Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Doesburg, Hattum and Points North on the Bike

Tuesday, August 18; Doesburg to Hattum
Tuesday morning dawned with blue skies along the River Ijssel. A hardy band of five were slated for the long course so we put them on the quay and cast off. No sooner than we had left the mooring they discovered a flat tire in the group. Those on the Lena got a good laugh, took their photo and headed down river to Deventer.

On an historical note, the Rhine bridge at Deventer was the stand-in for the Arnhem bridge during the filming of “The Bridge Too Far.”

After nearly three hours on the winding river we were dropped off and paused, after cycling about 200 yards, for a look around the town which was famous for its gingerbread. As we cycled from town we met the “long” group sitting by the fountain in the main square.

We took a foot ferry to the west bank of the Ijssel and spent the afternoon on the curving dike west of the river. In this area the towns are on the opposite side of the river so we were surrounded by farms and contented cows and experienced very little auto traffic. The dike, in most places, is several hundred yards from the river and the potential flood zone is used for cattle and crops.

A Word About the Name: Are we in the Netherlands or Holland?
The Netherlands is often called Holland, because of the role the two western provinces North and South Holland played in its history. This region encompasses Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and other well-known Dutch cities such as Delft, Leiden and Haarlem. However, officially, it is the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of three parts: the Netherlands itself in Western Europe and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the Caribbean. Many people refer to all of the Netherlands as Holland. Both names work just fine! In any case, all the people are Dutch.

The Lena was backed into a smaller, quiet canal at the town of Hattum. The canal is still used for recreation but no longer for commercial transport. We arrived at about 4:00 pm, dropped the bikes at the boat and headed for town. In most towns we arrive too late to enjoy the shops, which close at 6:00. While it saves Euros it is fun to see what is available.

Following dinner Lea put us on our bikes and led a “water themed” group 2 km. out of town for a photo opportunity. Clad in life preservers, life rings and other water related paraphernalia we posed for photos taken by a passing Dutchman who, as it turned out, didn’t know how to use a camera. But all ended well.

A Word About Dutch-German Relations: The Dutch and the Germans are neighbors. Both are in the EU and citizens travel freely between the two countries. But rivalries and history linger just below the surface.

Near the end of the war fleeing German soldiers “borrowed” horses, carts, cars and, most importantly, bicycles from the local population. The Dutch remember that time.

Now the battle has moved to the soccer field. Both countries watch closely when the Netherlands plays Germany in World Cup competition. Fans bring signs of all sorts to urge their teams on. According to our guides you will often see the following sign in the Dutch stands as a reminder of the past.

“Send Grandpa’s Bicycle Back!”

Wednesday, August 19: Hattum to Kampen
Hattum and Kampen are just a short distance apart on the Ijssel River. Not to be deterred, however, the guides put together long and short trips to keep us occupied exploring new sights.

The short ride spent more time in Hattum and points along the way for a ride of about 20 miles (with multiple coffee stops!)

The long ride, with Lea, was a long ride! Under sunny skies we headed north and east, with morning coffee in Hasselt, where mannequins along the street marked an upcoming city celebration.

Aimed north again we headed to “peat” country and the town of Giethoorn. In ancient times local residents harvested peat from the boggy flatlands, dried it and sold it in Amsterdam for fuel. The peat logs, about 12” x 4” x 4” were dried and then burned. The harvest activity left a series of canals in a grid like pattern throughout the area.

Now Geithoorn is thought of as “Venice of the North” with its web of canals. It is a summer recreation area dotted with homes, docks and bridges. The narrow (about 18 inch) one way bridges range from 10 to 20 feet in length and the crowds of bicycles and walkers make movement a challenge. A sign at the edge of town urges cyclists to walk their bikes but Lea advised that since we didn’t read Dutch we could claim ignorance!

After crossing bridge after bridge (Sherm counted 122 for the day) we escaped to open country. The place is flatter than flat. As we continued east and north I began to despair of ever heading south and west toward the Lena. But finally the turn was made and we began our trip back “home.”

Beer and ice cream in Blokzijl charged us for the final segment. After eight hours on the road and about 60 miles of travel we were delighted to see signs for Kampan where the Lena was waiting.

The final bridge was an artful affair with bright yellow cable wheels high in the air to lift the driving surface vertically allowing ships to pass.

The Lena was moored inboard to another “bike-barge” ship. The guests on that boat were quite envious of our accommodations and guides.

Following dinner we were led on a tour of town before settling down for the evening.

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