Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In the middle of Groningen

Well, this is unexpected. It's been a long, hot day in which we covered 26 miles, a lock and dozens of bridges. We were halfway around Groningen when we hit the tea/rush-hour break: the bridges stop opening between 4 and 5.30 pm. We were lucky enough to stop in one of those spots you will know if you have ever been to Amsterdam: canal down the middle, semi-pedestrianised streets down each side with trees and bicycles on the canalside, and lined with traditional merchants' houses (probably reconstructed, as the Allies blew most of Groningen to bits when they liberated it). Now it seems we can stay the night here if we want, so we are. There are no facilities except mooring rings and a rather dodgy-looking tap, so I don't know if we'll be charged.
We were expecting rain today, but none has been forthcoming. The hazy cloud has made the heat feel less intense, although stuffier.
We crossed the Lauwersmeer, which was somewhat like running down the Waveney into Breydon Water, but on a larger scale, and without the tides; the entrance to Lauwersmeer was dammed off in the 1970s. It was full of wildife including some very masculine cows with big horns, pretty, half-wild horses and possibly marsh harriers.
Neither it nor the Reitdiep which is the canal which brought us here were quite as shallow as we feared, with usually around 1m under the keel. We shared the last few bridges with a traditional Dutch sailing boat, with leeboards, whose crew didn't really understand our problems when we touched bottom a couple of times. They draw 50cm.
Most of the bridges along the Reitdiep are push-button operated, another hark back to the French canals; you can call on VHF too, but then you might need to speak Dutch :-( It was all very pretty and rural, and we believe we may even have seen a hill.
Groningen is apparently a happening and culturally hip city, believe it or not. We will report back when we have explored further.
Miles covered today: 26. In a straight line from Lunegat: 15.4.

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