Watersnoodmuseum. This museum tells the tragic events of 1953 and is built in recently renewed caissons, once used for the last closure gap. This was done in November 1953, ten months after the storm surge which broke through more than 300 embankments.
A shorter version of today's route is offered by sailing to Bruinisse, from where the group of remaining cyclists can be joined to Zierikzee, after which the Watersnoodmuseum is visited. Zierikzee is a beautiful town and the center of the "mussel culture." The Zeeuwse mosselen (blue mussels) are a renowned delicacy.
Overnight in Zierikzee
Day 5: Zierikzee – Middelburg – Vlissingen (20-32 miles/32-51 km)
On this day, you will cycle towards the North Sea, along the Oosterschelde to the Oosterscheldedam. Enormous locks are built in this embankment that can be closed during storms and high tides protecting the southwest of the Netherlands against the sea.
This embankment was one of the last in a series of barriers against the sea. When cycling along the embankment, one will realize why this has been one of the most difficult and costly challenges to protect the country now and in the future and to let seawater into the widespread Delta area. It is precisely why the Deltaworks are referred to as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
After this dam you will paddle to Middelburg, but not without visiting the picturesque port town of Veere. Middelburg is the lively principal town of Zeeland with many old houses, churches, the beautiful town hall, and a pleasant shopping district. Also to be found in Middelburg is the Roosevelt Academy, a liberal arts college, located in the former late-gothic town hall on the market of Middelburg.
If possible, during dinner we will sail to Vlissingen. This lovely port town is situated at the Westerschelde and at sea. A walk through the town and over its boulevard is absolutely worth a visit!
Overnight in Vlissingen
Day 6: Middelburg – Sas van Gent | Cruise to Ghent (30 miles/48 km)
With the unique cycle ferry to Breskens in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (Dutch-Flanders), we are getting to close to Belgium. You will arrive at the Dutch-Belgian border in Sas van Gent, the former gateway to the harbor of Ghent, through an area with small villages, along creeks, bending embankments and beautiful panoramas.
After a short journey of 1.5 hours, you will arrive in Ghent. From the pier, you can simply take the tram to the medieval center of this beautiful city.
The city of Ghent has approximately 250,000 citizens. Its name, presumably derived from the Celtic word Ganda, means mouth or junction. Indeed, in the city the rivers Leie and Scheldt merge. In 630 Saint Amand established the St. Baafsabdij. In medieval times, Ghent grew to be one of the most important cities of Europe (with approximately 56,000 citizens in 1350) due to its linen industry. From the 14th-16th century conflicts occurred in the city and battles were often fought with Lords of Flanders.
Ghent experiences an economic drawback from 1584 (captured by the Spanish during the resistance against King Philips II) until the nineteenth century. After this period, Ghent developed into an industrial city, with strong socialist beliefs. The old city offers many well kept craftsmen houses, Patrician houses and old storehouses, the Gravensteen (medieval castle), the St. Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas' church, dating from the year 1200), St. Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo Cathedral from the fourteenth century, with the painting "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" by Van Eyck, internationally known as the Ghent Altarpiece) and last but not least, the Belfort (Bell Tower, fourteenth century). Furthermore, the city center has many squares and pleasant pubs.
Ghent is a lively town, and although Ghent is proud of its rich past, the role of the city is no means restricted to a museum-city. The city is a stunning mixture of medieval buildings, chic shopping areas with beautiful mansions, old workers districts from the early twentieth century which now house hundreds of students and busy squares where one can sit and enjoy warm summer nights until the early hours.
Overnight in Ghent
Day 7: Ghent – Bruges (28 miles/45 km)
This morning you will cycle through Ghent to the scenic countryside of Oost-Vlaanderen (East-Flanders). Characteristic for this are the woods, fields, small villages, and castles.
From the Aalterbrug (also for the shorter route) the last part of this route takes us over the former tow-path along the canal of Oostende-Gent, the oldest canal of Belgium, to Bruges.
The impressive city of Bruges is the end destination of this bike and barge trip. You will pay a visit to the medieval city of Bruges at the end of this day and many of you are likely to stay another day in this beautiful city.
Bruges is known for its production of linen that used to be distributed all over Europe. Around 1350 the city counted more than 40,000 citizens, double the number of citizens that live in the city center now. During the 14th century the second city wall was built. Four mills still stand upon that wall today. In the fifteenth century, Bruges was under the control of dukes of Burgundy. They brought luxury and prosperity to the city: the growth of arts and banking. From this period much has remained: the town hall, the many "natiehuizen" en churches, mausoleums of Marie of Burgundy (Duchess of Cleves) and Charles the Bold.
At the end of the fifteenth century, the Burgundy court disappeared in Bruges, which marks the end of a prosperous period. Due to the silting of the coastal area, the city was no longer accessible for vessels, which resulted in Bruges losing its position to Antwerp. In 1584 the city was concurred by the Spanish. Religious wars and the closing of the sea caused Bruges to fall into decay. Bruges developed into a poor city in the nineteenth century and missed the industrialization. It is partly because of the novel "Bruges la Morte" (1892) from G. Rodenbach, that brought Bruges back into the picture, growing into a city of arts and later into a touristic center. Some sites of interest are Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady), Belort and Hallen, Gruuthusemuseum (museum of applied arts of Bruges) and the Kantcentrum (Lace Centre).
Overnight in Bruges
Day 8: Bruges
End of this trip after breakfast (disembark before 10:00am).