Sightseeing flight over Batavia
On Sunday, November 24 2019, we felt like making a little flying trip. The visibility was not perfect, but at this time of the year and for the next two or three months in the winter, there may be not that many opportunities anymore with good weather. Looking back to 2019, we did most of our flying in the Netherlands. This time we flew over De Betuwe (Batavia).
We drove to Hilversum airfield, and checked out the plane. It was not necessary to fuel the plane. We boarded the plane and taxied to runway 13 that was in use.
At the helicopter company we noticed a Saint Nicholas with a black-face helper, known as Black Pete. Over the last years black people in the Netherlands call Black Pete a racist caricature. Dutch national television does no longer feature Black Pete characters, and every year fewer people resist these changes.
At the runway, we found ourselves fourth in line for departure. After the run-up checks it was soon our turn, and we took-off.
Batavia (Betuwe) is a historical and geographical region in the Netherlands, forming large fertile islands in the river delta formed by the waters of the rivers Rhine (Rijn) and Meuse (Maas). During the Roman empire, it was an important frontier region and source of imperial soldiers.
Julius Caesar mentioned the "Batavian island" in the Rhine river. The island's easternmost point is at a split in the Rhine, one arm being the Waal the other the Lower Rhine/Old Rhine (Nederrijn/Oude Rijn), hence the Latin name Insula Batavorum, "Island of the Batavi".
North-west border of the Roman Empire in 70 AD
Administratively, the modern version, Betuwe, is a part of the modern province of Gelderland and although the rivers and provinces have changed over history it is roughly the same. Today Batavia has the Waal river on the south and the Lek and Nederrijn in the north.
René before departure at Hilversum airfield
Saint Nicholas at the airfield
After take-off we left the traffic pattern and set course to the south. We passed Utrecht, Houten and the Amsterdam-Rijn kanaal (Amsterdam - Rhine canal), and approached the Bavaria region near Hagestein. At Hagestein we had a view on the weir, pictured here below. Pictures of the other two weirs in the River Lek and the upstream Nederrijn (Lower Rhine) are included in the Slideshow (above) or the Pictures page (at the bottom of the page, click More, and then Pictures).
View of Hilversum airfield after take-off
Hagestein weir in the River Lek
The Nederrijn and Lek are dammed by three near identical weirs. The weirs are located at Hagestein (1960), Amerongen (1965) and Driel (1970), and regulate the distribution of water over the rivers Nederrijn and the IJssel, and regulate the water levels in the Nederrijn and the river Lek.
Following the River Lek to the east we first past the New Dutch Waterline fort Fort Honswijk on the north bank of the river, and Fort Everdingen on the opposite bank. We had visited Fort Honswijk earlier this year, and we received an extensive private guided tour (there were no other visitors when we visited).
After Culemborg we passed Wijk bij Duurstede, where the Amsterdam-Rhine canal crosses the River Lek. Nearby is the Castle Duurstede. It is a castle that we have not visited yet, but it may be a nice option for a day with less good weather.
East of Wijk bij Duurstede the river Kromme Rijn (Crooked Rhine, for its many bends) branches off the River Lek, which then upstream is further called the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine).
In Roman times, the Kromme Rijn was the main Rhine branch, forming the northern border of the Roman Empire. Since the Middle Ages, however, the stream lost its importance as it silted up, and eventually it is nearly cut off from the Nederrijn-Lek main artery. After Utrecht the Kromme Rijn continues as the Oude Rijn and ends in the North Sea.
Fort Honswijk and Fort Everdingen
On both sides of the River Lek there are two big fortresses: Fort Everdingen on the south bank, and Fort Honswijk on the north bank. The fortresses were built in the 19th century as part of the New Dutch Waterline. The defense works were to close off the entrance to Holland over water against an enemy coming from the east.
Visiting Fort Honswijk with also more about New Dutch Waterline.
