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Netherlands
 

 
Country Summary

 

We reached the Netherlands in the last week of April. We arrived in Hoek van Holland from Harwich on the overnight ferry. We followed the coast up towards Amsterdam where we stayed with Terry's sister for 4 days of luxury. We then headed South following the Amstel river to Utrecht and then South Eastwards following the Rhine towards the German border.

 

 

Map

 

 

  netherlands map  

 
entry & visas

 

As we are both residents of the EU, the Netherlands present no visa or entry restrictions for a cycle tourist.

 

 
camping

 

With the exception of Amsterdam where Terry's sister Rachel has welcomed us, we camped both wild and in campsites. The biggest trouble for the cyclotourist is trying to find small campsites. Of the 20 campsites we surveyed all but one were massive, holiday home, adventure park type camping sites. Typical cost was €20 per night - a big hole in the budget of €40 a day! There was one luxury 4 stars campsite that actually wanted to charge us €57 for one nights camping - with no electric hook up, breakfast wasn't included and you had to provide your own tent - we camped rough that night.
If you ever try it, be warned that camping wild is not easy either has many fields are surrounded by drains or barbwire. We were lucky enough to find a field that was not totally enclosed.

 

 
cycle shops

 

There are bicycle shops absolutely everywhere with the exception of central Amsterdam. Mountain bikes are not particularly in evidence but there are a huge range of utilitarian accessories for the practical commuter.

 

 
food & drink

 

The food in the Netherlands is not especially inspiring, it owes much to its colonial history - as the UK does. There are Indonesian and Chinese restaurants in abundance. Local food includes sausages (always a favourite of ours), cheese with cumin (tasty if you get an old ie aged one), strange thick yellow milk for adding to the coffee. The coffee is excellent if you like it strong and black. Puddings include lovely apple strudely things and lots of varieties of mouse - chocolate, strawberry etc, etc . The bakers do provided one specialty which consists of pastry with a almond/marzipan filling - very nice.

 

 
weather

 

As in England the weather is massively variable. So far we have not received any serious rain but grey overcast, strong winds, bright sun 25 degrees C and 12 degrees c the following day make it very difficult to know what will happen next. Oh and as I write this it has started bucketing down! Generally our last few days in the Netherlands continued with mixed sun , rain, mist and cloud, interspersed with longer periods of rain. There has been no need for the sun hat yet!

 

 
medical

 

So far we have not needed any reason to consult with medical practitioners in the Netherlands. Being members of the EU and working in the UK we have E111 forms which should help to ensure we get reciprocal treatment if the need arises.

 

 
flora & fauna

 

Most of our cycling has been through the dunes and semi-urban areas so the chance to mingle with wildlife has been limited. The wildest thing has been the huge throngs of Dutch men and women roving the streets on Queen's Day in tight knit packs searching for the next fix of Heineken. This sort of trip should only be undertaken with a trained guide - otherwise you end up in someone else's house you don't know, without any idea of the way home because on part of Amsterdam looks very similar to the next with a belly full of beer and tequila.

The route South from Amsterdam took over several branches of the lower Rhine. Here between the Dykes and the river were large areas of uncultivated land ideal for all sorts of bird life. This stretch of river was teeming with all varieties of duck, geese, herons, the odd stork other things we could only guess the name of (oh to be at work with instant access to google and the RSPB website!).

 

 
graphs & stats

 

Holland is very flat and hence some of the days riding were easy, especially with a following wind. We acheived our longest day of the trip so far 106 km from Hoek van Holland to Amsterdam. 80% of our riding was on dedicated cyccle routes.

Total Distance in Holland - 327 km

Days Cycling in Holland - 4.2

Average distance per day - 77 km

 

 
The Cycling Diaries
 

27th April 2005 - Hoek van Holland to Amsterdam - 107 km

Oh what a shock! After 5h30 of sleep (early landing in Hoek Van Holland) we managed to found the cycling route 1, which was supposed to lead us to Amsterdam. After 30 mins we lost the route in an industrial estate somewhere South of Den Haag (the Hague). We expected that everybody will speak English, but it is definitely not the case. We were desperate for a map to know at least in which direction to head. After an enormous amount of faffing and finding a tourist information (or "vvv") we were on track and we chose to follow the cycle route along the coast line.

 
on route through the dunes
 
 
on route through the dunes isa
 

Dunes, dunes and sand dunes. Not at all what we expected to find in Holland. As it happens we were later told that we missed all the tulips fields which were a few miles to the East, damn it! And the tulips were in season too!

