CURRENT LOCATION: Vlissingen, The Netherlands
I’m coming to the conclusion that The Netherland is one big engineering project. Today was dominated by the dams and dykes of the west coast. I was told yesterday- I think it was Professor Matthias – that a dam is a barrier between water and water and a dyke is a barrier between water and land. I couldn’t quite work out if the barriers upon which I cycled were dams or dykes as although most separated the sea from the land, the land itself was full of large lakes. Answers on a postcard. (Or in a comment…)
The route-finding seems to be working well. I don’t know why as I’m not trying very hard. It’s a mixture of following the knooppunts (still need to check that spelling) and being reassured when I see a EuroVelo 12 sign or one of the signs in red lettering that the Dutch use to point you in the direction of a specific place. I’m actually writing this in the town of Middelburg where, after a leisurely stroll around the town (very beautiful) I found a park and have been watching the world go by. So I haven’t actually got to Vlissingen yet but, bearing in mind my success so far in not getting lost and the fact that the route follows a pencil-straight canal all the way, I’m confident I will arrive having clocked up a total of 69km for the day.
A few of those kilometres could, admittedly, have been avoided – probably 5 or 6 – if I hadn’t ignored the deviation sign on top of one of the dams/dykes. There had been a music event called ‘Concert at Sea’ on one of the dams/dykes (someone is going to have to set me right on which is correct!) and the road and cycle path had been blocked. It gives you some idea of just how huge these things are that someone can host a music festival on top of one of them. Anyway, the music event had finished so I tried my luck. Without success… The route was still blocked and, for a few kilometres as I retraced my steps north, I was at least able to be pushed by the gentle breeze that is blowing from the south-west, rather than against it which is what I’ve been doing for most of my time since leaving the Hook of Holland. The alternative route took me on a different cycle path on the land side of the dam/dyke.
On the subject of which, it is breathtaking the extent to which there are so many high quality cycle paths and just how good the infrastructure is that supports those paths (priority at roundabouts, traffic light signals for cyclists, signage…). We all know the Dutch do the cycling thing well but I don’t think most of us realise just how phenomenally well they do it. Britain, in comparison, is in the Beazer Homes League (and in the relegation zone). Incidental question: do the Dutch have a word for ‘pothole’? If they do, it must be an entirely superfluous bit of the language (perhaps used to mock the British where we probably have dozens of words for potholes…)
The engineering stuff keeping the land the land and the sea the sea is equally as impressive. Well maintained and visually stunning, as are the urban areas, and the rural areas, and the bits in between… They are all examples of how the Dutch politicians (brace yourselves) seem to put people at the heart of their mission in life. Whereas in Britain we have Tory politicians who are too busy scandalising themselves, in Russia Putin too busy fighting people and in America senators ensuring archaic rights to gun ownership are maintained, in The Netherlands it would appear that the politicians are hell bent on making their country a very nice place in which to live. How strange!
Middelburg is a delight. I’m guessing it might have suffered quite badly in the world wars of the 20th century. If so, they’ve done a wonderful rebuilding job.
Tonight I’m booked in for my first ever night with a ‘Vrienden op de Fiets’. Google it! I’ll let you know how I get on tomorrow…
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