We then past the second weir in the Lek/Nederrijn river near Amerongen. Due to the construction of this weir, the river that originally ran past the village Maurik was moved a few hundred meters to the north. A dead river arm arose near Maurik. The area in between is called the Island of Maurik. It is primarily a recreational area for water sports enthusiasts and nature reserves.
At Amerongen we passed the Amerongen Castle, one of the many castles in the region, and one that we had visited before. In 1918, the former German Kaiser Wilhelm II signed his abdication here and stayed till 1920, when he moved to Huis Doorn in Doorn.
Further to the east we past the town of Rhenen. Rhenen lies at the south-eastern tip of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Hill Ridge). We had a good view on the town and the Cunera church with its interesting history.
Cunera church, Rhenen
The history of Amerongen Castle dates back to 1286, though in the centuries that followed, the castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current castle dates from 1680, after its precursor was burned down by French troops in 1673. The castle, surrouned by historical gardens, is situated in the picturesque village of Amerongen at the foot of the Utrecht Hills.
Desk where the abdication was signed
In November 1918, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) was in Spa, Belgium. He fled to The Netherlands, where he was granted political asylum and was temporarily housed in Amerongen Castle. Wilhelm II stayed here for nearly two years, and signed his abdication here in 1918. The desk at which this happened is still part of the Amerongen collection.
Cunera church of Rhenen
The Medieval Rhenen church tower is a rather tall church tower for such a small city. In the province of Utrecht only the Dom Tower in Utrecht and The Tower of Our Lady in Amersfoort are taller. The construction of the Rhenen church tower was made possible by granting indulgences in 1475.
East of Rhenen we passed the Grebbeberg, a 52 meter high hill that forms the southeastern tip of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. On the Grebbeberg, Dutch soldiers battled in the May days of 1940 with a German assault army.
We followed the Lower Rhine further to the east. East of Wageningen is the south-western tip of the Veluwe, a forest-rich ridge of hills formed by the Saale glaciation some 200,000 years ago. Glaciers pushed the sand deposits in the Rhine and Meuse Delta sideways, creating the hills which now form most of the Veluwe. It is the largest push moraine complex in the Netherlands, stretching 60 km from north to south, and reaching heights of up to 110 metres.
After Renkum we passed Doorwerth Castle, and then the nearby third weir in the Lek/Nederrijn river at Driel.
At Arnhem we had a view of the Rijnbrug (Rhine bridge) over the Lower Rhine. The bridge is named after Major-General John Dutton Frost, who commanded the British forces that reached and defended the bridge during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. Although the bridge survived the battle, it was bombed and destroyed by B-26 Marauders of the 344th Bomb Group on 7 October 1944 to prevent the Germans from using it to send reinforcements south of the river. After the war the Rijnbrug was rebuilt in exactly the same style as the destroyed bridge.
Bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem
Doorwerth Castle is a medieval castle near Renkum. The castle sits along the river Nederrijn and is home to three museums (Hunting museum, Museum Veluwe zoom and Pharmacy museum Kisters). The castle is mentioned in historical documents dating back as far as 1260, making it one of the oldest castles in Holland. During the 14th century the castle was continually enlarged, and by 1560 Doorwerth Castle had almost reached its present appearance. In 1910 the castle was bought by the association "de Doorwerth" and the castle was restored. The castle was destroyed by garnet fire in the aftermath of the battle of Arnhem at the end of September 1944. After the war a lengthy restoration began that lasted until 1983.
Operation Market Garden was the abortive attempt to capture from the Germans the bridge over the Rhine at the town of Arnhem in the autumn of 1944. In ten days of battles, thousands of men died, were wounded or taken prisoner. It was a military disaster and had been one in the making from its very inception. The British had felt humiliated by the supremacy of the Americans and were determined to make their own mark on the war. With Allied forces advanced into southern Holland, the British proposed a dramatic thrust to the north-east, dropping airborne troops – consisting of parachutists and soldiers in gliders – behind enemy lines to seize strategic bridges and hold them until the tanks and land troops advancing overland caught up with them.
