Just an easy run today to try to get my legs going, as I haven’t done very much cycling this year. We travelled overnight on the ferry from Newcastle and then cycled to Volendam. Very easy cycling day – flat, the usual wonderful Netherlands cycle paths and only a small part of the day battling the wind. It took us rather more than 2hrs 16mins: Google never seem to allow for route finding, waiting at bridges and level crossings and general faffing time.
Yesterday was a cycling rest day – just a short pedal to visit the museum and windmills of Zanse Schans. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the Amsterdam area: well-presented museum with lots of social and industrial history of the Zaan region, which has been very important over the centuries, and a large outdoor museum area (the Dutch do seem to love outdoor museums) which is rather touristy but still has fascinating working windmills and craft demonstrations. Didn’t realise windmills were used for quite so many different purposes (extracting oils from seeds, making paper and as sawmills, amongst other things), nor did I know how much industry there was in this area in the past. The combination of wind power and canals for transport was a pretty obvious advantage if I had thought about it at all. Some of the industries made the transition to electric power and although there were references to various major factories that closed down in the 20th century, there is obviously still plenty of industrial activity around the Zaan today.
One of the windmills, Het Jonge Schap (the young sheep – couldn’t get an explanation of the name) was a replica of an earlier windmill that was demolished some time ago, but very fortunately only after someone had taken very precise measurements of each part of it. There was a fascinating video showing how they rebuilt it, as recently as 2007. This one is a sawmill, which seemed almost recursive to me – a lot of very skilled carpenters use wooden planks and blocks (and a bit of metalwork) to build an enormous machine which cuts tree trunks into planks and blocks… We also saw another mill in action turning linseed into oil and cattle cake. Glad we visited on a windy day and saw everything working.
Today our incredible run of luck with the weather ran out and we had a nasty, gusting wind and some fairly heavy rain at times. We had a few thoughts about where to go, including a nature reserve and cycling down to Haarlem, but I didn’t fancy wandering round any of these places in the rain so we went for a ride up the Zaan to a place called Spijkerboor and back by a different route. Wind in our faces most of the way back and we were soaked but it was not cold and for some inexplicable reason, I really enjoyed the ride.
Bikes go back to the hire shop tomorrow and we return regretfully to ‘old clothes and porridge’ on Saturday. Looking forward to being back on my own bike but will really miss the Dutch cycling infrastructure. Gratuitous couple of photos of Bruce in his cycling plumage to end the record of this trip. Tot ziens!
We found a different landscape and cycling experience on Monday by taking the bikes on the train to Den Helder at the top of the North Holland peninsula and cycling back to Zaandam. Continue reading
Instead of a false flat, the landscape in the photo is a false slope – my first ever attempt to take a picture on the move on my bicycle and obviously not completely successful. Cyclists do everything on the move here, from shifting completely unwieldy objects and multiple people by bike to cycling without apparently paying any attention to the road – but all without accidents as far as I have seen. Best was a man cycling along typing something on his phone while a small girl was stretched along the crossbar in front of him reading a magazine. He still moved over quickly as we approached and the girl didn’t even look up, so there is some sixth sense involved that I don’t have.
Back in Netherlands cycling heaven so have something worth writing about! Not touring this year as this is a convalescent trip – instead we are staying in a very comfortable hotel in Zaandam and exploring in day trips
We followed a recommended tourist cycle route today from a few miles north of Zaandam in a loop round a major area of reclaimed agricultural land. You can see from the photo that the land lies a bit lower than the canal to the other side of the dyke. The land was apparently first drained more than 1,000 years ago, and the drying out causes it to sink slightly. These days there are pumping stations at strategic points round the dyke and they have to keep a careful balance. In very dry weather, according to our information leaflet, they pump water back into the network of waterways around the fields. Continue reading
We live in the West End. Since Edinburgh is such a compact city, anywhere in the city centre is within walking distance and we are near several bus routes, the tram and Haymarket station. (We are not, alas, near a telephone exchange that will allow us to have fibre broadband at home, but that is a whole other grievance.) I have wondered for a while whether I really need a car, and certainly the cycle leader of the household manages fine with no driving licence – now that he is recovering a little and getting back on two wheels.
Quick note in praise of the work of the Bikestation to promote cycling and to give old bikes and bike-parts a new lease of life. I took three of our old bikes to them a couple of weeks ago (Bruce blogged about that here), including one with a broken frame, and today they willingly took a unicycle, bike rack and elderly turbo trainer. I hope they can find good uses for them!
Alas, no opportunity to move all of these items by Urban Arrow, so had to use the car. Getting towards the last stages of the decluttering, though, so I need to try to find a way to bring in pedal power again before I am done.
Since we are still not able to go away touring, my main project in the last few weeks has been decluttering the house, which is sadly necessary after many years of not making good decisions about items accumulated. I found a way to incorporate cycling into this today by hiring an Urban Arrow cargo bike from the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling via Laid Back Bikes in Marchmont. Turned out to be great fun!