Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

  • November 2017
    M T W T F S S
  • Meta

Gondelvaart (water ‘pram’ carnival)

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/11/2017

Whilst Graham and the team were rescuing MR, I stayed on in Aldeboarn and was fascinated to watch the amazing amount of work that was going on in the village in preparation for the Gondelvaart festival. Gondels are basically floating, flat, iron platform barges built over 100 years ago. They have neither superstructures nor engines and were built to shift peat. Once a year the gondels are dug out of little inlets and reeds, dusted off and superstructures created, to turn them into carnival floats for the last Friday in August. Well in advance of that date, work commences in the village with herringbone road cobbles being carefully removed and lighting cables being laid. Guys turn up to remove any weeds on the mooring walls and the entire (not inconsiderable) length of the main canal street is pressure hosed, cleaned and polished to within an inch of it’s existence. The guys on the water platform cleaning the mooring walls kindly lent G their platform when they went to lunch so that he could use it to finish cleaning our rudder in safety.


Each street in the village picks a theme for their gondel and then dress their houses accordingly. For example, our friends’ street picked the great Dutch Bake Off for their Gondel so all their houses were displaying menus of local delicacies. Other streets were draped with scarecrows, dreamcatchers, etc. The amount of work that went into these displays for weeks before hand was a m a z i n g.


On the day of the actual festival, a massive market and food stalls open from the lunchtime with all kind of bands and entertainers. The most incredible of which, for me, was a band of drummers that moved around the village all dressed in primitive skins (G says like something out of Mad Max – I’m not familiar). The beat was totally hypnotic and I followed them about like a rat following the Pied Piper.

As dusk drew in, all the lighting went out and the drummers climbed onto an unadorned gondel from our left – beat their way down the canal to the waiting, dressed gondels, at the other end of the village which then started their slow passage towards us; towed by little tugs – sometimes two huge gondels to one tug. We did, of course, dress Francoise for the occasion.


Pulled by the tugs, they ‘steered’ with punt poles and boat hooks. A lot of my night pics are out of focus, so I can’t show you them all, but you get the idea. Our seats had been put up outside G & G’s house first thing in the morning (perks of being friends of canalside dwellers) so we could watch in comfort. Supper and wine courtesy of G & G too; an amazing and unforgettable day.


Even writing this so long after the event has brought a lump to my throat but, for me, the most amazing thing was that they towed them down to the very small turning circle by Francoise; turned them and came back the other way whilst more gondels were still coming down – so then they were coming in both directions on this narrow canal with it’s tiny bridge holes. Such skill. I wish I’d been up on that bridge to watch the turning; if only I’d known – maybe next year.

The next day we waved our goodbyes and it was, almost, as if it had all been a dream as we passed the gondels being dismantled and put away again for 10 months; the cobbles being taken up again and lighting removed. Within 48 hours it would be as if none of it ever happened – the cost and the work for just those few hours. Incredible.


The blow was softened by the fact that we had a hot date to meet up with Veronica and Richard on Pirammima who had returned in time to do a bit of cruising with us before we headed into the yard at Franeker.

See, I’ve nearly caught up again now!

With apologies to Gerrit and Gezina for any inaccuracies in this post.

19 Responses to “Gondelvaart (water ‘pram’ carnival)”

  1. Very small turning circle NEXT to Francoise – they weren’t towed BY Francoise!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevin TOO said

    Isn’t the community spirit and involvement great in Europe, I’ve also experienced great ‘local’ events on every visit I’ve made to France in the past 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. andywindy said

    As I’ve said before, (More than once) We who follow Your Blog get to go places through Your writing and see the sights through Your pictures that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, even so, WOW! That was some Carnival. I guess that Gondel is a Pan European word for what we would term a Lighter, an unpowered towed barge, a narrow one being a Gondola!

    Very reminiscent of the few evening Carnivals still in existence in the UK, sadly the one in Basingstoke, where I lived most of my life, ceased to be many Years ago. Twas a real shame losing it, but increased insurance costs and Idiots with water pistols etc. Stopped the fun when too few people could be found to be Committee members.

    Some good Night shots though, can’t think why the one out of focus one you did publish was of those Ladies in their undies? That was some Soup Kettle they had on their Float though.

    I wonder if the Water Carnivals of Holland etc. Are why our trailers are called Floats in ours? Come om Kevin Too, you must know the answer to that one.


    • Who’s a clever boy then. Never thought about the connection between gondel and gondola. My dictionary translates it as ‘pram’ – but ‘floats’ must surely have a connection.

      I can remember being thrilled skinny if I was chosen to be on one of the carnival floats as a kid at Biggleswade carnival. I suppose the differences were that UK carnivals were promotions for local businesses, whereas this is just tradition and inter village competition.

      Sorry that I had to censor the pic of the ‘naughty’ ladies, but I was concerned that you might have a heart attack otherwise!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. andywindy said

    Oh Blow, forgot to ask are you planning to Varnish, Oil or Paint Your Rudder?


  5. Carol said

    I was going to say pretty much as Andywindy says in his comment above …. WOW what a fabulous festival and you two so lucky to be there too. Thanks for taking us along with you on your journey in foreign parts, we’re thoroughly enjoying the ride!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. andywindy said

    I think I’d have gone with Oil as well, much easier to apply more without having to strip too much off first, at most a wipe with a solvent rag allowed to dry then re-oil.


  7. ianmccauley2014 said

    Just for the lazy amongst us, when was the festival? And … these things are perhaps the main reason we cruise, such memorable moments carved deep into memory to savour for the rest of our lives.


  8. vallypee said

    Just gorgeous, Jill. What fantastic good fortune to be there to see it all. Aren’t these festivals marvellous?


    • Knowing it was on the cards we kept lurking in the vicinity Val. Friesland is not linear like France and UK – you can ‘carry on cruising’ on different waterways without leaving an area


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Itchy Feet

Real time travel tips from a duo travelling Europe by motorhome

Alex Grehy Fiction

Playing with words....

Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

Aurigny Aperos

…"I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."


Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise


Never grow up, Grown-ups are boring!

Avalon Abroad

Exploring Europe on W B Avalon

M. B. Willow

Life afloat on the 1935 ex-Severn and Canal Carrying Co. motor, Willow

%d bloggers like this: