Tag Archives: Drenthe

The ‘Fietserpad’ – a cycle tour from north to south in The Netherlands (part 1)

Don’t limit your challenges – Challenge your limits

I have this long distance cycling tour in my mind for some years now, I even bought the route book already. In 2017 I finally decide to go for it. I start in Pieterburen in the North of Groningen, on the coast of the Waddenzee, and I will cycle all the way to Withuis in the South of Limburg, at the border with Belgium. The end will be on the Pietersberg (‘mountain’) in Maastricht. All in all a distance of roughly 670 km, which I cycle in 10 consecutive days. The route I take from the book “Het Fietserpad”. This is part 1 of my adventures.

Groningen

I take the train to Baflo, where I start cycling. First up North to the coast of the Waddenzee and the official end, and fir me start of the tour. I have decided to ride it from north to south, instead of the other way around like in the book. It is just that I have more connection with the southern provinces. This route is basically a cycling version of the longest long distance hikes called ‘Pieterpad’. On my tour I meet many people hiking the 485km (or part of it) to Maastricht. I follow most of their route, with some detours here and there.

The province of Groningen is flat, green, windy and has a lot of grassland with horses, sheep and cows. And windmills, of course. Mostly for keeping the land dry. Typical for this area are the ‘terpen’ or mounds. Long ago people build their churches on an elevated part of land to protect them from high waters during floodings. They are clearly visible in the otherwise flat countryside. The capital of this province is also called Groningen and it is a nice city, full of historic buildings like the Martini tower. I keep on pedaling, passing the beautiful Paterswolder lake in the late afternoon. The sun is starting to set and makes the view on the windmill simply spectacular. What a beautiful country I am living in. At the end of the day I arrive in Haren.

Drenthe

The second province I pass through is Drenthe. I have been cycling here for a long weekend last year Heather and ‘hunnebedden’ (dolmens) and am excited to be back. I pass the small town of Zuidlaren and cycle through beautiful countryside. Lots of blooming heather, sand dunes and large areas of peat or turf. Once very valuable and used for many things, most of the peat areas have been extracted, leaving swampy lands. In Balloo I visit a dolmen and pass a boulder circle, which basically is a piece of art directing and informing the long distance hikers of the ‘Pieterpad’.

The tour proceeds through forrest, small villages like Grolloo and the Ballooër Field. In the amazing setting I find one of 4 historic small drainage windmills left in Drenthe, called Tjasker. I proceed along more heather and peat fields, through lush green forrest, passing some large boulders from Scandinavia, left here during the last ice age. Part if my route passes the Hondsrug, a long stretched hill of (yes really) 26 meters high. It is of such natural and historic importance that UNESCO recognized it as geopark in 2015. And I can see why.

I pass a few more very nice farming villages with fantastic historic wooden farm houses, to finally end up in Meppen on a lovely campsite called the Boemerang with chickens and a dwarf pig calked Floor.

Part 2 >> 

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Heather and ‘hunebedden’ (dolmens)

Drenthe-00

“Kaokeln is gien kuunst, maor eierkeggen wal” – easier said than done (Drents proverb)

Nice weather is predicted, so I decide to go for another few days of cycling in The Netherlands. After some puzzling and surfing the internet I decide to go to the province of Drenthe. I think I created a nice tour.

Day 1: Coevorden – Dwingeloo

I park my car in Coevorden, put the bags on my bike and take off. First stop is Orvelte, a car-free, historic village with a nice green, originated in the Middle Ages. Typical Drenthe, with nice historical farms and a real horsetram (for the tourists). The atmosphere is nicely busy and I decide to take a break. Not for long, as I still want to cycle to Westerbork. My goal is a memorial center for the former transit camp from World War II. Not a nice stop, but a stop I think I should have seen. More than a 100.000 people have been transported to the various concentration camps between 1942 and 1945. A long row of posts along the road remind visitors of the dates of each transport and the number of people on it. The row seems endless and the numbers are varying from a few hundred to a few thousand per transport… A bit further on the road a few remains of barracks, a transportation wagon, a piece of the original train track and a very impressive monument with 107.000 stones can be found. One stone for each person in the transports. Unbelievable! At the entrance of the center I see a small suitcase with the text “what if you have to flee”. Now, in 2016, millions of people all over the world are still on the run. It looks like we have not learned from the past.

Deeply impressed by what I have seen and learned I continue my tour in the direction of Beilen and National Park Dwingelder Field. I cycle through meadows with cows, forrest and over plains with heather and herds of sheep. These areas are very wide and at what beautiful moment I have decided to come here. The heather is blooming turning the fields purple. After 80 kilometer I find a nice campsite just before the town of Dwingeloo. It is very quiet and lies in the National Park. I even hear some hooves around the tent at night. Is it deer or wild hogs, I have no clue.

Day 2: Dwingeloo – Rolde

I am lazy and get up late. I have all day, so I decide to take it easy. First of all I cycle over the beautiful Dwingelder Field to Dwingeloo, again a very nice village with a green and many cosy restaurants. Time for coffee! After, I continue in the direction of Diever. In the forrest I stop to visit a hideout called ‘Wigwam’. Made in 1943 by some resistance fighters from Diever to hide in. Again impressive and I am happy these kind of monuments are free for visitors to check out and learn about their history.

The tour follows the border between the provinces of Drenthe and Friesland and crosses the fantastic nature park Drents-Friese Wold. Great plains with heather and forrest are the decor, filled with some cyclists, hikers and sheep. I pass Appelscha, a village in Friesland, and arrive in one of the best preserved areas of peat moor in The Netherlands, the Fochteloër moor. It is again a beautiful area. Once people cut the peat for a living in these areas. Lucky for us we can enjoy this moor now, as the peat cutting times where about over when this area was up for production.

By the time I reach Assen, I am having cravings for pizza. I cycled for almost 75 kilometer and decide to stop at the first restaurant which serves a nice one. After a heavenly meal I continue my route through the nice evening glow to the campsite in Rolde. On my route I of course visit the statue of Bartje, a hero from Dutch children’s books and a tv-series around a century ago. He became world famous in The Netherlands for his quote ‘ik bid nie veur bruune boon’n‘’ (I do not pray for brown beans).

Day 3: Rolde – Coevorden

Already the last day. I get up early. It is misty, but this time a year that usuall means a nice sunny day lies ahead. I cycle over the Hondsrug, a sand ridge arisen in the second last ice age, over 130.000 years ago. Nowadays it is part of the first Geopark in The Netherlands. It is also the area of many prehistoric dolmens or ‘hunebedden’ as we say in Dutch. These barrows were build by people from the Funnel Beaker culture. Their age is estimated at about 3500 to 5000 years old. and they are still there. Close to Rolde I see my first one, next to a modern cemetery. Beautiful. Along the route I pass a few more, some small, others bigger. The biggest can be found in the town of Borger, where there is also a center (Hunebedcentrum) and information center for the Geopark. It is very busy and unfortunately the visitors do not respect the prehistoric monuments. I leave quickly before I start discussions with them.

The tour proceeds through nice forrests, over beautiful heaths and past many historical farms in the many villages. I pass the large town of Emmen and after again 75 kilometerI arrive back in Coevorden. This is also a historical town, which actually looks best from the air. It is a fortified town with a very impressive star shaped moat.

It was a nice cycle tour again, passing beautifull and impressive spots and again with many sweet people along the way. “Tot ‘n anermoal!” (See you again)