Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Door de IJsseldelta

Time for a fietstocht (Dutch for "bike ride," with a phlegm-clearing fricative on the second syllable).

I've been browsing through the ANWB cycling guide I borrowed from the library, Rivieren, Meren en Kust, which after all are the sorts of places that most interest me in Holland, aka Waterworld. Many interesting rides described, e.g., up along the coast of Callantsoog north of Alkmaar; along the Geldse Rijn into Germany; and the lakes and windmills east of Leiden. It was tough to decide but I finally chose "Door de IJsseldelta," the watery zone north of Zwolle, on Kampereiland.

As there did not appear to be a direct train to Kampen, the departure point, I'm going to Zwolle--in any case a city I would like to revisit--and will cycle from there to Kampen.

(original date of this entry: June 25, 2014)

An effortless exit from Zwolle via LF9B, which skirts the east side of the city along a pretty canal ring fringed by parks and greenery. As always, I feel welcome among the community of cyclists plying the fietspads of Zwolle. I know this is a historic city, one of the Hanseatic League, but it was already after 2 pm when I left the station so I wanted to get moving rather than explore. (The name Hanseatic, notes Kampen resident Cor van Marion, Hanse is probably derived from the German/old dutch words "An See," bordering the sea.) I did pass a formidable ancient tower at the edge of the historic core. I'm now stopped along a concrete path behind a suburban subdivision, looking at the River IJssel about a half km from a highway full of trucks passing over it. Rather cloudy but it seems to be warming up. I've got a ferry to catch.

North of Zwolle I came to the Haerster Veer, where one of those incredibly rustic scenes pops out of the suburban landscape. On the instructions of the middle-aged couple sitting there, I grasp a stainless steel pipe hanging from a rope and strike a rusty bell, which produces a surprisingly full and loud gong. Passengers are boarding a raft on the opposite bank of the still black water. After a moment the boat starts moving toward us; I see the skipper, a tall thin muscular man with a long white beard and no shoes. Some kinda river man. In about two minutes the boat arrives and extends a pair of long wooden planks to the bank. Two women disembark with lots of baggage on their bikes, perhaps on an extended cycling journey. I wheel my bike over one plank, walk on another left of it. An elderly couple follow me. The skipper then grasps a pair of wooden blocks with which he pulls a cable submerged in the water. He pulls the blocks to the rear end of the boat and we move forward slowly. Then he returns to the front and pulls the cables again, in this way conveying us across the Haerster Veer. I can see that his arms are filigreed with cable-like veins, a massive strength acquired over a lifetime of pulling these steel cables. On the north bank we pull right up to the dock, no planks required. I pay the €0.60 and I'm off, now rolling between open pastures smelling of manure and marshes. I take a break above a meadow where a couple of tiny horses poke around and the sun rises above the big clouds.

IJssel Delta, Day 1

From Hasselt, another Hanseatic League town, I rode swiftly northward, partly alongside a busy road (though sheltered from its fumes by a high slope), then went right into the seriously quaint town of Zwaartsluis. Busier than I expected up here, though the busy parts were not the quaint ones. It being close to 6, I was in a bit of a haste to get to the ferry across the Zwolsche Diep to Genemuiden since I didn't know how late it ran.

The little Conexxion ferry that could
I needn't have worried. The toll collector, a mannish young woman, told me it runs till 9:45 pm. It's a wonderful spot here, a sort of lakeside park by the ferry dock. The Zwolsche Diep is a substantial natural barrier, now swelling in the breeze on a perfect sunbeamed cool, breezy afternoon, mid-week. I love the little rusty tugboat that plows across every free minutes, carrying a handful of cyclists and pedestrians, a green Conexxion vehicle. I love that cyclists and pedestrians are considered important enough to get ferry service. When the boat is idle, the scene is very peaceful, some boys fishing, some factories down the waterway. Now I can ride in leisurely fashion through the polderlands (along LF-22 or LF-3) to my destination, Kampen.

I'm at kp 26, west of Genemuiden, as bucolic a rural spot as could be desired. I've just crossed a canal via sluice gate to find, on the west slope of the dike, a long herd of sheep sunning themselves. A trailer piled with hay beside a dark green wooden house. A crossroads: west to kp 28, south to kp 29. I had been going along the road but fortunately detoured into the canal-veined polder, big clouds hanging low over the illuminated green expanses. Feel so fortunate to experience this day.

I'm glad I chose Kampen as my overnight destination. When I arrived at the IJssel, there it was, on the other side of an amazing drawbridge with golden pulleys at the top. It happened to be in use when I arrived. Traffic, including a pack of racing cyclists, halted at the middle. Then the golden pulleys rolled and the mid-section lifted to allow a freighter to roll through. Then it was lowered and traffic proceeded. I knew that my Vriend op de Fiets was along the first or second street back from the river: Oudestraat. It was a shopping promenade but the shops were all closed at 8 pm. The entrance to Cor(nelius)'s house was down an exceedingly narrow alley, one of many found at intervals along the Oudestraat. That feature reminded me of Spain or Italy. Kampen is a very old city and once fabulously wealthy from trade and shipping. Cor, a boyish, athletic man, showed me to my room on the top floor which doubled as a studio for his wife's sewing projects. It was an old, sturdy house, wood plank floors painted white. The next room would be occupied by the three economists, due to arrive later. Cor told me a bit about the history of the region, how the church owned the fertile farmlands of Kampereiland, which the farmers had to rent. Then Ji appeared, a cheerful young woman about half her husband's height. 

The grand drawbridge of Kampen

I washed up (the shower was off the kitchen, a late addition to the old house) and went looking for dinner; as always in Holland, it was a challenge to find something reasonably healthy and filling that wasn't exorbitant. Cor had recommended a cafe called De Stomme van Campen, which translates as the dumb guy from Kampen, about a 10-minute walk up Oudestraat. I found it, an attractive beer hall, but they had no food but bitterballen and such insubstantial Dutch snacks. I had a fluitje of a great Belgian brew and continued my search. There were a number of cafe/restaurants on the main square. I finally chose a busy cafe on the square and had a big salad there ot the terrace. Continued ...

1 comment:

  1. Fantasic, it is amazing how much my little country has to offer.