I love your tripreports! I live in the netherlands and it's fun to see my country through other peoples eyes, but you actually visit some places I hardly ever go to and basically know nothing about. It's also impressive how you took some shots of Rotterdam that don't make that place look like the most depressing town in the world.
For anyone who's planning on doing a simular city trip through the netherlands, I'd advise you to not rent a car but use public stransport. All major city's are easily accessible by train and are a much faster and cheaper alternative than driving.
Thanks for the comments! But to be honest, I wouldn't have been able to make it to even half of the places I wanted to go to without a car, at least not within a limited amount of time. The big cities are certainly accessible, but they were just one part of my itinerary.
Part 5 (the last of the pre-TPR trip report segments) should be up early this coming week.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Day 5: Old Birds and New Turbines
This was my final day of wanderlusting my way around the Netherlands before the official TPR trip began. So, if you've been waiting for actual theme park content, it's coming soon.
But first, one more day of sand dunes, wind turbines, gloomy skies, and airplanes.
Despite the grey weather, I was in the mood to climb another dune, so I started the day in Katwijk -- a small coastal community just northwest of Leiden. Katwijk has easy access to an area of dunes that includes the second highest in the South Holland province -- a spot called Vlaggeduin.
On the trail to Vlaggeduin, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from easy public parking.
Here's the side trail that heads up some stairs to the top of Vlaggeduin.
The top is where that blue-and-white bunker-looking thing is.
At the 117-foot tall summit. This is what mountain climbing looks like in the Netherlands.
Vlaggeduin was originally thought to be the highest point in South Holland, but it's actually the second highest point. The highest point is ... in an amusement park? Yep. That's coming later.
A pleasant view over the dunes to the North Sea. Katwijk is a coastal community -- much more quaint and relaxed than, say, Scheveningen.
The white structure is the Katwijk lighthouse.
Foreground: the Andreaskerk of Katwijk. Background: wind turbines far out in the sea.
In the distance, you can see the skylines of Rotterdam...
...The Hague, at about 9 miles away...
...and Scheveningen. Yep, including a big Ferris wheel on a pier.
I'm knot sure, but I think these are some very large ships.
Katwijk isn't far from Schiphol, so there was plenty of plane traffic to watch. Here's a KLM A330 on its way in.
Also enjoying the trail was this completely random collection of 10 dogs.
After visiting the dunes of Katwijk, I drove well to the north for one more interesting look at the way water is controlled in the Netherlands.
This observation tower is located along the Afsluitdijk -- a 20-mile long dam and causeway about 40 miles north of Amsterdam.
The Afsluitdijk dam was built in the early 1930s as part of the Zuiderzee Works -- a huge system of dams, dikes, land reclamation, and water drainage projects in the northern part of the Netherlands. In this picture, the water to the left is the North Sea, and the water to the right is a lake called the IJsselmeer. Before the dam was built, the North Sea opened into the waters to the right -- an inlet originally known as the Zuiderzee. As with so many other places in the Netherlands, the inland areas along the Zuiderzee were prone to flooding. This dam essentially shut off the North Sea from the Zuiderzee, turning it into a freshwater lake, and reducing the risk of floods.
Here's a view looking southwest, with the sea to the right, and the lake to the left. You can also see a statue of Cornelis Lely, the civil engineer who oversaw the Zuiderzee Works.
A zoomed view of the above. The lake (IJsselmeer) averages a surface elevation of about 1 foot below sea level -- lower, of course, than the North Sea to the right.
Looking northeast, with the sea to the left, and the lake to the right.
In addition to being a huge flood control project, this is also an important road, connecting two otherwise separate regions of the Netherlands across a huge expanse of water.
After crossing the Afsluitdijk, I continued onward to one of the smallest communities I would visit on the trip -- a place called Urk.
This was the first thing I noticed upon arriving in Urk -- turbines after turbines after turbines. Most of these are part of the Windpark Noordoostpolder, one of the largest and most productive wind farms in the Netherlands.
There are lots of turbines, and they are huge, and they loom on the horizon and move in unison in ways that look almost dystopian. But I can't keep talking about turbines forever, so why not tell you a bit about Urk?
Urk was originally an island on the Zuiderzee / IJsselmeer, but during the middle part of the 20th century, the area surrounding Urk was reclaimed from the water. Reclaimed land in the Netherlands is known as a Polder, and this one is called the Noordoostpolder. While it connected Urk to the rest of the Netherlands physically, Urk retains some of its own characteristics from its days as an isolated island, and its residents even have their own distinct dialect of Dutch.
Urk is a charming little waterfront community, one built on a history of maritime involvement. One key piece of evidence for that is the Urk Lighthouse.
I managed to time my visit quite well, as the lighthouse was open for visitors!
The vuurtoren is open! At a tower height of 61 feet (89 feet above water level) it's not a particularly tall lighthouse, but it's perfectly high enough for a good view over the flat landscape.
I loved finding this inside the lighthouse museum -- a hand-written book of weather observations from the lighthouse keeper.
The weather observation book was opened to a page from February 1953. Looks like observations were taken four times a day at 08, 12, 16, and 20 hours.
Construction on the lighthouse tower began in 1844, so it's pretty old as far as lighthouses go. Watch your head on the way up.
Just one more spiral staircase to the top.
The fresnel lens at the top of the lighthouse.
Stepping outside for some wide open views over Urk.
A view of the beach to the north.
A view of Urk to the east.
A view of Urk's harbor to the south.
Lots and lots of boats. Also, Shamu.
A view southwest along the shore.
I don't think I've ever seen this many turbines before.
Down from the lighthouse and walking through the Urk harbor. Here's a spot for some boat repair.
Tons of boats in the harbor, many of which are likely for fishing, which is a large part of Urk's economy.
On the plaza outside the Kerkje aan de Zee (Church on the Sea), which was built in 1786.
As I mentioned before, Urk was once an island, and thus it's made up of ground that was always /naturally/ above sea level. It's since been connected to the mainland, but on reclaimed land that is largely at or below sea level. Thus, Urk remains the highest point on the Noordoostpolder, and in fact -- the highest point in the entire province of Flevoland.
This totally nondescript spot in front of the Kerkje aan de Zee is the highest point in Flevoland, with an elevation of about 26 feet above sea level. That brings me to 3-out-of-12 for Dutch provincial high points. A nice way to end an early afternoon in Urk.
On the 2016 TPR trip, we visited Walibi Holland, a park that we'd be heading back again on this trip. While we were on the way there in 2016, I noticed that we drove right past a KLM Boeing 747 parked seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and I was curious. What was such a big airplane doing out in the middle of a polder this far east of Amsterdam?
Turns out, it's part of the Luchtvaart-Themapark Aviodrome -- an aerospace museum located at Lelystad Airport.
I spent a couple hours a the Aviodrome in the mid to late afternoon, and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I don't always have the patience to go through museums, but with an interest in aviation, this one kept my attention.
The main entrance to the Aviodrome! Parked outside is a prototype Fokker 50, a Dutch turboprop.
The admission tickets for the Aviodrome are even designed to look like airline boarding passes.
The main entry also includes some nice touches that look exactly like something you'd find in Schiphol.
As an aviation museum, the Aviodrome contains a collection of older aircraft, especially those important to Dutch aviation history.
This one is a Douglas C-54A.
This building is a replica of the Schiphol terminal from 1928, compete with an observation deck up top.
Inside the "control tower" of the replica terminal.
A view over some other planes, like this one -- a Fokker F27 Friendship.
A look over another plane toward the main building.
There are also some military jets on display.
Another military jet at the Aviodrome.
Though it's mostly a museum, there are a few small rides for kids.
Of greater interest to me is this airplane... the one I saw from the TPR bus three years prior. But I'll get back to that.
Inside the replica terminal building is a replica of the ticketing / lobby area. This is how Schiphol looked almost a century ago!
A map of KLM destinations, from the middle east to Indonesia.
Air mail from all over the world.
There are several rooms designed to evoke the feel of the aviation industry from many, many years ago. They include log books from flights, luggage from the era, and displays about some of the most important people in that time period of Dutch aviation.
The Aviodrome also has a Fokker 100 on display, in its bright KLM Cityhopper livery.
