Just recently, my Facebook and Twitter friend, Colin of www.narrowboatinfo.co.uk posted his choice of the seven wonders of the British waterways. I really enjoyed his post and it showed me features of the British waterways I hadn't seen before, many of which are remarkable engineering achievements and very lovely. So I thought it would be nice to do my own blog post about my choice of 'wonders' but this time in northern Europe. Many of these are within a day's drive from here, so I decided I would start with home base, which is to me my absolute number one wonder!
1. The Oude Haven and the historic harbour complex in Rotterdam: Our harbour is the oldest harbour in Rotterdam and both the first and the largest historic harbour in the country. It is home to a large fleet of traditional Dutch barges and the harbour is part of the whole haven Museum complex which includes the Maritime museum as well. It's also where my Vereeniging is moored, making it even more special of course!
|the Oude Haven with its lovely array of historic barges|
|A traditional tug boat|
2. The beautiful old boat lifts at La Louviere in Wallonia, Belgium: There are four of these, each one lifting boats up about fourteen metres. The big basins that carry the barges can hold boats of around forty metres in length and over five metres wide. They are similar to the Anderton boat lift in England, and they work on a counter-weight system. They are very beautiful with their lacy ironwork, and I've been lucky enough to hitch a ride on a barge going up one of them.
|Old boat lifts at La Louvière|
3. Still in Wallonia and very close to the old boat lifts is the new and amazing boat lift at Strèpy Thieu. This replaces the four old lifts and is a huge double lift that rises seventy two metres high. It can also take much larger barges as it was built to current commercial dimensions and standards. It was opened in 2001. I have to say it is phenomenal. Standing at the top of the hill and looking down, it is hard to believe these lifts carry basins full of water and barge up so high.
|New, huge boat lift at Strèpy Thieu|
4. My number four is the gorgeous village of Giethoorn in Overijssel. It is a unique place in that it has no roads - only canals and footpaths. No cars can enter the village and goods are transported by boat along these charming and extremely picturesque waterways. It's a very popular tourist attraction as visitors can hire small boats and cruise around the village. I made a film about Giethoorn which unbeknown to me became very popular on YouTube when a travel company used it for publicity, and I think it got so many views because people love going there. I can't blame them.
|Giethoorn, a village with no roads|
5. This just has to be another Belgian marvel, the Inclined Plane at Ronquières: I've posted photos of this before as well, but it's worth listing here as it really is fantastic to see and to watch. Another engineering marvel, the inclined plane consists of double tracks that carry huge barges up or down a 1500 metre long hill in massive basins of water. The rise is around sixty metres and it takes approximately twenty minutes for these enormous trolleys to go up or down. They work on a counter-weight system like the old boat lifts.
|The inclined plane at Ronquières|
6: For number six, I've chosen our own great shipping canal in Zeeuws Vlaanderen, the Terneuzen to Ghent sea canal. It really is so impressive, and it has to be almost unique for an inland waterway in this part of the world to go so deep into the country. We see great sea-going vessels creeping past pulled by tugs; we see even larger cargo transporters that seem to manage without tugs and it is an awe-inspiring sight.
|The great ship canal from Ternuezen to Ghent|
7. And my last European waterways wonder is the beautiful city of Ghent. I have chosen this simply because it is such a surprise to visit a city in northern Europe and find a kind of Venetian town where the waterways seem to be everywhere. In fact there are two important rivers flowing through Ghent: the Scheldt and the Leie, and on a sunny day they are teeming with boats and activity. I just love it!
|Waterways in Ghent|
If you've seen any of these waterway wonders, do tell me about it!