It only takes a month (and a bit of luck with the weather) to fall in love with the Netherlands, visiting each region and immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the place. What fascinated us the most and seemed incredible was the extension and efficiency of the bike network: you can really go anywhere, in the city center, in the suburbs, in the countryside, without ever abandoning the bike track!
Watch the video of our trip and read the diary to find out all the details!
What we learned
- The state of the Netherlands should never be called ‘Holland’; Holland (Southern or Northern) is only the territory further west, which includes the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague;
- Mopeds travel on bike lanes;
- There are practically no drinking water fountains (on our way we met only 5!);
- Dutch people love to bathe in canals and dives from bridges;
- In the south, cars disrespect cyclists little (but is already better than in Italy…);
- If you need anything for camping, have a look at Bever (it’s in all major cities) and you’ll find it! Try asking for a spork…
- Shop at Jumbo: it’s the best supermarket for value for money, there are many everywhere and they are well stocked;
- All roads (even motorways) are flanked by bike lanes, often distinct for the two directions;
- Here the regions are called “provinces” and are 12 in total, while the provinces are rather of the geographical regions.
Click on the images to view them in full size.
Tuesday, 4 August 2020
- 17 km
- Schiphol Airport➡Amsterdam city center
At 2:30 in the morning our new adventure begins! The bikes are ready, disassembled, packed and closed in huge boxes. We load everything on the truck and head to Milan-Malpensa airport, to catch the flight that in less than 2 hours will take us to Amsterdam. Despite the slight complication of carrying our oversized luggage at the airport, everything goes smoothly and just recovered everything, we find a quiet place to re-assemble our bikes. We are in the province of Northern Holland. Just outside Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport, we find the bike path, which in a few minutes takes us to the outskirts of the capital. We stop at the beautiful Vondelpark city park for a quick lunch with hot dogs… Amsterdam is very alive and young and makes a great impression on us. We are also surprised, however long the days are compared to northern Italy, with light until late, due to the lower latitude we are. We admire the main attractions (Rembrandtplein, Oudekerk and the Jordaan district with the house of Anne Frank), we taste typical food and enjoy the unique atmosphere going zonzo among the concentric canals Heritage of UNESCO in the capital of the most bike-friendly country in the world.
Where we sleep: Hans Brinker Hostel (our stay rating: 9/10)
Wednesday, 5 August 2020
- 45 km
- Amsterdam city center➡Edam
The alarm didn’t sound too early this morning, so, nice rested and fed from a good breakfast, we pick up the bikes and head to the center of Amsterdam. The roads are closed to cars and everyone rides a bicycle. We probably look like two fish out of water, baffled by such a cyclist traffic. In addition, the Dutch are so used to moving like this, they go like rockets in narrow streets, make daring overtaking and never use the bell! Outside the capital, you can still move very well on bicycles and in a short time we arrive on the bank of the Markermeer, crossing villages like Durgerdam and Uitdam. A dike (which consists of a long, narrow tongue of land) takes us all the way to Marken. We cycle all over the small “almost island”, with a very characteristic and charming appearance. After a few hours, we then head to the harbour, where hundreds of tourists seem to be concentrated; from here we take the boat that in about 20 minutes takes us to the opposite bank, to Volendam. This is also a very touristy destination, nice to visit. A little further on, we find Edam, not so crowded, but that really deserves a visit. On the coast, protected by a dune, there is the campsite we have chosen and for the first time, under a beautiful clear sky, we pitch our small tent. As will happen to us other times, we find ourselves in the garden of a farm and in the field in front of us graze the large frison cows and hundreds of wild geese sneer in flocks flying over the ponds.
Where we sleep: Camping Zeevang Hoeve (our stay rating: 9/10)
Thursday, 6 August 2020
- 53 km
- Edam➡Groote Keeten
Gradually we begin to increase the daily kilometers. Today, we travel northwest. Along the huge Markermeer inlandsea, we cross the inland and head for the North Sea. Everywhere, green meadows, lots of cows and impressive flocks of sneering wild geese. The beautiful bike path notches the villages of De Goorn, Obdam and De Noord. There are few benches and picnic tables in this region, and we have to wait to get to Zijdewind to find a place to stop to eat our sandwiches. Finally we reach the village of t’ Zand and a little further on we take the detour to our campsite. In August, this is a very touristy area (due to its proximity to the Frisian Islands) and it is not easy to find a free campsite. However, we discover the reality of minicamping: they are usually farms or stables, family-run, which with less than 20 euros offer a quiet pitch, picnic tables, clean baths and hot water, in a friendly and relaxed environment. Tonight, we travel another 8 km (between round trip) to do the shopping at the supermarket and buy all the food for dinner, breakfast and lunch.
