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The Netherlands

Posted 25/9/2019

We enter country #20 on this trip in the evening of September 19th and leave it (at least four times) on September 25th. How is thqt possible?

In the Netherlands we continue our city walks in Deventer, Hertogenbosch and Tilburg. After two rather cold nights and plenty of grass mite bites I am finally fed up with camping and decide we will sleep in beds from now on. So we invest in hotels and reactivate warmshowers, which here in the Netherlands works very well again, as people actually respond. We spent a wonderful evening with Jurgen and Barbara who have travelled on two Pino Hase bikes with their two sons in Thailand and Malaysia and in New Zealand. They showed us that you can take extended bike trips at any age and situation in life, we started late in comparison but are really glad we have started now! We try to find out what helps in the process of readjusting to "normal" life - but the only tip they have is to plan the next trip... For this our second warm shower host, Thomas, is most inspiring: already when I  read his profile I was wondering how on earth you can cycle on the "underground railroad" and in the US of all places, not exactly famous for their railsystem? It turns out these were paths, used by slaves to escape to Canada, his stories are really fascinating so this one is definitely high on our "to cycle" list.

The weather was really great until our last weekend, on Tuesday it gets a bit more challenging and we choose our knoppunten (the brilliant flemish system with numbered points every 1-5 km approx that covers all of Flanders and the Dutch have extended it to their entire country) so we plan our knoppunten not to maximise forest and rivers but some small towns with cafes for the rain showers. The last such town was a real discovery and we spent half the afternoon there, although finally it did not rain. The community of Baarle, as their tourism broshure explains, consists of the Dutch municipality of Baarle-Nassauand the Belgian municipality of Baarle-Hertog. Baarle is not on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands neither is it divided by this border. there is a unique situation, where Belgian pieces of land are surrounded by Dutch land and vice versa. In total there are 30 enclaves in Baarle. It's one big puzzle. Therefore we left at re=entered the Netherlands several times this afternoon, we noticed 4 exits and 3 re-entries but it might have been consierably more. 

This situation proved helpful during the first world war, when Belgium was occupied by the Germans, except for large parts of Baarle Hertog, as  these were entirely surrounded by - neutral - Netherlands  This enabled the Belgians, inspite of a high voltage electric fence along the entire border with the Netherlands to establish a postage system to reach the Belgian soldiers on the front and to set up an antena to intercept German messages. We keep leqrning fascinating new stories even so close to home.  Speaking of which, when we crossed from Gelderland to North Brabant the day before yesterday, we both thought: now we are really back "at home".