Last summer I again crossed a large distance with my girlfriend by bike. Starting out from Utrecht, we went south through Nieuwegein and crossed the Lek near Vianen. Continuing south, we found ourselves quickly in the "Land van Maas en Waal", after using the small pont near Brakel, which takes a bike across for 60 cents.
Continuing on just a little bit further, we stopped at a beautiful little camping site near Nederhemert, a tiny town which sits on a small peninsula, sandwitched between two little ferries both going across a side-track of the Maas. We biked a total of 55 kilometers on the first day! Just a short stroll from the camping there is an old castle, with a small rough woodlands around it. It is there that I asked my girlfriend to marry me, after almost 7 years of being madly in love, and without hesitation she replied "yes", after some initial shock. That made me the happiest man on Earth, of course.
The next day we worked our way through 70 kilometers of hot weather, coming across the beatiful "Loonse and Drunense Hei" to find ourselves a place to put up our tent in Mierlo.
After getting ourselves dinner, cold beers and red wine, we were welcomed back with a breathtaking sunset, which wrestled with the night for more than an hour. We only returned to our tent when she was finally defeated.
The next day we took it a bit slow and went to Ittervoort, both very close to the Belgian border,and to the famous white town of "Thorn". We crossed about 40 km that day. We visited Thorn, which is a nice and quiet town, where a lot of the houses were painted white, because during the French occupation there was a tax on windows with glass. So, a lot of the windows were removed, resulting in very ugly houses. To make the houses nicer to look at, they were all painted brightly white. At least, this is the historical reason I've heard of.
The next day brought us to Maastricht after 50 kilometers of cycling along side the Maas canal. Maastricht is the oldest town in the Netherlands, in fact, it was founded by the Romans. They called it "Mesotraiectum", or passable spot in the Maas river. We stayed 2 nights and did a walking tour through town, which showed us the old Roman parts, as well as the 12th century old city walls.
A famous square in Maastricht is the "Vrijthof", which has the red St. Janstoren, and the St. Servaas basiliek. The tower was not always red, it was also reported white, and yellow in the past.
After maastricht we followed the canal north again, with a killer climb, which I think was at "Berg aan de maas", which in Dutch means "Mountain at the Maas", we ended up just south of Roermond, at a very large camping site, which was mainly occupied by travelers with big yaghts and boats. This was again about 50 kilometers of cycling.
The next day my rear tire decided it was enough. Luckily enough, the bike shop at the railstation in Roermond was opened. Deciding to take the most expensive tire (50 euro's in total or so), we continued our way 2 hours later. We continued north for 62 kilometers to end up in a campsite in Well, where they just finished a party, so there was a lot of bad music, the smell of old beer, and drunks. Not too bad in the end. We went into town and had a drink ourselves in one of the cafe's there. I had my first "ice-Heineken" ever, which they serve from those ice-covered taps. Heineken, and just very cold. Nice, because it was summer, but beyond that, not worth the trouble.
The next day brought us through the hills south of Nijmegen. They have a hiking race each year for students there, called the "zevenheuvelenloop", or the cun across seven hills. Quite a couple of steep climbs, but moving north towards Arnhem was a spectacular downhill. I wouldn't recommend biking it from north to south. In Arnhem we crossed the Nederrijn, the final end of the Rhine river.
This stretch is quite famous for the battle during the 2nd world war, where operation Market Garden failed to liberate Arnhem and the Netherlands north of the Rhine river. Along the side of the river there are still memorials and some old canons.
Driving through the center of Arnhem, we continued north, and uphill again, to a very nice campingsite in the woods, in a little town called Schaarsbergen. This part of the trip was about 75 kilometers, with a lot of hills, so we were wasted. A nice meal, some drinks and another sunset finished off the day quite nicely.
We spend a full day at Maastricht, doing a tour through the city (by foot again) and visiting the water museum, which is quite nice. It shows a lot of information about water, and the different waterways in the Netherlands. It was fun to follow the route we bike by following the different canals and rivers we saw.
The final day, it rained all of a sudden. When we were waiting for more than an our, inside a pancake restaurant, wet to the bone, we decided to go to Ede and take the train from there back to Utrecht. So, we only biked 18 kilometers the last day.
We look back at 420 great kilometers! To anyone who took the time reading this, I really recommend taking a look at the Netherlands from a bike. Especially between May and September, when you are lucky enough to hit nice weather, which usually than stays for 1 or 2 weeks.
I will try to keep this blog more updated, slowly gaining in time. The next blog will be about my PhD defense, which I succesfully finished the 11th of December!