Thursday September 20, 2018

When I travel the Netherlands I’m usually far from the oldest edifice to be seen – but Flevoland is different.

Flevoland is the youngest province in the country. Although some of the land for this province was “poldered” out of the sea beginning in 1939, most of the land was diked and drained only in the 1950s and 1960s. So biking through this province from Zwolle was a real change of pace – after waking up in a city which was founded in about AD 800, I was soon pedaling against the west wind through flat fields and new villages with nary an old brick to be seen, either in the buildings or in the pavement.

And speaking of wind, I passed a number of places marked “Wind Test Site”. It hardly seemed necessary to test if there was wind – my sore muscles gave evidence, as did the scores of huge spinning wind turbines. There were three parallel lines of high-voltage transmission towers running north-south, about 500 metres apart.

I was happy to finally reach the capital city, Lelystad. This city was only founded in 1967, so every building in town is a good bit younger than I am.

Above, the train station in the “historic” centre of Lelystad. Below, a view from the same public square looking away from the station.

The architecture was interesting but the road design was maddening. There were, of course, many bike paths – but they didn’t follow the automobile roads with any consistency, and signage was mediocre at best. I would frequently spot a sign pointing me toward my destination, but then I’d come to two or three forks in the road with no signs, and then suddenly the bike path I was on would just quit. Full Stop. WTF!

I wasted at least an hour getting through the city to the beginning of the Markerwaarddijk. This 27-km dike runs across the southern half of the former Zuiderzee, directly to the town of Enkhuizen where I was planning to spend the night. Plus, it runs mostly from south to north, and I would have a good tail wind, after battling the breeze for hours.

My relief at reaching this point quickly turned to dismay. The bike path on the dike was closed for repairs, there were very serious fences blocking my way, plus bike signs proclaiming “Police patrolled! Fine of €140 for cyclist on dike!”

There are very few places in the Netherlands where a closed bike path does not have several reasonable alternatives. This is an exception to the rule. The next shortest bike path to Enkhuizen from Lelystad is 118 km, compared to the 27 km Markerwaarddijk.

At 3:30 pm, a 118 km ride was not an option – but I had already booked a non-refundable room in Enkhuizen, and I really wanted to be there anyway to see the famous Zuiderzeemuseum. So I got back into downtown Lelystad and checked on trains. Yes, I could go to Enkhuizen via Amsterdam for about €20, and I could take my bike,  but only after rush hour. That meant a 2.5 hour wait, in a city which did not warm my heart.  But well after dark, my train a pulled into Enkhuizen, the door opened, I stepped onto the platform, and …

A ferocious volley of fireworks went off! It boomed and whistled without pause for about 15 minutes, accompanied by the cheers of a huge crowd*. There was no way to ask for directions above that din, and then when the fireworks stopped the huge crowd began to disperse in every direction. I had to ask for help a few times, but it was only about a 10 minute walk to my hotel, which was lovely.  All’s well that ends well.

*As it turned out, the fireworks were not to celebrate my arrival, but were simply the finale of an annual festival of horse-racing.