Sight-seeing trip to the south-west of Utrecht
Thursday was a very quiet day at the office. Most people had taken the days after Christmas off from work. We came from Friesland in the morning. The weather was quiet, and the visibility was very good. We also took the day off, and we went flying in the afternoon. We were going to fly over some historic places from the 80-years war, the polders south-west of Utrecht, and fortresses from the New Dutch Waterline.
After we arrived at Hilversum airfield, we fueled the plane, and then we departed from runway 18. Our sight-seeing tour had started.
René fueling the Cessna 172
Take-off runway 18 Hilversum airfield
The history of Nyenrode Castle goes back to the thirteenth century. At the time, the area was disputed by the Counts of Holland and the Bishops of Utrecht. The waters that surrounded the castle were often used to defend the structure, which was dedicated to the Count of Holland. The castle would be destroyed in 1481 and then again in 1511. The French set up their headquarters in Nyenrode during 1672, but would set it afire in 1673. The damages were repaired, and further restored and expanded in the 19th century. After World War II, the castle became an educational institute in 1946.
Castle De Haar is the largest castle of Holland and is located just outside Utrecht. Castle De Haar may look Medieval, but was actually built in the early twentieth century. It was built between 1892 and 1912 on the ruins of the old, derelict castle that stood there, on commission from Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt. In the 60s, it became a place where the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family received the international jet set, from Brigitte Bardot and Coco Chanel to Maria Callas and Roger Moore.
Castle De Haar
The railway junction at Harmelen was the location of the worst railway accident in the history of the Netherlands. Two trains collided here on 8 January 1962, and 93 people lost their lives. Nowadays the railway junction is a flying junction.
Woerden was located along the Roman Limes and is therefore one of the six Limes junctions. The Limes is a Roman border that ran straight through the Netherlands. In 1410 the construction of the castle of Woerden started, and in 1510 the city hall was built. As a settlement city, Woerden was the headquarters of the Old Dutch Waterline, which functioned as the head of defense in the Netherlands.
Harmelen railway crossing
Montfoort Castle, locally known as Kasteel Montfoort, lies in the center of Montfoort. Montfoort Castle was founded in the 12th century by the bishop of Utrecht to protect his bishopric against the County of Holland. In 1672, however, the castle was completely destroyed by the French invading army. The present remains of the bailey don't date further back than the 15th century.
Oudewater became an important frontier city between the medieval states of Holland and Utrecht. Oudewater attended the First Free States Council in Dordrecht on July 19, 1572, when The Netherlands were still part of the Spanish Empire. After a siege of several weeks, Oudewater was conquered by the Spanish on August 7, 1575, and most of its citizens were killed. Oudewater is famous for the Heksenwaag (Witches' scales).
Polsbroekerdam consists of a ribbon of farms on both sides of the Benschopse Wetering in the polder landscape Lopikerwaard. Originally an area of swampland, the polder was developed from the eleventh century. The polder area is bounded by the Hollandse IJssel river to the north and north east, the Lek river to the south and the Krimpenerwaard polder to the west. Several larger drainage canals cross the polder from east to west.
The fortress Nieuwpoort was created in the 13th century on the River Lek, on the opposite bank of the River Lek at Schoonhoven. The place was given city rights in 1283.
The city of Schoonhoven was formed near a 13th century castle. Around 1350, city walls and gates were constructed. The city's economy depended on shipping, brewing, fishing and agriculture. Since the 17th century, silver and gold smiths have been working here.
The Mill Network at Kinderdijk was built around 1740 to drain the Alblasserwaard polder at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers. It is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands.
The bridge over the River Noord, between Alblasserdam and Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, was constructed in 1939. The bridge survived the second world war, also because the Germans missed that there was a new bridge over the River Noord when they invaded The Netherlands in May 1940. When the Germans learned about the bridge, they quickly occupied the bridge before nearby Dutch troops would use it.
