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  • Day831

    Paterswoldsemeer, Hoornsedijk +De Helper

    October 5, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    We are beginning to think we misjudged the Netherlands. They have provided a free, 6 place camperplaats looking out over the beautiful Paterswoldsemeer; a lake fringed with grass, trees and a mix of well spaced houses of varying styles. It is the weekend and this hive is busy, but not crowded. Our spot is situated just before the access road turns into a cycle track so there is no through traffic, save for walkers and bikes, that pass behind us. An artificial beach has been created and a black boarded jetty reaches out a short way.

    We came further than we'd planned today because the first stopover was down a road that was being dug up and the paraphernalia that goes with such a project needed somewhere to be stored- bang goes the motorhome parking! Never mind, looking on the bright side it had the advantage of giving us extra time at Paterwoldsemeer which is undoubtedly the better site!

    We were gifted with two days of beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Vicky sat out with Poppy and knitted while Will took to the water in the canoe with his rods. A couple of small islands were easily reachable and many more lay further to the west. Will docked the canoe and swum from one close by, being careful to check he would be able to get back out of the water as the island perimeter was like the bank of a canal, with vertical piling reaching half a metre above the water level at most points. It seemed the islands were engineered for pleasure boaters to dock at with a picnic as they had mooring stakes, rubbish bins and picnic tables. The larger even had a shallow water cove cordoned off from boats for safe swimming. Will only discovered this after he'd already been for a dip but the air was warm so this fact didn't stop him making good use of it! There were a myriad of small sail boats on the lake, many of them wooden with creamy white sails. They looked beautiful in the bright light and it was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the outdoors.

    To cap off a gorgeous day we were treated to a delightful sunset whose instense amber hues transformed the sky, silhouetting the lake shore and rebounding off the still water. We watched from the comfort of the van with homemade pizza and a glass of red. As the sunlight faded the focus changed to the pretty electric illuminations. Warm white bulbs and a purple display light shone out, marking the path of the shore as it tracked around the water's edge. We felt truly content.

    The following day Vicky was feeling up for a paddle so we headed out in Little Green after lunch, charting a figure of eight around the islands then making a beeline for a traditional Dutch windpump farther to the west. We gained the shore via a metal ladder and tied the canoe securely to the pilings to go and investigate it properly. A low post and rail fence cordoned the structure off but the little gate was open and as we approached a volunteer asked us if we'd like to see inside. He said they'd be setting it up for use and he could take us up to the top when he went up to check the mechanism. We jumped at the chance and within 15 minutes were following our guide, clinging onto the handrail and scaling the steep wooden steps that led through roof hatches onto the two floors above ground level. At the top were two huge angled cogs that drive the main shaft, which is thicker than many of the nearby tree trunks and stretches the full length of the structure. At the base there were more cogs to turn an Archimedian Screw, which moves water from an inland drainage pond to the lake. All the operating parts were made from wood and our guide showed us where they'd wedged or nailed small blocks to repair or fine tune the operation.

    We spent nearly an hour with the mill master and volunteers as they set the windpump up for use. Through a combination of chatting to them and research we learned De Helper is an octagonal smock windpump, so called because of its resemblance to a smock. It was originally built in 1863 and relocated here in 1971. Recently repainted, its reds, blues and whites shone in the bright light, contrasting nicely against the black wooden boards of its central housing. It is one of nearly a thousand windmills in the Netherlands and is protected as a national monument. There is a contract to operate it for 10 hours a month and it appears we turned up at exactly the right time because Saturday afternoons are the weekly slot they've chosen to open it. The group of around 4 people working on it are learning the skills over a course of two years. We watched as they manually rotated a giant wheel to turn the 10m wooden trellis blades to the wind, securing the position with huge metal chains. The volunteers then proceeded to unfurl the canvas sails, two red and two white, climbing the blades and looping a rope on the leading edge over a series of hooks. It was a long process but once everything was in place the brake was released by pulling a metal chain that dangled from the top of the structure and the blades quickly picked up speed, setting the Archimedian Screw to work pushing water underneath the windpump in the direction of the lake. We peaked through the gridded hatch to see it in action.

    Paddling back to the van we found ourselves in a bit of a daze. We can't find any information locally or online about when De Helper opens so we couldn't have planned this. It was just very good luck that we stumbled upon it when we did and not only got to see the whole process but were the only visitors who got to climb up inside it!

