We are not in Switzerland. Google maps tells me that from Volendam to Zurich in Switzerland would be 858km and take 1 day 22 hours by bike (in Google’s dreams). Turns out there is another Zurich in the Netherlands, and it is just at the north end of the Afsluitdijk. Since we made it across today, here we are in Zurich.
The Afsluitdijk was spectacular. 20 miles of dike with a major road – 4 lanes plus hard shoulders – and a separate 2-lane cycle path running across the water. You can only just see the buildings and windmills on the other side looking tiny on the horizon as you start to cross It was opened in 1932 and there are displays about the truly boggling amount of materials and labour it took to build. I was nervous about cycling it as I thought we would be so exposed, but there is a higher bank on the North Sea side which gives quite a bit of shelter most of the way across. At the two points where the path rises up to the top of the bank, and you can see all the water stretching away, it is just stunning. We stopped at one of these, where the is a lookout tower and a restaurant, took some photos and had a coffee. Legs a little more tired tonight but it was completely worth it.
To reach the dike we cycled through lovely Dutch countryside and the town of Hoorn, which we visited last year. We had glorious sunshine in the afternoon and a very moderate wind, mostly from the side or at our backs. Navigation was mostly easy except at one strange junction shortly before Hoorn where the signs sent us right round in a circle. Tried again and nearly complete the second loop before deciding this was pointless and heading off another way. I still don’t understand what they were trying to get us to do.
Various friendly chats and enquiries about where we are from. I have put a small saltire on the back of my bike and Bruce’s bike has an Australian flag – for his spiritual home and in honour of his Dad (you can see a picture on Bruce’s blog here). I would say enquiries about the flags are roughly 50-50: we have had a few people who have spent time in Australia, but plenty of others who have recognised the Scottish flag and asked about it. One man out walking his dog past our impromptu picnic site in Wieringerwerf was intrigued by our cycle helmets and told us all about his many cycling trips in Friesland, all without wearing a cycle helmet, of course.
One thing about today’s route that lived up entirely to expectations: it was flat. Really flat. Pancake-like. Over the whole distance, the highest point was only about 30 feet above sea level. The lowest point was about 35 feet below sea level. When we eventually meet hills on this trip it is going to be a real shock to the system.