Tandem tour 2013: Hamburg to Groningen and Harlingen

Route Groningen nach HarlingenWe took a series of trains between Hamburg and Groningen in the Netherlands en route to Rotterdam, where we would take the ferry to England. On the whole, the trains were easy, particularly in the week when  competition for cycle space is much less. Our route was Hamburg to Bremen, Bremen to Leer and Leer to Groningen. All in all, it took about 5 hours.

Groningen (below right) is typical of many Dutch towns. Optimised for people and cyclists and full of people who speak languages other than their own. After eating a very relaxedDSCF0341 café-bar, we set out to find a campsite in a small place called Vierhuizen just on the edge of the Lauwersmeer national park on the north coast. Estimated to be about 25km, our unfortunate detours added about an hour to the journey despite the excellent signposting associated with Dutch cycle tracks (see post 14 September), it was very dark by the time we got there. But it was worth it.

The campsite had lots of room for tents. The owners run the restaurant, so arriving late was not a problem. They also sell a local beer which is really nice. We enjoyed breakfast there before experiencing the unexpected. 50 kms of sheep and sheep shit, cattle grids and wind punctuated by only one village with a café (Paesens) and a remarkable vendor of ice cream – a retired truck driver now with a rather lighter tuc-tuc with some stories to Hotel_Zeesichttell. The terrain is uncompromising and frankly boring. Fortunately, Harlingen was an oasis amidst this – and it was having a party when we got there (a big funfair and live music). We gave up on the idea of camping and found a hotel (Zeezicht, pictured left). The manager was so enamoured of the tandem that it was stored in the Board Room for the night. Our room was not bad either.

Harlingen is a busy working port. There are ferries to the offshore islands of West-Terschelling, Hollum and the Duinen van Texel national park. With hindsight, the hotel probably had the most veggie-friendly food in the town. We should have eaten there and then gone out to explore.

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