Saturday, January 15, 2022

Flevodelia, part 3

The Land Art tour of Flevoland province continues. But to access the next works, both located on remote Noordoostpolder and unconnected to the rail network, I had to start from another province, Overijssel. The city of Kampen was my jumping off point for the northeastern portion of Flevoland, accessed via a bridge 9 km to the north. I then traversed the southern edge of the reclaimed land mass to reach the two large-scale objets d'art, both located at its eastern edge. After visiting those, I returned to Overijssel, making for the town of Meppel via the southern section of the substantial Weerribben wetlands reserve. A few days later, I began a very circuitous journey to the next and final piece. This involved a riverine jaunt south to the ancient city of Zwolle, the entire route following the LF-9. 

(original date of the entry: March 30, 2021)

Both of today's works are on Noordoostpolder, the first component of Flevoland to be reclaimed, drained and converted to polderland between 1936 and 1942. On the western edge is the former island of Urk (later engulfed by the reclaimed province), a staunchly Protestant enclave that remains aloof from the government of the Noordoostpolder. It was recently in the news for defying pandemic restrictions on congregating in churches. One member of the congregation tried to run down a reporter with his SUV. 

Leaving Kampen

kp  41 → 13 → 33 → 35 

The day is superb as forecast. My bike was intact at Kampen-Zuid station. I took a little tour of Kampen, strolling up the main promenade, the towers of Sint Nicolaskerk looming over everything. Then the famous drawbridge, letting a tanker through so I could see it in action, the giant golden weight ascending to let the mid-section descend into place. 

Kampereiland with a view to the Eilandbrug

On the other side, I skirt the IJssel west to kp 33. I'm on Kampereiland again. A sign on a picnic table alerts me to some of the bird life here: black-tailed godwit, Eurasian oystercatcher, snipe (all waterfowl with long beaks). Beyond kp 33, I cycle through emerald meadows that form the IJssel's north bank, and the massive Giger-esque Eilandbrug (N50) comes into view. Beyond the bridge the trail meanders through a green polder-scape. Eventually it overpasses the N50, then pulls up at the bridge to Flevoland, a more modest affair than its IJssel predecessor. 

Kampen to Meppel via Noordoostpolder

Zwartermeerweg, Noordoostpolder

kp  22 → 14 → 34

Coming off the bridge, I turned around and headed for kp 22, then got on the Zwartermeerweg —the lower west-east road of Noordoostpolder and proceeded to pedal. The road was long and straight and flanked by upright elms with red leaves. This went on for perhaps 7 or 8 km, always the same but not monotonous, on either side the vast polder fields, now seeded and primed to produce. Trucks and tractors plied this road, only a few cyclists. 

Pier + Horizon by Paul de Kort

Past kp 14, I angled right to reach the Zwarte Meer. Here was my first kunstwerk of the day, Pier + Horizon (2016, Paul de Kort). A lovely spot on a perfect day. The basis of the work is a section of an old dam that once extended as far as Genemuiden on the opposite bank. Arranged around it is a set of rectangular islets covered with vegetation. These serve as perches for abundant waterfowl and seabirds. Winds cause them to align in different orientations. Beside each is a pole. Seen from above the poles appear as dots tracing the hexagonal shape of the Noordoostpolder, designed by Cornelis van Eesteren. Here the bike path strikes east along the bank, tracing the old pier. At kp 34 it bends west to traverse a wooded corridor to the Voorsterbos. 

I find a perfect picnic table slightly above the trail, overlooking a swamp now bubbling with amphibians. This is along the strip of forest between kp 34 and 16, a dogleg of the Voorsterbos, where I'm now headed. Splendid and hot as summer. 

Found an even splendider spot: a great wheel of a table in the shade, down the trail and round a bend through the forest, at the point where it meets the Kadoelermeer, a slender lake with islands that is a remaining sliver of the Zuiderzee before it was hemmed in by the Noordoostpolder. You can climb the embankment for an outstanding lookout, a glimpse from new to old as the other bank is Overijssel. The meer forms an inlet to the west, then bends north to reach the village of Vollenhove. The spot is truly magical. 

