Part 3 from Marion of her rides through Europe. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
I left Cologne on the Rhine Radweg and made good progress as far as the huge Ford factory on the outskirts, so large that it has 3 stations on the S Bahn. Here I became hopelessly lost and added several kilometres to the trip! Suffice to say there are huge new industrial estates, blocked roads, new motorways etc etc etc, none of which of course are shown on my old map. Anyway I made it through and after a night in Düsseldorf made it to the charming hostel at Kevelaer from where I spent a day visiting Xanten. The Roman Archaeological Park has fascinating reconstructions of parts of the site plus an indoor museum with the excavated baths in a climate controlled environment under a fabulous roof mirroring the baths’ original footprint.
From Kevelaer the road led me back towards the Netherlands at Venlo but not before I spent a night as the only individual guest along with 130 children at the wonderful Hinsbeck Nettetal Jugendherberge. High on a hill, it is a special Circus Hostel! Inside the public areas are decorated with mobiles of clowns, cyclists, trapeze artists etc and all the bed linen is circus themed. The children were there learning circus skills, including riding unicycles and on the Saturday would be putting on a circus show for their families in the real red and white striped big top behind the hostel. Wonderful fun for all. Also on the door were the C*M*B* marks of the 3 Kings from Epiphany. Next week another group of children arrive.
I quickly made it back into the Netherlands at Veno but only really realised because I could no longer understand what people were saying or read the notices but more importantly because the signing on the cycle routes suddenly showed a massive improvement and the Knoopunte system started again. Usefully they are now putting small signs about 100m from each Knoopunt informing you that you are nearing it. This helps to avoid the annoying business of riding past a point and missing the way. However, it’s not foolproof and a spot of day-dreaming can lead to many unwanted Kilometres.
On the way through this rather hilly, wooded area of the Netherlands with which I was not familiar I stayed at the recently sold hostel at Valkenswaard with its cell like bedrooms and antiquated plumbing. Nevertheless it was friendly and clean. On to Tilburg, once known as a pioneering cycling city but because it did not seem very different to any other Netherlands town I had a look and according to this article from 2014 that is no longer the case; apparently things can go backwards as well as forwards, even in cycling mad Netherlands.
At Bergen op Zoom I met a german lady of about my age who was also on a long summer tour on an interesting Velotraum bicycle. Last year she had spent 6 months cycling alone and enjoyed it, despite being warned by her friends and family that she would come to a bad end at the hands of ‘nasty people’. We understood each other! She was heading out to Middelburg at the very western edge of the Netherlands where a whole series of islands have been linked by bridges all with cycle paths.
From there I’ve zig-zagged my way up the Netherlands staying in various hostels and B&Bs until yesterday I reached 1475Km and Texel in the Frisian Islands. It’s long been a dream to spend the longest days of summer here so you can imagine my disappointment when I woke on June 21st to pouring rain. Even the dutch were sheltering. However by 10.30 it cleared and I had a great day cycling the dykes to the northern tip of the island. It’s a beautiful place and also home to the magnificent Texel sheep.
Highlights of the trip so far have been:
Staying in the Rotterdam cube houses, which now house the youth hostel.
Crossing again the edge of the Hoge Veluwe National Park with its almost tropical landscape.
Having all the dry lube washed off in torrential rain and then cycling the 26 km Lelystad Enkhuizen dam across the south of the Ijselmeer.
Crossing again the northern polders, a quiet land of huge skies, to Den Helder and the ferry to Texel. In the Shropshire lad, Houseman wrote: Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun, are the quietest places under the sun. Noord Holland and Friesland could challenge for the title any day.
And finally on a very hot day there is sometimes the delicious smell of water falling on hot tarmac and you know you could be in for the treat of a free shower from a whirling sprinkler irrigating the fields!
We look forward to publishing the final instalment with some photos and a round up of Marion’s thoughts.