De Eenzame Fietser

Fleamarkets again and again are the sources of nice surprises. Look at this vinyl record, for instance:

RGrootIt´s by Dutch singer-songwriter Boudewijn de Groot (b. 1941), who had some hits in the sixties and seventies. The translation of the title would be “How strong is the lonely cyclist”, and the record first came out in 1973. The sleeve being a gatefold, this is what you find in the inner expanses:

RGrootinner

Here is another cyclist, head bent down, obviously battling a headwind. Don´t we all know the feeling.

On Sunday, 05 Jan, through the good services of a friend, my son got a press pass for the Dutch Sixdays in the Rotterdam Ahoy arena, Europe´s biggest event centre. Understandably, he was very keen to go and assemble the raw material for another cycling film. I also thought it was a good idea, and as the press pass would grant us free and uncomplicated parking, we took the Volvo with my Ellis-Briggs Randonneur inside, because the weather forecast was brilliant, and I just felt like getting out and going for a ride in a place I´d never really been before. My aim for the day was to reach the sea, or, failing that, at least have a look at the van Herwerden bike shop in Voorburg, a suburb of the Dutch capital Den Haag. Why van Herwerden? Easy:

https://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/is-this-art-or-can-i-chuck-it/

So here we were, shortly before the gates opened, looking at what must be one of Europe´s biggest billboards:

RAhoyPlank

A cycling event of the highest order…RAhoyrekl6d

The Rotterdam Sixdays…RAhoytmFrom January 2nd to 7th, 2014.

My son picked up his press pass, met up with the friend, and I had six hours off. So getting on the bike, asking the super friendly Ahoy staff for directions and zooming off was a matter of minutes. Soon I was completely taken aback by the spectacular Rotterdam architecture:

RHavenHighriseI nearly overlooked the markings on the cyclepaths.

RTdFSome minutes later, I had left the bustling city behind me and could start cycling for real – the first outing this year.

ROrtssleaveYou can´t call this Dutch landscape spectacular at first sight, but if you look closely, what you can make out is that most canals actually are above the level of the fields – and both are below sea level. This landscape is wholly man made, and as such it is spectacular after all.

RKanaal2The infrastructure behind this system is huge – locks, pumping stations, dams, canals. The authority looking after the security of canals, roads and the railways is called Rijkswaterstaat – the canal system giving the name to the whole Dutch traffic authority which prides itself to ensure “dry feet, clean water and speedy traffic” – again in this order.

There´s water everywhere, and people don´t just live with it, some seem to live in it.

Rhousekanaal

Anyway, the cyclepath system is also quite spectacular – even in a place you´ve never been to you don´t need a map as there are signposts everywhere. The rough direction is all you need to be aware of. The importance of the cycle for the Dutch becomes clear when you take in the meaning of this frequently found signpost:

RDoorgaandIt says Through Traffic, meaning of course that the Dutch use their bikes for relatively long distances.

What´s missing? Yes, of course:

RWindmillBut then again, not everywhere it´s idyllic. This is what expects you shortly before you reach Voorburg:

Rmotorway

And then you´re there: A typical Dutch town of which I can never get enough.

RVoorbortssch

RVoorbpedestrOozing history and good life, somehow. I don´t know if I´m alone in this, but I still feel quite privileged to be able to just go and visit – no visa, not even a passport control on the border, the same currency, friendly people showing me the way. Just hopping on their bikes and enjoying a ride in Holland isn´t something my grandparents could have done, so I think I should feel grateful that I can, and I do.

On my way back I met with a number of interesting views, like this, of the Rotterdam skyline from about 10 miles away,

Rskylineor this, of a high rise in Nootboom, a suburb of the Hague:

RNootdbuilgMostly the roads signposted for bicycle traffic look like this, though,

RSmallrdor like this.

ROpenkanaalDutch is a language I really like and try to speak acceptably. Sometimes my English gets in the way, though. The little orange sign of course doesn´t mean that the driver is having a snooze, but it is attached to a vehicle being “on tow”.

RSleep

Soon I was nearing Rotterdam again, and had a minute or two to look at this magnificent roundabout.

RroundaboutIt being a Sunday, many Rotterdammers had the leisure to visit the Da Vinci Exposition in the former post office on Coolsingel.

RdaVinciqueueTwo spectacular things were waiting for me still. First, the Maritiem Museum, with a lot of colourful outside exhibitions.

RMarMusEB

RMarMusNameplRMarMusfullIn the third photo, the second attraction is already visible: The cable stayed Erasmus bridge. Named after one of Rotterdam´s most famous sons, it was opened in 1996 and has since been nicknamed “the swan”. The high rises flanking it make the whole ensemble absolutely worth a visit.

RErasmBrfull

ERasmbrcables

RErasmbrstütze

RErasmbrEBSoon I was back at the Ahoy, arriving at the car park within a minute of my son. He said that he had had some spectacular opportunities of capturing track racing (which will appear on your tube sooner or later), but I was glad I had chosen my lonely ride.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 19, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent travelogue – and once again I find myself really wanting to visit the Dutch towns and countryside.

  2. Posted January 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, Mark. If you do come to the Netherlands, you´ll have to visit us too.

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