It's a strange thing to glance at your GPS and see negative numbers for your elevation. But that's what you get when you're riding through the Netherlands. Or is it Holland? Dutchland?
We've pulled ourselves away from the Belgian Haven of Eva and Thomas' home and rode out into the warming European spring. The sun is shining and the sky is blue and for the first time in a while, it feels like we're finally ahead of the weather instead of being chased away by it.
Riding past dams, dikes and levees of the Delta Works project
Being very flat, the Netherlands is not really a motorcycle destination. About 25% of Holland is below sea-level and more than half of the country is in danger of being flooded! There's been a long history of flood-control here, with the first dikes being built in the 9th century. For scenic reasons, we were advised to ride along the coast and through the Delta Works project in the south-west part of the country. It's basically a high-tech version of those first dikes, also helping to reclaim vast areas of land from the encroaching North Sea.
I was surprised to learn that this land reclamation is quite critical because the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world by land mass. There are more people squeezed in here per square km than in India!
Accelerating the population is similar to accelerating a motorcycle. Except that you clump the Dutch instead...
There are 35 people who live in this one windmill alone
Like other countries in this part of the world, I only knew a little bit about the Netherlands. I knew about the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike, and that everyone here smokes pot and wears wooden clogs. I didn't know why this place was also called Holland and why the official language was called Dutch, and not Hollandaise, or Netherlang.
I did know that there are a lot of windmills in the Netherlands.
Hanging out with the windmills at Kinderdijk
Speaking of population density, the densest concentration of windmills is in the town of Kinderdijk, so we rode there to see them up close. I always thought windmills were used to grind grain or something similar. Boy, was I mistaken.
At Kinderdijk, 7 meters below sealevel, all sorts of flood-management techniques have been implemented throughout the centuries: dikes, sluices, etc., however these all proved ineffective against the ever-rising waters. In the 1700s nineteen windmills were constructed to help pump water away from the low-lying areas in Kinderdijk. A hundred years later, these windmills were supplanted by newer-technology steam pumps which were then converted to electrically powered ones in the 1900s.
Today, the nineteen windmills at Kinderdijk have been restored and mainly serve as a tourist attraction. They've been designated as a UNESCO site, so once again, we are on the Gringo Trail in Europe.
These guys don't seem to mind all this water
Believe it or not, these are Canada Geese!
Back on the road, we pass by the Netherlands' Military Missile Defense silos
We're on our way to The Hague, about an hour south of Amsterdam. Mike and his wife, Bua are British ex-pats living here in the Netherlands. Mike's been in contact with me via the blog and has offered us a place to stay as we ride through which was super-nice of him. He was actually riding in Croatia last summer while we were in Pula, but our bikes hadn't arrived yet and we were still taking care of Neda's mom so we were unable to meet him.
Our hosts in The Hague, Mike and Bua
Mike is quite the avid motorcycle traveler. We talked a lot about the places he had ridden to and he gave us some great tips on riding through Scandinavia, which is what we're looking forward to later on this summer. I loved hearing about the Netherlands from an ex-pat's viewpoint, since they often see things differently than people who have lived here their whole lives. Both Mike and Bua had interesting perspectives on life in Holland after moving here from England.
Windmill at Keukenhof.
We happened to be in The Hague right around the time that the Keukenhof Gardens were open. Keukenhof is one of the world's largest flower gardens, it's in the city of Lisse just 40 minutes away from where we are staying. Neda *LOVES* flowers and Keukenhof is only open from mid-March to Mid-May so it was by luck that we were here at the perfect time to catch the flowers in bloom. Unfortunately Mike had to go to work, but Bua volunteered to take us.
Indigenous peoples of the Netherlands
There are over 7 million bulbs in bloom this year covering the 32 hectares at Keukenhof, with 800 varieties of Tulips all over the gardens. Neda was in heaven, reveling in the multitude of colours around her and literally stopping to smell the flowers and read all the informational signs next to them. I was going to label all these pictures with the proper names of the flowers, but I don't know anything about them... You're more than welcome to e-mail me and help me identify them! :)
I'm not so much into flowers, but they do make for great pictures. We're really happy that there are clear blue skies for us to walk around under!
Some people take their photography very seriously!
The gardens were very crowded for a weekday! More than a million people visit during the two-months they are open
Red flower with yellow centre
The bridal exhibit does big business here at Keukenhof. This was the Love Wall,
where visitors from all around the world can proclaim their love by writing on tags
his pen is... what? Don't leave it hanging like that, Lotta...
Big yellow flowers with small blue ones beside it. Also purple sticks.
White flowers. And a yellow and black bee
Need a windmill right here to help lower the water level under this bridge...
More yellow, purple and blue flowers
White and brown goat. Neda wearing a blue sweater.
Yellow flower about to eat a smaller orange flower
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