Dutch Courage - Avoiding Getting Run Over By A Bicycle
May 21, 2016
|We stayed one more day in Brugge and eventually ventured out on our bikes and into the city. We soon discovered it was a Bank Holiday and a lot of shops were closed. We also discovered that yesterday Brugge football team had won the Champions League and today what seemed like the whole of Brugge was out to celebrate. The main square had a stage with a group playing music (Oasis and some Punk) and everyone seemed to be wearing the team’s colours of blue and black. We did feel a bit sorry for anyone having a long romantic weekend in Brugge - wasn’t going to happen!! The crowd were on form and they certainly seemed out to have fun and not cause any trouble. We suspect they were congregating because the team were going to display the cup, we decided not to hang around to find out. We were told by a shopkeeper that the biggest concern for the Police was later in the day when some of the more drunken supporters might decide to have a pee in the canals and because they were so drunk, fall in and run the risk of drowning!!
We left Brugge the following day and headed for the Netherlands and an area called Zeeland (Sealand). It took a couple of hours to reach our first stop, Middelburgh. A small attractive town with canals running through it. The building’s facades overlooking the canal were typically Dutch and each one unique in its design. A tower called Lange Jan (Long Jan-hardly)! which stood at 300ft, dominated the area, the Stadhuis (town hall) was also impressive and sat at one end of a large square surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
We stayed in a campsite close to a lake, we had a lovely spot surrounded by trees, a few ducks, birdsong and very little else. It was a great base to explore the area with its network of cycle lanes all numbered and very easy to follow. Our first day we circumnavigated the lake stopping off for lunch at a Veere with its smart quay and windmill. We had delicious fish chowder soup for lunch here. The cycle ride took us all day and we clocked up 36 miles and although the lanes are flat, we did have the wind against us which made it quite tough at times. It was also noticeable that there are hardly any Brits in this area. We are the only GB motorhome on the campsite which we find surprising as the area is definitely worth exploring. We also cycled along to the three barriers in the area. Being married to an engineer, I should have known better, John was absolutely fascinated with the workings of the dams (yawn)!! although I had to agree with him that the whole area was man-made and the amount of man-power and materials that would have gone into building the flood defence was enormous.
Moving on, we headed for a small town called Noordwijk, close to Leiden. This area is famous for bulb growing and our chosen campsite was surrounded by tulip fields. Sadly, we were about two weeks too late and all was left was the green leaves and dead tulip heads. We must come back another year. From the campsite we cycled along the many cycle paths to the seaside town and had a walk round. The town reminded us of Witney although it was by the sea. We had a fish and chip supper before cycling back.
Our final destination in the Netherlands via a Dyke which must have been 12 miles long. We stopped at another small town called Midwolda, east of Groningen. Close to a lake, and a quiet campsite, it was the perfect stopover. We went to explore the town on our bikes and saw the first GB camper since we left Dover!! Sadly, the owners were not in and were parked near a small marina, perhaps they had a boat moored there?
So what have we learnt about our first trip to Holland ( we did have a long weekend in Amsterdam courtesy of Dan and Maria as a wedding present back in 1998), well, the Dutch abroad are always very, very friendly, but in their own country not necessarily so. Sometimes people were friendly, but the majority of Dutch that we spoke to came across as reserved and not as friendly. We were surprised by that. We knew Holland was flat and we knew they liked cycling, but we also discovered the network of cycling paths were absolutely fantastic. You can cycle everywhere with the exception of motorways and even then, many had lanes to the side of the road. Its a shame we don’t have more cycle lanes in the UK.
As far as we are aware, the Dutch aren’t a particularly religious nation, each town seems to have just one church but it is usually very large and dominates the town centre. We are amazed at the lack of English around, we saw very few and although the majority speak English, there is very little written in English such as information signs, menus and tourist guides. We would definitely recommend touring the area, particularly if you like cycling. The majority of cyclists have electric bikes.
The Dutch seem very house proud, the houses and gardens always look immaculate.
Oh one more thing, they LOVE chips!!
So tomorrow we will head into Germany, we are quite close to the border and will continue making our way to Denmark. See you in wonderful, wonderful Copehagen.