Haarlem and a detour to Zandvoort beach

After nine years of owning a car, I’ve forgotten train journeys. While I’ve travelled further and farther, the places close by became unfamiliar, especially those that were too close by car and a bit too far to bike leisurely—which is pretty much most of the country beyond the city reaches.

It occurred to me that I’ve either passed by or barely passed through Haarlem almost always to get to either Zandvoort or the Bloemendaal beach. So, I set out to explore this tiny city/town and was not disappointed.

I got down at the station, which was vast and seemingly uncrowded.

The dissonance caused by architecture that felt quintessential and familiarly Dutch and yet truly unfamiliar, was striking

The city center filled me with a sense of calm a stark contrast to the bustling city of Amsterdam that I just left behind.

After walking for hours, I couldn’t shake the urge to go to the beach, which was just a stone’s throw away. I took the bus to Haarlem centraal and got onto a train to Zandvoort.

While the beach was deserted by the usual standards of its use, I turned out to be not the only crazy one to brave chilly and windy weather for a glimpse of the ocean.

Walking on an empty beach, soaking in the smell of the sea while washed over with wild winds, left my soul cleansed. The bubble around me, growing over the years, eroded away. The cloak fell down, my mind unbound, my soul unwound, and I felt free.

Standing tall as a sentinel is this residential building, which always evokes an urge to buy an apartment and become a hermit, living the rest of my days in solitude, staring at the sea. Alas, that is not for me; I need the company of people and the energy that comes from bit of the hustle & bustle of a city, or even a small town.

Watching surfer-boarders trying to catch waves and kite surfers taming the winds serves as a reminder that there is a more emphatic version of “being on the beach” than mine, which is relatively meek.

Sitting in an empty beach shack and sipping hot chocolate, watching the waves while away from the wind, was the icing on the evening I didn’t know I needed

Summer vibes and flower beds

The journey from one place in time to another at the same place was a stark contrast. From freezing winters turning into vibrant summers to washing away in pouring rain, it has all turned into a slow traverse through mild winters and hot summers.

Perhaps it says more about how I have changed, for we see the world through the lens of who we are. And who I am has changed, for I find myself growing calmer, more reflective, and more accepting of myself, others, and the world around me, though the world seemingly has grown louder.

And yet, summer is finally here. After two long months of waiting, I finally got the bike back from the bike shop, which drove me to step out in the beautiful evening weather to my favourite spot. What better way to capture the quiet contemplation of change than black-and-white pictures? Here are some that I took today

Oostelijke Vechtplassen

The blobs of water bodies that are prominently visible on the map when you look at Amsterdam, which always seemed too inconvenient to drive and too distant to bike, somehow started feel closer the more I cycled around the country side.

Being curious about the eastern lakes and the nature areas I planned to ride along Spiegelplas, Ankeveensche plassen, Wijde Blik lakes. I spent half a day outdoors in the cold, biking almost 60km and it was a dream. Here are some pictures from the trip


Ankeveensche Plassen

Oud Loosdrecht

Nederlands Oorlogsgraf

Wijde Blik

Stopped by the bird watching hut (Vogelkijkhut) to eat lunch that I brought along

Stopping in Loenen aan de Vecht for a coffee and an appletaartje to warm up after a long cold day of riding with plenty more to go

Biking around the countryside

The realization that I never thought of going beyond the confines of the city on my bike despite being at the edge of it astonished me. Being used to exploring new places with a car and knowing that I might have exhausted the possibilities for discovering new ones nearby after a decade, I lost my way in the art of getting lost. The subtitle of this blog was dedicated to the idea of travelling and getting lost and documenting them as I go along.

Capitalism has this effect where you feel an insatiable need that one purchase solves everything. In this case, it was a road bike. After all, that’s how I did it 10 years ago. This meant I also needed a bike computer. Ironically, it’s that purchase that made me realize that I don’t need a new bike, and my trusty 5-year-old e-bike was the perfect mode for exploring and getting lost – sweat-free.

The route I planned around windmills and old forts took me from Amsterdam and through Ankeveen -> Nederhorst den Berg -> Nigtevecht (or almost) -> Weesp -> and back.

First stop was the molen Hollandia. It popped out of nowhere and quite unexpectedly discovered a restaurant right beside it. It was both in the middle of nowhere and yet packed with families and friends enjoying the mid-day lunch and the sun.

Further ahead I passed through a really cute town of Ankeveen. The name had a very familiar ring to yet, yet one I’ve never paid attention to on a map despite it being less than 20kms away.

The landscape felt calm

And the houses quaint

Castle Nederhorst den Berg was the next landmark I passed, which seemed abandoned. My Dutch felt good enough to read the information displayed outside, which informed me first that it was privately owned and not open to the public. Secondly, to my amusement, it only allows couples living in the town to take wedding pictures.

At every single spot you’d consider pausing along the river Vecht, you are greeted with spectacularly calm views and soothing vibes.

The river crossing was apparently via a small electric ferry, which shut an hour earlier, leaving me stranded to take a detour that added 15 kilometers and an additional hour of the ride. With views like this, I couldn’t complain and welcomed the serendipity.

I was back near Nederhorst den Berg. At this particular moment, I was hit with a strange deja vu feeling, which I realized was more due to nostalgia than to memory of a specific spot I drove by in Scotland.

What do you call a collection of dwellings that are too small to even call a village? Thats the kind of place Hinderdam is.

The serene reflections were unbelievable.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the golden hour unfolded upon the landscape

its colors and atmosphere building to a crescendo

culminating with buildings becoming striking silhouettes against this backdrop as I made my way home.