The Frisian people are very independent and speak their own language. Many regions of The Netherlands also have their own distinct dishes, costumes and dances. But Friesland is the most distinct with a totally separate language and fiercely independent nature.
[If you want to learn more about Holland vs The Netherlands, be sure to click here for a good laugh and a confusing history/geography lesson: http://www.cgpgrey.com/blog/the-difference-between-holland-the-netherlands]
Friesland generally has a lot of wide open land, windblown skies and lots of water. We rented our boat from http://www.dedrait.com
The boat was well equipped even though the company didn’t excel in customer service. But it turned out to be a great boat with lots of space. The upper back deck had lawn chairs for us to sit, sip beer and keep an eye on the captain.
The captain, of course, was our own son who happens to be a real captain. But, my amazement, anyone is allowed to rent a boat and cruise around here. Without Alex, however, I’m sure our boat would have been returned with more dents and scrapes in the sides… At some bridges we had an inch to spare on either side.
Downstairs in our boat was a ‘living room’ with a large sitting are, a few steps down to the kitchen and a dining table where the kids played with their toys. Alex and the boys had their own bedroom with bunkbeds in the front while the rest of us had private bed- and bathrooms too. Luxury!
We boated along narrow canals, passed even narrower bridges and across wide lakes. Cows and windmills and old farm houses made it a true Dutch experience. We stopped in many gorgeous little towns, where we walked arounds and bought groceries: Sneek, IJlst, Bolsward, Joure, Grou and many more – many of Elfstedentocht (speedskating race) fame.
As per ancient custom, some of the bridges were still manned by a bridge keeper who lived nearby.
Sometimes he or she saw us and came to open the bridge.
Some times we had to push a button or get close to a sensor. As we passed, the bridge keeper would extend a fishing pole and line from which dangled a wooden shoe.
We would drop our one or two euro coin payment in the wooden shoe!
Other times we had to wait for certain opening hours. It was amazing to watch the most interesting bridges turn or pull up for boats. Even solid railroad bridges. A favorite of the boys was aquaducts on which we sailed right over major highways and watched large trucks and cars disappear underneath the water (in a tunnel).
In each marina (usually simply tied up to the quay) we paid a mooring fee which included electricity and/or water, sometimes wifi and use of a shower building.
It was an interesting way of life and a wonderful way to see a beautiful part of the country (Netherlands, not Holland :-).