The Haarlemmermeer was created after many storms around 1500 merged a number of lakes. It was a rough environment and the lake was nicknamed ‘Water Wolf’. Reclamation work started in 1840. Originally the plan was to do this with 200 windmills, but the invention of the steam engine allowed the job to be done with three ultramodern steam pumping stations. The enormous Cruqius steam pumping station is one of the most impressive industrial monuments in Europe and still works. The cylinder has a diameter of more than 3.50 meters. The pistons drive eight external balance arms. With each piston stroke, 64,000 liters of water were pumped out of the lake. Abbenes and Lisserbroek were islands before the reclamation and are now pieces of old land in the polder. The Haarlemmermeer Polder is also part of the Defense Line of Amsterdam. The 60 kilometer long ring canal is divided in two by the Geniedijk. A military structure that had to protect Amsterdam by inundation.
During the Eighty Years’ War, the Watergeuzen flooded large areas. This was the simplest defense against the enemy. The flooded area was too deep to walk through, but too shallow to sail over. The idea of inundating land as a means of defense was redeveloped in the late 1800s by the War Department. The main purpose was to be able to protect Amsterdam during a war. Between 1880 and 1920 an enormous defensive circle was built around our capital: the Amsterdam Defence Line. This was located 15 to 20 kilometers around the center of Amsterdam. The Defense Line is 135 kilometers long and contains 45 fortresses. This would stop the enemy and Amsterdam would function as the last bastion of the Netherlands. In the event of a hostile siege, sufficient food, water, fuel and military equipment had to be available within the position to last for six months. Parts of the Haarlemmermeer and Beemster were placed within the defense to meet the need for pasture and agricultural land. Coal depots and warehouses for food and grain were built. The Nieuwe Meer became a storage facility for drinking water. Between 1901 and 1905, installations were set up here to pump and purify the water. Artillery positions and gunpowder factories were built along the North Sea Canal. The Defence Line consisted of two strategies, the inundations and the fortification. The Defence Line of Amsterdam was never actively used, but it did have a deterrent effect. During the start of the First World War in 1914, it was a factor for the Germans not to invade the Netherlands. The military significance lost the position after the First World War due to the development of the airplane. After that, however, it remained largely in use and its military status was not lifted until 1963. After that they were still used as storage warehouses and later on they became museums and art centers. The first fortresses were made of brick, but the arrival of high-explosive shells made it necessary to use concrete instead of masonry. The Defence Line is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996.
You can still feel the Golden Age in this city on the IJsselmeer. In the 17th century Hoorn was very important to the Dutch East India Company. Whaling was the most important activity during the 17th century. The ships were in the Atlantic Ocean around Greenland from June to September. There are still dozens of monuments and churches from this rich period. The Hoofdtoren is a large defensive tower, built in 1532. It was built to protect the city and later as the office of the Dutch East India Company. In 1573 the Battle of the Zuiderzee against the Spanish enemy took place on the sea off the coast of Hoorn. The defeated commander Count Bossu was imprisoned in Hoorn for three years. A row of beautiful houses was built in 1613 in memory of the battle. Each house has a stone plaque in top with an image of the battle. During the execution of convicts a lot of blood was shed and hence the name Roode Steen. There is also the Westfries Museum, about the golden age in the city of seafarers. At De Waag. built 1609, Dutch cheeses were weighed for centuries. The Hoorn cheese market is the oldest in the Netherlands. VOC celebrity Jan Pieterszoon Coen from Hoorn is represented with a statue. He is now controversial. The politically correct municipality has placed an explanatory text on the pedestal: “According to critics, Coen’s violent trade policy in the Indies archipelago deserves no tribute.”
In the middle of Volendam, along the harbour is een green building that once was the fish auction. In 1932 however the Zuiderzee was closed off from the North Sea. Since then the main activity is fishing of eel. Very worthwhile to vist is the brown cafe Spaander. Since the nineteen hundreds it was a meeting point of impressionist painters and many of them donated paintings to the owner Leendert Spaander. Volendam is still number one or two on the list of ‘things to do in Holland’ for foreign tourists. The real attraction, however, are the people of Volendam themselves, who form a very closed community. They have their own dialect and Monday is still laundry day. The traditional costumes can only be seen on Sundays among the churchgoers.
The origin of the name Monnickendam comes from the monks who traded agricultural products here. There has always been a thriving maritime shipping and Baltic trade and even today there are still active shipyards and eel smokehouses. Highlights are the Sint Nicolaaskerk and the Speeltoren with a carrillion from 1596. In the facade of the town hall a monk is depicted, the symbol of the city. Classic flat-bottom boats depart daily for boat trips on the Markermeer.