The other day, it was still August, I was on my way to my favourite summer bike path: the Scheveningseweg. When I got there I was amazed that the trees already showed some signs of autumn. The colours made me smile, but I wondered if it was an early autumn on The Hague road to Scheveningen. Today, the 1st of September, on the official day of metereological fall, I found some answers.
I wake up early. All soreness, sleepiness and muscles aching is forgotten. It’s a brand new, extremely warm day and I am ready for the last stretch of my cycle holiday Holland. The cycle route from Nijkerk to Zwolle is about 60 km, the longest distance so far. I thought I would be exhausted, that I wouldn’t be able to even get out of bed. But, at the end it’s all about the mindset. Now that I’ve made it to Nijkerk, I’m not going to give up. Then again, there’s still a whisper in my head. If I don’t make it, it’s ok. I can park the bike at the station of Nunspeet and take the train to Zwolle.
Ok, I do have to mention that I made a miscalculation. I had not read the invitation of the Zwolle site visit. Thought that the overnight stay in Zwolle was on Friday evening. So I had planned to cycle from Nijkerk to Nunspeet on Thursday and then book an overnight stay in Nunspeet. Well, found that out on Wednesday, when I had the little set back and was all hesitative whether I should go on with the impulsive act or not.
Veluwe nature bike ride
Now there was no going back, and this was the best part of my cycle holiday Holland. Nijkerk is just a stone’s throw away from one of the most beautiful parts of the Veluwe. The forest of Speulder and Nunspeet is just fabulous. Enroute you pass the Staverden Estate which truly looks like a fairytale castle. Right next to it is a farmers shop, which they call ‘landscape’ shop here. They sell regional products and can give you loads of information on the area. You can also book a tour in a horse and wagon. Within no time you’re in Hattem – well, it took me a full day, 6 hours- but as you’re in the middle of nature with hardly any people around time really does fly.
River IJssel panoramics
In the cute little Hanseatic village of Hattem I have to find my way over the river again. Yesterday it was the Eem, today it is the better known Ijssel. This time I don’t get lost. Well, not until I reach the other side and Google Maps/ GPS lets me know I still need to cross the river. I’m confused, but determined to reach my goal. Via a detour I reach another Farmers Shop – Yes, by after my last post you know how much I like them-. Somehow, something lead me in this direction. I buy fruit & drinks and ask for directions. The shop assistant is very helpful, but has difficulty explaining how I can reach my destination. Interesting enough, she doesn’t give directions for the car, but immediately starts explaining the directions for the bike. A wave of hot air passes us as another client enters the airconditioned shop. She hears our conversation and offers to guide me in direction of the hotel. I’m saved!
The end of my cycle holiday Holland?
In another half hour I reach Hotel Lumen, right behind the football stadion. My room looks out on a huge outdoor swimming pool, which with this weather is very attractive. But, I’m exhausted and the bed looks terribly good. Another half hour later I’m in my fresh piji and a thunderstorm passes Zwolle. Hopefully it’s dry tomorrow. There quite some outdoor activities planned for the Zwolle site visit. And… I still have to think how I’ll get back to The Hague/ Delft/ Rijswijk. Well, home.
Not everything on my long distance bike tour was fantastic. That’s why I’m cherry picking the best on cycle route Utrecht in this post. I got on the train to Woerden and felt the adrenaline running through my veins again. I was getting ready and looking forward to the bike trip which was feeling more like a cycle holiday through the Netherlands.
I have to admit that I got scared the morning of the bike ride from Woerden to Nijkerk. Why was I doing this? What did I want to prove? What if the cycling distance was too long? I could still cycle back from Woerden to my home town near The Hague now. It was quite a ride, but doable in one day. I talked to my partner. He said I should go for it. He would be there for me in case something would happen. Then I convinced myself. This would be the only week the weather in the Netherlands was this good. I wanted to continue the long distance cycle tour, just to show myself I could do what others could.I had googled to see if there were any farms or fruit gardens enroute and was surprised to find my dream stop in Haarzuilens. My bike was patiently waiting for me at the Woerden train station. I jumped on my bike and in a blink of the eye I was in the village of my dreams.
Cherry picking the best on cycle route Utrecht region
Strangely enough, the reason why Haarzuilens became the city of my dreams has little to do with the De Haar castle. Amazing sight , huge gardens, beautiful castle and very attractive cycle routes around it, but not the reason why I fell in love with the town. At the very entrance of the village there was a farmershop which sold cherries. And the best thing was, this was part of the Oosterom kersen enterprise. The low-stemmed cherry trees where right here in this garden and a bit further down the lane were the standard or tall cherry trees. I bought 500 grams of cherries in the farmershop in Breudijk and promised the owner they would be finished by the time I reached the other cherry stall in the Thematerweg.
Cherries, castles & cycling stops
Between the two cherry shops is De Haar castle. There I met an Australian couple. They asked if I wanted them to take a picture of me, my bike & the castle. I offered them a cherry and that’s how the conversation got started. His bike was from a friend, he said. An IKEA bike with which he did a bike-and-barge tour through Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch cycling infrastructure was amazing. Couldn’t compare it with the one in Australia. If I ever planned a trip to Australia, it was best to rent a car. Cycle holidays down under weren’t very usual, but I should go there anyway. Near Sydney were some pretty awesome beaches.