    You can watch a video of the windmill taken on Vicky's phone on the VnW Travels YouTube channel:

    We decided to stay all three of the nights motorhomes are allowed at this camperplaats. It was a beautiful spot and the weather was amazing for October. We doubt we'll find many other free places that we like as much as this one!
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  • Day857

    Goodbye to the Netherlands

    October 31, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    After a summer spent with the Danes, October was dedicated to the Dutch. Out of all the countries we've visited and have yet to visit, it would be fair to say we were least looking forward to the Netherlands. As we've frequently mentioned, we attempted to stay at a coastal car park here many years ago, only to be woken by armed police, who demanded to see our papers and issued us with a fine. Although we've passed through countless times since, first impressions have a lasting impact and this was certainly not a good one. Now that we travel full time, we ensure we are a little better informed about camping regulations.

    So, did the Netherlands manage to win us over this October?

    Motorhome facilities:

    👎Overnighting is restricted to designated spots, which were in high demand. Luckily we only had to move on once due to lack of space, but we saw plenty of others arriving and departing as the camperplaats was full. Not knowing whether we'd be able to stay at our intended destination caused a certain amount of worry.
    👎Because the majority of camperplatzen are in towns, there was the inevitable urban noise and bustle around the van. We were grateful for these free spots, but coming directly from Denmark, where there are hundreds of opportunities for secluded and peaceful countryside camping, we couldn't help but compare.
    👎Many places we stayed had restrictions of 24 or 48 hours. Even the paying camperpark at Diepenham had a 5 day restriction, so we often needed to leave sooner than we would have liked.
    👎We worked our way from north to south but as we progressed there were fewer camperplatzen and a greater proportion were just a large parking spot in a car park with no facilities.

    👍Using mainly the CamperContact app, but sometimes Park4Night, Will managed to find a decent number of small camperplatzen that offered a free stay and facilities.
    👍Many had electric hookup and a few didn't even charge for it. With autumnal temperatures similar to the UK, this really came in handy, reducing the strain on our 2 leisure batteries, whose power is quickly quickly depleted by the central heating.
    👍With wildcamping off the cards we were often parked with filling and emptying facilities on site. When this was the case we didn't need to worry about the amount of water we used or how much space the toilet had left.
    👍Camperplatzen were mostly situated in small towns, giving us easy access for a mooch in the interesting independent stores and a chance to pay the community back for their hospitality.


    👎While spoken English was excellent, very few signs / information boards were written in our language. We are firm believers in trying to learn at least a little of the native tongue, but deciphering regulations was definitely more tricky than in places such as Denmark.
    👎 We've found that the approach a country takes to roadworks makes a big difference. Dutch roads are well maintained but we encountered several that were completely closed and the diversions were often unclear or non existent.

    👍 The number of people who spoke English and the level at which they conversed was flabbergasting. Denmark was good but the Netherlands was better, so we didn't need to worry about a language barrrier.
    👍 Another area the Netherlands excels in is the amazing cycle network, giving access to both town and country. More than a quarter of journeys are made by bike and this increases to over a third in big cities. The country boasts 32,000km of cycle paths, meaning noise, congestion and pollution from motorised vehicles is noticeably reduced.

    Sights and Activities:

    Compared to Denmark's quaint, thatch roofed cottages, we were left uninspired by the Netherlands' brick built buildings on the whole. Saying this, traditional Dutch barn style houses lining the canals did catch our eye and the village of Edam was chocolate box pretty.

    After learning that this was the most densely populated country in Europe (aside from the micro states) we feared tightly packed urban areas whose boundaries ran in to one another. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to find well planned settlements surrounded by plenty of open countryside, crisscrossed by kilometres of canals, whose towpaths one could invariably walk or cycle along. Will bought himself a small fishing licence for under €20 and downloaded the app that showed him where he could cast his line. He spent hours sat happily on the canalside or riverbank and even caught a fish or two!

    Meanwhile Vicky got to indulge in her yarn based hobbies by delving into a plethora of lovely little wool shops. We frequently enjoyed strolling along the highstreets of the towns we stayed in. There seemed to be more variety than in the UK and a thriving small business scene. The Dutch are particularly keen on their markets, which of course included the obligatory cheese stalls, bowing under the weight of the huge rounds stacked high, ready to be sliced and packaged. Fish stalls were also popular and we happily discovered that the Netherlands is the only country we've visited so far (other than Gibraltar) that batters cod and serves it with frites in a style similar to the much loved British fish'n'chips. If there wasn't a market on, there was always a choice of cafés, often with a range of loose teas available. Will did very well to stick to his diet, while Vicky made it her mission to sample as many traditional sweet treats as possible. Caramely biscuity stroopwafels became a firm favourite and the much anticipated stopover at one of the country's pancake houses didn't disappoint.