It might just have succeeded if every component of the plan had worked. But, in practice, blunder after blunder aggravated the original conceptual error. The fundamental concept defied military logic because it made no allowance for anything to go wrong, nor for the enemy's likely reaction. As the operation collapsed into disgrace, surrender and retreat, British generals looked for excuses and shamefully criticised a Polish brigade to divert attention from their own failings. It was typical of the arrogance behind the whole unfortunate Arnhem episode. Casualty figures were colossal. Of 12,000 airborne soldiers who went into battle, 1,500 were killed and 6,500, many of them badly wounded, were taken prisoner. Only a third made it home.
South-east of Arnhem we passed the split of the Lower Rhine and the IJssel. In ancient times the Rhine was not connected to the River IJssel. The IJssel was the lower part of the small river Oude IJssel (Old IJssel), that rises in Germany as the Issel and is now a 70 km long tributary of the IJssel. The connection between Rhine and IJssel maybe artificial, allegedly dug by men under the Roman general Nero Claudius Drusus as a defence against Germanic tribes and to let Roman ships carry troops along it.
The name IJssel includes the paired letters I and J, which behaves like a single letter in Dutch. This explains why both letters appear capitalized, like also for example IJmuiden and IJsselmeer.
On the south-eastern end of Batavia lies the town Doornenburg, with its Castle Doornenburg from the 13th century. Castle Doornenburg was occupied until the 19th century. After that it fell into disrepair and became a ruin. The castle was restored between 1937 and 1941. By the end of the Second World War it was almost completely destroyed by a British bombardment in March 1945. The castle was completely rebuilt between 1947 and 1968.
We flew around the castle and then to the headland of Batavia, the split of the Rhine to the Waal river and the Pannerden Canal.
Split of the Nederrijn and IJssel
Castle Doornenburg along the river Linge
Doornenburg Castle is located in the eastern part of the province of Gelderland, near the village of Doornenburg. The castle is first mentioned in 1295. It isn't known how the castle looked back then. The oldest parts of the present structure date back to the 14th century. The castle then consisted of a large hall with cellars and a walled rectangular courtyard on a moated island.
(More about Castle Doornenburg in this trip report)
The Pannerden Canal, named after the nearby town, was dredged between 1701 and 1709 to cut off a large, shallow bend of river Rhine. It then continues as the Nederrijn.
We flew around the Fort Pannerden on the headland, and then along the River Waal to the west. The River Waal is the major waterway connecting the port of Rotterdam to Germany, hence the busy traffic on the river (see the pictures).
We past the Fort Boven-Lent on the north bank of the Waal near Lent. This fort was built in 1862 to defend the city of Nijmegen and later to protect the railway bridge over the Waal.
At Nijmegen we made an orbit over the city, where we also had a good view of the St. Stevens church.
St. Stephen's Church in Nijmegen
Fort Pannerden covered the Rhine at the point where it splits into the Waal and the Pannerden Canal. The fort had strategic significance in that it guarded the Pannerden Canal, which supplied the water for the inundations of the New Dutch Waterline. This old pentagonal brick fort from the 19th century included flanking armoured batteries that mounted two 105mm guns each. Its main armoured battery had five 150mm guns. Other lighter guns and machine guns were mounted in the walls along the dry moat.
Nijmegen is said to be the oldest town in the Netherlands. The first mention of Nijmegen in history is in the 1st century BC, when the Romans built a military camp on the place where Nijmegen was to appear. In 98 AD Nijmegen received Roman city rights. Nijmegen's sweeping market square was among the few parts of the old town to survive WWII. Open-air markets are still held here each week on Saturday and Monday. On 22 February 1944, Nijmegen was mistakenly bombed by American planes, causing great damage to the city centre. The Sint Stevenskerk that was built between the 13th and 15th centuries was severely damaged by the war. Subsequent reconstruction of its classic reformist interior saw no expense spared with the whitewash or chandeliers.
