Cycling in Holland: Zevenaar to Aalsmeer

Five years ago Topher and I spent a month cycling in the Netherlands.  Since then I’ve had a number of cycle-tourers ask, “how could you possibly spend so long in the Netherlands?  I crossed it in two days on my bicycle.”  Well, it’s not really such a small country — in area, twice the size of Antalya or New Jersey — and there’s a lot to see.  It was great to be back.

It's not totally obvious in the photo, but this canal is higher than the surrounding land by bryandkeith on flickr

Holland is well-run and clean, the people are super, and the cycling facilities are the best in the world.  It really is such a joy to cycle there, almost always on car-free bicycle paths.  When there are road crossings, the drivers are always watching for cyclists.  As Gertjan pointed out to me years ago, most of the drivers are also frequent cyclists.  They understand that car drivers ought to respect cyclists.  Doesn’t sound like rocket science, but respect is a rare trait in the world’s motorists.

DSCN9332 by bryandkeith on flickr

Does it get any more Dutch than this?  Eating stroopwafels while waiting for the rain to stop:

Hot tea and stroopwaffels.  As soon as we took down the tent, it started to pour, and we took shelter in the employee break area of a nearby restaurant.  A kind employee brought us hot tea. by bryandkeith on flickr

Just like five years ago with Topher, Ferda and I stayed with Gertjan’s mother, Nen, in Groenekan, spent a few days visiting Amsterdam, and had a super time with Myra in Aalsmeer (Anthony came over one night, too).  I miss my Dutch friends.  I feel like I get along with the Dutch more easily than any other nationality.  The Dutch are good at secularism, acceptance, and respect — traits the world needs more of.

Myra, Ferda, Anthony by bryandkeith on flickr

In Woudenbourg, between rain squalls, we met up with my longtime Dutch friend, Gertjan, who took us to the tallest pyramid in the Netherlands on the way to his mother’s house.  Wow, she was happy to see me again and excited to hear about how Topher is doing.  The following day Gertjan took us to the tallest cathedral in the Netherlands.  I had fun seeing the center of Utrecht again, a small version of central Amsterdam.  There Ferda went in her first “coffeeshop”, something she didn’t have the courage to do on her own when she visited Amsterdam a couple years ago for work.

DSCN9302 by bryandkeith on flickr

Pyramid of Austerlitz by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9292 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9298 by bryandkeith on flickr

Does it get any more Dutch than this?  Gertjan treated us to raw herring and raw onion sandwiches in the rain in Utrecht.  Ferda hated it.

A real Dutch experience -- eating raw herring and onion sandwichs in the rain.  Ferda thought it was awful. by bryandkeith on flickr

After pedalling some 1400km (??) from Geneva, we rolled into Amsterdam the day before the biggest party of the year — the Gay Pride Parade.  We donned our pink shirts and joined the crowds.  What a blast.

Amsterdam traffic by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9386 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9347 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9356 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9364 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9366 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9370 by bryandkeith on flickr

The following day we did the typical Amsterdam tourist stuff — bicycle around the canals, take lots of photos, pose as dairy farmers, visit the Red Light District at night, buy a marijuana brownie — all in unusual Dutch weather.  After ten days of rain in a row, we had three sunny, warm days in Amsterdam.  There’s a Dutch joke that goes:

“What’d you do this summer?”

“Oh, I missed it.  I was in the bathroom.”

DSCN9424 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9428 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9453 by bryandkeith on flickr

Dutch dairy farmers by bryandkeith on flickr

Although Ferda felt a bit more Thai than Dutch, her yellow shirt made for a couple good “Where’s Waldo?” photos.

DSCN9447 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9440 by bryandkeith on flickr

Does it get any more Dutch than this?  Myra treated us to bread, butter, and chocolate sprinkles.  I preferred the herring.

A very typical part of a Dutch breakfast -- bread, butter, and chocolate sprinkles by bryandkeith on flickr

We spent the last day of our trip with Myra on the canals next to her house in Aalsmeer.

DSCN9475 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9484 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9492 by bryandkeith on flickr

Just like five years ago with Topher, Myra’s wonderful neighbour, Kees, took us and our two big bicycle boxes to the airport in his huge red van.  Thanks, Kees!

Bryan, Kees, Myra by bryandkeith on flickr

Does it get any more Dutch this this?

Somewhere between Groenekan and Utretch by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9328 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9461 by bryandkeith on flickr

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2 Responses to Cycling in Holland: Zevenaar to Aalsmeer

  1. Mandy Gallagher says:

    Hi Bryan, great travel report! Holland seems like a wonderful country, especially on a bike. Me and my husband want to go on a bike trip through Holland also this year. We are looking for a operator to arrange the trip for us. Did you went with a bike tour operator or just planned it all by yourself? So far I’ve found http://www.hollandcycletours.com/ and http://www.eurobike.at/en but not much else of notice. Do you happen to know any reliable operators? Thanks! Mandy

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Mandy,
      We simply planned the trip ourselves. Holland is an easy country to bicycle tour though free camping can be challenging to find. If you have money to stay in campgrounds every night, they’re fairly easy to find and not too far apart. If you have money to stay in hotels/pensions every night, well, you’ll have a blast! Maps are easy to find and very detailed. The problem with arriving with a set itinerary is the weather. Seems it can be very rainy.

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