    Amsterdam was undoubtedly the highlight of our Dutch tour. We parked up for the weekend at the city motorhome park in the arty and alternative NDSM district, north of the river. Free ferries transported us and our tandem to the city centre to mooch around markets, stroll the canals, visit the sex museum and, fuelled by vegan blueberry space cakes, take in the city lights at night!

    Although overall we enjoyed our time in the Netherlands, we found ourselves feeling rather uninspired as we travelled over its flat landscape. A collection of factors unrelated to the country worked against it; the season had changed and the temperatures were dropping as the nights drew in,
    Vicky was in poor health the majority of the time and we came straight from Denmark, that we both agree is our new favourite country. We were also preparing to head back to the UK for a long visit in November - December. Our minds were partly reliving the highs of the Danish summer and partly planning the visit home, so we didn't invest much mental energy in the present opportunities for travel and exploration. However, the tight regulations on motorhomes meant we focussed more on where we could stay, than where we wanted to visit. Unfortunately we found that overall the attractions in the Netherlands just didn't have enough 'va va voom' to overcome our apathy and inject a feeling of excitement into the tour. Amsterdam has earned its place on the list of cities we want to revisit, but other than this we left the Netherlands with a feeling of indifference towards it. We certainly wouldn't be adverse to staying over while travelling to somewhere else, but we wouldn't go out of our way to return.
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  • Day830


    October 4, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We have crossed into Friesland, a region famous for its black and white cattle and whose official language is Frisian, not Dutch. Noordpolderzijl is our first (and hopefully not our last) rural camperplaats in the Netherlands. This free spot on the north coast provides 5 paved van bays and has plenty of grass for Poppy. It is reached via a single track road with passing places that runs alongside a drainage channel. As we drive, Grey Herons a Great White Egret and raptors rise up from the roadside and flap their way to safer ground. This whole area is a polder; a swathe of drained land whose water levels can be artificially controlled. Uprooted clumps of reed and slicks of grey sludge lay on the banks; evidence of the widespread dredging that maintains the channels' ability to drain water. On the way to the site we passed through another small dyke, signalling that the area beyond it constitutes some of the 20% of Dutch land that has been reclaimed from the sea. Indeed, half of the Netherlands lays below sea level.

    Despite our proximity to the North Sea there is no sign of it due to the large dyke that separates us from the salt marshes, mudflats and eventually the water. We were glad to arrive before lunch because we had our pick of the five bays. By 4pm they were full and two vans who arrived later were unable to find a spot. Will took his rods and scaled the dyke for a fish, he saw people washing smooth grey silty mud from their feet; they'd been wadloping, or mudflat hiking, an activity enjoyed by the Dutch but dangerous to those without experience and local knowledge because of the risk of the incoming tide. A cycle track leads along the top of the dyke, the grass either side if it kept in check by well insulated sheep. Though the light is not good the outlines of four low islands can just be made out. They form part of an archipelago stretching from Germany to North Holland. We spent a peaceful night, well away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
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  • Day829

    Appingedam bus station

    October 3, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Appingedam bus station is our home for the moment. Its grey brick paving isn't pretty but it has 10 dedicated motorhome spots, free filling and emptying and we've shelled out a euro for half a day's electric hookup. Running alongside one edge of the station compound is a wall of metal sheet piles topped with concrete, that form the bank of the small Damsterdiep Canal.

    Since the middle of August we feel as if we've been on a mission; dash from Denmark to the UK for Will's hospital appointment, dash back to Denmark, explore 8 of its islands, travel to the Netherlands. We've rarely spent more than a night in the same place and so after staying two nights at our first Dutch stop, we only drove 5km to today's camperplaats.

    Will made use of his newly purchased licence by partaking in a spot of fishing soon after we arrived, then following lunch we walked just more than half a kilometre and over the canal into the centre of Appingedam. Initially the dull brick buildings and brick paving didn't make for most visually appealing environment but the more we explored the more we liked the place. We enjoyed poking around the proper hardware store and the second hand shop. Out of all the countries we've visited, Britain remains the charity shop capital. There are varying amounts of interest in preloved goods in different countries and usually a Red Cross shop, but if a place is selling anything other than new items, they are likely to run it as a business rather than for charity.

