Saturday, December 31, 2016

Return to Drenthe III - Dwingelderveld

I'm at a gateway to the Dwingelderveld National Park, fietspad crossroads in the park's northwest corner, about 2.5 km from the village of Dwingeloo. It's very peaceful, just the oaks and some lower trees and the lazy cheeping of birds. Morning overcast but it is now clearing and looks to be quite warm with just a slight breeze. But as I sit here at this knooppunt I notice a fair amount of activity, mostly elderly couples with matched bikes, including some e-bikes. It's Friday.

I visited this national park last summer to get a taste of it for the guide--but now I'll make it the main course. At that time I enthused about the beauty of the area and its many lakes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Return to Drenthe II - Drents-Friese Woud

"I'll make you a good breakfast," Ron had told me. But it was not good: a few slices of bread, pre-sliced cheese, some kind of poultry cold cut which I declined, weak coffee with powdered milk, the obligatory hard-boiled egg in a cup, and a little cup of yogurt with a cloying pink flavoring. But at least he sat down and chatted with me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Return to Drenthe I - Het Fochtelooërveen

Duivendrecht station
In early June I decided to take a fietstocht to the province of Drenthe for a few days, leaving it open-ended. I easily lined up Vrienden op de Fiets for the next three nights: Appelscha, Dwingeloo, Ruinerwold.

The train's destination is Groningen (I'll get off at Assen). On the way east it cuts through the flat sheep-grazed expanse of Flevoland, then Zwolle, hub of Overijssel province, then north.

Het Fochtelooërveen (you try to pronounce it) appears as a purple expanse on the map: 'what remains of an immense high turf area. The breadth and unspoiled character of the area are impressive, unique for the Netherlands and Western Europe,' says my cycle route guidebook. Unique? Turf fields seem to be a standard feature of the Dutch landscape. 'Traces of prehistoric settlement.' As in other peat mining areas, the cutters removed all of it before long and had to seek other livelihoods. Now they're irrigating the zone so the peat will grow back, supposedly to restore it to its former ecosystem, and some birds (cranes, 'snake eagles') have returned.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Scheveningen & Den Haag coast, south

Scheveningen then ...
Returning to Den Haag for more research, I visit the Panorama Mesdag, a museum devoted to a single painting. Painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag (a member of The Hague school) in 1881, it is a 360-degree look at the seaside village of Scheveningen. No proper harbor back then, the flat-bottomed fishing boats just parked on the beach. The panoramic painting encircles the viewer and is housed beneath a naturally lit dome.

The cloudscape of South Holland is depicted in great detail. Here I'll cede to the descriptive powers of Russell Shorto: "tunnels and chasms and cathedrals and phantasmagoria of clouds, mounting the heights or furiously crosshatched by the force of an impending storm." Actually he was describing the skies of North Holland but you get the idea. Later that day I watched such an impending storm, then got drenched by it.

... and now

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Scheveningen and Den Haag Coast, north

In April I was assigned to write an article about the Den Haag coast, so I went there to gather material, cycled around and scribbled. What follows are my notes and photos from that expedition. The article is here

Today I would just like to cycle round the dunes north of Scheveningen, get a taste before bothering with water sports, seaside restaurants and so on. It's a stretch of the LF1 that I've yet to traverse.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Guidebook research XV: Utrechtse Heuvelrug

The last bit of research to be done was the city of Utrecht. I wanted to add a section on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the protected forest zone 'extending 50km east of Utrecht city between the towns of Zeist and Rhenen, with at least seven medieval castles.' The 23,000 hectare forest is the second largest in the Netherlands, with its southern half devoted to a national park.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Guidebook research XIV: Southwest Friesland & Hindelopen

Another hot day and I'm riding to Hindelopen, old harbor on the IJsselmeer, my final destination for guidebook research.

West of Sneek it's just fields of cows--the black ones with the white band in the middle--swamp and reeds. Due to a detour I somehow missed the quaint old village of Ijlst--once the center of the shipbuilding timber trade, as noted in Sneek's Shipping Museum.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Guidebook research XIII: Sneek

Snits (aka Sneek)
Idle moment in the train station of Leeuwarden. I had to wait a while for the train to Sneek. The train finally arrived -- run by Veolia -- and filled with people. A lot of people are going to Sneek (pronounced 'snake'). The ride took less than 20 minutes. Some grizzled dudes were drinking beer from cans and rolling cigarettes by the door.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Guidebook research XII: Weerribben-Wieden National Park

-> 12 (LF-22b)
A perfect early summer day with the usual tableau of meadows and black and white cows, big fluffy clouds floating in a blue sky. I've just left the 'burbs of Kampen behind and I'm heading along a dike northward, a journey of some 40km ahead to Ossenzijl at the top of Weerribben National Park.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Guidebook Research XI: Twente & Deventer

A few days in Amsterdam and now back on the road. Now in the town of Tubbergen, gateway to the Twente region, which Maarten from Nijmegen and Koen from Eindhoven insist is a great environment for cycling. Having dinner at a notably good value eetcafe, De Burgermeister. Also my Vrienden op de Fiets pad is outstanding: I've got a veritable apartment on the Bosweg, about 1.5km west of the center. So it appears Phase 3 is off to a good start.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Guidebook research X: Dwingelderveld National Park

