Monday, April 25, 2011

Across the Rijnkanaal

It is officially spring and the weather is wonderful: 60s (15-20 Celsius), sunny, breezy. Cue in the rural music. I'm sitting underneath the A9 highway and a yacht just cruised by, some seniors hanging on the deck. Don't know why I haven't come this way yet: the Stammerdijk, a ribbon of a road toward Driemond which forms the north bank of the Weespertrekvaart canal, skirting the Diemerbos nature reserve.  

Bicycle bridge over the Stammerdijk toward Diemerbos, a few blocks from my home in southeast Amsterdam.
I have ridden often on the south bank, which skirts Gaasperplas park, but that is more of a highway with lots of traffic. This side is thoroughly rural. I just passed a sheep farm. Dandelions. Buds a' sproutin' on the trees. The Stammerdijk is favored by walkers--serious ones--and racing cyclists. I noticed one 60ish couple hiking, husband trailing behind his mate like a pet.

(I should point out that the notion of Holland being a cycling society is a myth. Cycling is at least an option here but like everywhere else, cars rule. It is fantastic that such an extensive cycling network exists but sometimes--in Zuid-Oost for example--I feel as if I'm one of a handful using it.)


I have no particular plan other than to head for Driemond, ride down the east side of the Rijnkanaal to Nigtevecht, then take that little ferry across the Vecht if possible. Then follow the Vecht past a couple of forts and return via Weesp. It's just supposed to be a short jaunt but I have no desire to return home now.

Community gardens, Driemond. 
The canal opened into the Gaasp River and I was riding into the town of Driemond. A notable feature coming this way is a community garden, a warren of sheds and vegetable patches where some geezers were carrying watering cans.

The drawbridge lowered and I crossed the Gaasp. Normally I would turn right here to go back home but this time I turned left (toward Nigtevecht) and found myself on a bridge over the Rijnkanaal. (Another sign in Driemond pointed to Utrecht, 28 km via the Rijnkanaal--a very doable excursion, especially if I put the bike on a train for the ride back.) To the north I could see the railroad bridge that spans the canal from the Diemerbos. On the east side of the canal, the path--more of an old country road here--skirts the canal at the base of an embankment. 

Across the Rijnkanaal (ANWB map)

The day is turning into a stunner. Sitting on the edge of a big pasture, the spire of Weesp to the north. Behind me up a rise is the broad Rijnkanaal lined on either side by endless rows of poplars. Along this side of the canal is a road with fairly steady traffic. By the gate to the pasture, a brick frame entryway is the only part that remains of a farm house.

Below the Rijnkanaal. The bridge in the distance crosses it to Driemond. 

In a short while I reached Nigtevecht. (Coming into the village a sign pointed right to Loenen.) I kept going straight to the ferry landing. I had been here before--last year--but by that time of day the ferry had stopped running. The little ferry arrived and I got on it with some elderly couples (perhaps some would already consider me "elderly") and a young man with a kid in the rear seat. A stocky boy in a polo shirt conveyed us across the Vecht, chatting with passenger. The crossing too approximately one minute.

Ferry cross the Vecht. 

On the other side, I could have followed the Vecht back up toward Weesp (to knooppunt 40) but instead turned right toward the village of Nederhorst den Berg, down a single-lane road, and I noticed a solitary gray heron standing amidst the reeds by a ditch. The heron took wing and swooped up the lane before me, making for the field on the left.

Reaching Nederhorst, I turn right toward Ankeween (after stopping for ice cream on the main street):

Now I sit in a cafe on Kerkstraat (Church Street) in Nederhorst den Berg. It's quite a busy terrace full of families and geezers sucking their ijsjes. I had one and a very good espresso. A typically dull village, cars driving up and down the high street, but it feels pleasant, with birds chirping from the little willows and red-leafed trees, now nubile with spring. It feels festive out here but not self-consciously so. The Dutch are generally skeptics and pessimists like me.

I reach point 1, where one can turn right down the Vecht toward Vreeland or continue toward pt 39. The Vecht is here a broad waterway plied by boats, yachts and green-capped ducks. Comfortable middle-class community.

Taking this whole summer weather thing seriously.

Assuming this path I'm now on is the Googpad, along the south end of the Blijkpolderplas reservoir toward 39 ... it certainly is the highlight of this trip so far. Totally rural: the strip of concrete winds through semi-forest, trees bearing berries, a pasture at right, creek on the left, chirping birds, butterflies. Quite a few cyclists out on this fabulous day.


I reach knoppunt 39. There's a wooden bridge over the creek toward Ankeveen (point 38). Someone here is selling gerookte paling (smoked eel). I stop in for one--4 euros for 1 eel. The bald vendor catches them in this dammed section of the creek. He gives me a napkin so I can eat it on the way.

Gerookte paling: smoked eel.

This point where I'm halted is impossibly serene considering how little effort it took me to get out here. A murky creek with lily pads skirts the trail to the right; on the left the plas opens up. I chomp the gerookte paling. It is outstanding though a bit fatty. I think how good it would be chased by a shot of mezcal.

Around the Spiegelplas.

The circuit of the Spiegelplas reservoir was lovely. Then I picked up the Vecht again, going up to point 46, houseboats along the opposite bank. Waited at a drawbridge, then crossed over the Vecht, then followed a highway, the Gooilandseweg, which skirts Weesp to the south. 

Back at Driemond. A fat driver in an SUV just made a silly face at me. I guess I must make a comical sight. Over the Brug Driemond there is a grassy patch with benches. The bridge raises to let a yacht through, the Egalantier, then the Dik, upon whose deck sits a complacent passenger with snacks and wine.


  1. After reading this I feel like joining you for a ride over there :)

  2. Me too, this was a very inviting post. Except for the smoked eel, which look delicious, but seem a little pricey. Is that a typical price for them?

  3. Actually that is cheap for gerookte paling, i've seen the same item in the street markets for 8 euros.

  4. I remember seeing them using a horse's head to harvest the eels. They just toss the head in the water attached to a chain and the eels get all wound up in it. The thing that comes out of the water is this nightmarish, writhing mass of eel and partially devoured horse head.