July 15 – Arnhem to Amersfoort
One of the great things about this form of travel, is what we find along the way. The things we didn’t know were there. The things that we wouldn’t find if we were travelling on four wheels unless we knew where to look. On the bikes, we stumble across things and it’s another reason why this is a great way to travel.
We set off from Arnhem this morning into a chilly, grey day and just as we pedalled up the street, the drizzle started. We rode alongside the road, then through some neighbourhoods, then out onto a country road, with forest to our side. The drizzle began to get a little more serious.
“I’m going to have to stop and put my coat on,” I called to Steve.
“That’s just what I was thinking,” he replied, turning off the road.
“Let’s head for the trees,” I suggested.
So we continued on, getting a little wetter in the process and stopped under the shelter of branches. It amazes me just how dry it can be under trees, even those that don’t have a particularly thick canopy. Apart from bus shelters, good ol’ trees have been our friends many times when we’ve needed quick shelter from getting soggier than we already were. The coats went on…again.
Once again, we had a champion ride. Through forest again, then country paths and eventually the rain eased. The scenery too, is a real find. If we were in a car, it would be whizzing past the window, but here we were in it, the trees around us, the sights, sounds and smells of the country making it a truly, full immersion sensory experience. On the bikes, we are up close and personal with nature. We don’t just see it passing by, we are in it, fully. It’s great.
We passed through the town of Ede and rode past the small train station on the town’s edge. There were at least half a dozen parking lots outside the station and they all looked like this…
Every one of the parking lots were full like that, with bikes. Imagine if they were all cars! Instead, all those people ride a bike to the station, catch a train and reduce many of the problems that come with having all those extra cars on the road.
We pedalled back onto the path, following our numbers and began scouting for elevenses locations. We were beginning to lose hope that we’d find anywhere to stop and sit, when there, under the shelter of trees, was a bench that was nice and dry thanks to those trees once again.
From there our path turned into a narrow track and it was lovely. There we were, right in amongst the woodland, it was like pedalling through a curtain of green. Then back onto a lovely tree lined path beside a canal.
The temperature had made it into double digits and we were sitting at about 13C. It was still grey and chilly and while we could shed the raincoats, our jackets were still firmly in place, but it was another fantastic place to ride. Then, across the canal, where our numbers told us to turn, we saw something that was another of those “the things we find” moments. There in amongst the trees, almost in the middle of nowhere was a WWII gun bunker. The inside had been turned into a small museum, just sitting there with some information. No one around. It turned out this was a pretty important piece of history. This bunker, that we had just stumbled upon, was part of the Pantherstellung and was a German defensive position that was built at the end of 1944. The Pantherstellung became a German line of defence after the Dutch army surrendered in 1940, but the German army found the defences weren’t solid enough, so they began building a new line of heavy, concrete bunkers along the new line. More than 12,000 workers were forcibly recruited from the local population, to build the bunkers, with Russian prisoners of war also used in their construction. This particular bunker, that we’d found, was built to protect a huge defuse cannon that had a range of 4 km and there wasn’t a single armoured vehicle that could withstand it. The bunker stands on the old Grebbe Line, which was an important strategic position right up until the end of the war and prevented the liberation of this part of the country for some time. It was so interesting to just come across it, walk into it, see something that had such significance and stand within the walls of a piece of history from this country’s years at war. Another special discovery and an unexpected find. I love it when that happens. When we are able to find something off the beaten track, that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
On we pedalled and then came into the small town of Amersfoort. Oh my! What a find this was! When we were deciding on a forward route, as we make our way towards our ferry, I read about this town and it was described as being pretty and traditional and not yet overrun with tourists, so we thought we might as well take a look. Riding in, it was absolutely delightful. A canal running beside the cobbled streets and the old city gates standing at the edge of the town. We found our pitstop and then went out for a look around. I mean…the places we find. Once again, we hadn’t heard of Amersfoort, we didn’t know it was here until we looked at a map to figure out which way to ride and it’s not a place we would have thought to go, had we not been pedalling through. The little we saw of it on our brief stroll, it looks utterly lovely. There are traditional Dutch houses, an Old Town, a canal running through the old gates and we have decided to spend an extra day here so we can have a look around.
Today was a day of peaceful pedalling through more delightful scenery with forests and farmland and tracks and paths that meander through the thick of nature. It was a day that reminded me that sometimes it’s great to travel, as we do, in a fairly unplanned way, day by day. It’s so often the out of the way places that give us the unexpected discoveries and where we find hidden gems. We stumbled upon a piece of history that was quite special to see and walk within, imagining the events that took place around there. Then we were lucky enough to end the day in a real little gem of a town, that we hadn’t known a thing about. Slow travel delivers so many fabulous finds and wonderful experiences. Nothing is whizzing past. Everything is right there, around us, at our fingertips, giving us moment by moment experiences. How brilliant is that!
Tomorrow we will roam Amersfoort and see what this little gem has to show us. We have no plan. We don’t know what’s here. We’re just waiting for more of those..things we find!
Distance ridden: 50.1 km
Time on the saddle: 3 hours 22 minutes
Weather: chilly, grey, drizzly, then rainy, then fine, it eventually made it to 15C