    At the far end of town stood the large St Nicholas church. We noticed as we skirted round it that its red brick walls seemed to be sinking and bulging slightly. As building began in 1200AD we just put it down to age and natural subsidence. Carrying on we were drawn to the canal and were photographing a pretty pedestrian bridge when someone stopped and spoke to us in Dutch. They quickly switched to English and asked if we were taking photos of the damage caused by the earthquakes. Apparently gas extraction in nearby Groningen has caused tremors which have led to cracks and buckling in building walls. Twenty new cracks had appeared this year in the church crypt. The Dutch government capped extraction in the Groningen field after an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale and a torchlit protest attended by 10,000 in January. They are looking to stop it within 4 years. However we fear this is unlikely to be the end and the resident told us authorities were denying responsibility and refusing to contribute to the estimated repair work. There are hundreds of small gas fields in the north and more are applying for planning permission that looks set to be granted.

    Mulling this over we continued exploring. We came across a yoga and meditation shop that was celebrating its first day of business. It had a lot of tempting things to buy but we didn't need anything so enjoyed the free tea and cake and moved on to the fish shop. One of the Netherlands' favourite dishes is battered fish and chips so we bought a couple of fillets for Will to cook as well as two Hollandse Niuewe; pickled herrings with onion, expected to be held by the tail and lowered into the mouth. We tried to pay by card but the machine refused both the debit and credit cards so we used cash. There is no problem with our balance but it was the same situation in the supermarket so we decided on a visit to an atm to top up. We are going to have to be careful not to get caught out as we've read some places don't accept cash.

    It is the little things that often set countries apart and when looking to buy bread at the bakery we found all loaves save for one were already sliced. The baker said that this would be the case everywhere in the country and they only kept a few whole loaves on the off chance people like us would ask for them.

    Towards the end of our trip to Appingedam we treated ourselves to tea and a slice of apple tart at Aan Tafel café. Instead of teabags they had a tray of loose teas in little jars that they brought to the table for you to choose and spoon into the basket sieve within the glass cup. We have loose tea in the van and absolutely loved this system that we'd not seen anywhere else. We mentioned this to the server and they recommended we visit the tea shop in Delfzijl that we'd shopped at just yesterday! It's a small world!
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  • Day2

    Ohne Schweiß kein Preis

    July 26, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Wir hätten dann heute wohl alle Preise 🏅 eingesackt.

    Nach dem Frühstück ging es nach Appingedam. Das ist nicht weit von hier und hat eine hübsche Altstadt. Besonders sehenswert sind die „Hängenden Küchen“. Aus ehemaligen Packhäusern wurden Wohnungen gemacht. Da es aber keinen Platz für Küchen gab und auch keine Anschlüsse, wurden die Küchen kurzerhand angebaut. Romantisch aussehen tut's allemal.

    Als es langsam immer wärmer wurde, haben wir uns mit vielen kalten Getränken auf der Terrasse eines Restaurants direkt am Kanal im Schatten erfrischt.

    Später ging es nach Termunten, Seehunde durch eine Kiekwand beobachten. Das war interessant, aber in der Hitze nicht lange auszuhalten. Gott sei Dank hatten wir genug zu trinken. Nicht wie in „Eiskalt in Langscheid ... ähh ... Alexandrien“, woll Judith? 😂😉🍹

    Zurück also bis Termunterzijl auf einen Imbiss, „Strand“ und Leute gucken. Termunterzijl ist ein netter kleiner Ort mit hübschen Lokalen und einem kleinen Yachthafen 🛥⛵. Von der ganzen Industrie 🏗 rund um Delfzijl ist hier nichts mehr zu spüren.

    Der heutige Tag war also schön. 😍
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  • Day2

    Erste Nacht

    July 26, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Es war warm. Pünktlich um 6 Uhr in der Früh fütterte irgendein Holländer die Möwen direkt vor unserem Fenster. Das war ein Heidenspektakel. Danach war schlafen kaum noch möglich.

    Außerdem hat Jürgen ja heute Geburtstag und musste seine Geschenke auspacken.

    Beim Frühstück dann lernten wir unsere Mitbewohner kennen. Das ist ein nettes belgisches Pärchen.

    Von ihnen bekamen wir ein paar Tipps, was man hier überhaupt machen kann. Das ist nicht viel. Die beiden reisen morgen wieder ab, sie hatten vier Tage, genau wie wir.

    Das Frühstück war etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig. Die Art von Brot oder Brötchen kennt man, aber auch der Aufschnitt war etwas mager, man konnte kein Obst wählen oder Quark, Müsli und so weiter.

