DIKES AND BIKES – Wandering the Netherlands

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The barge glides steadily through the gentle waters of the Ijssel River whose banks are lined with river rock and sandy beaches normally submerged under the water. This year has been particularly dry in the Netherlands with rainfall at record lows, and the river level sits three meters below normal. But today, the sky is heavy with low dark clouds and the steady drizzle offers much needed moisture and foggy vistas of gray water, gray sky, gray landscape. A perfect day for writing.

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My home for the next week is aboard the barge “Sarah” – a boat that sails the rivers of central Netherlands known as the Hanseatic region.  This area flourished during the Middle Ages as one of the most important trade routes in Europe with the Ijssel  River being the highway of commerce. The quaint towns along the river have a distinctly Medieval flair evident in the old architecture and cobbled streets.

The rest of the small group aboard our boat chose to follow our determined guide, Piet on the planned 45km bike excursion around the hills and towns of the region today. (Piet reminds us that, “There is no such thing as bad biking weather. Only bad clothing.”) Yesterday we enjoyed our biking under clearer skies, knocking out about 45 km on well-marked paths that meandered under deep green canopies of tall trees and open meadows filled with purple heather. We pushed on at a leisurely pace fueled by the occasional coffee and Dutch pancake.

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Our group of fifteen guests, four crew and one guide is a congenial mix of Germans, Dutch, Poles and Americans from all walks of life. We are today only two days into our weeklong bike/boat excursion and have already settled into a comfortable rhythm of living together in very tight quarters and forging new friendships in the process. It helps that everyone on board is here because we share the same passion for travel and adventure as experienced from the saddle of a bicycle.

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I’ll be blogging every few days or so whenever I’m not on a bike or indulging in some fantastic cuisine on the boat or engaging in lively conversation with my new friends. Until then, “Proost!”

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