Aahhhh, The Netherlands.

Tues June 23, 4 to 8 pm: Bread fresh from the oven!
Wed June 24, 9 and 9:30 am: Bread delivered to Quesnel – Green Tree Health & Wellness and Bouchie Lake Country Store
Wed June 24, 4 to 8 pm: Pizza Night!
Sat June 27, 8:30 am until we sell out: Quesnel Farmer’s Market

I think the first real live Dutch people I met were my friend Barbara’s parents. I met Barbara in first year university: well, it was Barbara’s first year, she has long since been a PhD in mathematics; me, I had promise, but it ended up being my first AND last year at uni! Barb’s parents were immigrants from The Netherlands, I never knew why – maybe to start a new life in a less-populated country, maybe for work opportunities. What I did know as soon as I met her family was that they were all so damned cool: they were musical, they were good-looking, they were smart, they did cool things (have you SEEN how fast those people go on skates? They make Canadians look like they are standing still!), they ate really good food, they were full of life. Ever since then every Dutch person I have met has been all those things: Cori and Willem that Tim and I met on our cross-Canada cycle trip had sailed from The Netherlands to New Zealand where they now live, Burt in Quesnel has his amazing art work and outlook on life, and on it goes. So what was I to expect when I actually went to the Netherlands? Well, at the first campsite we rocked up to (after cycling as fast as we could to get across the top of Germany) the woman introduced herself by name, shook our hands firmly, looked us in the eye like fellow humans, and generally welcomed us to her property. And guess what? It was cool, it was smart, it was just what we needed – there was beer in the fridge and a pot to put your money in!

DSCF6823
Our first (and maybe best) experience of Dutch campgrounds – small and gorgeous!

And so it went: there was cheese, there was water EVERYWHERE, there were windmills, there were tulips, there were sailboats, and best of all, there were bikes and bikes and more bikes.

Mmmmmm…..
Mmmmmm…..

 

We were a little late for all the fields of blooming tulips, but there were still some hanging on.
We were a little late for all the fields of blooming tulips, but there were still some hanging on.

 

Windmills, old and new.
Windmills, old and new (if you look closely).

 

Only cool bikes park here.
Only cool bikes park here.

 

Tall ships in
Tall ships in Harlingen.

 

I think all the world's supply of big wooden sailboats must come from The Netherlands!
I think all the world’s supply of big wooden sailboats must come from The Netherlands!

 

More waterfront property - water, water, everywhere!
More waterfront property – water, water, everywhere in downtown Harlingen. Oh yes, and a few bikes, too.

I am not sure what the statistics are, but they must be good: it is SO safe to ride a bike in The Netherlands. And, no, it is not only because you are often on designated cycling paths, because you are also often on the same roads as the cars – it is because of attitude. Cyclists are common and cyclists are more vulnerable than motorized boxes of steel, therefore, cyclists are yielded to. What bliss. My most treasured memory is watching parents pick up their children from school: babies were in seats on the handlebars facing the parent, little kids were sat straddling the panniers on the back rack, and the young school-age kids were riding their own bikes with a helping hand from mom on their shoulder when needed. No one was wearing a helmet. This is a culture of cycling: why take the car when it is faster and easier to cycle? Of course, the country is flat. Of course the distances are relatively short. Of course the price of fuel is very high. But these things don’t excuse the rest of us from taking note and implementing change. And why is our fuel so cheap, anyway?

We saw many many groups of school kids on outings: on bicycles. Compare this to Canada where you can’t guarantee that every child has a bicycle, and you certainly can’t guarantee that every child is fit enough to ride one, even on a flat route. And then there would be the red tape. Oh, the red tape.

School field trip, Dutch style. Imagine the foofarah if this was tried in Canada??
School field trip, Dutch style. Imagine the foofarah if this was tried in Canada??

There is a great system of mapping for cyclists in The Netherlands. Tim and I spent our nine days navigating our route with a cut-out from a very old, very large-scale map of his. We didn’t go wrong once, because we only had to use that map for the big picture – the daily route-finding was accomplished using the on-street maps and route posts available to all cyclists.

The most comprehensive bike route mapping system ANYWHERE: You are at a numbered point shown on the map, you pick where you want to go next (also numbered), and follow the signposts to that number. When you get there, repeat. No silly prescribed cycle routes with silly names and sketchy signs: this method lets you go where you want to go on the route you want to take, and you never get lost!
The most comprehensive bike route mapping system ANYWHERE: You are at a numbered point shown on the map, you pick where you want to go next (also numbered), and follow the signposts to that number. When you get there, repeat. No silly prescribed cycle routes with silly names and sketchy signs: this method lets you go where you want to go on the route you want to take, and you never get lost!

Anywhere you find yourself, there are sign-posts for cyclists. I actually didn’t realize all the red-lettered sign posts were for cycle routes until in the country for days: they are just everywhere!

We didn't go to Ee. I have no idea why we didn't go to Ee. Who would miss out on going to a place called Ee?
We didn’t go to Ee. I have no idea why we didn’t go to Ee. Who would miss out on going to a place called Ee?

We rode along many canals, along many dykes, across many bridges, locks, and sluices. Our route along the north and west coasts of The Netherlands also took us along the Afsluitdjik, a 32 km dyke built in the late 1920s and early 1930s to create the inland sea, The Ijsselmeer, thus protecting more precious Dutch coastline from erosion, and also to reclaim some land from the sea.

Cycling along one of many canals - the water doesn't flow like it does in Canada - there is no gradient!
Cycling along one of many canals – all the water we saw was not moving at all, there being no gradient to speak of. Makes me wonder how they deal with all their poo.

 

Cycling across one of many many canal locks - they open to let boats pass, and close to let cars and bikes pass.
Cycling across a canal lock – they open to let boats pass, and close to let cars and bikes pass.

 

Downtown Dokkum.
Downtown Dokkum.

 

Tim making the scenery on the Afluisdjik a little more interesting.
Tim making the scenery on the Afsluitdjik a little more interesting. The Ijsselmeer is on the left, and the Waddenzee – part of the North Sea – is on the right. My question: has the bike path been there since 1933 when the motorway was completed? If yes, we have DECADES of catching up to do regarding cycling infrastructure.

 

A pit stop for coffee at a touristy ice-cream joint: the coffee and the teeny ice-cream cone were both of the best quality!
A pit stop for coffee at a touristy ice-cream joint: the coffee and the teeny ice-cream cone were both of the best quality! All for the outrageous price of 2 euros ($3). Take that, Starbucks.

All in all, I found The Netherlands to be pretty OK. Go there. Ride a bike. And ride a bike at home, too, and be a part of the Velorution. One day we may be this switched on.

 

2 thoughts on “Aahhhh, The Netherlands.

  1. Your trip looks sooooooooo awesome!
    I’m keeping this post to inspire us to head there with Calum in a few years. Maybe a great option of first longer trip??? (If we can afford!)

    Thanks for sharing Kate and Tim! I’m always inspired by you guys!
    Em

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