The route along the coast was fantastic, a number of small coastal towns given over to tourism and a traffic free dedicated cycle route for 60km. The track was block paved in places - and a very nice job they have done as well - good enough to grace any garden.

 
 
We were very lucky with the weather as it was bright sunshine and with a strong following wind. All the cyclists riding in the opposite direction seemed to be struggling - but for us it was almost free wheeling. We certainly made the most of it on the 107km to Amsterdam.
 

terry and isa in action

 

 
 

isa in the dunes

 

 

the bikes having a rest

 

 
 
isa kunch un the dunes
 
We took our lunch in the dunes out of the wind - tucking into our supplies which we had purchased from an Arabic Supermarket in London - shown to us courtesy of Bashar. Couscous and goats yoghurt balls with Bashar's now famous little cucumbers.
 
 

After our lunch we followed the coastal cycle route as far as Zaandvort, where we turned Eastwards towards the town of Harlem.

This route followed large roads but with excellent cycle lanes alongside. At intersections the cyclists have right of way over traffic pulling in or pulling out of the junction. The surfaces are dead flat and the dropped kerbs are so smooth they are not noticeable - every local council in Britain should be forced to apply this standard as a minimum. Painting a white line in the middle of a pavement is not providing a cycle lane (ps: this is one of Terry's favourite subject of ranting).

 
after 60k the end of the dunes
 
 
cathedral in Harlem
 
Harlem was a beautiful old city with a modern and an old cathedral. The central area was awash with people and a funfair. Little did we realise but we had arrived in the Netherlands with Queens Day and Ascension Day celebrations imminent.
 
 

We followed a cycle route from Harlem to Amsterdam, after getting lost in a housing estate, and headed for the very centre of Amsterdam. We arrived in the middle of the bicycle rush hour. Two lost cycle tourists with fully laden bikes must have seemed like being stuck behind a tractor in piccadilly circus. We slowed down countless commuters before being finally welcomed by Terry's sister Rachel for our 2 night, no 3 , oh maybe 4, lets go for the round number - 5 night stay.

A big thank you to Rachel and her landlord Alexander for their kind hospitality over these few days.

 
isa's replacement bike
 
 

amsterdam canals and bikes

 

 

28th April to 1st May 2005 - chilling out in Amsterdam

Amsterdam was an excellent place to recharge the batteries and prepare for our further forays in to deepest Holland.

Following the obligatory museum visits (Rijks museum and Van Gogh - both well worth a visit) we went out on the Saturday to assist the Dutch in celebrating Queen's Day - they needed absolutely no assistance. The whole of central Amsterdam is closed to all traffic, trams and bicycle movement becomes impossible. The estimates seem to suggest that 2 million people are on the streets. Anyone can sell anything for a 12 hour period. So there are random stalls set up selling food, cocktails beer and stronger substances. The canal becomes clogged with boats ferrying revellers around, people in rubber dinghies, music blasting out from every other window, full sound systems in rowing boats - and one thing to bind all this together - everyone is wearing something orange.

 
 

not bad

Beware in Amsterdam - all is not what it seems - the photo above and to the left is of the same lady - looks can very often be deceiving - beware of the beer goggles!

 

do not meet in a dark alley

 

 
 
phot please
 

mad canal

 

 
 

It was certainly a massive party, there wasn't a policeman to be seen anywhere in the whole of central Amsterdam. The atmosphere was as if going to a good friends house party, completely unthreatening - just everyone outdoors and enjoying themselves. If you severe fancy going wear some orange if you don't want to feel abnormal.

We were due to leave Amsterdam the following day but some sort of rare tequila poisoning - still we had a good night and had another day to spend with my sister.

 

 
 
orange people everywhere
 

Queen of the day

Isa was thrilled to meet Beatrice the queen of Holland. Very friendly lady, she likes drinking Heineken.

 
 

2nd May 2005 - Amsterdam to Drieburgen - 66 km

Monday morning came around and like all good workers it was back the grindstone. We set off southwards towards Utrecht. Passing through the industrial outskirts of Amsterdam we were soon following the beautiful large chateaux along the river Amstegstl (I forget the exact spelling). This made for lovely riding until:

Accident No 1: Isa was cycling along paying far too much attention to the houses and not enough to the road when she rode Tour De France style straight into a bollard in the middle of the road.

 

 

Old blokes shouldn't be allowed to dance

 

 
 

Isa's Bollards

 

 

Luckily there was no serious damage done - just wounded pride, dirty T shirt, a bruised thumb and a thoroughly entertained fisherman who saw the whole thing from the opposite bank.

