Saturday, May 12, 2012

Zeeland Revisited - Day 4

Burgh-Haamstede installation.

This is turning out to be not so much a cycling trip as a beachcombing trip. I haven't actually done much cycling, no more than 20km per day. Riding along the Oosterscheldekering, the 9km bridge/flood barrier that connects Noord Beveland to Schouwen, I came across the beach at Neeltje Jans. I found myself a nook in the dunes fringed by beach grass and have no other intention but to hang out here for the day. It is a remote beach and it's Monday so the place is practically deserted. The Indian summer continues though it's slightly cooler and breezier today. But the sky is now clear, the bright sun hot.

Bram, Franziska's demented husband, was in my trailer even before I awoke. I could hear him tramping around a little before 8 am. He seems to want to see me, to show me his face, otherwise he is unsatisfied. After I got up, he came into the trailer again. He is a tall man with a head of bushy hair and twinkling eyes--handsome in a way. But it appears there is nobody home. For no particular reason I greeted him, then even mentioned I would be on my way now.

Zeeland Revisited - Day 4 (ANWB map)

I packed my things. Franziska was in the yard with one of her sons--the one who seems oldest and most serious. I assume all these kids are Bram's offspring. What a nightmare it must be for them. I certainly found the experience nightmarish. Bram would come in at any time, whenever the spirit moved him, it seemed, leaving me constantly on edge. Little sounds made me jump. Though he seemed to have no malevolent intent--or any intent at all--there was definitely something sinister about him.

Land bridge to Noord-Beveland

I'm glad I have left things pretty open this time instead of following a fietsrondje itinerary. Burgh-Haamstede, my destination for the evening, is a mere 18km from Vrouwenpolder, leaving me time to improvise. By now I can plan an interesting trip simply by looking at the fiets atlas. The possibilities remain endless.

I went back into Vrouwenpolder for the last time, then out toward the coast, picking up the land bridge to Noord-Beveland, same as last time, sea at my left, Veerse Meer on my right. I could see the church of Veere in the distance.

Crossing the Oosterscheldekering to Schouwen

I somehow missed the fietspad to point 3 but soon found myself on the south end of the Oosterscheldekering, one component of the Deltawerken. A series of massive wind generators herald its presence from a great distance. Up on the structure a bicycle road parallels an auto road. Huge turbines stud the sea side of the causeway and below the water appears turbulent. To the east it is calm: this is the Oosterschelde, the giant lake formed by the dam.

I had worried it would be quite windy along this open expanse but it wasn't bad. Then I found the entrance to the Neeltje Jans beach. The water is a bit choppier today, a glorious October Monday. There are a few people on the beach, some windsurfing. The giant white pinwheels oscillate on either end of the beach.

Layout of Neeltje Jans, a nature reserve midway across the bridge

Neeltje Jans beach

After hanging on the beach for a few hours, I continue along the Oosterscheldekering. A sign explains that the dam is left open most of the year so the Oosterschelde is affected by the tide:

"The construction was in response to the flood disaster in 1953. Following the disaster, the government decided to realize the Delta-plan: closing off the tidal inlets between the islands of the provinces of Zeeland and Zuid-Holland. The gates are closed whenever dangerously high water is expected."

West coast of Schouwen, Zeeland. 
Coming off the bridge, the bike trail--which is the LF1 Nordzee route--makes a left to enter the  Boswachterij Westenschouwen. I realize that the beaches along the coast of this nature reserve are very nice indeed, all the way up to Nieuw-Haamstede. Next time. Just outside the village of Westenschouwen is a terrace cafe that appears to be at an entrance to the beach, where I get a nice apple pie and coffee.

Climbing into the Boswachterij Westenschouwen.
The LF1 through the woods is lovely, a gently rolling strip with turnoffs for the beach. Pines were planted on these dunes a century ago though efforts are being made to replace them with natural deciduous vegetation. Many berry-bearing trees. Sounds of surf crashing in the distance.

Before long the LF1 exits the woods and enters the community of Burgh-Haamstede. My first impression is: boring. A typical planned Dutch community with faux quaint cottages and shops but dead as a doornail. Still, it is my home for the evening so I had to try and appreciate its merits. I guess those two communities are merged together: there appear to be two churches, each the center of a different village.

I found my vrienden, the Hacks. Mevrouw Hack is friendly and seems to have that sly Dutch sense of humor. She was tending her garden when I arrived. She showed me where to put my bike, then took me up to the room which is typically the room of the kids who've left the nest. I then meet Meneer Hack who speaks English better, a tall man in his 60s.

They thoughtfully recommend a restaurant in the village where I could get a pizza but I never found it. Instead I opted for a sort of fish market that does meals. I had been wanting to try Zeeland's famous mussels but at €18.50 a portion at most restaurants, I've refrained. Here they had gebakt mosselen with salad and fries for a mere €8.50. But they weren't very good--deep fried and refried and served with a cup of creamy dressing. The salad was drenched in a mayonnaise dressing. And the fries came with a dollop of mayo, though I'd requested curry ketchup. The server was a stocky yob in shorts.

Done with my meal by 8 pm, I took a wander around Burgh-Haamstede. Cars cruising around, bored boys hanging out on a bench as if it were mid-summer, which it feels like. I stopped into a casino. It had the usual Asians and worn-out souls who occupy such places, depositing their coins in slot machines or an automatic roulette wheel. I played a pinball machine with a Rolling Stones theme. A little Mick Jagger figure moved from side to side, blocking the progress of the ball occasionally. But it was disappointing: I had expected it to play the riffs from "Brown Sugar" or "Jumpin' Jack Flash" as the ball went up the various ramps or landed in the right hole. But there was no music at all. Perhaps someone who didn't like the Stones had disabled it. Continued ...

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