Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alternatieve Elfstedentocht - Day 4

Harlingen harbor
Day 4 of my Friesland trek looks to be a beauty. The town of Harlingen is quite picturesque - long canal/marina chock full of yachts. The town is the departure point for ferries to the isle of Terschelling and on this Saturday morning the terminal was packed with families, which made me glad I'm going along the remote northern coast of Friesland.

Last night stayed in the fabulous home of Tinake (the "ke" being an affectionate suffix, just like the Spanish "ito"), with a deck built out over a canal. My room was a dormer at the top of the house approached by steep narrow steps.

"11 Cities Route" - Day 4 (ANWB map)
East of Harlingen - at the horizon is a protective sea barrier
The fietspad heads east from Harlingen, first passing port factories, warehouses and eolic windmills, then vast fields of wheat and corn, then turns out toward the coast (at point 54).

The path then skirts the dike. A staircase goes up over this and I climbed up for a look. Not a beach but a long jetty of boulders and a sort of rock pier, at the end of which some guys are fishing. The water is brownish, rippling rather than crashing, perhaps because there is a breakwater out a ways.

Eolic windmill-land
Missed the turnoff for point 12, toward Franeker, and ended up in the unattractive little town of Oosterbierum (nor did Sexbierum prove to be as exciting as its name), and just knew it was wrong. Turned around and found that little "12" pointing south. I must've got distracted when I was passing it, perhaps trying to decide whether to nod and say hi to that farmer with the white handlebar mustache (I did and he ignored it).

Then I'm laboring in the hot sun through vast fields of spinach and other crops, and then a veritable grove of eolic windmills, though a few of them seem offline. Out here, you can hear the whoosh of the blades turning. Reach the highway, go underneath it (passing an elderly woman in shades who might be Laura Bush), momentarily blinded in my sunglasses, and emerge in deepest suburbia.

Franeker: alternative suburbia
This could be New Jersey - with some differences: for one, there are horses grazing in a grassy field between the rows of 'burb housing. Some swimming pools face the field. I can hear a lawn mower whirring. The presence of cars is muted. I can only see one little sports car beyond the horses and no roads. There are bike paths weaving through the complex, though, and I'm sitting on one of a pair of metal benches along one of them, blissfully chomping on my garlic cream cheese and olive sandwich, the ingredients for which I bought from a Greek in Harlingen. A middle-aged Laura Bush type (cosmetic surgery, probably somewhat medicated) out walking her dog wishes me "Eet smakelek." This could not happen in Jersey.

Time has somehow crept up on me and it's after four. This is one effect of cycling all day: I seem to perceive time differently and I'm a little better at bending it to my will though still not entirely of course. I'm at a fairly busy stretch of a country road outside of Ried (Rie, in deference to my Frisian readers). On one side of me the road, trodden by tractors, on the other a great field being worked by a tractor with spraying implement at rear, some kind of misting procedure. The field is so big that as the tractor recedes into the distance I can no longer hear it.

Escape from Berlikum
Turns out I took the wrong turn out of Berlikum (Berltsum), a well-polished gem but dead with a boring suburban adjunct leading to the highway. Fortunately I realized it was point 36 I was headed for, not 63. This meant I had to go back into Berlikum, snapping photos as I rode through the polished bit, then walk the bike over a wooden bridge while kids lolled on tube rafts in the canal, then tore off on a gravel path through woods. Very fun. This meets a pale brick pathway that leads to Minnertsga (Minnertsgea), then up to Sint Jacobiparochie (or more compactly in Dutch, St-Anne), a rather lifeless place where I sit now in the soothing afternoon sun as BMWs and minivans roll through town. Pretty sure this is it for sustenance till I reach Hallum, my destination.

Livin' small, along the Oudebildtdijk
No fear, I found a really good place for supper, a bit west of Oudebildtzijl, possibly Nij Altoenae, along the long stretch east upon the Oudebildtijk canal, a place that feels high up but only because it's a few meters above the surrounding fields, the whole way lined with squat brick or wooden houses, as if the zone is populated by midgets.

The café, one of the few places open along this stretch, is a squat wooden structure and has a neat terrace with beat-up oak tables looking out over a vast field of spinach. I got the special, the Uitsmÿter Compleet (€3.50) and two strawberry milkshakes. The uitsmÿter was like none I'd ever had. Definitely "compleet": fried eggs over a bun, topped with bacon, mushrooms and melted cheese. I asked for salt and the gruff proprietor brought over a container of rock salt, then ground it into my eggs for me, apparently because he needed it back. The supper really hit the spot: Dutch comfort food.

The place was called Snackhut De Amsterdammer. They spoke no English, not even the young blonde woman behind the counter. Despite the café's name, this really did seem a world away from Amsterdam.

Mess o' eggs and shake: De Amsterdammer Café
I continued east along the Oudebildtdijk to the village of a similar name, then, following the route in my guide, sailed down a delightfully weaving path skirting the Ouwe Rii canal to a windmill, then realized I'd passed the turnoff point to 20. After asking an old man and re-consulting the map, I realized I just needed to bear right on the way back up. I entered Hallum around 9:30 pm. Continued ...

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