Glorious Zeeland - Sunshine, Mussels and Lots of Cycling in The Netherlands
After our Belgian travels we crossed the border into The Netherlands and headed west, then a bit more west, and then even more west. We were heading for Zeeland, the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands. Zeeland translates to- yep you guessed it - Sealand, and looking at the map it's easy to see why. Islands, peninsulas, coastline and altogether a lot of water everywhere. In fact almost 40% of the area of Zeeland is water.
It's a tourist spot, especially popular with German visitors, and it was here that our plan to travel without reservations first looked in doubt. Our first stop of choice was a motorhome only camperpark, in the Schotsman area of a town called Kamperland. Given that one of us is a Scotsman and we were looking for a piece of land to park our camper, it seemed liked the place for us. But when we got there at about 3pm it was full. It was the first time we had to start thinking about a back up plan, but the friendly Dutch guy who runs the place bounded over to us and said he had an overflow field. We could stay there for the night and the following day surely a spot would open up. That's what we did and he was right. We moved into a spot inside the barriers the following morning.
The camperpark was right by a watersports center and we enjoyed a beer or two in the local restaurant watching people practice their wakeboarding as the sun set over the water. We felt good about Zeeland immediately.
It goes without saying that The Netherlands is great for cycling, but seriously this is cycling heaven. We took a ride into the pristine, small town of Kamperland and decided that the cycling was so divine we would head further afield onto Middleburg - about a 40 km round trip the next day. Now cycling around this parts is easy you would probably say, especially as we have eBikes which makes cycling long distances a dream. We thought so too, but we found that as well as being flat this place is incredibly windy - maybe all the windmills should have been a clue. All along the ride to Middleburg we were faced with crazy headwinds, and crosswinds. I don't know that we ever got a tailwind! By the time we got to Middleburg we were windswept and knackered.
Still we wandered around the pretty town which was packed as the funfair was in the center of town. We consumed some coffee, tea and apple tart deliciousness that all made us feel energized for the ride home. We took a different way back that was slightly longer but less windy and passed some delightful places on the way.
I mentioned the dominance of water here in Zeeland; well in 1953 the North Sea Flood devastated this area and led to over 1,800 deaths. The Delta Works are a number of projects in the area designed to prevent such a disaster in the future. We visited one of the most impressive aspects of the Delta Works; the nine kilometer long Oosterscheldekering. It was originally designed as a dam, which would have severely disrupted the natural environmental to the detriment of many estuary species. After public outcry it was completed with movable gigantic doors that stay open most of the time, but can be closed if the sea rises to threatening levels. We cycled over it to marvel at this incredible feat of engineering and the artificial island that they built in the middle to facilitate the surge barrier's construction has been turned into a marine park with is a great little seafood restaurant, where I ate locally caught mussels.
In the end we hung out at the campingpark for six days, just enjoying the sunshine. It's the longest we have stayed anywhere so far on our European adventure. We just loved the laid back vibe of Zeeland, and pondered if only the year-round climate were better, whether this was somewhere we could live. Of course it isn't so it's a moot point, but still when the sun is shining, you have a glass of wine in your hand and a belly full of seafood, it's nice to daydream.