This is not the only Fokker 100 on display in the Netherlands -- Schiphol Airport has one on their rooftop viewing deck!
US-based flyers may not be familiar with the Netherlands-based Fokker, but they were a major manufacturer of civilian aircraft for a good chunk of the last century, prior to going bankrupt in 1996. There are still quite a few Fokker 100s in service, primarily in Australia.
Inside a hangar are several older planes and parts of planes.
This one is a very old Douglas DC-2.
Everything else aside, it's this KLM Boeing 747 that first caught my eye three years prior.
Boeing 747s are largely being phased out as passenger aircraft, but several are re-appearing at museums like the Aviodrome.
Since no US-based airlines operate 747s anymore, finding one at a museum is probably the easiest way to explore one of them.
This particular plane is a Boeing 747-200 -- one of the older 747 models. It was delivered to KLM in 1978, and ended its service life in 2003.
The plane carries the registration PH-BUK.
747s are among the largest passenger planes ever built, and there's no better way to get a sense of just how large they are than to get to walk underneath one.
One of the four engines on the 747-- with an overall diameter of almost 9 feet.
This aircraft has the name Louis Blériot, to honor the Frenchman who was the first to cross the English Channel by plane.
A view of the nose of the 747.
The Aviodrome enjoys the little details, like setting up a tug on the front of the 747, and even putting a fake airport worker inside of it.
We won't be transporting any horses today.
Alright, let's take the stairs...
...and enter the plane.
Just inside, there's an exhibit with pictures that help tell the story of how the plane was transported to the Aviodrome. Although the 747 was still airworthy, the Lelystad airport is too small to accommodate such a large plane. So, it was partially disassembled at Schiphol, and then transported via land /and water/ to Lelystad.
Of all the things you may see in Amsterdam's canals, this is probably not one you'd be expecting.
A few shots of the final re-assembly at the Aviodrome.
This 747 is a "Combi" model, in which the rear of the plane was set aside for extra cargo space rather than passenger seating. They had it all stripped out so that you could see what the walls and ceiling were made of.
Heading into the main passenger cabin, which looks pretty much like any older widebody aircraft.
At the tip of the nose on the lower deck.
Up the stairs to the second deck.
A view out the windows.
Here's the view upstairs in the "hump" of the 747.
First class / business class seats were a /lot/ more plain back when this 747 was flying.
A view into the cockpit.
Lots of controls for operating this huge piece of machinery.
A quick step outside for some views of the fuselage.
Although KLM sold the aircraft to the Aviodrome for a symbolic price of 1 Euro, actually transporting it to the museum cost about 600,000 Euros. Much of the cost -- and the labor -- was donated.
An uncommon photo angle of an interesting airplane.
Looking down at the wing. The 747 has four engines, and is one of only three four-engine passenger planes still commonly found flying the skies -- along with the Airbus A340 and A380.
Finally, with the museum's closing time upcoming, I had just a few minutes to check out the main building -- including displays of more old aircraft.
This is one of the most important planes in the museum -- a Lockheed L-749 Constellation.
This one is a Douglas DC-3.
Going even older, here's a Fokker 7 that dates back to the 1920s.
Older still is this 1910s Fokker Spin, the first aircraft designed by Anthony Fokker.
There's a small space exhibit inside the main building at the Aviodrome, including this replica of a 1960s Gemini capsule.
Here's a replica Neil Armstrong spacesuit. There's also a replica of a European module of the International Space Station, and a display that honors Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, who spent time on the ISS.
That finishes things out from the Aviodrome! I thought it was a great place to visit. I'll note that virtually all of the signage and written descriptions were Dutch-only, so you may need to translate some things (or look them up online later). That doesn't take anything away from being able to see some great old airplanes, in a very well-kept and enjoyable setting.
Just a couple quick stops left on my return to the airport.
I headed northwest from Lelystad and crossed the Houtribdijk -- another large causeway/dam that separates two bodies of water with different elevations.
This is quite the oddity on the northwest end of the Houtribdijk -- the road ducks underneath the water.
This is the Krabbersgat Naviduct.
Opened in 2003, the Krabbersgat Naviduct is the first Naviduct in the world.
