This private tour is the more interesting after the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. According to the original plans, the Oosterschelde (Eastern Schelde) in the south western part of Holland would be closed, just like the other river mouths in this region and the water enclosed behind the dam would therefore become fresh.
Due to resistance against the construction of a closed dam, which would mean the disappearance of the unique salt water environment the Dutch government agreed to an alternative plan in 1976: instead of building a closed dam, an open barrier would be built, containing sixty-two openings, each forty meters wide, which would only be closed during high water levels and heavy storms. The Oosterschelde storm surge barrier is a masterpiece of Dutch hydraulic engineering and one of the biggest structures of the world.
We will visit the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier and the historical towns of Veere and Middelburg in the province of Zealand. The picturesque little town of Veere, a favorite haunt of painters, lies on the border of the former Veerse Gat estuary which was cut off from the sea by the construction of a Delta works dam in 1958. In the Middle Ages Veere, which was surrounded by walls in 1358, was an important fishing port and trading town. Veere's Town Hall (1470) is the finest Town Hall in Brabantine Late Gothic style after that of Middelburg.
Middelburg is one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands and surrounded by a star-shaped ring of canals. The town entered into competition with Amsterdam during the 17th century when many Antwerp merchants settled there. Middelburg's town hall, one of the most beautiful Gothic secular buildings in the Netherlands, was built between 1452 and 1458 by Flemish architects of the famous Kelderman family. The abbey, which became the seat of a bishop in 1561, and the town hall suffered heavy damage in a German air attack in 1940, but were completely repaired. Thanks to its successful restoration policy Middelburg earned the designation of "European Heritage City" in 1975.
The motto of the province of Zealand is: Luctor et Emergo (I wrestle and rise to the surface of the sea). During this tour we will stop at several panoramic spots that provide views of other Delta waterworks to give information about these famous works, built after the disastrous flooding of 1953. Besides shortening the total length of the dikes by 700 kilometers, the Delta works had many other advantages. The streams in this area were able to be manipulated more easily and the construction of these waterworks encouraged traffic between the many islands and peninsulas, which had been isolated for centuries.
The inland waterways shipping was supported by the Delta works and the agricultural freshwater supply improved. In the small town of Goedereede there will be an opportunity to have coffee or tea in the 15th-century house of Adrianus VI, the only Dutch pope. On the way back we will stop at the spot where D - Day 1944 jetty construction techniques were used to fill up a breach in a duke, caused by the 1953 flooding. On that particular spot the Flood 1953 Museum was established in the original caissons which were used on November 6th 1953 to close the last portion of the dike.
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