We turned a 90-degree angle inland, leaving behind the strong headwind and moon-like dunes along the North Sea and descended a hill. I wasn’t in the lead of the group so I heard the reaction before I saw it. In front of us were fields upon fields of colorful blooming tulips – reds, purples, whites, and yellows. The color and sheer volume was breathtaking. We immediately jumped off our bikes and ran to the closest field of ruby red. We felt like kids in a candy store. The color and scent was completely engulfing us and we revealed in it.
This was the fourth day of our bike trip through Holland (or The Netherlands) and it was like riding your bike through a Monet painting.
I planned a trip for myself, my husband and 2 other couples. I planned it to include what I consider the highlights of Holland – windmills, tulips and cheese! What I discovered in the process is that Holland has far more to offer and on a bike we were able to experience it up close.
Perched on my bike seat, I marvel at the industry of the Dutch people. They wrestled the land from the sea, they experienced one of the most prosperous golden ages in the 17th century through colonial rule, they provided a culture for expansion of the arts with master painters producing some of the world’s most beloved masterpieces and they elevated the humble tulip to represent the worlds first speculative economic boom. Today they represent a well-educated populace, a tolerant culture and great hosts to visiting tourists.
The proximity to water (everywhere) makes it very easy to sustain a variety of birdlife. It was magical to whiz by swans roosting on enormous nests with big beautiful eggs or startling a pheasant in the underbrush. Osprey and herons majestically perch on random logs in the canals and eye you with distain as you ride by. I am not a birdwatcher, but I could be converted with such variety and abundance.
We stopped and investigated many 18th century windmills along our ride. Many of them are still occupied by families and still function as mills. One especially memorable view from my bike was when you could see the massive modern day windmills used for energy production today in the background and in the foreground a cluster of 18th century windmills that literally made the country through draining the lowlands of water and abating the flood waters. You can’t help but be awed by the contrast.
Quite often we were humbled as we rode down a path (really a two way road) feeling pretty smug about our bike riding prowess and we would be promptly passed by an elderly couple going into town for their daily shopping. The six of us, decked out in our bike riding gear complete with helmets (sure sign of a tourist) would be repeatedly smoked by granny in a skirt, high heels and a wicker basket! You have to love a country that has more bikes than people.
For the rest of the story check out my next blog entitled: “More Cheese Please”…….