On our last night in Dordrecht we went to a restaurant called Bistro Twee33 which was highly recommended by our Aussie friends, Deborah and Howard, and Tripadvisor. The cuisine at Bistro Twee33 (at Nr.233 Wijnstraat) is French, and we reminisced about our past travels in France while eating delicious bouillabaisse, goats cheese salad and café complèt.

Sitting outside facing the street in line with the other patrons we got to talk to a nice young couple next to us, and learned that Dordrecht is the oldest town in Holland.  

Dordrecht is actually an island where three river arms intersect: Rhine water as the Beneden Meerwede coming from Germany, the North arm going to Rotterdam and the Oude Maas flowing to the sea. So even in the olden days this has been an ideal position for ships with all kinds of freight. In the Middle Ages a busy wine trade was conducted and barrels were hauled out from the old harbour to the “Wijn" or Wine street. But there was also trade of sugar, wheat, meat, cattle and sheep for slaughter. Those imports and exports were heavily taxed. 

From this time originates the nick name “Sheep’s heads” for the people of Dordrecht. The legend tells of two men who returned to town with a sheep. To avoid paying tax they dressed it up in the clothes taken from a scarecrow. They then walked the sheep in between themselves by holding onto it’s front legs, which in the dark looked like three men walking home from a drinking session. Things went well, but when approaching the gate, the sheep let out a desperate bleat. The men were caught and had to pay the tax.

No sheep to be heard nowadays, just the melodies from the carillon of the "Grote Kerk" (Great Church). With it’s four huge clock faces it towers over the old centre of town and our harbour.

If the old Dutch house facades look askew from age, so does the church tower. It is 2.5 metres out off plumb which is a greater lean than the tower of Pisa. After the 275 steps climb the view from the top is spectacular!

The church has interesting stained glass windows some depicting recent historic events like flooding and a town fire. A 18th century replica Bach organ was at the centre of a fantastic Bach and Händel concert.

The Royal or New Harbour where we stayed is accessed via a lift bridge which opens hourly. A small wrought iron foot bridge in the middle of the basin is opened on request by the harbourmaster.  

The oldest port of Dordrecht used to be the mouth of the river “Thuredrecht” meaning “Pull through” as ships couldn’t sail in this part of the waterway and had to be pulled through. That’s where the name Dordrecht originated from.

If you are interested in art, antiquities or curiosity shops Dordrecht will be your Mekka. Even Austin was drawn into one of the shops resembling an indoor flea market at it’s best.

Friday and Saturday the weekly market was on in town with fresh vegetable, Dutch cheeses, bread, cakes and cheap clothing. The fish stand cooked up the best fried fish served, of course, with a ton of mayonnaise. The Dutch seem to have a love affair with Mayonnaise. It is on almost every bought sandwich or salad and definitely on chips!

I have to say that my earliest childhood memory of beach holidays in Holland includes a paper cone of “Pommes Frites” with a dollop of thick, white Mayonnaise! "Eet smakelijk!” as they say here. Enjoy!

© Austin Robinson 2019