Marta & Henk

kp  16 → 23 

The bos, as Henk explained, was the site of research for the Delta Project and now appears to be a popular recreation area, the Top Waterloop Bos. To reach it I turned left at kp 16 and followed signs to Deltawerk. Henk and Marta explained to me that Deltawerk, the eighth land artwork I've observed, marks the place where research was done for the Delta Project of Zeeland. Thus the colossal concrete wall with openings along the way that simulate the gates in various stages of opening is a monument to the researchers. There are various trails into the woods here, picnic tables and a café (closed for lockdown). 


kp  73 → 74 → 75 → 81 

There are no railroad stations in Noordoostpolder; one of the nearest NS stations is in Meppel, in adjacent Overijssel province. It was a 25 km ride east from the Deltawerk. I crossed the Vollenhovermeer and arrived in a wetlands landscape with plenty of geese. Now at Sint Jansklooster. I've been here before — around 6 years ago. It is the location of the visitor center for De Wieden-Weerribben. As I recall, there's an excellent boardwalk trail to the lake (Beulakerwijde). Blokzijl and Giethoorn to the north. Meppel to the east. The spot where I've stopped is not peaceful —there's a road behind me— but on this day most pleasant. A shaded bench facing the wetlands. Though the quaint Dutch towns no longer enchant me —if they ever did— the countryside still has a restful effect. 

East of Sint Jansklooster (to kp 95), the trail joints the N762 as it becomes a sort of wetlands causeway, like something out of Louisiana. The whole northern part of Overijssel province is a recreational area for boating and fishing. The ride was long and quite pleasant, flanked by lakes. Goes through a few towns, such as Blauwe Hand; Giethoorn is just north of here. Then turns off southeast through the wetlands.

kp  82 → 94 → 63 → 45 

Now in De Wieden wetlands reserve around 9 km outside Meppel. The sun is still glaring around 6:30 pm and quite warm. It's a tantalizing taste of summer, the long dormant sensation of freedom. Wetlands landscape, swampy, lots of bird life —low flying geese honking. The bike path through it doubles as a backroad with occasional sportscar. It's quite still here, and amphibious creatures croak rhythmically in the swamp between patches of turf fringed by dry reeds. 

kp  45 → 47 → 49 

The wetlands zone makes a nice low-key conclusion to the journey, bathed in the golden light of the late afternoon. As I approach Meppel, the landscape softens, ceding to deep green pastures. I turn right onto a road and proceed into the town of Meppel, with a pretty historic core. Park my bike on the (uncovered) roof of the garage and catch a train to Zwolle, then Amsterdam Centraal, a 1&1/2 hr journey. 


(Apr 1)

Another fine day, though not as warm, and the wind is blowing south, so I'm going back to Meppel to continue the journey, with a plan of cycling from there to Zwolle via the LF-9. I've done the southern portion in reverse (Zwolle-Zwartsluis) on a circuitous route to Kampen. That was seven years ago. 

Leaving Meppel

kp  49 → 76 → 96

I poke around Meppel. The day is sunny and rather windy. I find a little street market and have a snack of kibbeling. Leaving town I go through the pretty Wijkpark. Now I'm beside a little nature reserve, the Oude Stroom, here nothing but flat fields with a ditch running through it, farmhouses. 

This parallels the Meppelerdiep, then joins it at Baarlo. The river borders the wetlands area I cycled through on Tuesday. At Zwartsluis it joins the Zwartediep, which in turn flows into the IJssel at Zwolle. The field in front of me used to be submerged beneath the Meppelerdiep, yet another case of land reclamation. The little road I ride is mostly deserted, with only the occasional touring or racing fietser. Bliss. 

kp  96 → 95 → 30  39  38  31  60

Racers and old couples. That's who you see on the trail. I am an oddball for sure. But I sure like tooling down these paths on a cool sunny day. 

