We sailed out of Zaandam, near Amsterdam, to the town of Lelystadt as there was no dock available at Hoorn, our intended destination.

The route for this cruise was down the Meuse River to Antwerp in Belgium but, being in The Netherlands, this is not straight forward. As we have seen from previous posts, there is a lot of water in this country and much of the land is below sea level. Answering the question, “On which river are we?” is simple in most countries but, in The Netherlands, it can be complicated. As an example, the Rhine seems to scatter in every direction and added to that are the waters of the Meuse and the Scheldt, forming a large delta.

Rhine Meuse Scheldt Rivers delta

From the earliest days of settlement in the delta area, the Dutch have had a complicated relationship with water. The Greek geographer, Xenophon, described them as half man and half beast as he did not believe normal people could live there. Originally, settlers built mounds for their towns and cities.

On arrival at Hoorn, a city which used to be under the sea, the bus parked in a large parking area on the edge of the city which we were to learn is one steeped in history. It was founded in 716AD and granted city status in 1357. It was named for the horn-shaped harbour along the Ijsselmeer, an artificial lake created by the construction of massive dams.

Hoorn Old Town Hall

When we alighted from the bus and walked around it, on the back we saw a commemorative picture celebrating 100 years of tourism service from 1911 – 2011. They can now add to these another 12 years. There were 2 photos and the first from 1911 was most interesting as they used horse-drawn carriages. Nowhere near as comfortable as today’s buses.  As we walked into town, we passed some buck which were the last that the city was allowed to retain due to people considering it cruel to keep them in an enclosure.

Advert on bus celebrating 100 years
Buck near the bus stop

As we walked into town, we passed the crossed the canal to the Oosterpoort, a town gate, built in 1578 as part of the city’s fortifications on the canal. At that time the canal was very busy with vessels trading in the City of Hoorn and surrounding towns and there was a serious need for protection of the town and its people. Today it is a national monument and one can make a booking to tour the tower.

Oosterpoort from 1578
Bridge across canal to reach town

Our excellent guide led us into town passed a home with a mosaic of the Tree of Life above the front door. There were other homes with the same picture and it was believed that this afforded protection to the home and family.

Tree of Life Symbol on front door

Our first stop was in front of a building which had a long frieze of sailing ships and a commemorative statement underneath. This depicted the ships and activities of the Dutch East India Company (DEIC), established in 1602 and which had developed strong trading ties in the islands of what is now known as Indonesia. The main interests were exotic spices including nutmeg, pepper, cloves and mace. In Hoorn, they were sold for large profits.

Frieze of ships of the DEIC

A citizen of Hoorn, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who was very wealthy and wanted the nutmeg trade for himself. In his attempt to achieve this he had 10 000 residents of an island killed. Even with this action by him, he was considered an outstanding administrator and was revered for the wealth and organisation that he brought to Hoorn. As a result, a statue of him stands in Hoorn today. His main ship was called the Batavia and it was this name used to name the area Batavia which is Jakarta today.

Statue of Dr Coen

There were 2 other famous sons of Hoorn, Willem Schouten and Jakob Le Maire, who were explorers trying to find a route to the Pacific Ocean via the west. They rounded the southern tip of South America and Schouten named this point Cape Horn after the town of Hoorn. There were other islands that passed, near New Caledonia, which were later called the Schouten Islands. When they went passed Tierra del Fuego Archepelago, Le Maire wanted it called Le Maire Archepelago, but was outvoted. They eventually arrived in Batavia, Indonesia.

During WW2 the Nazi HQ was in Hoorn and they took over a building where there were 2 women already resident. They were allowed to remain there until it was discovered that they were hiding Jews in an outside shed. The 2 women were then taken to Concentration Camps where one of them died. The other returned to Hoorn and became a Gr 2 teacher by whom our guide had been taught. On a wall of this building is a sculpture of the 2 women.

Plaque of 2 women

On the pavement outside some homes are brass plaques with the names and details of the persons, Jewish and others who had lived in the home and whom the Nazis removed and killed, in which Concentration Camps they were held and where they were murdered. These plaques are called stolpersteine, stumbling stones, because they are concrete blocks with the plaque on top. It was a project begun by Berlin artist, Guenther Demnig, in the mid-1990s and, to date, over 62 000 have been placed in towns and cities in Europe. It is very moving to read them. In one case, a family of 5 is named on the plaque.

Plaque outside home of Alexander Polak

During the morning, we went to St Anthony of Egypt’s Church for a half hour concert of Shanty singing by an all-male choir, as this is a church dedicated to skippers and fishermen. It was quite special with some well-known and a few not quite so well-known songs. On a wall was a banner for the DEIC or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), translated as the United Eastern Company, with prints of Jan Pieterszoon Coen on it.

Church clock tower from 1600


Front of St Anthony’s Church 1616










Chandelier and organ pipes
VOC banner










We learnt that St Anthony was known as the Saint for pigs because, for many years pigs would be led through the city but, due to the mess that they left behind, the practice was banned. The Church petitioned the Council to allow the them to keep pigs as they were used to feed the poor. This was permitted on condition that each pig, belonging to the church, wore an earring.

Saint Anthony of Egypt with a of 2 signs pig

We saw many mail boxes with one or two signs on them. They said either Ja or Yes meaning leave properly addressed mail or Nee or No meaning leave no unaddressed or junk mail. Some had both of these. On some buildings was a sign which indicated if it was a National Monument. These are the examples.

3 signs

After wonderful tour of Hoorn we were treated to lunch at a restaurant in an hotel on the return journey to Lelystadt.