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Sunday, September 9, 2012

From Sheep Shit to Castles

Kasteel Vorden. Our room is top left windows!

Our B&B in Dieren was an old 'koetshuis' (a carriage house). We had lots to talk about to catch up after a week and a half apart. The B&B owner loaned us a couple of bikes and we set off the next morning to Hoog Keppel to visit my mother's grave.
First across the Oude IJssel river with a small, 2 car ferry. This ferry is attached to an anchor upstream and by maneuvering the boat under a certain angle he forced the ferry across the river without much mechanical help. We cycled across a dike lined with sheep. They did not move aside for us so we had to steer around them. The sheep shit was at least tire-deep in several places. But loved the views across green fields to steep church steeples of villages in the distance.
After about 5-6 kms we left the dike and entered the Achterhoek, the region of south eastern Gelderland. Through farm fields and forests we made our way to Hoog Keppel where we checked on Oma's grave. Last year we had planted 4 small bunches of heather on her grave, but those had been replanted a few feet away and had grown into a huge heather bush. We left things as they were and said our goodbye's again.
Back via the bike path along the main highway, but soon we got tired of that and found our way back to the dike with its sheep shit. Back on the ferry and to the B&B were we returned the bikes.

If you are interested in bicycling around The Netherlands, the possibilities are endless. You can buy arrangements that include bikes, hotels and meals. Or you can follow trails in any part of the country, with a great signage system and trails. Not sure if this site translates, but lots of cycling information here:

By 2 PM we were at the railroad station with our packs, for the half hour train ride to Vorden, the next stop for the night. First we walked through the village of Vorden and had a few beers at the hotel my dad used to stay at when we worked on the old farmhouse my parents had bought back in the late 60's and which they tried to renovate. It did not work out because my dad's health deteriorated quickly and they had to sell it again. In 1971 he passed away.
When I went to pay the bill for our lunch and drinks, someone had paid it already for us. We never found out who did. Mysterious but funny!

Off to the castle. Margriet had made arrangements to stay overnight in a real castle. Kasteel Vorden was originally built in 1207, destroyed during the 80 year war with Spain (sometime in the 16th century) and rebuilt shortly after. Pictures are needed to describe the place. Anyway we slept in a canopy bed somewhere up in the castle and felt like royalty.
Wednesday (Sept 5th) Margriet joined me for the hike to the next place Zelhem. Breakfast at 8:30 and on the 'road' by 9. The 'road' this time was more beautiful forest trails and secondary roads through small farm areas. The forest trails were largely unpaved, sandy paths. Just like in Drenthe, the Achterhoek became very popular with retirees from the western part of Holland who bought up old uneconomic farms and renovated those beautifully. The outsides had to be kept original looking, but new roof, new double pane windows, new doors (all in the old style) and modern interiors made the old places into very livable homes for the rich. There are fewer and fewer of the old farms being operated as farms, most have become retirement homes for the rich and well to do.
It was a relatively short day with only 16 kms, but M's pack was not easy to carry, so even though everything went well it was not the easiest hike for her that day. The B&B we got to was run by a very nice painter and her family (4 kids). After a rest and clean up we went into to town for some groceries and supper.

We splurched on our stay in a real medieval castle but wanted to experience it once. The room was nice but old (of course), bathroom fabulously modern, breakfast was OK but not amazing. Just a great experience:

 In Dieren we stayed in Koetshuis B&B, very nice people, OK room, great breakfast, nice location:

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