Thursday, May 19, 2011


Potential soccer louts arriving outside Bijlmer Arena.
Approaching Hilversum. The skies look tropical with low-hanging bluish clouds, sun poking through at times. At Amersfoort I will change for a train to Deventer. I missed an earlier direct train to Deventer due to a delay, probably not related to the masses of soccer fans out today for the Ajax match. When I arrived at Bijlmer station, fireworks were exploding rousing the throngs to a peak of excitement. Bellowing Ajax war chants.

Ajax fans, interestingly enough, call themselves "super Jews"--even though most are not Jewish--and the soccer team has adopted a Jewish identity, possibly because the original stadium was located in Amsterdam's Jewish neighborhood. This caused fans of their rivals to respond with anti-Semitic chants, such as "Hamas, hamas, joden aan het gas" and even more alarmingly to imitate the hissing of the gas chambers. All in good fun. This is Europe. 

As the train was approaching Deventer, a group of middle-aged Japanese cyclists were crowding the entry corridor. I had to wait inside the car. Some people lined up behind me. A woman behind me was mumbling something. Waited. Then the woman was speaking directly to me and I had to confess, Ik begrijp niet. So she started speaking to me in perfect English. "Are you with them?" she asked, gesturing toward the Japanese. 

"No, I've never seen them before in my life," I responded, though I had actually exchanged a few words with them about getting my bike off the train. They were getting off at Deventer too, to catch another train. 

River IJssel at Deventer.

The woman, Frederique Hijink, and I got to chatting. She told me she teaches English to international students at a college in Deventer. We got off the train and she kindly gave me directions to my start point, the IJssel river. But I must've missed some essential part of her explanation because I found myself in Schalkhaar, which is in the opposite direction. I asked a group of punky kids, then a rough-hewn middle-aged man out for a walk with his woman, and reached precisely the same part of the river that started my three-day journey last year (see Rondje Salland en Vechtal). And the weather is about the same as well: blustery with a cool wind, though it's not raining. The river is broad here with substantial sand beaches on the far (west) bank. Retracing last year's route, I continue.

The trail follows a tributary of the river off to the east, which meanders into green pastures with inviting benches alongside. The damp wind keeps blowing as I stop for a sandwich. The sun pops out every once in a while. It's around 4 pm and I have a 27 km journey before me.

Lebuïnusroute (ANWB map)

If you're wondering about the name, Lebuïnus was an English priest around the 8th century who for some reason decided to put a church here. That grew into the humongous Lebuïnuskerk in central Deventer. The town itself is named after Lebuïnus' home town of Daventry, south of Leicester. Deventer was one of the original members of the Hanseatic League, an alliance of 180 trading cities across northern and western Europe from the 13th to 17th centuries. It helped that Deventer was at the confluence of two navigable waterways. This might explain how the church got so big. End of history lesson. 

Glad to be exiting the N348.

Finally deviate from the previous route past Diepenveen. A spiritual movement, the Brethren of the Common Life, was started here in the 14th century, advocating a sort of communal living. Perhaps this was a reaction to the vast material wealth that had been accumulated here.

Averlose Houtweg, east of Diepenveen

Signs point to the Lebuïnus route and Salland route. The country road (Averlose Houtweg) turns to sand and a side trail is for bikes. The road itself is too sandy to ride on; people use it to ride horses. The abundant sand cover here, by the way, was caused by sandstorms 10,000 years ago. Totally rural and lovely, through pastures and woods, tall spindly trees along path. I then proceed through farmlands with freshly furrowed fields ("some of the oldest farms"--another superlative, the staple of travel writing). 

What's with the dead birds hanging from these trees? Omens? 

I hit the Overijsselsch Canal (knooppunt 89) and skirt it south (better to take the east bank, which is a fietspad with benches) to point 87, then I turn back toward Deventer. The canal used to be plied by ships transporting stuff to the Zuiderzee--"southern sea" if you happen to be from Friesland. It was converted into the freshwater IJsselmeer in the 20th century. I did not find this canal so quaint. It's narrower than I figured, straight and murky. Then the path angles away from the canal and I'm riding along a busy road. Into the 'burbs. 

Schalkhaar, just a little suburban town with a gothic church which I sit beside in a little circular plaza ringed by metal benches. The church bells gong behind me: 6:30. They gong for a very long time. 

Explicit signage.

I've almost made it back to Deventer and I'm early. This turned out to be an easy jaunt indeed. I'll just hang out here for a while in this empty plaza and listen to the church bells. I must look like a vagabond, sitting here on a side of the village with nothing to do. Not many people around to notice anyway, except for a few seniors riding their bikes or strolling with their mates, as well as some younger people wandering aimlessly. It's the lull of a late Sunday afternoon. 

Back in Deventer.

Back where it all started, not very long ago: down by the IJssel. The final bit skirts the pretty Rijstenburgher park, along the Singel, where belligerent swans harassed me last year, and deposits me right at the end of Boedekerstraat where my lodging is located. What could be easier?  

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