After we completed the orbit over Nijmegen we continued along the Waal river to the west. We passed the Fort Beneden Lent on the other side of Lent, that together with Fort Boven Lent was constructed in 1862 to defend the city of Nijmegen and later to protect the railway bridge over the Waal.
Over Druten we saw one of the over a hundred churches designed by architect Pierre Cuypers in the 19th century. Cuypers is well known in the Netherlands, being involved in among others the design of Amsterdam Central Station, Castle De Haar, Rijksmuseum and the Oudenbosch Basilica.
On the other side of the Waal in Batavia we had a view of Ochten. Ochten was under allied fire from September 1944 during the Battle of the Betuwe, the flank in the Battle of Arnhem. To expel or destroy the Germans, Ochten was heavily shot at with mortars. The village was then largely destroyed.
After Operation Market Garden failed to establish a bridgehead across the Rhine the front came to a standstill in many places. The Betuwe became the new frontline on the Western front. The fighting continued with heavy shelling from both sides. The civilian population was caught in the middle of all this violence and soon the decision was made to evacuate the area.
On December 2, 1944, when the water levels in the Rhine were very high, the Germans blew up the dike on the Rhine at Elden, west of Arnhem. The area, the Over-Betuwe, flooded quickly and forced the Allies back south. The flooding was so extensive that dikes west of the area also cracked, flooding the Neder-Betuwe area as well. On 6th December, the dike between Ochten and Kesteren collapsed, threatening the defenses of the Germans. The towns of Lienden, Maurik and Ingen were completely flooded.
The Betuwe would be liberated in April 1945. Numerous inhabitants had lost their life, many houses had been damaged or destroyed and land had been flooded.
Near Heerewaarden is the former military Fort New Sint Andries. It dates from 1812 and was built to replace the (old) Fort Sint-Andries from 1599. The fort lies adjacent to the St. Andries Canal, a short channel between the Meuse and Waal were both rivers approach each other very closely. The St. Andries lock is located in the canal, which can overcome the difference in water level between Meuse and Waal.
Bridge over the Waal at Beneden Leeuwen
Sluice St Andries, Fort New St Andries
Further downstream of the Waal lies the city Zaltbommel. We had visited Zaltbommel earlier that year on a Sunday while en-route to 's-Hertogenbosch, and to our surprise it was quite a nice and interesting place, with terraces open on Sunday. With orthodox protestant towns nearby along the Waal, we had not expected this. We made a city walk, and did not visit 's-Hertogenbosch anymore that day.
Near the Afgedamde Maas (Dammed-up Meuse) we passed three defenses of the New Dutch Waterline. The Battery under Brakel is more or less the same as the Battery under Poederoijen. Both batteries are small defenses that close off the west of the Bommelerwaard against attackers. The Fort at Giessen was built from 1878 - 1881 and served to prevent an attack on Woudrichem.
Fort at Giessen
In the 13th century Zaltbommel grew into an important trading city and in the 15th century into a significant Hanseatic city. In 1572, Zaltbommel declared its independence and solidarity with the rebels against the Spaniards. The Spaniards then tried in vain to take the city. Maurits van Oranje was responsible for building even more reinforcements around the city. The significance of Zaltbommel declined in the early 17th century. In the winter of 1995, the Bommelerwaard was evacuated due to the threat of high water. The current city walls date from the seventeenth century. The buildings on the boulevard have been largely renovated. Just behind the boulevard is the old center with its medieval street pattern and houses from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are a number of beautiful city farms on the Kerkplein.
Holland's towns had been improving their fortifications since the beginning of the Dutch Revolt (1568 - 1648). Holland's frontier was most vulnerable in the south-east, where the Meuse and Waal, running virtually parallel through rich farmland dotted with small towns, emptied into the Hollands Diep, a wide estuary extending westward to Dordrecht. To anchor Holland's defences along the Waal, William of Orange's troops occupied Zaltbommel in 1573. Other sites guarded the Waal downstream from Zaltbommel. One was Gorinchem, on the north bank of the Waal. Along the opposite bank, Loevestein Castle and Woudrichem faced each other across the Meuse as it entered the Waal.
