In the heart of the Netherlands flow two rivers, the Lek and Linge, forming natural borders which embrace a blooming region. When looking at a map of the area, the northern border is marked by the Lek and one of the area’s largest cities, Vianen. Drawing a straight line down, your finger would meet Leerdam, which is geographically located on the banks of the river Linge, hugging the municipality’s southern border.
TEXT: LAUREN WALKER | MAIN IMAGE: ZOUWEBOEZEM
Between these two waterways, you will find countless attractions, from the beautiful water landscapes to forts which have been transformed into breweries. Known as the ‘Green Heart’ of the Netherlands, it showcases some of the most scenic cycling paths and walking routes in the country. Here, you can discover historical monuments and landmarks, and enjoy bird-spotting in the fantastic Zouweboezem reserve ipv park.
Left: City Hall Vianen. Photo: Hans van Vrouwerf. Right: Leerdam, the city of glass. Photo: Hans van Vrouwerf
The historical Vianen
Less than half an hour from Utrecht, one of the country’s oldest cities, lies the historical Vianen. It is known for having over 190 national-listed monuments, which you will find on every other street corner. Most significantly, in the city’s old town you can explore its medieval history and the significant defences such as the moat, the original city walls and the Lekpoort, which dates to the 15th century. Plan your visit to collide with one of the city’s many activity days, such as the ‘Horse Market’ or the ‘old-timer’ day. Or simply venture to the ambiant and buzzing Voorstraat and enjoy a cold drink whilst taking in the beautiful architecture of Vianen’s many listed buildings.
Is one drink not enough? How about trying a cold beer straight from the source? To the East of Vianen lies Fort Everdingen, a tower fort which was built in 1847 as part of the New Dutch waterline by the Lek. At one time it protected the river dikes from territorial ambushes. Now it is home to the Duits & Lauret brewery, where craft brews are produced on the banks of the water. Visit the tasting studio or relax on the fort’s terrace to try the local speciality. The site also boasts several attractions of military-importance for visitors to discover.
Fortresses of the New Dutch Waterline
Explore more of this mass fortification defence line, around which Amsterdam and Utrecht are located. It is formed by over 45 fortresses and is 135 kilometres in circumference and has a protected status as a National Heritage Site. These fortresses, which tell the age-old story of water as a means of defence, will appear while discovering the region’s pathways.
Between the two major cities lies one of the most beautiful and relatively undiscovered nature reserves in the area, the Zouweboezem. Mainly known for its cane-field grounds, it also showcases an impressive assortment of flora and is the home of several marsh birds, including the largest colony of purple herons in the Netherlands. The recently built wetland boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the cane fields and the diverse birds you will find there.
Leerdam: not cheese, but glass!
Leerdam is recognised by the Dutch as the country’s glass city. The industry settled here in 1765 and is the only remaining city in the country where visitors can view the artisan craft of glassblowing. Whilst wandering around the city, it is apparent that this industry is central to the community. In the city’s south, right on the banks of the Linge, lies the National Glass Museum, with its own glassworks, where visitors can see glass artists at work first-hand, creating the most beautiful works from hot liquid glass. To witness the traditional craft of crystal glass blowing, take a tour at the city’s Royal Leerdam Crystal, the only place in the country where crystal is blown by mouth. The attraction is moving from the 1878 Kristalfabriek to a new location in 2020. The city’s many glass galleries, including that of famous Dutch artist Bernard Heesen, also showcase modern examples of the glass artworks.
Royal Leerdam Crystal.
If you are an avid biker and want to enjoy the beautiful and idyllic scenery by the dwindling rivers, the newly built 53-kilometre bike route is the way to go. It connects both major cities and takes you to Everdingen and through the calming Zouweboezem, whilst allowing you to discover old farms and other unique locations. A great way to explore the whole region.
For more information visit:
leerdamglasstad.nl and vrijstadvianen.nl