Oud-Alblas is a village along the small river Alblas. Oud-Alblas, Alblasserdam and the polder Alblasserwaard are named after this small river.
Bridge over the river Noord ("North")
The Baanhoek railway bridge near Sliedrecht over the River Beneden-Merwede was constructed between 1880 and 1885. During world war 2, the bridge was heavily damaged, and was rebuilt in 1947.
Dordrecht was granted city rights in 1220. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Dordrecht developed into an important market city because of its strategic location. It traded primarily in wine, wood and cereals. In 1572, a gathering in Dordrecht with representatives of cities of Holland is regarded as the first important step towards the free and independent Dutch Republic.
Baanhoekbrug near Sliedrecht
The Biesbosch was created when 300 square kilometres of polder lands were submerged following the St. Elizabeth flood in the year 1421. The Biesbosch National Park is one of the largest national parks of the Netherlands and one of the last extensive areas of freshwater tidal wetlands in Northwestern Europe.
The Steenenhoek Canal was built in the beginning of 19th century to reduce the risk of flooding of Gorinchem by diverting the water away from the River Linge. During World War 2, a new pumping station (Kolffgemaal) with diesel engines was built to discharge water from the Steenenhoek canal into the River Beneden-Merwede.
Gorinchem was founded around the year 1000. It is first mentioned in a document from 1224 in which Floris IV granted the town exemption of toll payments throughout Holland. Somewhere between 1247 and 1267, it became property of the Lords of Arkel. Otto van Arkel granted it city rights in 1322. Around 1350 real city walls were built, complete with 7 gates and 23 watchtowers. On 9 July 1572, the Watergeuzen (Dutch rebels against Spanish rule) conquered the city and captured 19 Catholic priests and monks because they refused to renounce their faith. These priests and monks were brought to Brielle where they were hanged. They are known as the Martyrs of Gorkum.
Woudrichem was founded in the ninth century, as a market place for the surrounding region. It received city rights in 1356 from Willem VI, Lord of Altena. Its location on the banks of one of the largest rivers in Holland, turned it into an important trade point, but also made it a constant target of attacks and sieges. The town maintains however most of its medieval appearance intact.
New Dutch Waterline
New Dutch Waterline
The New Dutch Waterline is a defence line that spans 85 kilometres. The line starts at Muiden and ends at the Biesbosch and is 3 to 5 kilometres wide. It consists of 45 forts, 6 fortified towns, 2 castles, 85 machine gun casemates, over 700 concrete troop shelters and casemates as well as more than 100 military sluices and water engineering works. The New Dutch Waterline is the largest National Monument in the Netherlands.
In the latter half of the Eighty Years' War of Independence (1568-1648), when the province of Holland had been freed of Spanish troops, Maurice of Nassau planned to defend it with a line of flooded land protected by fortresses that ran from the Zuiderzee (present IJsselmeer) down to the river Waal. In 1629, Prince Frederick Henry started the execution of the plan. Sluices were constructed in dikes and forts and fortified towns were created at strategic points along the line with guns covering especially the dikes that traversed the water line.
After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed. Soon after King William I decided to modernise the Water Line. The Water Line was partly shifted east of Utrecht.
Castle Loevestein was built by the knight Dirc Loef van Horne between 1357 and 1397 (the name derives from "Loef's stein", or Loef's stone house). It was built in a strategic point, where the Maas and Waal rivers unite, allowing it to control the local trade. It was expanded around 1575. During the 80 years war, it changed hands twice between the Dutch and the Spanish. From 1619 the castle became a prison, used mainly for political prisoners. A famous inmate was the eminent lawyer, poet and politician Hugo de Groot. In 1621, he managed to escape hidden in a book chest. Later, the castle was also included in the New Dutch Waterline.
Vuren Fortress was part of the Dutch Water line. It was built in 1844-1849 and later on it was expanded. In the 1870-1871 and 1914-1918 wars the fortress was mobilized. It was also mobilized in 1940. The fortress was attacked by German planes in May 1940. The Germans used the fortress throughout the war. The WW2 & Aviators Museum Rivierenland museum is housed in Fort Vuren. It tells the story of air combat during World War Two. There are parts on display of locally crashed aircraft.