In a reserve called Ter Horst Zand at the northeast corner of the Dwingeloosche Heide/Dwingelderveld National Park, western Drenthe province. I know I'm near the highway (A28) because I can hear the drone, though all I can see is clumps of heather and swamp. It's a typical late spring day, alternately warm and sunny, cloudy and windy. It's the last day of Phase 2 and I'm wrapping it up with a spin around the park, then ride to Hoogeveen and my train back home.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Guidebook Research IX: Westerbork

Kamp Westerbork as they saw it
So peaceful here at the southeast edge of Assen. Cloudy. Sitting by the trail to Anreep/Geelbroek/Hooghalen, I see it is moderately busy with cyclists, walkers and runners. I'm looking at a field of cut grass, a creek in front of me that splits to wrap around an isle of clay. The fragrance of many blossoms, distant birdsong.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Guidebook research VIII: Assen & Drentsche Aa National Park

Wonder boy of Assen
Rainy morning in Assen. As Wika Spoelstra, my 70ish vriend op de fiets is off to Sweden tomorrow, she made some calls to set me up with another friend of the cyclist, Anja, about 500m away. Not only did Wika phone my new hostess, she escorted me to Anja's place by bike. She also printed me out a route through Drentsche Aa National Park, east of town, but I think I'll follow the route in the ANWB cycling guide.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guidebook research VII: the hunebedden

Hunebed D17 at Rolde

Today it's all about hunebedden, 52 of which stand in Drenthe (two more in Groningen). They are the remains of 5000-year-old dolmens, or burial tombs. At the Hunebed Center, a museum dedicated to the ancient monuments, I learned that they were built at the dawn of the Neolithic era and first excavated in the 19th century. It is believed that the granite boulders used for these dolmens arrived with the glaciers from Scandinavia during the Ice Age.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Guidebook research VI: Into Drenthe

Southeast Groningen
Bourtange was a tour-bus attraction, so a different experience. It's a reconstructed fort dating from the 1500s in the extreme southeast of Groningen province, with a handful of little museums. Nothing earthshattering but the film in the museum called Terra Mora is pretty good, plus photos of local wildlife and the chance to shoot cannonballs at your friends. There is also a reconstructed synagogue (dating from 1842) and the docent Gerrie is endlessly effusive, telling me all about how the rabbi comes over from Amersfoort to conduct services on Hanukah and Passover, and about how someone came and blew the shofar on Rosh Hashana. But clearly what most people enjoy is sitting on the plein in the sunshine. I had a dull salad at the cafe. It was nice to walk on the ramparts under the trees while the mostly elderly tourists took the cobblestone road below. After lunch I rode toward Vlagtwedde. The knooppunten direct you off the road along a nice country lane and I came across a tiny Jewish cemetery.

Guidebook research IV: Friesland & Ameland Island

Harlingen, Friesland. At the home of Elizabeth & Jan Minemma, breakfast is an exercise in minimalism, almost as it would be served on a ship--well, they do live in a shipyard, the one house amid warehouse, and their neighbors live on boats moored in the adjacent canal.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Guidebook research V: the 'highlands' of Groningen

The hogeland of Groningen today. The train station, Groningen Noord, is a stone's throw from Vriend op de Fiets Jenne Oosting's flat. This corridor is served by Arriva trains (rather than the national NS line), and the machines are different: they suck in your chip card rather than asking the user to scan. When I reached the top of the ramp, the train to Delfzijl was standing on the platform, and I figured I'd miss it but ran toward it anyway. The conductor stuck his hand out the window and asked me if I was getting on. I nodded. "Scanner?" I asked, holding up my card. He gestured toward the rear of the train. "Quickly!" I scanned my card and got on.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Guidebook research III: Ooijpolder and the Liberation Museum

16 -> 48
Love this stretch east of Nijmegen. You're riding along a dike (with other cyclists, the occasional auto) between the swampy banks of the Waal river and meadows and pastures. A great birding zone with islands in the swamps for nesting. To the north is a renowned nature walk, the N-70.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Guidebook research II: Roermond -> Thorn

On the train to Roermond, in central Limburg. The corridor to the north of Maastricht looks mainly agricultural-suburban-industrial, highways and power lines. A warm, almost summery day so a good day for a ride to Thorn.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Guidebook research: Noord-Brabant (west)

Miniature carnival ride at Markiezenhof palace, Bergen op Zoom. 

Train to Bergen op Zoom. It is practically empty. How can they make any money on it? Pulling into Rosendaal. The day is gorgeous.

This is the beginning of my research for a guidebook on the Netherlands. I've got my bike along, though I won't be riding all the time. I'll use the bike to a) get to places that trains don't go, and b) to try out promising fietstochts (cycle tours) in the vicinity of towns.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Almere & the Spoonbill Reserve

1 -> 2
Almere, Dutch planned community par excellence. The usual shopping plaza outside station. I ride through parks, a skateboard park, suburban blocks. Almere is a workaday place. Many blacks and Asians, not unlike De Bijlmer. It's a mere half hour by train to Amsterdam, closer than my childhood neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is to Manhattan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Amsterdam North via the Orange Sluice

I am working on a new northerly route, one which should surely earn a place in my series of local cycling circuits. It centers around my fascination with the Oranje Sluis, an almost unknown link between Oost (East) and Noord (North), yet a convenient one, as it feeds right into Schellingwoude, the picturesque old fishing village at the southeast corner of Noord. I figured out how to approach it from the south.

Nescio bridge