This afternoon I embarked on a much-anticipated discovery bike ride, initially heading north-west from Naarden in the general direction of Amsterdam, but not intending to go there. I had consulted paper maps before my departure, thinking that I could retain sufficient knowledge of key landmarks to get me through. But I hadn’t imagined the plethora of fietspaden (bike paths) and countless intersecting points and by-ways. This played havoc with my mental recall. So I soon had to resign myself to taking it as it comes.
From Naarden I followed pathways that took me alongside IJsselmerweg onto tracks within Naarderbos, a lovely stretch of forested land planted in the 1980s, then under the A6 onto the paved Tesselschadelaan which led to the well-to-do enclave of Muiderberg.
From here I rode westward along Paulinelaan which became Van Ostadelaan and when it terminated at a T-junction I turned right into Gerard Doulaan which turned south-west and became Googweg. This took me across a large dyke and delivered me to Hakkelaarsbrug.
Continuing south-west, I picked out De Goog which took me under the broad A1 and onto the vast Naardermeer polder, a low-lying tract of reclaimed and treeless land that is criss-crossed by water channels. Here there are fietspaden on a mound raised above rectangular fields of green crops – they are straight, long and exposed. On a day of strong winds, cycling here would be exacting but today was sunny and windless.
I turned off De Goog and followed Meerkade until its end where I turned right, now heading due south, onto Keverdijk. Many kilometres later I arrived at a prominent S-bend in the Vecht, at a place named Oostelijke Vechtoever (eastern shore of the Vecht), close to Fort Uitermeer which I visited yesterday. Here I left the mounded pathways and connected with s’Gravelandseweg, a quiet rural road that traces the gently winding Vecht, and headed generally north-west.
I have approached Weesp, an old fortified town dating from the Middle Ages when the area was an uninhabited peat bog. For a short distance, the Vecht splits into two, creating a small island. Two short bridges carry me from s’Gravelandseweg on the northern bank of the river to the Centrum (town centre) on the southern side.
The river crossing is made possible by the Lange Vechtbrug (Long Vecht Bridge), a timber-built folding bridge consisting of two bridge halves that link the Ossenmarkt island in the middle of the river. This bridge is a national monument. Its name denotes that this bridge is longer than other bridges over the Vecht.
I crossed the second bridge and turned left into Hoogstraat which took me along a section of the extensive waterfront until land’s end where the split in the Vecht merges. By now I’ve lost my sense of direction and decided to follow a route beside the water via Achter Het Vosje, then into Oudegracht, then into Het Kleine Plein which forded a large canal, then onto Nieuwstad across another canal and then generally southward along De Kleine Weer. This took me away from the old town to the newer neighbourhood of Aetsveld and the nearby polder.
Here I decided to change course by returning to Weesp’s Centrum (town centre) using a different route – via G J Wiefferingdreef, C J van Houtenlaan, Gooeneweg and the Breedstraat canal bridge which brought me front on to admire the Museum Weesp, built as the Weesp city hall between 1772 and 1776. The council convenes in the Raadzaal (council hall) in this building but the administrative offices have moved elsewhere.
The museum started upstairs as an antiquities room in 1911. In 1974 the council established a proper museum when an important gift of porcelain was given from the legacy of Baron F van Heeckeren van Waliën. This collection is now in the former vroedschapskamer (council meeting room).
Weesp is sometimes described as ‘Little Amsterdam’. Like the Dutch capital, Weesp has monumental buildings, canals and small shops. But it is an oasis of serenity when compared with Amsterdam.
I returned to the Breedstraat canal bridge and this time headed north-west along Nieuwstad with the canal on my right, but for only a short distance where this canal intersects with another, like in Amsterdam itself. I used the Zwaantjesbrug to cross the intersecting waterways and turned left, due west, onto Herengracht with a canal – the Smal Weesp (Narrow Weesp) – on my left.
When I saw ahead that this road will terminate at another channel of water, I crossed to the other side of the canal onto Buitenveer which turned gradually south-west and became Verlengd Buitenveer. I stopped to take a photo of a classic Dutch windmill, the Molen ‘t Haantje (Haantje Mill), on the opposite side of the Smal Weesp.
This mill first stood in Amsterdam in 1820 and was used as a marble sawmill. It is said to be the first rock mill built on an industrial scale. It has a wipstelling (seesaw) cutting technique and is one of only three such mills in all of The Netherlands. It has become a national monument.
Returning to my bike, and as the Buitenveer ends promptly, I turned right over a small bridge into Rijnkade and now I am headed north, on the right bank of the broad North Holland-Utrecht shipping canal. Massive self-powered barges are plying the waterway in both directions, their cargo not visible under closed hatches. I imagine they are carrying shipping containers or bulk materials. More recognisable barges are carrying petroleum or oil.
Rijnkade soon turned right back towards Weesp but I proceeded straight ahead on a truck-width stretch of bituminous fietspad known as Kanaalpad, heading generally north-east towards Amsterdam. Scores of kitted-out cyclists are doing the same, in both directions and on both sides of the canal. It seems the strips of bitumen are a heavily-used route for fast-moving, lycra-clad riders.
At Spoorspad where a railway bridges the canal, I crossed on a dedicated cycle lane and continued northward along Kanaaldijk West. Several kilometres on, I reached Brug Muiden where I turned left and join a fietspad running alongside the A1. I followed this to the Amsterdam suburbs of Overdiemen and Diemen. With ever-increasing urbanisation including significant roadworks, I decided it is time to turn around and return to Naarden.
My mind flashed to Van Diemen’s Land, the former name for Australia’s island of Tasmania, and to Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who first charted parts of the island coast in the 17th century. I mused whether Anthoonij van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies for whom Tasmania was first named, came from Diemen where I now was.
I retraced the path to Brug Muiden and, instead of returning beside the shipping canal, I proceeded straight ahead in the shadow of the A1, riding along Maxisweg and Zuiderzeeboulevard. The locale is initially open and relatively unpleasant for cycling, but before long the path diverges from the A1 and traces the Muidertrekvaart canal which leads to the lovely town of Muiden.
The one-way bridge on Sluisstraat which fords the Vecht was temporarily closed for pavement restoration, and traffic banks up in both directions. I waited it out then crossed the bridge and turned eastward into Herengracht. The setting is beautiful. Outdoor cafes are doing a good trade and the atmosphere is delightful. I stopped to take a photo of one of my favourite Dutch scenes, the placid Vecht with the Muiderslot castle in view.
Vowing to return and spend more time here, I reluctantly left Muiden, heading south by taking Naarderstraat which leads into Zuidpolderweg, and with a narrow canal on my left throughout. This is pleasant, easy riding on a dedicated fietspad. I soon reached Hakkelaarsbrug, where I had been hours earlier. Here the path and canal divert slightly, and I rode along the shoulder of Rijksweg which leads all the way to Naarden.
Somehow I overshot the turnoff to my relatives’ home and continued towards Bussum before realising the error. I then caught a glimpse of the spire on Grote Kerk Naarden and found myself drawn to old town Naarden and its amazing star-shaped fortifications, so I diverted for another admiring look at both the cobble-stoned town and the imposing defence structures. There are plenty of cycle paths here and I ended up doing a clover-leaf, before buying a bottle of wine from a liquor store in Markstraat to share over dinner with my kind hosts. My route totalled 54km, ridden in 3h7m at a comfortable 17.2km/h.