Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Return to Groningen

Sunday morning: we're at a cafe right on Schiermonnikoog beach and it's cleared up. With the wind blocked by glass panels it's fairly warm. A long strip of beach on the open sea. Kite flying and sail racing. After having our coffee we continued to explore the network of packed sand paths through the dunes. It being a clear, lovely Sunday in late summer, we had plenty of company.

Bike parking, Schiermonnikoog village
(original date of this entry: August 12, 2013)
Along the way there were turnoffs to the beach with bike parking lots. We were tempted to just while away the rest of the morning on the beach but rain was predicted and ferries were few. We decided to go for the 1:30 ferry, figuring that would leave us enough time to return to Groningen. We rode south across the island. Before long we could see the ferry, crossed a wooden bridge and rounded the bay to the landing.

Fietspad to the ferry
Back on the mainland, we rode west along an asphalt-covered incline in front of the Waddenzee. It was quite windy and we could see kite surfers in the distance. (That stretch is shown at the beginning of Brian's movie, above.) Brian demonstrated a technique for a more enjoyable ride: Climb almost to the top of the incline, then let yourself descend slowly while moving forward.

Kite surfing spectacular, Waddenzee
It wasn't long till we reached some of the kite surfers themselves, extending their lines to lift their kites aloft right in our path. We climbed to the top of the incline and joined the crowd gathered there to watch the kite surfing spectacle. It was a fabulous display, with dozens of multi-colored kites swooping around in the sky, the surfers spectacularly lifting themselves aloft to swoop back down in an arc and crash land on the surface of the sea, regain control and resume their skater-like trajectory on the water.

We descended to the road to resume our journey, into the province of Friesland, heading for the town of Buitenpost where we could catch a train back to Groningen ("Weird," was how our host that evening, Jenne Oosting, assessed that route, which I'd chosen so as not to cover the same ground back.)

Schiermonnikoog - Groningen via Buitenpost (last bit by train)

As we reached Oostmahorn, a planned community on the west bank of the Lauwersmeer, dark clouds gathered on the horizon. We rode along the top of a high dike so we could see the village spread out quaintly below us on the other side of a canal. Brian wanted to go down and investigate, look for a gewgaw to take back home to his wife Rachel. He never found anything. I stood beneath the eave of a canal-side cafe waiting for Brian to conclude his explorations, and watched some chartered boats arriving at the lock just as it started sprinkling raindrops on the canal surface. The path then veered to the right, skirting the dike, and it rained harder, so I donned my poncho and Brian changed into shorts.
The planned community of Oostmahorn (Brian Jones photo)
Southward we rode through the rather featureless landscape of east Friesland: flat fields and suburban homes. At Buitenpost we caught a train back to Groningen, a mere 20-minute ride. Our cordial host there was Jenne Oosting; we stayed on the top floor of his stately old house.

o%   o%   o%

The next day in Groningen, on my own. Brian's on the train to Hoek van Holland, where he'll catch the ferry back to England. I'm sitting on a bench in Nooderpark, a restful conclusion to the journey. A middle-aged cat has sat down next to me to chug a beer. Strange ... it feels a bit edgy to sit here with nothing to say but I don't want to speak English and to broach a conversation in fractured Dutch seems difficult. Haven't got the vernacular down. My goodness, he's just cracked out another can of beer. He gulped the first 16-ouncer down in under five minutes.

Quackin' up, Groningen

We sit in front of the canal that rings the park. The day is not cold though overcast and forlorn. The beer-chugging geezer finally broke the ice, complaining about the bees, and I kept up a pretense of speaking Dutch by uttering in monosyllabic retorts. I gathered from his whining that he'd been injured (by a falling tree branch perhaps?) and was unable to work and had to wear orthopedic sneakers. Any hobbies? I asked him. He liked to fish, especially bass -- this big! he extended his arms to indicate a half-meter-long creature -- but the boat cost too much.

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