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.
(original date of this entry: June 11, 2015)

Heading west from Vlagtwedde, I rode many kilometers before locating the perfect picnic table. It is along a woodsy fietspad off the main highway to Stadskanaal. I was getting tired of riding with cars along the highway (toward kp 77), pretty as the day is. It's 4km to Stadskanaal along the highway; then I spotted a green fiets arrow toward the same town (6km, left turn), pointing left, and decided to take a chance on it. After 100m, another arrow (this one red) points right to Stadskanaal (also 6km). And boom, I'm going down a narrow path through the trees, the sunlight dappling the dirt. Almost instantly I spot a weird structure to the right of the trail: a circular stone wall with an opening opposite a priapic stone column. The inside is overgrown with plants. The sun beams softly through the gateway. There is something sinister about the place; what rites have been performed here? It is like a dolmen but a modern one. It must be a cult temple, maybe for modern pagans. A stiller, more peaceful spot could not be imagined. Just the occasional far-off traffic flowing past on the distant road or the nearby chirp of some random birds. A field of crops spreads out before me through a sun-glowed scrim of tree branches. It's all overgrown from here to the trail, an untended spot. I could sit here happily for hours ... but still got some ground to cover to Borger.

The green trail to Stadskanaal.
The trail continues through lush forest, just a sliver for much of the way, which takes some control to navigate, then crosses a road and broadens out a bit but remains a corridor of greenery. Then a knooppunt marker appears (kp 46) which happens to be just where I'm headed. Finally I pull up at the junction of a canal and a lake which looks well swimmable. Across a bridge, I come to Het Pagedal, a wonderful park that consists of a series of islands connected by wooden bridges, with a beach at the far end. 

Bourtange to Borger

After all these fabulous landscapes I got completely lost in Stadskanaal, going round and round like a rat in a maze. I tried to follow the numbers but kept finding myself back in the same place. Stadskanaal was busy and grim even on a day like today. A little street fair was going on and the wind picked up. It felt desolate. I tried following signs to Borger but these were no help; there weren't enough knooppunt signs. Finally I decided to just head west by following the sun. And suddenly I was riding through an endless grain field and a sign for kp 56 appeared, the asphalt fringed by purple reeds. And now I'm heading down a similar corridor (to kp 1) west.

The last stretch of the route was long, and by the time I reached kp 43, northeast of Borger, I was very tired. I guessed rightly that I would get no supper. Everything shut.

Into Drenthe
Now in Borger. Feel like I've stumbled into a David Lynch film. Surely it's the worst vrienden op de fiets ever. A "pension," it's run by an unsympathetic humorless man who, when I told him I'd gotten lost in Stadskanaal which is why I was late (after 10), just looked at me. Although I must've looked exhausted he didn't so much as offer me a cup of tea. He is no friend of the cyclist. He showed me to my room, a sad white box.

Despite the deviation at Stadskanaal and unfortunate lodging, it was a beautiful ride through forests and absolutely still farmlands (no people). Continued ...

No comments:

Post a Comment