We had originally planned to get an early start on our first day of cycling to Brugge, Belgium, However, our houseboat host heard our planned route and suggested we stop at her house on our way out of town.
She lives in a modern houseboat on the other side of the Amstel River as we were heading out of town. So we made arrangements to stop by around noon.
After our brief stop we were on the trail headed to Woerden. There are two options for the first day of the Amsterdam to Brugge bike tour. You can bike all the way to Gouda or you can break it up in two days by stopping in Woerden. Since we had planned on being with Brian and Gary, we decided to break up the ride to give everyone a chance to get acclimated to the bikes.
Our route took us along the Amstel River, next to small canals and through the low land polders. The use of polders increased the land available for agriculture and villages. A polder is a piece of land that has been reclaimed from the sea. All those windmills in the Netherlands used to have the job of keeping the water pumped out of the low lying polders. You can imagine the amout of work and infrastructure needed to keep the higher sea levels out. Around 20 percent of the land area in Holland are polders. It all made for some interesting riding.
The monument 13 Mei 1941, marks the location of a German light bomber, (Jubba 5) that crashed killing all but one on board. If interested, you can expand the text and read the English version of the story.
Here is the strava post of our Amsterdam to Woerden ride:
After a restful sleep, we woke up in Woerden ready to get on the road to Gouda. This would be our shortest ride of the week, only 25 miles. It is actually much closer than that, but to make the ride a little longer and more interesting, the route deviated from a straight path. Again, the ride was through polders, along canals and into Gouda. So most of you are probably familiar with the name Gouda, as in cheese. Most of us woud pronounce that like “goo dah.” The Dutch pronunciation is more like “how dah,” with aspirated “h.” I expect the more common “goo dah” is just fine and if you went into a market at home and asked for “how dah” cheese, you would be met with a blank stare.
Here are a few pictures along the ride.
Once we arrived in Gouda, we took a walk around the charming town. The highlight is the town square, where the Gothic city hall is located. Finished in 1450, the Stadhuis is the oldest Gothic city hall in the Netherlands. Behind city hall is a large open space, where the Thursday cheese market is located. Unfortutunately, we weren’t in Gouda on Thursday and missed the maket. Also on the square, is the Goudse Waag, Gouda Weighing House. With all that cheese being sold by weight, it is not suprising there a large commercial scale. The Waag was completed in 1668. Today it is the Gouda Cheese Museum. The last important structure is the Gothic Sint Jan (St. John) Reformed Church. Built in the 16th century as a replacement of an earlier chuch which burned in 1552. At 123 meters, it is the longest church in the Netherlands. It is notable for its high spires and 72 stained class windows. During WWII, the windows were removed and taken to a safe place, so thay did not experience damage during the war.
Here is the link to my Strava post for the ride Woerden to Gouda.
Day 3, Gouda to Papendrecht was a more of the same, dykes, polders, canals and small villages with the exception of our stop in the Unesco World Heritage Site in Kinderdijk. The site of 19 extant windmills. It is a must do stop, whether traveling by boat, bike or car. The windmills are a reminder of how much wind power was required to keep the polders dry. Bill and I had been here on our Basel to Amsterdam River Cruise a few years ago. We decided not to go inside the tight quarters Windmills.
The Strava Link for Gouda to Papendrecht is:
After 3 very nice riding days, it rained hard in the overnight in Papendrecht and was still rainy in the early morning, A check of the weather showed a break was likely mid-morning. So donning our rain gear we hit the road headed for Willemstad. The good news is the rain never was hard and really only off and on for about an hour. After that the sun caused it to get a little warm with lots of humidity. Today’s ride was on the edge of the National Park de Biesbosch, a near 20,000 acres nature preserve. There are two ferries that let you access the Park, but on our travel day, one of the ferries was not running so we elected to ride the bridge route. It would have been too many miles to use the one operating ferry for a round trip into the park.The ride across the bridge over Hollands Diep gave us a taste of the wind conditions as we turned toward the North Sea coast. After arriving in Willemstad, we walked around the city to check it out. Willemstad was founded as Ruigenhil in 1585. The city’s current named dates to 1639. Willemstad, located at a strategic location on Hollands Diep, is a fortified 7 point star shaped city wall and canal.
You can check out our Papendrecht to Willemstad ride on Strava at:
The rains from the previous day having passed, we had what I had along assumed would be the case, strong winds coming off North Sea. Given our direction of travel changed as we rode, the common theme was strong headwinds and rarely a tailwind. Riding into the wind is a lot like biking up hill. You just have to be slow and steady. Today’s ride took us across both Hollands Diep again and the Grevelingenmeer, which is a closed off section of the Rhine- Muese estuary.
As has been the case in other stops, we did a walk in Zierikzee after we arrived. The short rides we had each day allowed for leisurely strolls in each city.
Here is the Strava Link for the ride Papendrecht to Zierikzee:
Next up was Day 6 – Zierikzee to Vlissingen. Another day of 20 plus mph winds. The ride started off with a 7 mile ride across the Zeelanbrug (Zeeland Bridge) accross the Eastern Sheldt River estuary, then hugging the coast of the Province of Zeeland to Camperland, where we picked up a ferry to cross the Veerse Meer. After that, it was only a short distance to Vlissingen, our last stop before Brugge.
Although right on the North Sea, Vlissingen did not impress us as much as the other stops did. We were able to walk along the sea wall, stop for cocktails at a couple of the seaside (windy) bars. One of the things we did notice is how close the sea lane is from the beach. Notice the navigational buoy right off the sand. We had a quiet dinner at the hotel and prepared for our last riding day, the next morning.
Strava Link Zierikzee to Vlissingen – https://www.strava.com/activities/7205809247
Day 7 to Brugge – Our ride direction and the fact that the wind was blocked by the higher dykes made for a much easier riding on this the last day.
We arrived in Brugge, packed up the bike stuff and headed out to explore the town. Brugge is a UNESCO World Historic sight. The city is just magical. Dating from the 9th century, the area has been know by various names. It’s city charter was issued in 1128. Below are some of the interestimg sights we took in while walking Brugge
The Strava link is:
Strava Link – Vlissingen to Brugge- https://www.strava.com/activities/7211237104
So our Amsterdam to Brugge 7 day cycle tour comes to an end. We traveled 223 miles. All things considered, only one day disrupted by rain and even that was only an hour or so. Cool riding conditions and relative flat terrain made for easy riding, even if the wind tried to knock the effort up a bit. We feel a real sense of accomplishment. Next up Loire Valley Cycling.
Just a quick word about timing of the blog. I have been, behind due to internet issues. We are already in Barcelona, so I will try to get the Loire Valley and Bordeaux stops in the next day or so. We are going to be in Greece with Peter and Mark and they have really good internet.