How is this for a total stereotype? This is the last photo of the day Gerda Kluitenberg and I spent together. We had such a good time. Hanging out in real meat space felt perfectly natural, as if we had known each other forever.
Gerda and I met on Multiply, probably through Picture Perfect. I love her beautiful photos of the Dutch landscape. She lives not too far from Hilversum. One Sunday morning Gerda picked me up for a lovely day of sight-seeing by car. Any landscape looks so much better when seen from the small roads. My request was a route through the river landscape that so often features in Gerda's pictures.
On the way she pointed out a large pond, and mentioned that she often walks all the way around it. Sounds good! Could we? Sure, but first we had to get her walking shoes from home.
It was fun to see her place, especially the balcony that has so often featured in photographs. You won't believe how many petunias a flower-loving Dutch woman can squeeze into a tiny space! And I got to see her bookshelves, and received some valuable pointers on modern Dutch literature. Did I mention that librarians are among my favorite kind of people? But onward into the fresh air.
Surprise: the rough grassy shores of the pond were being grazed by Scottish Highland cattle on one side, and wild horses on the other side. The use of large herbivores has become a common tool of landscape management in the Netherlands and Belgium. Your typical Dutch cow is used to luxurious grass, not the rough forage on offer here. Hence the imports.
The animals just do their thing and seem unfazed by the large number of two-legged walkers and their dogs. We asked someone to take our picture.
The place was full of birds, both in the water and in the air. Holland is a big swamp and a true paradise for birds. In Amsterdam I saw a glass-topped tourist boat swerve around a family of swans, right in the downtown canal. And just to keep things in balance: on one side of the pond is a bridge over a busy highway. This is so typical of Holland.
Below: tower and gate in Vianen, Gerda's home.
The trip through the river region was wonderful. Yes, vistas like the one below exist, in spite of the insanely dense population.
Below a more cluttered view, less flattering but more realistic.
The sun had come out to show off the river Lek, a branch of the Rhine.
By this time our stomachs were growling. The map showed a restaurant in the historic town Nieuwpoort.
There was no room at this inn. The place was crammed full of sports enthousiasts watching soccer on the the big telly. Later that day I found out the match was between two arch rivals: Ajax (Amsterdam) vs Feyenoord, the club of Rotterdam. If Margreet had still been alive she might have had a heart attack watching it. The score was 2-1 for Ajax when Feyenoord scored a goal in the very last minute. Ouch. We continued along the river till we came to the ferry to Schoonhoven. It looked like there might be a restaurant
on the other side.
Indeed, there was. We enjoyed a sumptuous leisurely lunch, and when we emerged we realized that we were running out of time to do the planned round trip. Dark was coming an hour earlier. From a long ago bike vacation I remembered how pretty it was along the small river Vlist, just North of Schoonhoven. We consulted the map and figured out a touristy route back to Hilversum, avoiding the main highways a bit longer. The prettiest route was reserved for cyclists only. I kind of like that. The scale of the place is so perfect for the bike. Anyway, we enjoyed another hour of rural beauty but there are no pictures. One can only stop so often, and the roads were narrow with no place to stop anyway. Just before we joined a main road this windmill was irresistible and there was room to park.