Tag Archives: Muiden

AMSTERDAM TO NAARDEN – a fine spring cycle

By the Amstel River. 'Amster-dam' = 'Dam on the Amstel', remember?

By the Amstel River. ‘Amster-dam’ = ‘Dam on the Amstel’, remember?

We’ve just arrived back in Holland, the breeze is gentle and the rain won’t be with us for two more days. So what better way to fight the jetlag than a ride through the Dutch countryside?

One of the most hit-on posts on this blog is my brief list of Holland’s Prettiest Villages. I decided I’d see how many of them I could manage to ride around in a day. My route took me through Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, Abcoude, Weesp, Naarden, Muiden and back to Amsterdam. A respectable 72kms, plus a few where I forgot to switch the computer back on.

If that seems a bit energetic for Day 1 in the saddle, let me confess up front that Mevrouw T kindly offered me use of her electric bike. I know, that’s cheating, but we thought the beast should be tested again, before we take it farther afield.

It was indeed a lovely ride, and the bike’s electric booster left me energy over for photography. Continue reading

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HOLLAND’S PRETTIEST VILLAGES – my top 5

The Netherlands is nearly the most densely populated country on the planet, but its cities are small. Visitors are surprised to find that Amsterdam has less than 800,000 residents. The Dutch population (16.5million) is dotted across the country in hundreds of small towns and villages. Most have green space all around them, water close by, and relatively prosperous residents who can restore old houses, employ good architects and develop attractive gardens. Consequently rural Holland is one of the prettiest places on earth.

So here are my top five, in no particular order:

Spaarndam

This tiny village is set on the Spaarne River, in the farmland and forest between Amsterdam and Haarlem. Cafe Spaarndam dates from 1571. The village is also notable for the two late 19th century forts, and a statue of the mythical boy with his finger in a mythical dyke.

Muiden

Muiden is made special by having a busy lock, a mooring for tall sailing ships, and Muiderslot, a restored castle on the waterfront. At Muiden a cyclist can sit by the lock with a beer or a coffee and admire the work others have done on their expensive hobby boats.

Broek in Waterland

In the middle of the most appealling (and most popular) riding area out of Amsterdam, Broek in Waterland has little wooden houses in lush gardens, and a church tower peeping up above the lake. A close call between this village and neighbour Zuiderwoude for inclusion in the list, but Broek has better cafes.

Weesp

Weesp was razed to the ground in the 16th century by troops from Gelderland. You didn’t know Gelderland had a marauding army? Neither did I, till the information board in Weesp told me. Now Gelderland is a pleasant Dutch province surrounding the town of Arnhem. Weesp recovered from the setback, and now has a couple of church towers, a row of old windmills, a fort, and of course, cafes by the water.

Edam

Thanks to a certain well-known cheese, Edam is the most visited village on my list. It booms in summer when buses churn out tourists to see Cheese Market: The Show on Wednesdays at lunch time. But any other time it’s quiet and well-supplied with preserved buildings.

NOTE: My rule for this short list – a village had to be in Holland. ‘Holland’ is commonly used to mean ‘The Netherlands’ but officially ‘Holland’ refers to two provinces containing Amsterdam (‘Noord Holland’) and The Hague (‘Zuid Holland’). I limited myself even more than that – my favourite villages had to be reachable within a hour’s bike riding from central Amsterdam, so all are in Noord (North) Holland.

There are plenty of other candidates I could have included (Marken, Durgerdam, Baambrugge, Naarden, Abcoude…). I’d like to hear your suggestions. I’m always looking for an excuse to get on the bike for an hour.

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THE BRILLIANT DUTCH CYCLE NETWORK – Amsterdam to Laren

With signage like this, who could get lost?

Mevrouw Tulloch loves Art Nouveau furniture. I like bike riding. After a short but spirited discussion, we agree to spend a Sunday riding the bikes from Amsterdam to the village of Laren, where more Art Nouveau chairs than you can shake a stick at are on display in the Singer Museum.

It’s a few hours ride away, so we have to find a good bike route to get there. I don’t have a GPS or even a computer on the bike. I’m past caring about my maximum heart rate.

Finding a Dutch cycle route is easy. I get on the net and go to a Dutch ‘bike route planner’ website. [NOTE: There are a few of these – google ‘fietsrouteplanner’.] I’m able to type in our location (Sloterkade Amsterdam) at one end, and ‘Singer Museum, Laren’ at the other. Up pops a map with the suggested door to door cycle route, distance (a modest 37.9km), estimated time (a comfortable 2 hours 6 minutes), calories needed (724 – how many are in a bowl of muesli and a slice of toast?) and noting our interest in art, it even suggests a couple of other museums we may find worth seeing along the way.

There are detailed instructions (in Dutch, I’m afraid) about turning left, diagonally right and going straight ahead, but for those who find Dutch a challenging language there’s a list of numbers in friendly green circles – 52, 55, 59, 15, 78, 79, 80… These I note down on a scrap of paper. Then we get on the bikes and set off – on the cycle paths of course – in Holland riding between those slow cumbersome motor vehicles is considered unnecessarily annoying and something to be avoided at all costs.

Number 52 is the point in Amsterdam, pictured above. It’s a ‘knooppunt’ (knot point), one of which we’ll be passing every few kilometres. Notice above my bike there’s a map with a ‘you are here’ and directions to knooppunt 55, the next one we need to find on our way to our destination, knooppunt 80 by Laren.

As if we needed any more directions, those signs above list towns we could visit. ‘Muiden’ happens to be our next one.

The cycle path looks like this...


Following the fietsnetwerk (bike network) route from knooppunt to knooppunt is easy and we roll along from 55, 59…to 80 where those Art Nouveau chairs are waiting. The Singer Museum won’t let us sit on them, but they do offer comfortable alternatives.

I won’t pretend that we did the route in less than the estimated two hours and six minutes, because we stopped to admire the villages of Muiden (lock and castle) and Naarden (old fortified town with moat), and we road tested the local chocolademelk and appeltaart.

Needless to say, the bike network chooses routes through the more attractive parts of the country. Canals, powerlines and motorways are nearly always in sight, but so too are cows, sheep and swans most of the time. If there’s a choice to be made between the fast route and the scenic one, green cycling signs indicate the latter, red ones the former.

Signs at every intersection indicate the direction of the next knooppunt.


Bike path into Hilversum Station


Finally when we’ve had enough of riding and Art Nouveau (I enjoyed that too, by the way), we head for the train line. At Hilversum Station, a few kilometres from Laren, you can hire a bike, buy a bike, park a bike, or leave a bike to get repaired while you go to work. We put ours on the train (it costs 6 euros a day for a bike pass which you can then use on any train in the country). This saves us having to ride into the stiff breeze which is now blowing rather too directly from Amsterdam.

A lot of money has been invested in this cycling system. But surely it’s paid off. Recreational cycling is enormous here, no doubt with considerable public health benefits. About half the Dutch population regularly uses bikes to get to school or work, thus avoiding ripping up the roads and polluting the air with their cars. That’s what I call a civilized society!

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Filed under Art, Cycle touring, Cycling, Holland, Travel- Europe