Leerdam on the River Linge is best known for its Glass making industry. The company Royal Leerdam Crystal is the designing and glass blowing department of Dutch glassware producing factory, Glasfabriek Leerdam. The company was founded in 1765 as a manufacturer of bottles in Leerdam.
The Fort near Asperen was built around 1845. The gun tower of the fort serverd as the closure of the Linge and as defense of the locks behind the fort. During the mobilization 1914-1918 a guardhouse was built at the entrance. During the mobilization of 1939-1940 concrete shelters were built.
Fort at Asperen
Fort Honswijk, situated on the Lek River, is one of the most prominent forts of the New Dutch Waterline. Fort Honswijk's tower (built between 1841 and 1848) is the oldest and largest in the Waterlinie. Fort Honswijk was designed to stop the enemy from crossing the Lekdijk dike and to close off the Lek River in cooperation with Fort Everdingen on the opposite banks of the Lek.
The St. Michaël in Schalkwijk is the Roman Catholic successor of the medieval church elsewhere in the village, which remained protestant possession after freedom of religion was declared.
Saint Michaël church in Schalkwijk
Dark history of Fort Honswijk
In March 1935 Fort Honswijk, south of Utrecht, was set up as a concentration camp for German communists who fled from nazi-Germany to the Netherlands and applied for asylum here.1935 pictures of Fort Honswijk
Outside the moat
Fort and Service Accommodation
Detention camp inside the fort
The Germans used Fort Honswijk during the occupation as an interrogation camp, and as a warehouse and packing unit of ammunition for the Luftwaffe (Feld-Luftmunitionslager 32/VI).
After the war, from 1945 until 1949, Fort Honswijk was used to imprison alleged collaborators, national socialists, etc. The prisoners were abused and treated very badly, and some were kept for more than a year without reason before they were released.
Fort 't Hemeltje was built from 1877 to 1881. It was the last fortress off the New Dutch Waterline. In 1914-1918, the fort was mobilized. At the start of the Second World War the fort was used by the Dutch army and afterwards by the German army. Both used the fort especially for anti-aircraft guns.
Fort bij Vechten was built between 1867-1870. In 1914-1918 and 1939-1940 the fortres was mobilized and several pillboxes were build on the fortress in 1940. The fort contains the Water Line Museum.
Fort bij 't Hemeltje, Utrecht
Fort at Vechten, Utrecht
East of Utrecht, we passed a noticeable construction. It appeared to be a power heat plant at the Utrecht Science Park.
Fort Voordorp (also named Fort op de Voordorpse Dijk) was built in 1867-1871. In 1914-1918 and 1939-1940 it was mobilized and in 1940 group shelters were built on it.
Power heat plant, University Utrecht
Fort Voordorp, Utrecht
Power Heat Plant
The next Sunday, we first brought Maurits to Amsterdam Schiphol airport. On the way back, Veleda had to be in Utrecht, and by coincidence also nearby the power plant that we noticed from the air on Thursday. While Veleda did the visit, René drove by the nearby power plant. According to a brochure, the size and construction of the building are largely determined by the technical requirements. The building is completely covered in order to keep noise pollution to a minimum. A skin of steel is folded over the machinery and the giant filters and dampers.
The estate Zonnestraal is a former sanatorium in Hilversum, just north of Hilversum airfield. Zonnestraal was built as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the 1920s and 1930s. The building features the classic design of the sanatorium, which focuses on as much open space and fresh air as possible.
After rounding Zonnestraal, we landed on runway 18 of Hilversum airfield, ending the sight-seeing trip.
Former sanatorium Zonnestraal, Hilversum
Landing runway 18, Hilversum airfield
Finishing the paperwork
Veleda with the Cessna 172