Dunkerque - Bergues

Last Monday, the 2nd of June, we left Dunkerque (Duinkerke) planning to cruise towards Bergues (Sint-Winoksbergen or, simply, Bergen) a distance of only some 10 kilometers (a good 6 miles) in total. It took us just some minutes more than 2½ hours, 1¼ included to negotiate two drawbridges and one lock – all three of them part of the port-structure and within a distance of 1 kilometer (0,6 miles). Dear us, do the Dunkerque VTS-men on CHF-channel 73 come into action s l o w l y… At long last we were able to leave the port and return back onto the canal-system. The remaining distance, around 9 kilometers (5,5 miles), were covered in a bit over 1¼ hour. We knew that, if the gods would look favourable onto us, we might be able to hook up to the main electrical system. No luck, the short mooring space with electricity appeared to be occupied by three boats. One of them told us that there was nobody when he arrived a few days earlier. That’s called in our language ‘rubbing salt in someone’s wound’. Here we all are, ‘them’ in luxury, ‘us’ deprived of all comforts. (It’s not that bad, we’ll move tomorrow – so after having been here for four nights.)

Our position seen from another angle, being our ‘own’ side of the short Canal de Bergues. Will there be room enough to turn in the 90 degree bend behind us? We positively think: yes!

On Wednesday we witnessed the arrival of another Diksmuide-bound ship, ‘Mizar’. They were even unluckier than us, as there was no sufficient space at all on the short stretch next to Bergues’ ancient walls. They had to turn, which gave us certainty to be able to turn there too, because their ship is 24,95 meters (83 feet) and ours only 18,31 meters (60 feet). We are able, in fact, even to turn right where we are now without the need to go in reverse towards the bend. (The canoeing guy survived.)

Bergues/Sint-Winoksbergen dates from the late 9th century, or even earlier and, although having suffered from both world-wars, is still an interesting and lovely place to visit. Perhaps we will be able to have a closer view at it in the future. For the moment there’s this sample of what it looks like inside its walls. There’s more – a lot more.

We’re now in the middle of French Flanders and the traces of the former used language, Flemish, is visible everywhere. This house, a ‘Gîte’ (holiday cottage, guesthouse), is called ‘Berghuis’. That would be in French ‘La Maison de Bergues’. (The French language uses a lot less contraction-words than, for instance, the Dutch language.)

Another one we saw is this sign on the outside of one of the ancient houses saying ‘Bij de Geschiedschrijver’. In French ‘Chez l’ecrivain d’histoire’. In English ‘At the (writing) historian’.

The Flemish flag is visible in all forms, painted on shop-windows or -doors, as a flag, or a signboard. Flanders is not purely the west of Belgium, it’s partly the south-west of The Netherlands and the extreme north-west of France too.

This is our destination in Belgium, Diksmuide. We are expected to arrive there next Wednesday, the 11th of June as participants of a gathering, organized by the Dutch Barge Association (DBA). There will be some 30 other barges – DBA-members like us. For a large part this gathering is about commemorating the outbreak of The Great War, 100 years ago. Diksmuide and the area around it suffered immensely during several battles , like the Battle of the Yser, October 1914 and even four battles around Ypres, called Ypres Salient in English. We hope to tell you about our experiences in Belgium later on.

In Belgium we are deprived of an Internet-connection, we fear. This page is related to week 23, so partly in advance. There will be no new blog-page on Monday (the 9th and) the 16th of June. We hope to be back on Monday the 23th about the weeks 24 and 25, if possible. (Translation of this announcement ‘Because of my absence I’m not here. The reason is that I’m away’.)