Thursday, 17 November 2016

T4rdis2 Tour 2 - Day 139 - 141 Netherlands

Day 139
Tuesday 15th November 2016 - Low cloud and lots of mizzlely rain

This morning we checked out of our Stellplatz in Amsterdam and headed for the nearby Windmills at Zaanse Schans,  a place that presents the image of a typical nineteenth century residential and industrial area, but it hasn't always been as it appears today.  In 1959 a group of people from the region became concerned about the disappearance of numerous historic buildings, so using plans drawn up by an architect - Jaap Schipper - they started to move historic buildings and windmills to form this living museum that is now a major tourist attraction.

When we first arrived the rain had stopped so we took the opportunity to explore the quite waterways that criss cross this area, and while we were walking we had the pleasure of watching loads of waterbirds from the numerous little bridges.

And just to make up for missing my shot a heron in my last post, I've popped this one in - he was a sitting duck!

Eventually the path led us around to where the windmills are situated, but in times gone by this would have been much more industrial that it is today.  We learnt that in it's heyday this waterway supported around six hundred industrial windmills, and apparently, the area blossomed due to it's proximity to Amsterdam, because that was where the shiploads of raw materials landed.

Now, when I look at windmills I always think of them as machines that grind grain into flour, but this was not the function of these mills - their uses ranged from the production of cocoa, pigments,  paper, oil and wood, and today, some of the ones that have survived still perform these activities as museums.  However, on a wet windy Tuesday most of them were closed so we continued on our way into the 'village' where we found more preserved historic buildings from the late 1800s, and as many of these were shops they were open.


We nipped into the cheese shop but these specimens seemed a bit to brightly coloured to actually eat!

And although there were loads of 'shops' we could have visited, the clog shop caught our interest the most. We discovered that, depending on the region and the use of the clog, they come in many different shapes and presentations, and that some were even made for animals.

The ones on the left are for a horse!

Also for weddings, clog making was important, because in times gone by the bridegroom would traditionally carve a pair of clogs by hand for his bride, and the examples on display were beautifully intricate.

We also found clogs that had been converted into musical instruments and ones that had been added to for sporting activities.  However, I couldn't find a pair with cleats in for John!  And amongst all the others we also found humorous ones!

Laughing Clogs!

Eventually we emerged from this extraordinary place, but by now it was pouring again so we quickly scampered back to the dry confines of T4rdis2 and set off for a camp site called Noordduinen (right by the North Sea) in the town of Katwijk, and this where we'll make our home for the next few days.

Day 140
Wednesday 16th November 2016 - A bit windy and a bit cloudy at times, but lots of lovely sunshine in between.

Today was a real treat, sunshine, cycling, and impressive vistas.  I think we'd really missed being able to go out on our bikes over the last few day, although I suppose we could have used them in Amsterdam.  The city was certainly bike friendly enough, but it was incredibly busy with pedestrians, trams, cars and of course bikes, all of which seemed to be travelling at speed in every direction that you looked.  Added to that, we'd heard about an old saying there - if you shout 'Hey that's my bike' at least 5 people will get off  the one they are riding and scarper! Therefore, it felt much safer to leave them at home and use Shank's pony instead.

Spot the deer
Then spot him again!
Anyway, back to today, and as we left the campsite we were straight onto a brilliant cycle trail that followed the coast but took us through a vast sand dune area that had been supplied with individual paths to cater for the needs of bikers, walkers and gallopers!  We didn't see any of the latter with riders but we did spot deer lurking in the undergrowth on 2 occasions, and both times it seemed to be a case of who was watching whom!

