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
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
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.
While I find that time passes quickly, it does; however, the summer took its sweet time to arrive. Or the varied experiences that added up, slowing down my perception of time.
How I experience time, changing seasons, and the city’s vibe has dramatically changed. The winters felt mild, for I was always home in comfortable clothes (and hello, climate change); Outdoors felt less crowded, for I am always home. What has stayed the same is how the city glimmers in the golden hour – haze lit up, trees and foilage backlit, and sharp shadows create this ethereal feel indescribable in words.
This particular favourite spot near my home evoked the feeling of watching the Gladiator movie’s opening scene, where Russel Crowe walks through a field, brushing his hand against the crops.
I paused briefly and decided to get to the other side via the bridge nearby. As I dropped onto the other side of the bank, I spotted a lone skateboarder lost in an endless dance of perseverance of, trial, error, and fun.
The sun began to sink further, leaving everything aglow. Streaks of light shone throw the leaves forming sharp shadows.
Am I seeing everything through a film camera? Or is this for real? My mind wondered. The surreality was unbelievable.
I sprinted up the nesciobrug to slowly orient myself homeward
Every single time I am atop here, I feel small. I am just another human in one small corner of the world, calling this place home, a place far far away from a home lost in time.
I momentarily paused at a beach nearby, lost watching a mother-son duo playing frisbee with their dog darting joyfully in between. I was filled with complex happiness, witnessing their joy and love, yet tasting the bittersweet sting of my own grief, a sorrow I know will forever linger
I took a self-portrait in shadow to mark this moment in time and place and headed back home.
It’s incredible how much things can change in time. 16 years – that’s how long it’s been since my first encounter with Japanese – made particularly difficult to appreciate because I was unexpectedly forced to take it up at University. Since then, my feelings have changed; I might even call this trip to Japan a pilgrimage.
Here is a glimpse of my glimpses in broad strokes.
There are temples everywhere. I particularly enjoyed people watching those who come to pay their respects, pray, meditate.
The juxtaposition of tradition and modernity was everpresent in Japan
Food was everywhere, from conventional restaurants to…
all night convenience stores…
hole in the wall izakayas
Solo booths catering to lone patrons (which were a particular favourite of mine)
to street food stalls!
After 7 years of learning and making Tamagoyaki on my own, I finally got to try the real authentic version made in Japan. Belatedly, I’ve realised that I must add sweetness and umami when making it.
Vending machines are omnipresent, often accepting Passmo in most busy places, which made my life quite convenient. They serve hot and cold drinks differentiated by red and blue labels – I learnt that the hard way.
Vending machines serving groceries were of particular curiosity for me – that too in a metro station.
Japanese public transit is truly impressive! It’s hard not to be in awe of how convenient and unfailingly punctual it is.
Nobody talks on phone – that was so refreshing.
City streets bustling with traffic and people getting somewhere was everything I expected here.
The narrow streets were just as bustling with folks selling wares, restaurants along with foot traffic
Japanese-esque customisation of bikes everywhere made me reminisce about home in Amsterdam and a subtle reminder to use mine more often.
The golden hour & the sunset in the city caught me unawares as it went aglow.
Sunstreaks leaking through the buildings evoked a cinematic feel, making me wonder if life as I know it is all just metafiction.
The sun might set, but Tokyo truly never sleeps. In many ways, the city just woke up and it got busier.
An unassuming meeting point emerges in the refuge of trees amid the madness of Shibuya scramble crossing – the Hachiko statue. The story of Hachiko had a massive impact on me – it poked and prodded the grief in me and left me bawling the first time I read about it. If Japan was my pilgrimage, this was my temple.
Two worlds collide 200 meters from Tokyo station as the imperial palace gardens emerge – the traditional and modern while in my mind, it was Shanghai and New York. On the final day of my trip to this city, I took to strolling this area.
Heat picked up and a stones throw away from the main station, I found refuge in the quiet streets
Old posters from my part of the world, sold as speciality items here evoked a chuckle.
Drip coffee is now my new favourite way to drink this beverage.
Trees awning over the streets with tall buildings poking up was reminiscent of my trip to New York.
With a sigh, I got a move on, onto my next destination Kyoto with the shinkansen.
On a rainy Sunday, I headed to explore this little forest, which I only recently discovered despite having lived in my current neighbourhood for the better part of a decade.
Koffie met appeltaartje was delightful despite the crowded restaurant, which I nibbled while sitting at the bar, as that was the only spot available.
It was loud with noise from the nearby motorway and railway tracks, but it was quiet and quaint. The damp weather elevated the saturated green grass tones, making it stand out against the muddy grounds.
These trees reminded me of Speulderbos – Forest of dancing trees. It also reminded me to consider getting back onto road biking, which I fell off seven years ago after that bike went missing.
It brings me great joy to see well-behaved dogs, off-leash, merrily exploring around, occasionally waiting for their owners to catch up to them.
Photographing dry reeds is always fun, and all appear just as same as they are different.
A bridge emerged from the foilage, and I had to go up for a peek.
It was a relaxed 45 walk, though the trails website described it as a 2-hour circuit. It is close if you were herding a few restless kids and a dog or two with every step you take.