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.

(original date of this entry: June 29, 2015)
Last night after dinner at the steakhouse De Bonte Ons behind Kampen's Nieuwe Toren, where an amateur choir was belting out "California Dreamin'" for some reason, I went to visit Cor and Ji at their new 17th-century home (€150,000, boasted Cor). Cor is a free-spirited giant who knocked around Asia for years before settling down with his sweet and clever Chinese mate and producing a couple of offspring. I met them on my last trip to Kampen when they were my Vrienden op de Fiets hosts. But since they haven't outfitted their new place to accommodate guests, they're taking a break from that role. We chatted in their living room. Then Cor took me on a walk to the Koggewerf, the old harbor of Kampen with five replicas of kogges, those flat-bottomed boats, an exhibit, a model boat workshop and a tavern.

Coos & Bickel
My friend of the cyclist was on the other side of the IJssel, in the community of IJsselmuiden. Coos Tuinen is a Frieslander who was taking care of the B&B while his friends were on vacation. A man in his 60s, he seemed rather lonely with little shaggy dog Bickel. He was very nice and accommodating and eager to share his interest in 60s pop artists such as Brian Wilson, Neil Young and Gene Clark.


Rest stop at kp 28, revisiting familiar terrain: Kampereiland with its many cows and swamps, through the tiny burg of Grafhorst and now heading toward Genemuiden to cross the Zwolsche Diep. Last time I crossed it in the other direction heading for Kampen. I changed to shorts, then took a random spill off my bike, scraping my legs in at least three places. The trail here parallels the road with a low level of traffic. The map shows it going east through lake-studded terrain.

At Genemuiden I got right on the ferry cross the Zwolsche Diep, sharing the vessel with an American couple on matching high-end road bikes, both loaded up front and rear with bags and tent. I suppose they're heading into the Weerribben.

Boardwalk trail to a bird hide: De Wieden nature reserve
84 -> 82
This stretch less interesting than I'd hoped, farm fields to the left, wetlands trees to the right, with the wind blowing at me all the way. I have entered De Wieden Natuur Reservaat, but so far it's not unlike Lauwersmeer or other cow-grazed wetlands. I'll be near a big lake, the Beulakerwijde, then snake up through green to Blokzijl.

-> 10
Except for the mosquitoes, of which there are many attacking my legs, Kalenberg is a highlight. Just a river, middle of nowhere, houses along it for a spell, many little wooden bridges over canals or boat docks. Then a windmill like a weather vane, and it's just the river and woods. Approaching Ossenzijl.

Kampen to the Weerribben: followed LF-22/LF-3 all the way

Very peaceful here at Marla and Peter's house on the Oudeweg situated right on the river Kalenberg at the top of Weerribben National Park. Almost no sound except the random cheeping of a bird. It's about as remote a place as I've been to in Holland. Unfortunately my room, at the top of a ladder-like staircase (jungle hut style) had no windows to the outside so I couldn't really appreciate the setting. Marla is an attractive woman: a dark transplant from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where her Dutch parents had settled. She went back to Holland at age 11. Her man Peter, though, was pure Dutch, and had a nervous laugh in response to almost anything I said. Marla was more open and I found it refreshing to speak American to someone; the Dutch tend to be guarded. The breakfast was nice with good cheese, yogurt and actual fruit.

They pulled the peat out of the ground here to fuel the growing cities of western Holland. Until "al het veen was op", which left the countryside a patchwork of canals and strips of land. Pretty much the same process is now going on with drilling for oil and gas. What will remain when they're all used up? An ecological tourist attraction? "The earth healing itself."

At kp 13 is the pleasant De Weerribben cafe and pancake house by a canal where they rent canoes. The coffee is good and I had a "natural" pancake with syrup and confectioners sugar. Now onward to Scherwold and Giethoorn.

Giethoorn, quaint part

Giethoorn started well. I enjoyed riding down the carless lanes over small wooden bridges spanning canals strewn with lily pads, admiring absurdly quaint brick cottages with thatched roofs. Until I emerged on the road to find I had somehow missed "the center," with tourist info office. So I rode back through the quaint part to where I'd started, a tony restaurant in a barn, to be directed the other way. That was where all the action was: slight Chinese girls in jeans taking smartphone photos of each other; families in boats, fat mom crooning "O Sole Mio" as she oared the boat forward, gondola style; young sophisticates lounging at terraces, smoking Marlboros; every pretentious restaurant and crummy snackbar renting boats. Tourist hell.

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