"De vrijheid tegemoet!"
Nieuwpoort - Hardinxveld Giessendam
We started the 6th leg of the Pilgrimspath early in the morning in the dark, surrounded by dense fog. A spooky yet unique experience with the ferry silently waiting, big trees slowly appearing, and windmills looming out of the fog as ghostly shapes.
Around 10 am, the intense winter sun dispelled the fog, and the sky turned blue. Finally, the Alblasserwaard got to show off its unique historical windmills. These windmills have been pumping water out of the polder to keep it from flooding for centuries. We followed a grass path through the canals’ meadows for miles in the middle of nowhere. The sheep were curiously looking at us. Apparently, we were the main attraction or distraction of the day. As a result of our unintentional startling, a flock of birds suddenly flew away, which in turn startled us.
After we crossed the pedestrian bridge in Bleskensgraaf, a quaint town in the middle of the polder, we again left the paved paths and continued following long grass paths. We walked the characteristic “Tiend” roads. These narrow, unpaved paths on peat embankments, lined with pollarded willows, date back to the Middle Ages. However, they are still prominent in today’s Dutch polder landscape.
Immediately before arriving at Hardinxveld Giessendam, history and the present time became intertwined. During the construction of the Betuweroute, a double-track freight railway from Rotterdam to Germany, a grave with a woman’s and a dog’s remains was found. The woman named Trijntje (playfully named after “trein”, the Dutch word for a train) had been hunting in the area around 5400 BC!