Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hazy Days in Holland (2)

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.

22 comments:

Delwyn said...

Hello My friend

I was talking about you today. I have been wondering how it has been going...more details please...
I envy you so much...I want to be there biking...

Happy days

Dan Gurney said...

Hey, can I come, too? Man, your trip sounds like it is so much fun. Bike and boats? That's my kind of dream trip. Post often.

Janice said...

I knew a sailor man, you see,
in far off new New Zealand, who
sailed his boat upon the sea, and
happy as a clam was he.

But a cycling he would go, you know,
in far off Zeider Zeeland, and
he pedals his arse, on the dykes
to and fro, and hopes in the water he will not go.

Happy pedaling, Alden

Anonymous said...

He peddles his arse? Is that how's he's paying for things?

Anonymous said...

...and to the dykes? The mind boggles.

Janice said...

Now now, anonymous, don't take me out of context! There was no double entendre intended.

VenDr said...

It sounds like it's all going well. And the weather? It's back to winter here, and I am delaying something I have been intending to do for a while: get my own bike out of mothballs. I haven't riddden it since before I was ill - about 18 months now. Mine is a head down backside up paper thin tyres sort of bike. Great for studying the composition of the road 18 inches in front of you, useless for scenery. You seem to have made a much more sensible choice

Kathryn said...

It sounds fantastic, Alden. And I know you will make the most of every moment.
Have fun! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your exploits! :-)

Alden Smith said...

Hi Delwyn, sorry its taken a while to answer but I don't always have ready access to a computer. I am on the road completing a circuit of the Zuider Zee (now called the Ijsselmeer) which is an inland sea, separated from the North Sea by a huge 40km dyke which I have just biked over. This route is wonderful - lovely farmland interspersed by quaint old picturesque villages, all surrounding a canal laden with modern and traditional Dutch boats - a sailors paradise in many ways - I will blog about the trip soon and post some pictures if I am able to load them.
It has only rained once since I arrived, lightly in the middle of the night. I am having an amazing time and I love this country a lot.

Alden Smith said...

Dan, yes you can come, just get on a plane and do it. You are a sailing man and I think you would absolutely love this place. If you can keep away from the motorways (horrendous) and the overly industrialized areas (every sophisticated developed nation has them) then you will find an absolutely astounding country and wonderful friendly people. I really love this place, and it is so good to see all the traditional dutch yachts which have evolved to cope with the demands of the shallow seas around this area. If you like cycling, the place is absolute magic, so, so, so easy to get around on a bike - and its popular, about 2 million bikes in the country.

Alden Smith said...

Janice, I want you to come to Amsterdam now, I will trade my bike in for a tandem and we will go cycling together. You can earn money for our food as a Haiku reciting busker, I will do important things like oil the chain on the bike, drink Heinekin beer and watch the very cute Dutch girls ride their bicyles.

Alden Smith said...

Thankyou Anonymous for your comment.

You seem to be in a muddle about sexual orientation. I could only peddle my arse to a Dyke if I was a female - but you knew that anyway.

The truth about arses in The Netherlands is that they are at their best on a bicyle seat as a counterpoint to ones head whilst viewing some of the most sublime scenery you could ever see.

Alden Smith said...

Kathryn, I am having a fantastic time and seeing a lot of the country. If God created the world, then the Dutch created The Netherlands - literally wrested much of the land from the sea and continued to wrestle as they daily pump the rain back out to the sea using a complex system of ditches, canals and pumps.
The landscape gives the impression of orderliness, symmetry and thorough planning - as opposed to Gods creation which seems to involve the throwing of a lot of dice in the decision making.

Alden Smith said...

Kelvin, everything is going very very well indeed.

The Dutch do many things very well and one of them is bicycles - they are strong, sturdy, sensible and designed to assist the human body to excercise without needing a back massage afterwards. Much about this country is sensible and I like it here a lot.

The weather at the moment is exceptional and although there is an Autumn chill in the mornings now, all the days so far have been sunny and warm.

I have completed about 500kms of biking to date and will over the next few weeks add to that.

Overall everything is exceeding expections in every way.

Janice said...

Alden - I was all set to come when my husband asked me where I was going to be living when I got back, so I've decided to humour the old curmudgeon and sadly, decline your kind invitation. I shall have to live this great adventure of yours vicariously, although there is nothing I would have liked better than watching your (dare I say it?) arse pedaling in front of me all over Holland, not to mention the chain oiling and the beer drinking! I would, however, have to forgo the apparent pleasures of the cute Dutch girl-watching, for fairly obvious reasons. I am glad you are having such a good time, though' you have, I think, earned it!

Alden Smith said...

Janice, I know someone whose mother told her to never do anything that a man told her to do. She has used this as a working thesis and has found life to date varied and colourful. I work on the reciprocal of this idea and find that it makes life incredibly chaotic and superbly interesting - there is something exhilarating when the centre will not hold and life spins like a wild vortex lighting the night sky with sideral fire amongst the high stars - a bit like cycling in The Netherlands actually. :-)

Dan Gurney said...

You are making me think that I need to plan a vacation like this. I'm loving your posts Alden. Keep 'em coming.

VenDr said...

There's obviously a need for order here. Alden, you will do the pedaling. And the peddling. Janice, you will oil the chain. I will drink the beer and watch the CDGs. Can't say fairer than that.

Janice said...

Alden, if you are not careful, your wildly romantic description of cycling in Holland will have a whole entourage trailing behind you! Perhaps you should organize a group next time?

With regard to letting a man tell me what to do, Dorothy Parker expresses my philosophy perfectly:

In my youth it was my way
to do my best to please,
and change with every passing lad
to suit his theories,
but now I know the things I know
and do the things I do,
and if you do not like me so,
to hell, my love, with you.

Alden Smith said...

Kelvin, why break with thousands of years of patriachal tradition here. Janice can do the peddling and the chain oiling and we can drink the beer and watch the CDGs - and they are very, very, very cute, believe me.

Alden Smith said...

Janice I love that poem and I think it should be embroidered onto the first bra of every young girl.
But would they read it? Would they listen?

Janice said...

No, of course they wouldn't listen, it is experience that teaches most women not to fall for a man just because he's cute and has dimples when he smiles, and some of us never learn! Further to your idea about who should do what, I think I'd prefer to watch the cdb's while you and Kelvin do the manly stuff. I would also expect to be fanned when I got too warm, and to have grapes peeled for me on demand. Do you think you could balance a litter between your two bikes?