I set myself another cycling project this week – to ride around the Zuider Zee. 170km is further than I want to ride in a day, and a force 4 gale coming up from the south-west makes riding by the water tough at times.
Fortunately there are stations nicely spaced along the route, and trains with compartments for bikes shuttle back to Amsterdam a couple of times an hour. I can take it one day at a time.
We studied the land reclamation from the Zuider Zee in geography class at school (shock horror!) in the 1950s. In our ignorance we pronounced it ‘Zyder Zee’, though it should sound more like ‘Sowder Say’, and it means simply ‘South Sea’.
It’s no longer a sea either – since the dykes cut it off from the North Sea in the 1930s, it’s now officially the Ijsselmeer – the Ij Lake.
A full loop around the official Zuider Zee bike route and across the mighty Afsluit Dyke which keeps Amsterdam dry is 323km, and I may not have enough days (and energy) left to ride all of it.
So on Day 1 of the trip from Amsterdam I took a shortcut across the second of the Ij dykes, the Houtrib or Markenmeer Dyke between Enkhuizen and Lelystad.
I’ve often ridden the scenic path from Amsterdam through Schellingwoude and Durgerdam, so this time I headed straight up the North Holland Canal towards Edam. A convenient little cable ferry was waiting to take cyclists across the canal, for a fee of 25 cents – cheap fun, I thought.
Waterland, the area directly north of Amsterdam, is the Holland of the picture postcards. I cut through the pretty village of Broek in Waterland and headed out into the countryside towards Monnickendam, on the Ij.
The wind was at my back for once, so I sailed north to Edam.
Edam really is where the cheese comes from. There is a popular, touristy, very cheesy Kaasmarkt (Cheese Market) Show on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer. Fortunately this was not one of those days. At other times, Edam is a quiet village.
The wind was still blowing fair for Hoorn, another one of those charming old Dutch towns most visitors to the country have never heard of. I certainly hadn’t until I started living here.
Enkhuizen is an old fishing port, now notable for the Zuider Zee Museum, an open air museum to which old buildings have been transported and where we can see traditional craftsmen at work.
I’d been there before and still had more than 30km to ride, so I took a quick shot of the harbour…
…and headed over the Houtrib Dyke.
I’d been lucky with wind to this point, but a few kilometres short of Lelystad the dyke takes a turn to the south. I was now riding straight into a gale, and having trouble keeping momentum.
So I was pleased to see Antony Gormley’s 25metre-high sculpture, Exposure, come into view off Lelystad.
From there it was a quick trip through the suburbs of Lelystad to catch a train back to Amsterdam.
Total distance covered: 104.23km. Quite creditable for one day, I thought.
To see the full details of this route, click here.