Sunday, February 5, 2017

Twente 3.1

Let's go ... back to Almelo.

This fietstocht picks up where the last one left off--cut short due to storms. I would like to see more of the fabled Twente region, which comprises central eastern Netherlands bordering Germany. Today I'll travel to Denekamp, in northeastern Twente, right by the German town of Nordhorn, mostly via the Almelo-Nordhorn canal. Built in the 19th century it turned out unfortunately to be a 'mistake,' since by the time they were done (1904), the freighters were too big to use it. They gave up on it in 1960. I know I traversed this canal on a previous journey, thinking it would be fun to follow it. Now I'll do that.

From Denekamp I'll head south to Twente's main city, Enschede, a university town. This should give me a good overview of the area that Martin, my vriend op de fiets in Nijmegen last year, enthusiastically described as a "great garden." Today, Thursday, is overcast but it is due to clear up and warm up over the weekend. I have nothing else to do. It is mid-summer in Holland and I have a bicycle. 

(original date of this entry: Aug 4, 2016)
I wrote to Maarten Hubers, my Dutch conversation partner in Amsterdam, saying I would not attend tomorrow's meet-up. "With the good weather I decided to take a bike ride." "What good weather?" he replied. True, right now it is cool and overcast, threatening rain. 

Almelo-Nordhorn canal
NS blows it again. My train from Amersfoort to Almelo was simply not running, and only after checking his handheld device could the young conductor tell me that I could get the train to Zwolle and there find a connection bound for Enschede which would stop at Almelo. Oh well, not a disaster and it's a nice new train with a sort of cafe car where I could park my bike. This is the Dutch hinterlands: Heino, Raalte, Wierden. What am I doing here? 

Now I may apply for Dutch citizenship. I have all the required docs. But will I have to revoke my US citizenship? If so I will hesitate. Out in the hinterlands, south of Nijverdal, I feel I'm in alien territory--or I feel more like an alien. And to hear the patter of the low-class babes, my only compartment mates, just depresses me. I understand nothing. But would I feel any different outside, say, Sandusky or Las Vegas? Probably not. This journey has taken way too long. 


Such a feeling of satisfaction to be finally on my way. I'm at kp 55, couple of km east of Almelo. I've been following the dirt trail on the canal's south bank, unaccompanied. On the opposite bank, the residential side, there are various cyclists. I know this spot: the old canal gate, a sort of monument which here serves as the entrance to a hiking trail through the forest. This is the way I came from Tubbergen at the conclusion of my last ride. kp 22 points that way (north) but now I'll keep east along the canal. I've got a ways to go. Hope I can get supper in Denekamp. 

Getting cash in/out of Almelo was a bit of a headache: no knooppunt markers in the center, and the ATM was hidden along a passage. The town feels rather provincial. Young mamas, lost-looking old folks smoking for all they're worth. It struck me as pathetic ... but then I thought of the alternative, US cities, which are far worse, an inferno of grinding steel. Humans are innately comic but at least here the human comedy is on display.

Almelo-Denekamp via LF-14a

Despite the frustration of getting out of that silly town, once I consulted my fiets knooppunt finder--a site I rarely use but is extremely useful in such situations (fortunately little Almelo offers free ambient wifi)--it wasn't hard to find my way east and right away a sign for kp 52 appeared. In a flash I'd left the rude traffic behind and I was skirting the Kanaal Almelo-Nordhorn. 

As I'd hoped it went on forever: brownish water, reeds, dark pink flowers, lily pads, ducks, farm fields, the sour fermenting smell of silage so pleasing to the nostrils, a humid swampy warmth, sun breaking through the clouds, the trail an asphalt strand along the south bank. I'm now between kp 82 -> 80, the part where the fietspad leaves the canal to parallel it slightly south. This will continue past Weerselo, then the Rossumerveld, then return to the canal not far from Denekamp. Once again, with all my hand-wringing, here I am again where I want to be.


Spent the night in Noord-Deurningen, between Denekamp and the German town of Nordhorn, with host Jan Knol, a biologist with a bushy white beard. I arrived after 8 pm and Jan advised me to get dinner in Nordhorn, at a Mongolian buffet -- similar to places in US shopping malls, occupied by joyless buffet gluttons, usually grizzled old couples. So I rode into Germany, which feels different and rougher and a bit poorer. The bike path parallels the road through forests. An isolated mall with Mediamarkt and a giant red chair signaling a furniture vendor. The buffet was unappetizing: greasy piles of sauce-drenched meats. I opted for a stir-fry with lots of shellfish and fish, soggy shiitake mushrooms and broccoli. The staff multi-cultural and clueless. They spoke no English or Dutch. 

Jan Knol, friend of the cyclist
I rode back to Jan's place down the dark deserted road. Jan brought me a beer and we chatted. He showed me his long wooden horn, which he blows to scare the spirits away in traditional ceremonies with locals decked out in trad costumes. He says the Twentse dialect melds with the German of the region. Some variation of it is spoken from Utrecht to Nordhorn. Jan is from near here but he's no hick. He taught at University of Leiden and he's been to Yucat√°n and Bellingham, Washington, where his girlfriend knits knockers for women with mastectomies. Locally he gives talks on the geology of the region such as at Lutterzand, to the south, discussing the sand striations of the banks of the Dinkel and how each demonstrates a geologic period. Continued ...

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