At the German – Netherlands border the Rhine splits into its two main branches: the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine) and the Waal. Ten km downstream at Arnhem, the IJssel branches north from Nederrijn, to Ijsselmeer, the largest lake in Holland, and formerly the South Sea before being blocked by a sluice. The Nederrijn splits in three at the town of Wijk bij Duurstede; a canal shoots northwest to Amsterdam, the Lek winds west creating Europe’s largest port in Rotterdam, eventually greeting the sea at The Hook of Holland; and the Kromme Rijn (Crooked Rhine) winds its way toward Utrecht splitting and merging with the innumerable channels to eventually become the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine).
It is this trickle that I follow a mere 50km more to the sea.
In Roman times, it was the main Rhine branch, forming the northern border (Limes Germanicus) of the Roman Empire. In medieval times, it was used for river transport paralleled by a towpath, many parts of which have now been converted to cyclepaths and roads. The river silted up in the Middle Ages and lost its importance as a navigable route by the 17th century, but still forms part of the city moat around Woerden and Leiden and is now used by shallow draft boats for recreation.
No longer can I navigate by simply following “the river”, as there are rivers, streams, channels, canals, ponds and puddles everywhere! More water than land (more bikes than people); this is the Netherlands!