And we kept on following on the canals through typical dutch landscapes and pretty towns.

 
 

Dutcg Windmill and Canal

 

 
Near Utrecht
 
 

 

Crossing Rhine Amsterdam Canal

We passed the impressive Rhine canal that feeds into Amsterdam canal system (600,000 m3 of water a day is used to renew the water!).

 

Isa and local Pastry Delicacies

The little-ish marzipan cakes that helped us along.

 
 

The canalside cycleroute into Utrecht turned into a huge traffic jam with scores of cars with single male occupants all looking a bit shifty. The cars were driving around in circles in a specially designed traffic circulation. A quick glance at the canalside houseboats revealed more than expected - the row of 50 houseboats was the Utrecht red light district and all the girls were showing everything to attract a little bit of evening rush hour trade. Unfortunately there wasn't a similar circulation system for bicycles so we continued to central Utrecht. And sorry chaps... no pictures!

 

 
Utrecht
 
 
Utrecht
 

Utrecht is a beautiful old city based on a system of canals. The canalside are on two levels, one for pedestrians and the other lower level for the bars and cafes.

That night, we reached a giangantic campsite South-East of Utrecht (near Drieburgen).

 

 
 

3rd May 2005 - Drieburgen to Groesbeek - 76 km

The day started under a lot, lot, lot of rain. After a quick reality check: "would you rather be at work?" - we cycled away happily. The rain died off after a couple of hours and we could finally get rid of our waterproof gear to enjoy the landscape. We chose to cycle South East of Utrecht in an area very rich in castles and it was well worth it. Rather than castles, there were many big mansions, all with their own style and surrounded by moats. The countryside was all meadows and orchards, with an amazing aray of birds (the herons here are not shy at all). The farmhouses were all very pretty, the gardens perfectly tended and in many paddlocks there were lots of baby ponies, baby horses, donkeys, lambs, ducklings crossing the roads with their mother - a little girl paradise (yes, you guess it, Isa is now writting).

 
isa in the trees
 
 
dutch thatched cottage
 

We then followed a high rode on top of a dyke that follows the Rhine. The weather was with us this time and we could enjoy a truly beautiful landscape. We used a ferry to cross a first arm of the Rhine and then pass a massive bridge to get over the second branch of the Rhine to Nijmegen, which is a big city on the Rhine at the border with Germany. Unfortunately, it has been massively damaged by the war, but there are some astonishing old buildings (the best we saw in the Netherlands), lost in the middle of some concrete buildings nonsense.

At Nijmegen, we were advised to go to Groesbeek for camping (another 15 km!).

 

 
 

 

direction mook

 

 

 

isa crossing nieder rhine

 

 
 

At Groesbeek, the only campsite we found seemed to include sauna, massage, free internet access. We could not really work out how much it all cost from the list outside. I stepped into the office and went out straight away. €26.5 euros a head! It is luxury camping is what I was told. So we headed for the heights over the town (the landscape starts to be rolly from Nijmegen) in search for a welcoming camping spot. We finally found one, next to the Canadian military war memorial. What we have not realised was that it was the 60th anniversary of the Netherland liberation and it was the end of a massive commerative party. The whole hill (the highest in the Netherlands by the way - about 75 m) was heaving with Dutch police and we were trying to be discreet... Still nobody came to dislodge us and we had a good night sleep.

 

 
campsite groesboek
 
 

4th May - Groesbeek to Velden - 75 km

We chose to go Southward following the Maas river and the border with Germany. We could have gone into Germany earlier on, but we were keen to avoid the most industrial part of the Rhur. So we went off following a rather disconcerting cyclepath network. We got lost many times and we hardly say the river Maas at all (though it is quite massive!). Then it rained. The spirit was a bit down that day. Reflecting on what we did, we thought we definitely were not prepared enough for the Netherlands, i.e, we should have read a bit more about the places worth or not worth going. Still, we managed to find a minicampsite for the night (of the size of a normal French or British campsite), whose price was not too high.

 

 

 

 

Netherlands Germany border crossing

And on the 5th of May, we crossed the border with Germany a most unexciting event - surely later border crossings will be more problematical...

 

 

  A nice beer in the sun in Nijimegen. The cafe was run by a keen cyclist (Bike Cafe name gives it away) who had cycled up a 1000m hill climb in the Netherlands - no mean feat in a country quite so flat. He achieved it by cycling up and down the hill outside his cafe 53 times in one day - the Dutch are definitely inventive!  

 
For more information or questions please contact us at isaetterry@mac.com