Finding your way around Holland by bike is a no-brainer…um…except in Amsterdam South East.
A foolishly trusting Australian family, seduced by my personal charm, smart new bike with GPS computer and my apparently effortless command of the Dutch language, followed me into Amsterdam’s suburbs. Getting out of them was rather more difficult.
I was joining the Cycling Dutch Style group for a day ride from Amsterdam to Utrecht. Within minutes the group had disappeared into the distance, leaving me with the Gosbell family from Melbourne, poring over an inadequate map.
I’m supposed to be almost a local in Amsterdam now, so I took them under my wing. ‘There’s a route starting behind the Amstel Station with a signpost to Weesp,’ I confidently predicted. And there was.
The Dutch cycling network has a system of numbered ‘knooppunten’ (junction points) across the whole country. These are marked on a cycling map, and signposted along the way.
In theory a rider armed with just a series of numbers scrawled on the back of his hand can navigate from anywhere in Holland to anywhere else.
But in Amsterdam South East the friendly signs directing us to the village of Weesp had apparently been pilfered. Maybe they now adorn the wall of some teenager’s bedroom.
With my disciples trailing in my wake, I turned this way and that between rows of modern apartment blocks, neatly mowed green lawns and perfect cycle paths…without signposts.
We stopped to recharge the batteries and mother Kerryn broke open another packet of stroopwafels, the excellent syrup waffles that make the kids think it’s worth coming back to the Netherlands some time.
I asked local Amsterdam South Easters for directions to Weesp. There was a bit of ‘Ooh, if you’re going to Weesp don’t start from here’, but eventually a loop was made and knooppunt 65 appeared in a neat green circle.
We were off and running again. Phew!
I know Weesp well. I could lead the team to a cafe by the water, where lo and behold, other Dutch Style Cyclists (DSC’s) were enjoying their koffie and swapping tales of their particular navigation problems.
From then on it was plain sailing. The route from Weesp to Utrecht along the Vecht River is one of the best in the country, through prosperous villages and past restored windmills and grand villas, and perfectly tended gardens with massed rhododendrons.
On the outskirts of Utrecht I thought it only fair to warn my followers,’I always get lost coming into this town.’ That was sad but true. However help was at hand, for who should appear but DSC Bernie, with his iPhone strapped to his wrist.
I’ve had disparaging things to say about my flirtation with the Garmin 800 GPS, but I confess Bernie’s iPhone with CoPilot app took us very efficiently through the normally confusing backblocks of Utrecht.
I don’t have an iPhone, but Mevrouw T has an iPad2. I think I’ll get her a very large wristband.
Thanks very much for the pleasant and patient company, Gosbell family. Good luck with your blogging, Emma, and well done, Ben! Only seven years old, riding a prototype bike and making it over a 500km ride.
To follow the route in detail, and to zoom in on where we went wrong, click here.
To follow the Cycling Dutch Style blog, click here.