After the Fort at Giessen we flew to the Beneden Merwede (Lower Merwede) river towards Woudrichem, on the south bank of the River Waal. There we flew around the town clockwise to Loevestein Castle, on the other side of the Afgedamde Maas.
The Beneden Merwede is the continuation of the Waal river. The river starts at Loevestein Castle, where the Waal and the Meuse (now the Afgedamde Maas) used to meet and where the historic border lies between Gelre and Holland.
Woudrichem originated in the ninth century. A marketplace was created on a levee, where the Hoogstraat and Molenstraat are now located. Woudrichem was strategically located at the confluence of Maas and Waal. In the fourteenth century Woudrichem was granted city rights. The Martinus church was also built during this time. In 1386 the construction of the city wall began. In 1572 Woudrichem chose the side of William of Orange. In 1814 Woudrichem was included in the New Dutch Water Line. It was no longer allowed to build in the area around the city and in 1815 a lock was built in the dyke through which the surrounding land could be flooded. Only in 1926 were the provisions relaxed and only in 1955 was the fortress abolished. This created the possibility to construct residential areas outside the ramparts. From 1971 the historic city center has been restored. This center is classified as a protected cityscape.
Loevestein Castle has an interesting history. Built in 1357-66, it was a manor house before becoming a prison. Badly damaged about 1400, the present walls were constructed about 1576. As a 17th-century prison, it housed some of the great names of the Netherlands. The most promiment was Hugo Grotius, leading Dutch intellectual and prominent statesmen of his time. He was imprisoned for being apposed to the religious convictions of those in power and his legend grew when he escaped from the prison – hidden inside a wooden chest – in 1621.
On the north site of the Beneden Merwede and opposite of Woudrichem lies Gorinchem. This fortified town is situated on the rivers Linge and Beneden Merwede, with Sleeuwijk and Woudrichem on the other side.
We then continued to the north, west of Batavia over the Alblasserwaard – a predominantly sparsely populated, agricultural area – in the direction of Ameide, passing Arkel and Meerkerk on the route. At Ameide we made an orbit over the town before heading in the direction of Hilversum airfield again.
Ameide is a small town along the river Lek and the canal Oude Zederik (Old Zederik). The latter was originally a peat stream for drainage of the peat package in the area. Around 1200 the area around Ameide was completely reclaimed. The town was granted city rights in 1277 by Floris V, the Count of Holland. Part of Ameide is a protected cityscape. The church and town hall are probably the only buildings that survived the arson by the French in 1672. Thanks to its history as a city, Ameide has relatively many monuments. In addition to the reformed church from 1361 (burned down in 1953 and rebuilt in 1955 ) and the town hall from 1644, there are many old houses.
We first passed IJsselstein that owes its name to the river Hollandse IJssel which flows through the city. IJsselstein was established as a settlement near IJsselstein Castle, first mentioned in 1279 when it came into the possession of Gijsbrecht van Amstel, later known as Gijsbrecht van IJsselstein. The city has an old town, surrounded by a small canal. The city has two large churches, both named after St. Nicholas. The first one is the Old St. Nicholas church from 1310, which is now a protestant church, and the other one is a Roman Catholic church from 1887.
A 366.8 meters/1,203 ft high television mast, called the Gerbrandy Tower, is located in IJsselstein. The structure consists of a concrete tower, approximately 100 meters high, with a 260-meter steel tubular mast on top. The tubular mast is supported by guy wires. Since 1992, the tower is fitted with lamps and lighted as a Christmas tree in the December month. The illuminated tower can be seen from more than 30 kilometers away.
Just before reaching Hilversum airfield for landing, we passed Utrecht again, south of Hilversum. We landed on runway 13, and after parking the plane and finishing the paperwork we went home. We watched the pictures of this trip and started to make this trip report. We hope you liked it.