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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Amazing Race Drenthe

The famous hunnebeds, 5000 year old graves.

If you are planning a hiking or bicycling trip in the Netherlands, and there’s no better place to do either, you should join this organization: Vrienden Op De Fiets (Friends On Bikes): (or .en for the English version).

This fabulous network across the country offers accommodations in private homes, much like B&B’s, but at a cost of E19 p.p.p.n. including breakfast. Accommodations are typical Dutch hospitality. No need to reserve long in advance, depending on the time of year, you can often phone the day before. Rooms can vary from a simple spare room to your own whole cottage. We’ve always had clean rooms, comfortable beds and a great breakfast. But - you can only arrive on foot or by bike. If you rent a car, you can’t use this organization.

Annual membership fee is 8 euros and that includes the complete catalogue of 5,000 addresses and contact information.
A traditional sailboat
After having walked some 60 KMs this week, from village to village, we have arrived in Appelscha, Friesland. This is just across the provincial border. 
Lucky for us because not only does each region here have its own dialect and culture, it also has its own speciality foods. 
Now we enjoy Frisian sugarbread (gooey bread with lumps of sugar baked into it) AND Drents raisin bread (weighs as much as a brick). 
Not only do the Dutch brew Heineken and Grolsch, they also produce many local beers ranging from dark to blond to fruity. 
Kees is happy. For this weekend we found a place to stay 2 nights, basically for the same price as the Friends On Bikes network plus dinner. The hotel had a special super deal that includes an elaborate breakfast and dinner. Since the forecast was for rain, we decided to stay in one place for two nights. 

Instead of walking tomorrow’s section of the Drenthe Pad, we rented bicycles. The Dutch have state of the art bicycles, including tires that will not pop anymore. Cost for a full day bike rental is 7 to 8 euros. We cycled through the village, across farm fields, national nature reserves, forests, a wild bird sanctuary and historic fields of peat moss. No less than 60 KM! Now, in addition to sore backs and feet, we also have sore butts and knees....

Halfway it started to rain. We donned our rain capes - thank goodness we did not carry them for 2 months without ever needing them! I never felt more Dutch than pushing the peddles across a windswept bike trail through the fields.

The region's bicycles trails.
Those bike trails are amazing. Our route for today looks like this: 60 - 65 - 72 - 73 - 79 - 91 - 84 - 65 - 60. Sounds like a secret code, doesn’t it?
Riding from number to number.

But it’s all you need to find your way across the country. It’s a mind boggling system of (mostly) paved or concrete bicycle trails. At an intersection you will see a small sign with a number, either the number of the path you are already on, or pointing to the next number you need to follow. Simple. Just don’t miss one. At major crossroads there is a large regional map showing you all the routes so that you can easily change or adapt the route you are on.
And the best part is that most bicycle paths are away from roads or other traffic. Just you and nature. It’s a system of hiking and biking trails that the Netherlands can be proud of. And that more countries should adopt.

1 comment:

  1. so now you are gallivanting around the homeland, eh? We wondered where you were. We, too, love the Dutch bike route system. Thanks for posting the housing link, we will check it out. We are thinking of riding part of the Pieterspad next summer.

    Stay well and enjoy,
    Sandy & Hugh Larkin