Nieuwkoop & Nieuwkoopse Plassen

Passing conversations with people I used to know often has planted seeds about places I otherwise would have known had neither existed, let alone considered visiting. I remember making a wordplay, “Nieuw koop in nieuwkoop”, in response to them telling me about visiting her friend’s new houseboat there.

The urge to explore newer (pun not intended) places more comfortably has been gnawing at me. Staring at the map, the seeds took root, and I knew I had to bike around and see the lakes here. The place is hard to get to by car, public transport, or bike alone, so I put my shiny new folding bike in the car and went. It was a beautiful day for a nice 30km ride around the towns of Niewkoopse plassen.

The highlight of the trip was the zonveer ferry through the plassen, which felt like the Dutch version of “Windows XP Landscape”

But before I saw that, I had missed the ferry and had an hour to kill. I took off from Hollandsekade, my starting point and biked along towards the nearby windmill Westweense Molen.

Awe and amazement wash over me every time I see these windmills doting the landscape. They evoke a poetic feeling of being in place and out of place at the same time. They belong to a time from which nobody is alive, from a place I was never born, yet here we are in this place and time. I crave this juxtaposition.

I biked along the dijk with reed embankments, down via Wordense Verlaat

In my opinion, the quintessentially rural Dutch landscape consists of a farm doted by cows, a big house, a simple boat, and reeds along the canal. This is how I imagine ancient times were in this country, just frozen into the modern 21st century.

I took a self-operated cable ferry (Zegveld – Kamerik) across the canal to get to the other side. Rolling in the heavy chain sunk to the canal bed took forever. It was novel, but I’d rather not do it again.

I turned towards Hollandsekade, biking along the Oude Meije to my original planned starting point.

I reached the ferry point with time to spare for a quick bite of some bread. The ferry is solar-powered, volunteer/community run and built by the captain himself. Conversing with the captain about his story and chatting with other travellers in Dutch made me wish I had learned to speak Dutch a decade ago.

Ominous-looking clouds passing by created a dystopian contrast against the warm, sunny cotton-cloud skies. But that was soon behind us and stayed behind us.

Its unbelievable that so many people were born and live in this neighbourhood.

After an hours journey, I reached the little town of Noorden

I biked into Nieuwkoop, passing yet more of the Dutch landscape I have come to find comfort in.

The mirror like reflection of clouds and skies on the relatively calm waters was spectacular.

Took a small detour into the town to get a sense of the place. After stopping for a quite bite by the grocery store, off I went.

It felt poignant that as I made my way out of Nieuwkoop, I passed by a party with a song about Amsterdam playing out loud.

Open landscape, uncrowded open beaches, odd recreational boats on the water on a beautiful sunny day, with the rustling leaves and water splashing being the only sounds audible (and maybe aeroplanes, which were jarring), left me calm. No sooner have I happened than I happened about a restaurant; part of me wanted to stop for a coffee, and part of me wanted to leave and enjoy solitude. I wish to stay here longer, a lot longer than a day trip or a week or two would allow me.

On approaching Meije, which sounded so Japanese in my mind, a white tower emerged. I felt transported to a mediveal era.

Any moment sentries with spears and archers on horses would gallop towards me, inquiring as to my straying into their. That moment never came.

Biked back to my starting point before taking one last look at this serene view and headed home.

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