After saying goodbye to the whole crew in Bantorf on Monday morning, I tried again to find my way back to the Weser.
In China, I had a 1: 4'000'000 road map. The orientation was much easier for me than on the 1: 700'000 map of Germany. There are no bicycle lanes in Asia. There you simply follow the main roads. Here in Europe I am sometimes a bit overwhelmed. Due to the generous offer you do not know where you are at the end. Otherwise, I have a lot of trouble with a few things. In the beginning, the huge supply in the supermarket was fantastic and everything seemed so neat and clean. However, people seem to have little time left here.
I miss the small shops, the chaotic, loud street life and the many hospitable people from Asia a bit. Especially the bananas and mangos from the supermarket taste bad! I can not complain about the choice of chocolate and bread. My main nutrient already consists of almost 50% cocoa. Also the sights here in the north are very special and original.
Already after two days I reached Bremerhaven. However, I could not really enjoy the city and the entrance fee for the climate house was a bit too expensive for my budget. So I climbed back after a short time on the Weser ferry. There I talked to a local cyclist, who does his skiing holiday regularly in Switzerland. After I told him that I could never live here in this lowland, he said only: "Here in the north we need no mountains, the wind replaces the slope." That's right! Some times I had to fight really hard and no matter in which direction you drive, the wind always comes from the front.
I always used to think that Werner Beinhart and Otto are only in the movie. But here in Friesland you meet everywhere such Werner and Otto. That makes the area very likeable for me personally. The people are very helpful and a fully loaded cyclist with map in hand can not be from here. My bike is also the perfect communication tool here. If I had to describe the North Sea coast of Germany in key words, I would say: sea, dike, sheep, sky, plain. If it does not wind, then it rains. Sleeping places are not always easy to find for wild campers. You have to be content with a bivouac.
The bike paths always lead along the dike so you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Wadden Sea. The Wadden Sea of the North Sea is a landscape in the tidal range, about 9000 km ², 450 km long and up to 40 km wide landscape between Blåvandshuk, Denmark, the northeast and Den Helder, Netherlands, in the southwest. The bottom of the North Sea exposed at low tide is called watts. It is the largest Wadden Sea in the world.
The watts are flooded twice a day during the flood and fall dry again at low tide, with the water often flowing through deep streams (tidal channels). The time interval between a flood and a low water is on average six hours and twelve minutes. The Wadden Sea, which originated about 7500 years ago, has one of the highest primary production rates in the world. It therefore serves many birds and fish as a resting place and food source.
Almost the entire Wadden Sea is under conservation. The German part is protected as a national park except for the large river mouths, which are important as shipping routes. The Danish part followed in 2009, the Dutch is subject to a complex network of different protective measures. The Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Dutch Wadden Sea area has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, and in 2011 the Hamburg Wadden Sea was also included in the World Heritage List. After the severe storm surges in 1953 in the Netherlands and 1962 in Germany, the dike lines were straightened, some new dikes built and the rest increased by at least one meter and the inclination angle further flattened, so that the modernized dikes have withstood all other floods until today.
Although the storm surges in 1976 and 2007 reached new record highs at water level, there were no more casualties. The Wadden Sea has always been a dynamic landscape. With only minor changes in the sea level, large areas could sink into the sea, become uninhabitable, or be available again as a settlement area. Storm surges made life on the coast more difficult, as did the numerous swamps and bogs. The early settlement history is therefore incomplete, archaeological sites sank as well in the sea as humans avoided the area again and again for centuries.
To this day, coastal protection is a dominant theme for life on the Wadden Sea, the mainland is characterized by dyke construction and drainage, the sea and its sediments determine the cultural area to this day. The Wadden Sea of the North Sea is the largest contiguous European wetland and by far the largest Wadden Sea in the world. 60% of the European and North African tidal flats are located in the Wadden Sea of the North Sea, the salt marshes are by far the largest contiguous salt marshes in Europe.
For me as a classic Landei this area is very fascinating. Partly when standing on the dike, you can see at high tide that the interior is lower than the sea level. Everything is a bit different here in the north and the ships are huge. I particularly like the traditionally built thatched roof houses.
At the Mussel Canal, at the mouth of the Dollard, I crossed the border from Germany to the Netherlands after 3 weeks. Actually, there is no limit here. You just drive over the bridge and suddenly people do not speak German anymore. However, one comes with German and English very far and partly Dutch sounds almost like Swiss German. Amazingly, older people spoke very good English and were very interested in my trip. Along the North Sea coast I drove to Harlingen and crossed from there the 30km long Afsluitdijk dam, which separates the IJsselmeer from the Waddenzee.
From Den Helder you cycle through a beautiful bird sanctuary. In the thinness, the birds nest in the spring and raise their young. The strong wind, mixed with the sand, almost felt like a desert. Finally, the first clichés were confirmed and some beautiful windmills with traditional thatched roofs appeared. These are no longer in operation. They had to make room for the big windmills. Lens-eyed, they sometimes appear rather puny next to the ugly power generators.
In the middle of the week I reached Amsterdam. Already at the picnic in the park I did not feel well. Slowly I have a mild allergy when there are too many tourists in one place. So it was pretty easy for me to leave the city on a direct route to the south. Only the parents / child bikes were a real eye-catcher for me.
The next day I visited the city center of Gouda, where the world-famous cheese originated.
From there it was only a stone's throw to Tilburg, where I was allowed to spend the weekend with Paul, whom I had met in Istanbul. He flew home in Kyrgyzstan after 10'000km and 5 months in the saddle and is now mainly involved in several different garden and youth projects paulopdefiets.waarbenjij.nu.
My pedals have now finally blessed the time and so I had to buy new with a heavy heart. On Sunday Lieveke joined us after work in the garden and we drove together through the countryside around Tilburg. On Monday Paul accompanied me on his road bike over the border to Belgium and then said goodbye to me. Hartelijk thanks Paul!
From Turnhout, a long canal leads directly to Antwerp. That made orientation a breeze. I love that as an introduction to a new country. Especially the historic center with all its imposing buildings I liked very well.
After the state-of-the-art cycle paths in Holland, it was not easy for me to think again in Belgium. The signage is pretty similar, just not so detailed. To cross the Schelde River there is a separate tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians. With a lift it goes first into the depth, then you cycle under the river through the tunnel and rises again by lift back to the surface. That's what I call progressive!
In the evening there was no smart campground and so I crawled into a corn field for the night. After a restful night I cycled to Ghent and met Tine and Tim. We met last year in Yazd, Iran, and together with the bus via Tabas traveled through the desert to Mashhad. The two returned from their cycle trip last year in October and are already fully integrated into everyday life. Of course there were many stories to share and I was able to clean my bike and the laundry properly. Tine and Tim were excellent hosts.
Tine and Tim for the Great Hospilaty.
After this lightning visit, I am now cycling back to Ridderkerk in Holland, where I am really looking forward to Otto's visit. He will accompany me on the bike for a while.