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.