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.
The Zaanse Schans remains a special attraction, despite the large numbers of foreign tourists. The seven windmills have fanciful names: De Kat, de Ooievaar, De Huisman, de Zoeker, de Bonte Hen, Het Jonge Schaap and de Gekroonde Poelenburg. The harbor of Amsterdam was the largest one in the world in 17th century and along the Zaan river were it’s industrial area. Around 700 windmills were in production with the only source of energy wind. Mills were the factories of yesterday. De Kat is open for public and visible is how in 17th century paint pigments and chalk were produced. There is a sawmill from 1869, a small mustard mill and an oil mill which made oil from linseed. Albert Heijn opened his first grocery shop in 1887 in the Zaanse Schans village. It grew to be the largest chain of supermarkets in The Netherlands, operating worldwid as Ahold.
The Zuiderzee Museum Enkhuizen shows what life was like before the construction of the 20 miles long Afsluitdijk, closing off the former Zuiderzee. There are more than a hundred historic buildings from the former Zuiderzee area. There is information about the lost Zuiderzee islands: Pampus, Marken, Schokland, Urk and Wieringen. There are demonstrations of smoking eel, old crafts, the making of traditional costumes. Volunteers explain how life was a century ago. Nearby Enkhuizen is a beautifully preserved harbour town with the Dromedaris lighthouse as the most striking building. The reclamation of the Markerwaard was the last part of the Zuiderzee Works, which is why a 16-miles dam was built between Enkhuizen and Lelystad. The water was cut off from the sea and rivers. Open water has remained where originally land was intended.
Edam was a prosperous trading-port, in the 16th century. Located on the current IJsselmeer, it was the ideal places for the cheese market. Nowadays being held on Wednesdays in July and August. One of the oldest houses, dating from 1530, in Edam is the leaning warehouse with the stepped gable. Beautiful sights are its draw-bridges, like the Kwakelbrug, the tea houses and the summerhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. Highlights are also the late-Gothic Grote Kerk, the 15th-century town hall and the home for the elderly with it’s beautiful garden.
Kinderdijk windmills, about 10 miles southeast of Rotterdam, is certainly one of the most popular sights in Holland. Completely accessible by water from Rotterdam by public transport company ‘Blue Amigo Waterbus’. The nineteen enchanting windmills belong to the UNESCO World Heritage and were built in the 18th century to prevent flooding of the Alblasserwaard polder. The function of historic windmills is nowadays taken over by a modern pumping station. The water is pumped up with three large augers, powered by diesel engines. The capacity is 400000 US gallons per minute. This way an excess of water can be drained quickly into the major rivers.
The Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie is an 85 kilometer long defence line with 45 forts, water sluices and two castles. It starts at the former Zuiderzee and ends at the Rhine river. It was in use from 1870 to 1945, but its history goes back much further back in history. Since 2021, the new Dutch Waterline has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is one of the few examples in the world where water is used as a defence. Inundating large areas of land made it difficult for the enemy to reach the cities. The main parts of the New Dutch Waterline are: Muiderslot castle, Weesp fortification, Naarden fortification, island Pampus, Nieuwersluis fortress, Loevestein castle.