Although simple water crossings /over/ roadways are found elsewhere -- including at Walt Disney World -- this is different because it's an entire lock system built over the road.
When it comes to engineering basically anything that involves water, the Dutch have it down to a science.
A sailboat sails on in.
The gates and the control tower of the naviduct.
Why build the lock on top of the roadway? Space constraints. There wasn't enough room to build everything separately.
A view of a few more wind turbines from the naviduct.
My last stop before returning the car was at the Schiphol Airport Spottersplek Polderbaan -- a designated plane spotting park located along the oft-used Polderbaan runway.
Oh, and look -- it's finally sunny.
This was an opportunity to relax for an hour and just watch some airplanes -- including many carriers that are seen infrequently, if at all, in the US.
This 737 is from Morocco's Royal Air Maroc, definitely not an airline I've seen before.
Lots of planes from different European countries, like this A319 from Croatia...
...and this A318 from France.
The Polderbaan is the runway that is the furthest away from Schiphol's terminal area, so if you ever fly through there and feel like you're taxiing for hours, you're probably using the Polderbaan.
Here's a Turkish Airlines A330-200...
...and a China Cargo Boeing 777F, backed by turbines in the distance.
With that, I fueled up the rental car, returned it to the airport, and received another 100+ Euros in charges for the flat tire fiasco. Yeah, that was pleasant.
I had a little bit of time to wander the land-side retail area in Schiphol, including finding this airplane-themed store, Planes@Plaza.
Outside the store -- chopped-up pieces of a KLM DC-9.
Inside the store -- models of just about any kind of modern aircraft you can think of.
After getting dinner, I bought myself a train ticket, and hopped aboard an eastbound Intercity line.
I pretty much had the whole train to myself.
Getting out at the Bijlmer ArenA station...
...a place I was already familiar with from 2016, and would become increasingly familiar with again in 2019.
That brings me to the first official TPR hotel of the trip -- the Courtyard Marriott outside the Bijlmer ArenA station.
And that wraps up the first phase of my trip, and I promise there will be roller coasters in the next segment!
A map of my Benelux travels and most of the locations visited.
Some thoughts on driving!
I knew it was going to be a little different than driving in the US, but it wasn't all that tough to figure out. Freeway driving was essentially the same -- it was on the smaller roads where there were more things to watch out for.
First and foremost, if you ever head to Europe to rent a car, spend a /lot/ of time studying up on European road signs. They are considerably different than in the US, and you need to know those differences so you know what to do. You don't want to have to think about what the signs mean -- they should be something you're familiar with. That includes things like parking signs, signs about what turns are allowed, the whole "priority to the right" thing (which is very different from in the US) and where passing is/isn't allowed.
On this phase of the trip, I thought the toughest roads I drove were the smaller roads in Belgium. Some of them weren't constructed very well, especially going through villages -- with lots of tight corners and narrow stretches where the road abuts right up against buildings.
In the Netherlands, the road quality was generally quite good, but the challenges were in the obstacle courses that they /intentionally/ build to try to keep speeds down. I'm talking about speed bumps, planters that jut out into the middle of the roads from alternating sides that force you to do a slalom, random sections where the road narrows to one lane and you have to wait for traffic coming the other way to clear, bike paths (and bikes) everywhere, and of course roundabouts upon roundabouts upon roundabouts. Honestly, it got frustrating after a while, but that's probably the intent -- they want you to be /always/ paying attention while you're driving.
In the later phase of the trip, I found the roads in Germany to be of the highest quality overall, and most similar to what I'd expect in the US. Of course, the craziest roads I'd end up driving were in the Alps, but that's gonna be about 17 trip report segments later.
Final note -- I never use navigation systems when driving around the US, as I prefer to chart out my own routes. With so much else to pay attention to in Europe, though, I opted to trust the in-vehicle navigation rather than doing it all on my own. That saved me a lot of stress, and a lot of distraction.
Condor wrote:More great photos! I appreciate all the aviation stuff as it's a hobby of mine as well. I love the 70s era paint scheme on that Saab Viggen! Thanks for all the detail in your descriptions.
Thanks for reading! And I just noticed the three crowns on that particular jet.
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