Family friendly farmers shops, goat farm & cherry orchard
In Haarzuilens village there was farmershop De Haarse gaard where I bought apples & pears. Difficult to decide as they had at least 5 different types, all from their own fruittrees. Further down the lane was the cherry stall with their beautiful garden full of cherry trees. And, on this same Thematerweg was Geertjes Hoeve, a spacious goat farm. Can you imagine how happy I was to find these three together in one lane?
Along the river Vecht is a steady cycle lane, beautifully asphalted. I guessed it was time for a little sprint. So I put some more force on the pedals to gain speed and immediately felt light and fast. After a while I heard a voice behind me: “keep up the nice speed”. I turned my head and looked into the face of a smiling cyclist. With the lane being nice and wide we are able to cycle side by side. “Today’s destination is Nijkerk”I told him and explained that the final destination is Zwolle. As if I’ve given him a green light he enthusiastically started telling me about all the cycle routes in that direction. “Pass the castle”, he said. “Stop at Laage Vuursche and eat a pancake”.
From Utrecht-Noord to Laage Vuursche – where I stopped for a pancake at De Vuursche Boer– to Baarn the route is just amazing. Polders and meadows are replaced by lush green forests where a gentle summer breeze filled with that unique pineapple, moss and honeysuckle scent fills all your pores.
Lost in a river of Dutch cycle junctions
After Baarn it became messy. The cycle junction signs ( knooppunten) disappear, the typical Dutch white-red cycle route signs were nowhere to be seen and I was desperately finding a way to cross the river Eem.
Then a cute cycling couple passed by. A full list of numbers ( the cycle junction numbers) stuck on her handlebars. I ask edthem for directions and they said they weren’t from the area. – Well, duh, could have guessed that huge paper on her handlebars, couldn’t I?- So I asked them which cycle junction number they were following and that’s how we got to the other side of the river. From there a long, windy and quite boring road led to Nijkerk where I reached the train station at 17:10. Thirsty. The train would leave in another 25 minutes. My ass felt sore, my legs tingling of exhaustion. The shop for drinks and snacks was closed. I opened my bike bag, sat on the steps to the train platform and ate some cherries. It had been a long, but fantastic day of my cycle holiday through the Netherlands. Was already looking forward to the next leg on my long distance cycling route: Nijkerk – Zwolle.
Was this a Holland cycle holiday? A long distance bike tour? A cycling adventure? I’m not quite sure how to call my 6 day journey by bike from Rijswijk (The Hague) to Zwolle & Lunteren. It was a challenge, something I had wanted to do for a long time, but somehow didn’t dare. Would I be able to pull it off? Cycle 200 kilometre on my regular city bike all alone? What if something would happen enroute? I was clearly waiting for a sign. Thé sign.
The foreign Velo-citizens who inspired me
The sign came during Velocity, the conference on cycling, cycles, cyclists – where else?-. I met American, English, Belgian who covered amazing distances by bike with the Velocity conference in Nijmegen as final destination. They told me what they saw on their bike ride; the brass bands of the small town communities, the typical Dutch traditional festivals, the new cycle and pedestrian bridge in Utrecht. They were so relaxed, made a long distance cycle tour seem so easy. All my ‘what ifs’ disappeared in thin air.
Long distance bike tour Netherlands
The week after, adrenaline ran through my veins. I wanted to make a long distance bike tour. At that very moment. If I would wait, I would postpone and everyone knows what happens if you postpone things. The weather was fantastic, for a full week. High temperatures, lots of sun. Quite exceptional for the Netherlands. Plus, I already had a destination: Zwolle. I had to be in the Hanseatic city on Friday for an inspiration day for event managers organised by Congresregio Zwolle. This was thé moment. The light for my longest cycle tour turned green!
The Dutch cycle adventure begins
The cycle route from Rijswijk to Gouda was familiar and a piece of cake. Or should I say: piece of cucumber, cherry tomatoes and loads of cherries? Let me explain. Around the Rottemeren, the lakes near Rotterdam, you’ll find greenhouses growing fruit & vegetables. Several greenhouses have placed vending machines in front of their doors. This way you can buy delicious cherries & strawberries and fresh cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes enroute for a great picnic.
Wake me up for a local product
You can wake me up in the middle of the night for a visit to a miller, a farmer or a fruit/ vegetable grower. The very reason for making the detour via the Rottemeren was to visit the cherry grower Jomajole in Moerkapelle. Passing through the centre of this town I was happily surprised to find a Farmershop selling local cheese, juices, jams, fruit & vegetables. Of course they had cherries, but I already had my mind set on a visit to the cherry farm.
Jomajole is a big greenhouse. To be honest I was expecting a garden full of cherry trees, but once I entered the greenhouse I felt like I was in the garden of Eden. Besides different types of cherries, Jomajole also grows peaches, figs and other fruit. Just looking at all those different fruit trees made my mouth water. So I bought some 500 grams of cherries and had a little picnic.
The cycle route Moerkapelle – Gouda via Waddinxveen is a bit disappointing. I love cycling throught the Dutch countryside and enjoy the silence, but around Waddinxveen are just roads, traffic and lots of noise. Was quite happy to reach Gouda, sit down in a lovely park near the train station and have my favourite stroopwafels. – Sorry, ate them all before I even thought of taking a picture-.
At Gouda train station I parked my bike, hopped into a train back home and smiled. I was already looking forward to the next day.