After ‘flirting’ with the borders of various countries while travelling through Germany, we have finally said goodbye to the Reich. Although yesterday’s stopover was actually right on the border between Germany and Holland– it ran smack through the middle of the little town of Dinxsperlo. (the yellow markers are the border)
Dinxperlo gave me my first real taste of a Dutch town. It was not a big place; small and cute. It was impossibly neat and tidy. Not just the odd street, but every street we walked down or drove past: neatly clipped hedges, immaculately groomed shrubs and mass-plantings in pocket-handkerchief front gardens; large picture-windows in every house, looking out on to the street, and each one displaying a precise arrangement of flowers or pottery or lace-work etc.
We saw interesting signs of spring here too, with new growth glowing bright green against the previous season’s more mature shades. We saw pine-cones looking like Christmas decorations on one of the garden shrubs.
Every home looked as if it were expecting a visit from the Queen, and I came to the conclusion that this tidiness must be built in to the national psyche.
We were fortunate in Dinxperlo: when we arrived we discovered that the designated parking area was closed and so we cautiously nosed our way down the street and found another parking area, attached to the same large sports complex. It had been raining most of the day, and as we edged our way back into dripping trees a man on a bike, wearing size 15 clogs, came along and told us we were not allowed to park there. Our hearts were sinking when he advised us, ‘but you can park just out there’ What a relief. And the timing turned out to be just in time: no sooner had we got ourselves wriggled into position than this quiet parking lot suddenly became inundated with cars. The reason soon became apparent: group after group of young kids and youths came marching down the street, chanting slogans and carrying banners. It was obviously a festival/rally of some sort and it seemed that the whole town had turned up to cheer them on.
And at least half the town arrived on bikes. I have never seen so many ordinary commuter-style bikes in one place before. We took a walk down the street while the people were milling about and I found it interesting, looking at the Dutch bikes. Being a keen biker myself I am always interested to see what other countries are doing with bikes. The Dutch have the advantage of living in a dead flat country. Boring it may well be, but it sure makes for easy cycling! With no hills to contend with, the Dutch have developed the ultimate in commuter –biking comfort. Weight is obviously of no concern, although there are many aluminium framed bikes to be seen. All have sturdy mudguards, stylish chain protectors, streamlined built-in headlights, dynamo hubs, sturdy carriers and panniers, elaborate handlebar configurations and often 8-speed hub gears. (electric power-assisted bikes are also popular – but they are not cheap – overE1000)
All riders adopt an extreme upright position with backs ramrod straight and at 90 deg to the road, consequently handlebars are mounted well above saddle height. So cycling is a dignified and sedate business, and one sees all manner of people riding: workers in ordinary garb, bankers in pin-striped suits, mothers with kids in a baby seat at the back, (or in a tow-along carriage), ladies in high heels and snazzy hair-do’s, and everyone in between. The verdict: in Holland cycling is universal.
And the layout of the streets confirm this: a wide clearly-marked bike lane down either side of the street with a narrow strip left in the middle for 2-way traffic! Cyclists cruise with no fear for cars – they know cars will always politely give way to them. Incredible!
Dinxperlo has two features that make it unusual. The first is that the town actually straddles the border between Germany and Holland: it has a foot in each country. Ironically it has two supermarkets, almost opposite each other. Oneisin Germany and the otherin Holland. Although all prices are in Euros, the pricing structures are different. For instance, milk in Germany is almost half the price of milk over the road, in Holland! The border passes down the main street and a row of yellow diamonds on the road, show you which country yoiu happen to be in.
The other claim to fame is Dinxperlo’s ‘Smallest Church in Europe’ This is a really neat little church, about 8×6 metres in size. How or why it was built was not clear, but it appeared that the church was still in use, I imagine a congregation of 6 plus a preacher, would fill it nicely.
The next day we moved further north to a little town called Burgen. (from where I am writing this) Burgen is ‘Mixture as before’ – tidy streets and houses and neat little garden plots.
We are parked on the side of a marina connected to the canal/dyke system. This is a million-dollar spot: we are right next to the jetty and watch the coming and going of various launches and yachts.
Just around the corner is the canal proper and on it ply the same massive barge-like traders that we saw all the time on the Rhine. Behind us is a large grassed area with a kids playground. The town itself is just 5-10 mins walk away so everything is dandy. Unfortunately the rain is chasing us at the moment and so our activities have been a bit restricted. However the kids have had a good time on the playground and this afternoon we all went for a walk to explore the town.
We found a colourful rack of clogs, which confirmed that we were indeed in Holland.
On our return we made a close inspection of a couple of 2nd hand folding bikes that were sitting outside the harbour-master’s office. We have found our two old clunkers so handy that we have been keeping an eye open for more bargains to add to the stable. A thorough test-ride on each bike plus a run through on the folding action indicated that these bikes were in fair condition for their age. He wanted E45 for one and E35 for the other. Total E80. Without prompting he said we could have the two for E75. After some discussion among ourselves, and after testing the bikes, Jgirl14 made him an offer of E70 for the two. After about 4 secs hesitation he accepted, so now we have 4 bikes and a baby-carrier in our stable!The older kids are very excited to be getting back on wheels. I can’t see us acquiring any more, but this will mean that the older ones can get further afield in their exploring of an area.
By the way while in the town this morning (on a lone stroll) I got myself a desperately-needed haircut. Due to a slight mis-understanding of meaning, I ended up with a no.2 all over. Talk about ‘lost in translation’! However, the lass that sheared me was very pleasant and took about an hour to perform the operation – much better value than my recent cataract operation! The haircut was so severe that after Tgirl5 inspected me closely, she said to me, “I know you are still Grandpa because I recognise your blue jacket”! (even my son was prompted to comment that I look considerably better with longer hair)