Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Zeeland Revisited - Day 1

Grazin' in the grass above Walcheren canal
This time I am dispensing with the prescribed fietsrondjes--did not even pack one of the guides--and making my own route. It will start in Middelburg and take me back to Vrouwenpolder (miraculously, Franziska's trailer had not been booked for the weekend) via Veere, a ride (or walk, actually) that had been recommended to me by Conny in Middelburg. But mainly I want to enjoy Zeeland's golden sands and blue sea, which I neglected last time around. And the weather--hovering in the low 70s--should be just right.

(Note to followers: this long-delayed post describes a trip I made in early October '11.)

This NS railroad line--Amsterdam-Vlissingen--demonstrates that the Dutch railway is quite healthy. It's packed, and almost every passenger within view is playing with his or her smart phone as the train rolls past the industrial surrounds of Dordrecht to pastures and gravel quarries.

Zeeland revisited - Day 1

Zeeland seems, if possible, to be even flatter than the rest of Holland. A lot of people got off at Bergen op Zoom, haven't the slightest idea why. West of there it's farms, razed fields, tractors, dull little towns.

PC's fate
A few hours later, after a Chinese meal, I'm sitting in my trailer outside Vrouwenpolder feeling quite cozy. I like it here. Haven't seen Meneer Bram, Franziska's demented husband, yet though he could pop up at any minute. I did, however, meet a nice young man, perhaps Franziska's older son. Inside the trailer I like the '50s wood paneling, the wraparound sofa, lacy curtains and faux brick. This is really out in the middle of nowhere and it's very peaceful. It's farming country and the farmers were working late, conveying big plastic-covered bales by road-width tractor, headlights blazing.

Getting to Vrouwenpolder from Middelburg was easy: simply follow the railway back toward Goes, then ride along the east bank of the Walcheren canal as it angles northeast. "The official opening of the canal by King William and Prince Henry took place on September 8, 1873." Riding along the base of the embankment you never actually see the canal till just below Veere, where there's a major sluice gate. But the long corridor of trees, flanked by a stagnant canal (an old TV and PC poked above the surface) felt rural and summery, and I changed into my shorts.

Sluice gate of the Walcheren canal, Veere

Veere is quaint and cute. It is the departure point for a ferry to Noord-Beveland. The trail then follows the bank of the Veere Meer to Vrouwenpolder. At a brisk pace, I could've made it from Middelburg to Vrouwenpolder in an hour. At 5:30 the sun was still high and hot so I pushed on to the beach of Breezand. Parked the bike and walked up the beach. Quiet now, with a few random groups of afternoon bathers. The sand here is fine and powdery, cool on your toes. The late autumn light bathes the beach in a soft glow, the voices of the stragglers pierce a great silence. The shore is extremely calm, lapping the beach like a lake. Continued ...

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