On Wednesday night I completed the Zuyderzee Route on my trusty bicycle. I spent 14 days at it and cycled 820 km. Starting and finishing in Nijkerk, traveling counter clockwise, I rode up around the East side of the lake, over the dike by bike-bus (alas, the dike is being renovated) and down the West side to Amsterdam, then skirted the South shore back to Nijkerk.
I can’t complain about the weather. The skies were photogenically Dutch with scudding clouds topping the greenest of pastures studded with black and white cows and woolly sheep. The cool temperatures meant that I could keep covered up and safe from the sun. Only a few brief showers. Every day was more-or-less ideal cycling weather.
I think I experienced The Netherlands at her best. Physically, she is made for cyclists: compellingly flat with endless rivers, streams, tributaries, canals, (cantilever) bridges, dikes, ferries, lakes, and even open seas (on the day I cycled beyond the route to Harlingen). Church steeples in the panoramic distances, colourful fields, lots of ducks, geese and other water fowl, history at every node. I could do the route ten times, no: fifty times, slowly, and still glean new insights. There were castles and museums, majestic VOC buildings, forts and moats, every kind of gable, local styles of water craft and marinas stuffed with yachts. There were patios where there was food and people made enthusiastic use of them. It was friendly, human-scale, carefree, and all were accepting of cyclists and understanding of our needs.
One of the things I liked most was plugging into the “Friends on Bikes” network. For a nominal fee, just to cover costs, kind bike-enthusiasts put up cyclists for the night. It makes bike travel simple and possible. Most of us are minimalist, independent types, with almost no baggage. Cycle, wash out the underwear, sleep, have breakfast and cycle on. The hosts know the routine from their own bicycle journeys. Six different hosts put me up in their homes. I spent more than one night in most so that I could dally and see the sights, and that made my trip delightfully sociable. Often there were animated discussions in the evening, and again over breakfast with other cyclists at the same address. Convivial and congenial. Many hosts were single women enjoying the company of cyclists just as much as I enjoyed the company of my hosts. I was struck by how gracious and kind they were. It wasn’t until I headed back in the train on that last night that I ran into mask-refusing grumblers and an obstreperous drunk. Maybe cyclists are just plain sane salt of the earth. This was community, trusting and kind. No bad apples on my journey.
During a rain shower, I discovered another network, that of ‘Rest Spots’ (https://www.rustpunt.nu). Run on the honour system, they are a commons, built on empathy. Places to have a drink, take a pee, charge up a battery, hide from a shower, or just be languid for a bit. Set up and cared for by volunteers and on their property. Absolutely endearing. This is what life everywhere should be like. Let’s expand the commons, share and trust each other! It generated such a good mood, such a sense of well-being, of belonging, of the world being our oyster. Who needs bitcoin? Give me this incomparable wealth, of ultimate value when the rubber hits the road. This is the Netherlands that one can’t help but love; I didn’t know that it was there all the time, ubiquitously between the lines!
Day 1: Oosterbeek to Zeewolde via Otterlo and Nijkerk
Day 2: Zeewolde to Ketel Haven via Harderwijk, Nunspeet, and Kampen
Day 3: Ketel Haven to Ketel Haven via Kampen and the Ketelbrug
Day 4: Ketel Haven to Creil via the Ketelbrug, Urk and Lemmer over the dike
Day 5: Creil to Creil via Lemmer and Oosterzee – a day on the water
Day 6: Creil to Makkum via all the little Fresian towns en route, including Stavoren and Hindeloopen
Day 7: Makkum to Makkum via Harlingen (seashore there, inland back)
Day 8: Makkum to Enkhuizen – via the Afsluitdijk, then Den Oever and Medemblik
Day 9: Enkhuizen to Enkhuizen – via Urk by sailboat
Day 10: Enkhuizen – a day at the ZuiderzeeMuseum
Day 11: Enkhuizen to Warder via Hoorn and Edam
Day 12: Warder to Warder via Purmerend, Monnickendam, Marken, Volendam and Edam
Day 13: Warder to Hoofddorp via Amsterdam (Vondelpark, Sloten and Schiphol)
Day 14: Hoofddorp to Nijkerk via Amsterdam, Muider, Naarden, Bussum and Bunschoten/Spakenburg