OUR FIETSEN’S

 

With a little help from Bernadette Peters (not the movie star) and Dick, our lovely Dutch camping neighbours near Alkmaar, we figure out the bike advertisement’s on the buy and sell pages, and finally buy our bikes (fietsen in Dutch).

 

Mine is purple and Brian’s is a dark blue and he even has a basket to carry his beer home from the shops, and maybe a few groceries if there is room.

*There has been a change to our bikes, I took the one with the basket because I fell off the other one, I think it was jinxed.*

We have been amazed by the number of bikes here in The Netherlands, and the ages of the riders.  The kids must start to ride as soon as they can walk because you see very young kids riding along with their parents. Or if not on their own bikes, being ‘dinked’ on the basket carrier, or some Mum’s have a wooden box like thing  on the front they sit a couple of small kids in and ride along.

You see grandma’s and grandpa’s out with the family for Sunday rides or going to the shops, men and women going to work dressed in suits and business attire, and kids don’t catch the bus or walk to school they ride.

But you will hear about it if you are walking and mistakenly step onto their bike lanes, which usually run down both sides of the street, even on the country roads, and mostly paved in a special colour and coated in a non slip sort of surface.

You can understand why The Netherlands do so well in the Olympic Cycling events, I think cycling is in their DNA.

 

 

THE DELTA PROJECT and our LAST NIGHT IN THE NETHERLANDS

 

There is a very real problem with rising water levels here, especially as most of the country sits below sea level.

Scientists have predicted that here water levels will rise by 2m in 2100 and 4m by 2200, so the Delta Project came into effect.

It involves the sea being closed off completely at the Zeeland Islands in the west of the country, which also gave the area more farmland and sweet water for the crops.

So that the fish can still migrate to spawn, they have built special fish passages in the 30km dijk they can travel through, and spend time to adjust from the salt to fresh water, and the water is controlled by massive sluice gates.

 

This will be an on-going project, but the alternative is the more costly increase of the dijk height around the whole of the country.

We find a lovely quiet place to stop on out last night in The Netherlands, on Julietstrade in Ouwerkerk, overlooking a small inland lake, that we walk around after dinner.

The hare was a visitor early the following morning.

DELFT

Most of my friends know that I like a little blue and white china, so Delft was a must see for me.

Apart from the delicate blue and white ceramics which gave the town it’s name in the 17th century, it’s streets are filled with gabled red roofed houses standing beside tree lined canals.

It was also home to the famous painter, Johannes Vermeer, the Master of Light whose most famous painting is of a young girl from Delft, and called The Girl with the Pearl Earring. It is also where William of Orange, known as the founder of The Netherlands is buried.

The Alkmaar Cheese Market and windmills

Cheese trading started in Alkmaar in 1365, and at that time the city owned only one set of scales.

 

The bell rings at 10am every Friday for the start of the market, where thousands of kilo’s of cheese are sold every week.

The cheese is inspected and tested by inserting a special cheese scoop into it.   It must smell and taste perfect before it is sold.

The auction starts where bidders clap their hands to bid, and the last clapper is the winner.

Then the cheese carriers come in and load the cheese onto their barrow, each cheese weighs about 13.5 kg, and they load 10 cheeses at a time.

They walk with a special ‘dribble’ a particular walk/run to make sure the barrow hangs still.

We caught a canal boat from right out front of our camping spot into Alkmaar, then he took us on a windmill tour on the way back later in the afternoon.

WINDMILLS.

I thought that windmills only ground flour, how wrong was I!

They are used to pumpwater, an important job here in Holland, but they can also used to make paint, mustard, paper and as a saw mills.,  and loads more. You can probably bet which one Brian wanted to go into.

Claude Monet was fascinated by this area and produced 25 or so paintings of the region, The Voorzaan and the Westerhem being the most well known.

 

 

THE NETHERLANDS

We have been to the Netherlands previously, but not in a camping car where you can get a really good look around, and do a bit of ‘eten & drinken’ as the Dutch say..

Our route takes us across the 30kms dijk, yes 30kms long, and it was built mostly by hand.  Just incredible!

Also through some lovely towns like Giethoorn that is built on the canals, and the lovely historic Enkhuizen, with it’s outdoor Zuiderzee Museum where you can explore authentic Dutch homes, workshops and wooden sailing ships.

 

 

And where we stay the night on the harbour side, overlooking the most tall ships that I have ever seen in one place.

This is our view tonight at 11pm, (yes it’s still light at 11pm) from Hermione, not to shabby.

 

THE FRIESIAN COAST the GERMAN BIGHT and the NORTH SEA

 

 

The heat wave hitting Germany now has made us think of ocean breezes so we’re now on the North Sea coast.

A dijk on the German Friesen Coast
yes it’s much cooler here, and windy

 

To the north of us is Denmark, and to the West the Netherlands.  Our Danish friends are presently in Crete so we will visit them later on this trip, so West it is, that is of course after Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven and maybe one or two of those Frisian Islands.

In Bremerhaven we even find one of those U -Boats that was built in one of those huge structures in Lorien we saw last month.

This one had been scuttled at the end of the war, but it has since been raised and returned to it’s former state, and it makes a great museum.

 

The Frisians have their own dialects, and they are often unintelligible to even each other.

Apparently it was where our English language derived, but truthfully in the amount that I have heard spoken here it’s certainly not familiar to any English I learnt at school.

Moin, is is Frisian for hello, good morning, good afternoon, even bye, so moin for now.

 

THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO GERMANY THAN THE BIG CITIES

 

We have just spent the past couple of weeks working our way north, and up through the central part of Germany.

 

Even managing to wake up at 4.30am to give Chris’ parents, Robyn and Russel a wave as they cruised past us we camped along-side of the Rhine.

Apart from the busy Rhine area with it’s touristy castles and busy towns, the rest of this Central area is really just farms, forests and beautiful towns of 17th century half timbered houses that UNESCO doesn’t seem to know about, and that are still lived in to this day.

In the tiny town of Lich, in the Hessen region and where they brew Licher Beer, we had to have our muffler repaired. Brian had used a coat hanger to hold it together for a while, but bumpy roads ahead meant we had to do something a little more permanent.

So after asking at a couple of different garages that didn’t have a hoist large enough for Hermione, they sent us to a Toyota dealer in town that was not only happy to move a car out of the way to do our repair, he then only charged us 40 Euro for an excellent patch and weld job. An hour later we were on the road again.

Small towns, you can’t beat them!

This area called Niedersachsen, or Lower Saxony and was likely where most of our British ancestors came from long ago in the Dark Ages, after the Romans left this area.

Now it’s home to towns like Goslar, Celle, Luneburg with it’s mineral baths and salt mines, Wolfenbuttel (the home of the liqueur Jagermeister) and Hameln where the story of the Pied Piper that charmed the Rats into following him from the city originated.

The Harz National Park is also in this area, it’s heavily forested with huge oaks, pine and spruce trees and it’s own legends of witches that flew down from Denmark, and of dragons that consumed tiny timber townships with fire.

 

There are beautiful mountain top lakes with water that is ice cold, even on the unseasonably hot 30c days we have been having for the past week.  The past few nights we have camped looking over these beautiful lakes and forests, after wandering medieval cobblestoned streets, and enjoying the occasional kuchen (cake) with our coffee and or possibly a big beer for Brian and a chilled glass of wine for me.

Like I said, so much more to visit in Germany than the big cities.