I followed the Meppelerdiep for a bit around Baarlo —the industry of Zwartsluis is visible from here— then jogged east into a cool strong wind. At kp 96 I turned right toward kp 95 and headed south again, wind pushing me forward, sun radiating me, and I am back on an old country road, here and there plied by farm vehicles, tractors as wide as the road. Feels hazardous but the drivers are used to seeing cyclists and adjust accordingly. Then I turn right (W) to kp 30 on the margin of a big road with traffic. I could continue into Zwartsluis, catch the ferry to Genemuiden and take the west bank of the IJssel down to Zwolle. But I'd rather go with the flow and continue south on the LF-9 through waterlogged fields. It's such a pleasure to just ride. 

As I sit here in the sun just off the big road (mostly quiet) which skirts a canal, I notice there is a low level of activity at this little junction. Mostly touring cyclists and the occasional auto. One of the latter just rolled by, the driver gave me a friendly wave. But mostly it's empty and peaceful. 

Old wall of Hasselt

The town of Hasselt looks like an old place with a few handsome brick remnants of its heyday. Now it is pretty quiet. The path alongside the wall is a splendiferous old country lane. At Streukel, just south of Hasselt, 90% of the Netherlands' fritillaria (kievisbloemen) are preserved. 

Past Holten is a picnic table protected from the wind by an old schotbalkenloods (brick hut). So I can bask in the sun carelessly by reed-fringed marshes. I am going toward Genne (to kp 60) and I believe this old lane is the Gennedijk. It is deserted. Sometimes I feel like I'm being watched, a solitary intruder in this uninhabited landscape. 

Meppel to Zwolle via LF-9

kp  68 → 69 → 47 → 49 

After the extended bliss of cycling old rural Overijssel, then cruising through a high forest, I reach a little house and the ferry landing. An old woman with a mane of white hair is holding a ladder. Her graybearded man comes up behind her. No ferry until May —with Covid that could be June. Go that way. 

That is the way to kp 47, down a moderately busy road flanked by reddish-brown strips. When the traffic abates, it's a pleasant ride. Then I arrive smack at Zwolle's urban edge in the form of a highway interchange. I could follow the busy road straight into Zwolle —there are plenty of cyclists plying the broad 2-way path— but choose to stick with the LF-9. 

Here I sit on the threshold of a rural jaunt, facing a riverbank, the domain of geese, watching the highway in the distance crossing the river (a bike path flanks that road too). 

Approaching Zwolle

kp  49 → 48 → 66

At kp 49 I turn left but it's for the wrong 40 — 45 instead of 48. I got past the railroad tracks when I realized I was heading toward Dalfsen (on the LF-16), not Zwolle. I turned around, back across the tracks (just as the alarm bells were going off), then followed an exquisite path flanked by tall trees toward kp 66. And here I am at the edge of town looking at a willow brooding over a lake as cyclists ply the sunny path behind me. What is Holland's main attraction? These people know how to live. 

At kp 66, I followed directional signs for "Centrum." Probably the wrong move. Had I stayed on the LF-9 to 66, I believe I would've pulled up in front of the station. Instead I had a little tour of urban Zwolle —it's a substantial town. The Centrum signs had me going in circles and I consulted my phone. I'd somehow ended at the top of the historic core. I rode straight down through it, stopping momentarily by the Grote Kerk, just as the bells tolled, with the green glass statue of Archangel Michael in front. 

Zwolle station
Then I was exiting the old center at the south end and turned left for the station. But the surrounding areas were under construction. I descended to the bike garage but they charged a fee to leave it there longer than 24 hours. Leaving the garage, I noticed the interesting detail that the staircase had a conveyor belt alongside so you don't have to push your bike up. This sort of detail still thrills me. 

Where was the outdoor lot that every station has? The check-in guy at the garage had said something about it being on the other side of the station. But I didn't see how to get around it. I was passing a van from which a young man emerged with his bicycle. I asked him where the bike parking lot was located. The handsome local lad confirmed that it was on de andere kant. He said he was going that way, I could follow him. We headed alongside the tracks, then zipped down through a tunnel —he was going pretty fast— then he pointed in the direction of the lot and continued on his way. It was a large uncovered lot with thousands of bikes. I had to walk down 9 rows to find a spot. I parked the bike on the upper rack, figuring it would take a thief more of an effort. (Continued...)

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