The trail led us first to Noordwijk and then on to Zandvoort, but before I tell you about them I feel I must just make more comments about the trail itself because it was an absolute pleasure to ride on.  It was tarmacked and divided into 2 lanes, and as we went we commented that it was actually better than a good many of the roads we have driven along (especially in Portugal)! However, it wasn't flat - it undulated with the contours of the dunes, so as well as providing lovely views, it also gave us a bit of much needed exercise.
Noordwijk proved to be a very pretty and fairly upmarket seaside town that looked down over part of the 13km stretch of lovely sandy beach.  It was backed by grand hotels where bell hops hopped out to collect your luggage, and also lots of restaurants and cafes, but probably it's main claim to fame is related to Bulb cultivation and exhibitions, and with respect to that it can trace it's history back to 1880.  Apparently, not only tulips are grown here, but also daffodils and gladioli flourish in the vast sandy fields that lie behind the dunes - it must be a magnificent site, and one we plan to come back to see in the spring.

Further along the coast we came to the town of Zandvoort,  one of the Netherlands major beach resorts, and also the site of Circuit Park Zandvoort - a place where Formula 1 Grand Prix races used to be held, and one that now hosts numerous sporting events including several related to cycling. Additionally, the town has quite a torrid history from  World War II,  suffering  heavy damage from bombing, and in the summer of 1942 the town was made ready for the coastal fortifications of the 'Atlantic Wall'.  This was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion from Great Britain.  However, even though the defences included huge guns, and thousands of German troops, the Allies managed to storm many areas within hours during the Normandy invasion in 1944.  Today, some ruins of the wall still exist, but over the years the ocean has claimed much of it.

While we were in the town we also found some magnificent sand sculptures from The European Championship Sand Sculpting completion which had taken place on 30th July.  The first prize had gone to a chap called Baldrick Buckle who comes from Leeds, for his work called 'Tolerance of Amsterdam' - a representation of how an ultimate goal can be achieved by people working together.  However, we did wonder why the many nights of rain hadn't washed them away.

Then once we'd finished admiring these lovely works of art, we retraced our tyre tracks back over the dunes, all the while keeping our fingers crossed that the clouds that were heading our way would hold onto their loads until we got home - and they did.

Day 141
Thursday 17th November 2016 - Very windy with early and late heavy showers.

This morning our plan had been to cycle in the opposite direction to yesterday to visit The Hague - the seat of the Dutch parliament and also home to the United Nation's International Court of Justice.  However unfortunately the weather scuppered our plans.  Overnight the wind had been gusting and the rain had hammered on our roof, and when we looked at today's forecast the wind speeds were predicted to reach over 40 mph, which would have resulted in us having to battle into it all the way there.   So instead of cycling gear we donned our walking togs, and although we still had to fight against the wind, we were blessed with intermittent sunshine for most of the time.

Our route first took us along the sea front through the town of Katwijk, and then onto another dedicated and undulating walking track though more dunes.  But it really was quite hard going so after about 4 miles we gave up and found a sheltered spot for our picnic lunch.  Then, for a change of scenery, we decided to walk back along the beach, so after scrambling through the deep sand over a high dune we found ourselves right beside the angry ocean surf, a place from where we could admire the brave (or stupid) kite and wind surfers as they sped over the waves at great speed.

From where we had crossed over we had about three and a half miles to walk to get back to the town of Katwijk, and for this part of our walk it was a good job that the wind was on our backs, because all the way it was wiping the sand up into a frenzy that would have blinded us had we been walking into it.  As it was it was like the smoke that is sometimes sprayed onto dance floors - at times our feet were almost invisible in the ghostly sandy haze.

As we walked we mostly had the entire beach to ourselves except for numerous little sandpipers who entertained us with their antics as they tried to dodge the waves, but at this stage of our walk we didn't dawdle because there were some sinister looking storm clouds chasing us from behind.  With still about a mile to go we started to feel big splats of rain, and although we didn't get soaked we didn't manage to outrun it either.  Then once back in T4rdis2 John rechecked the forecast - it looks like being a rough night with more gusts at over 50 mph!  I'll let you know how we got on with that in my next episode but for now we're going to set about battening down our hatches xx!