They say that there are five commodities for which the Netherlands is famous: windmills, wooden shoes, tulips, Delft porcelain and Gouda Cheese. I experienced all of these during my recent barge trip on the canals of Holland. Two historical aspects of the Netherlands with which I was also impressed were the country's importance as a refuge for the Protestants when they escaped from England in the late 1600s and the unforgettable Dutch resistance experiences during the German occupation in World War II. Perhaps the most beautiful and relaxing part of the experience, however, was cruising the canals with the beautiful villages and pastoral scenery on either side of our slowly moving ship.
We boarded our barge, The Anna Cornelia, jet-lagged and weary at her dock in Amsterdam. She was low slung and not in any way elegant with a Captain who lived on her and a crew of two gals who did all the cleaning, cooking and manual labor for our group of seventeen. Warning - if you sign up for a barge trip be sure to bring a shower cap and a wash cloth. Despite the no frills there was a comfortable lounge with a continually perking coffee pot and a pleasant dining room below deck. The informality encourage us to get to know our small group of retired teachers, well travelled professionals and even two young cousins accompanying their 88-year-old grandmother. The girls were very kind and energizing for us older folk.