Sunday, 27 September 2009

Assen and beyond

Pete and I have just spent a week just outside of Assen in The Netherlands. We stayed in a log cabin in the woods owned by a friend of mine. We were near a small town called Zuidlaren, which is a beautiful town and a lovely place to spend a few days - it has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.

We travelled on the Friday overnight Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland. This is a relaxing way to travel - fall asleep in England and wake up as you arrive in The Netherlands. We did a similar journey back in May.

We had plans to fill the week, travelling around the region and were very lucky to have sunny weather every day, which meant we could use the bikes as there are cycle paths everywhere. We started on Saturday with dinner with my friend and his family and on Sunday went for a long ride ending in Zuidlaren where a market was taking place. We had a fantastic pizza in the evening.

On Monday we travelled to Schiermonnikoog (yeah, try and pronounce it correctly!), the most northerly island in the country. It has hardly any cars and as there are cycle paths throughout, we spent several hours exploring with a couple of coffee and beers stops. After that we went to a sanctuary that is well known in Europe - so we were told. They do great work and the seals are so clever and inquisitive - I took this picture through a viewing hole and the seal appeared to love the attention.

On Tuesday we attended a massive market and horse sale in Roden then cycled into Grogingen - the biggest town in the area. We took a wrong turn and found the red light district - basically a street full of houses with big front windows. I wondered if it was a right of passage for a Dutch teenage boy to visit a prostitute?

On Wednesday we traveled to a small village called Bourtange near the German border which has been rebuilt as it was hundreds of years ago with an amazing moat with 10 metre high walls. This image was taken from the tourist site and shows the clear star design that makes up the moats around the medieval village. After that we went into Germany for lunch (because my friend Dominic insists that German sausages are the best) and then to a huge forest for a walk in the sunshine.

In between the trips out, we spent time with my mate and ate and drank beer. Pete managed (and I also was partly guilty) in having coffee and apple cake every day. What a brilliant tradition these Dutch have... order some coffee and get cake for only a few pennies more!

The journey home was also eventful. We drove to the port the long way round, over the Afsluitdijk - the longest dike in the Country. It's very strange driving 20 miles along a huge dam - it's an impressive piece of engineering. We took a detour to Scheveningen (another fun one to try and pronounce) as I had been there when I was 17 and had fond memories of the place.

Back to work tomorrow - boo!

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  1. Yes, I've cycled through some of the northern islands, although we didn't get as far north as you because we had other things to do with our week!

    One interesting thing we found, staying on an island overnight in a B&B, was that our hosts spoke German and a little Dutch. We spoke a little Dutch and hardly any German!

    It's surprising just how well people can communicate with little bits of 'universl' language and a lot of goodwill!

    The ability to cycle everywhere with little danger from road traffic and to stop here and there for food and drink was among the best anywhere I've been.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our times there - sounds like you did too!

  2. sounds truly delightful...Im a tad jealous;)