Where we sleep: Landleven minicamping (our stay rating: 6/10)
Friday, 7 August 2020
- 65 km (including 10 by ferry)
This morning we leave all our luggage in the camping and with nice light bikes we leave to visit the largest and most touristy of the Frisone Islands,which however is located in the province of Northern Holland: Texel. We arrive at Den Helder,where in a few minutes we embark on the ferry, specially prepared to transport bicycles and with a crossing of about 20 minutes we arrive at the port of Texel. As soon as we hit the ground, an information panel shows us the 150 km of bike roads that run along the island in all directions. We decide to go northwest and soon find ourselves on the territory of the Dunes Of Texel National Park. This is a truly spectacular landscape, mixed between heath and Mediterranean scrub, dyed purple by the flowering of wild heather. Past the last dunes, you have access to the beach. An immense beach, which degrades very slowly towards the sea. Given the exceptionally warm and clear day, we give ourselves a cooling bath in the North Sea. In the afternoon we then move inland and visit the quaint village of Den Hoorn. We then go even further north (unfortunately we can’t reach the picturesque and famous lighthouse placed at the northern end of the island) and stop at De Koog. Another bath in the sea (the sun is really scorching today!) and then sprint away to try to catch the ferry of 18:00. Arriving back at Den Helder, it’s aperitif time and we stop at one of the quaint locals on the harbour pier. When we go back to camping that’s 22:00, but the sky is not dark yet.
Where we sleep: Landleven minicamping (our stay rating: 6/10)
Saturday, 8 August 2020
- 81 km (including 29 by bus)
- Groote Keeten➡Harlingen
By now our morning routine is well established: wake up at 7:30; breakfast with porridge enriched with jam and cheese, orange juice and chocolate cereal; preparation of lunch (usually we heat ready meals or cook ravioli) which we store in a small thermal container; we dismantle the tent and for 10:30 o’clock we leave the campsite. This morning we begin our crossing to the east, following the northern coast, in the province of Friesland. We pass the quaint villages of Anna Paulowna and Hippolytushoef to then get to Den Oever. This is where the country’s longest dike (29 km) starts but it’s currently closed to bicycles due to maintenance work that will last until 1 April 2022. To allow cyclists to continue the route, an efficient fiedsbus has been setup, a free bus with seating and space to carry a good number of bikes. The bus leaves us in Kornwerderzand, from where we are only 14 km away to reach the daily destination: Harlingen. We have some time to get around the city, very nice and do the shopping for dinner. But in camping we have the worst experience ever, a real nightmare… Perhaps only we were unlucky or perhaps the Dutch did not take effect, but what we find is not to be wished to anyone! The campsite itself is not much to our liking: too big and crowded, queue to go to the bathroom, showers for a fee and no wifi, but the worst are the ticks!!!! After setting up the tent, we notice the tiny little beings running and sticking dozens on our legs, then on our clothes and arms. We immediately escape into the city and eat dinner on a bench. When it’s dark, reluctant, we go back to the tent and try to sleep.
Where we sleep: Camping De Zeehoeve (our stay rating: 2/10)
Sunday, 9 August 2020
- 30 km
- Harlingen➡Sint Annaparochie
Today we get up early and spend an hour taking off ticks from each other again. We dismantle everything and, without breakfast, we leave, to get away as quickly as possible from the place and from the thought of that horror. We stop in the city and admire its style and the accuracy of the details. Here every country is beautiful, with houses all in the same style, flower beds, well-cut lawns and streets paved with red bricks placed in fishbone and wedged to perfection. Nothing is out of place. We always ride along the dike that separates the sea from the countryside and pass the villages of Minnertsga, Sint Jacobiparochie and Sint Annaparochie. It’s Sunday, lunchtime, there’s no one around, there’s nothing open and our cell phones have unloaded… After a moment of discouragement, not knowing where to go, we rely on intuition and continue to pedal until we see the signs for a campsite. We follow them hoping with all our heart to be luckier than the previous day and at 14:30 we already begin to set up the tent. The minicamping is perfect, small, quiet, clean and feels like family. The owners are very friendly and welcome us enthusiastically, although they are also super engaged with a gathering of vintage Volkswagens that they organize in their garden. Luckily the weather is warm and a beautiful cloudless sun shines, because we have washed all our clothes, preventing us from finding any more ticks. We make friends with our tent neighbors: an “elderly” couple who are making the same journey as us, but in the opposite direction.
Where we sleep: De Noordster minicamping (our stay rating: 9/10)
Monday, 10 August 2020
- 64 km
- Sint Annaparochie➡Houwerzijl
This morning, another nasty surprise: our gas stove broke. No hot breakfast… We therefore resign ourselves to having cold meals for the next two days, just enough time to arrive in the largest city in the area, Groningen, and hope to find a way to resolve the situation. From today we decide to stop using the navigator, relying instead on the maps on the route and the knooppunt system. This consists of a dense network of cycle paths that intersect in numbered points; each knooppunt is a panel with a map that allows you to choose the direction and the bike path to follow to reach the next intersection; along the entire route, at each intersection or curve, there are also small signs indicating the direction for the point you are following. Ours, remains close to the coast, developing within pastures populated by hundreds of small soft sheep. All day long it is a succession of “open and close” gates that divide one pasture from the other and zigzag among the sheep who, not at all frightened by passers-by and bicycles, sleep in the middle of the road. We pass the village of Wierum and walk the dike that takes us to Lauwersoog, meeting on the way a couple of French cyclists who shared the campsite with us the previous evening. What a nice “re-meeting”! We skirt the Lauwersmeer in a lagoon-like landscape with ponds, windswept reeds and a wide variety of water birds. Today the wind is quite strong and blows in the opposite direction to our gear, but nevertheless we manage to get to the campsite at a decent time. We sleep in the courtyard of a farm, with a family that welcomes us very kindly and exceptionally, since it has decided not to keep the campsite for tourists anymore, but it only opens it to friends, relatives and “for cyclists there is always a place”.
Where we sleep: minicamping t’Heerdje (our stay rating: 6/10)