I have been in The Netherlands now for eleven days. I have a second hand bike that I purchased for 250 euros and have already completed a couple of trips. One trip north to the Amstelmeer in the and another out to the coast and back to Amsterdam through quaint picturesque towns and villages.
This is a land of canals, ditches, dykes and water - there is water everywhere. This really is the land of the "Wind in the Willows" and "Swallows and Amazons" - every corner of my cycling path reveals more canals, lakes and broad reaches of water, little boat mooring areas and always people on the water boating or on the cycle paths cycling through the lazy, hazy days of this wonderful September Indian Summer that has Holland in its grip at the moment. The light is the light of Rembrant and Vermeer, soft, atmospheric and mellow - I have certainly left the sharp, hard light of Northland behind.
This is also a land of bicycles and cyclists - it is a way of life - there are people everywhere cycling - old and young - and on bicycles that I remember from times past, nice big sturdy bikes with sensible seats and riding positions, very sensible the Dutch - and for the cyclist this is about as close to Cycle heaven as one can possibly get this side of the that great Bike Rack in the sky.
There is a national cycling path system second to none. Finding your way around is a kind of painting by numbers - you follow the path from one point to another by following the appropriate numbers which are well marked along the way - its impossible to get lost.
The Dutch people that I have met along the way have been extremely friendly, helpful and curteous - the Kiwi accent brings a smile and a laugh to the faces of some, which actually helps with the personal connection, if you are asking directions to a camping ground or to a place to eat.
As I write I am riding the Zuiderzeeroute which is a classic bike route which follows the borders of the Zuiderzee which is now a huge inland sea cut off from the North Sea by 30 kilometre long dyke - there is a strong wind blowing off the North Sea which makes the rushes and reeds bend and sway in the wind - the Ducks, Coots and Herons go about their busy business and so I will be on my way - I will keep you posted.