    Rita dagegen sah hübsch aus mit ihrem Tuch um den Kopf. Unsere belgischen Nachbarn erzählten uns dann, dass alles was wir beim ersten Frühstück nicht essen würden, beim nächsten Mal nicht wieder auf den Tisch käme, das sei bei Ritas Kultur so. Man mache keinen Abfall.

    Den Orangensaft mussten wir wegen der Vitamine auch trinken, sonst würde sie böse!

    Und nun ab in die Sonne.
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  • Day3

    Von Schlössern, Entengrütze und Stränden

    July 27, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Heute empfing uns Rita mit Rastazöpfen, afrikanischer Musik und quirlig wie jeden Morgen.

    Die Belgier verabschiedeten sich, wir winkten.

    Dann ließen wir uns treiben. Als erstes wehte uns das laue Lüftchen nach Sochteren. Dort gibt es ein Wasserschloss, das Landgut Fraeylemaborg. Im Moment ist es mehr ein Entengrützenschloss, weil man vor lauter Grünzeug das Wasser nicht sieht. Aber das macht nichts, es ist hübsch anzusehen, und vor allem die englische Parkanlage ist schön. Da kann man durch ein Wäldchen spazieren, in welches man nette „Kleinigkeiten“ versteckt hat.

    Nein, keine Geo-Caches, die hab ich bei der Hitze völlig vergessen.

    In diesem Wald steht da plötzlich ein Bus 🚃 samt Haltestelle oder eine riesige Haselnuss. Das nennt sich wohl Follys (Torheiten).

    Auf der Fahrt dorthin waren wir am Schildmeer vorbeigekommen. Dort wollten wir in Steendam bei „Peter und Leni“ ein Eis 🍨 essen und entdeckten so nebenbei, dass es dort einen netten kleinen Strand gibt. Wir holten also Decke und Schirm 🏖 aus dem Auto und kuschelten uns in das winzige Schattenplätzchen. Nach einer Dreiviertelstunde, kurz vorm Schmelzen, gaben wir auf. Die Holländer sind da schmerzfrei, die brezeln stundenlang in der prallen Sonne.

    Für uns ging es zurück nach Termunterzijl. Dort hatten wir gestern ein schattiges Plätzchen direkt am Wasser entdeckt. Es war tatsächlich noch frei, also holten wir die Campingstühle und pflanzten uns wie Oma und Opa auf die Wiese, um der holländischen Jugend bei ihren Sprüngen ins Wasser zuzusehen.

    Morgen soll es regnen und stürmen, man kann's kaum glauben. Nicht nur deswegen haben wir beschlossen, morgen schon heim zu fahren.

    Rita ist untröstlich, aber wir bleiben eisern. 😎
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  • Day1


    July 25, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Heute sind wir für ein paar Tage nach Delfzijl gefahren. Das liegt an der Emsmündung schräg gegenüber von Emden.

    Wir wussten zwar, dass es hier keinen Strand gibt, was wir aber nicht wussten ... man kommt hier gar nicht ans Wasser 🚧, weil dort alles umgegraben wird. Es soll ein Highlight für Touristen und den Naturschutz entstehen, was angeblich im Herbst fertiggestellt sein soll. Mit Promenade, Salzwiesen und Strand ... wie gesagt, im Herbst. Der frühe Touri hat das Nachsehen.

    So schmeißen wir den Plan „Wir brauchen hier kein Auto“ um und fahren morgen in die Natur ohne Bagger. 🌳🍀🌽🌾

    Unser B&B ist sehr nett, genau wie Rita, die Besitzerin. Sie plapperte uns sofort auf Englisch zu. Da muss man höllisch aufpassen.

    Rita scheint sehr gläubig 💒💰 zu sein. Die Einrichtung ist sehenswert.

    Wir wohnen “unterm Dach, juchhe“. Die Klimaanlage gibt sich Mühe ... 🌞 ... mal schaun, wie die Nacht wird.
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  • Day4

    Ein eisiges Vergnügen

    January 1 in the Netherlands ⋅ 🌬 7 °C

    Nach einer leider nicht böllerfreien Nacht (fast so wie zu Hause) heute ein Event der besonderen Art. Gibts bei uns an der Küste auch, aber dort haben wir es noch nicht live erlebt.
    Neujahrstauchen im Lauwersmeer, naja, eher ein kurzes Nassmachen. Rein bis an die Knie/Oberschenkel (je nach Körpergröße) und flott wieder raus. Verständlich bei den Wassertemperaturen und eisigem Wind.Read more

  • Day1


    December 29, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ 🌧 8 °C

    Kein Stress auf der Autobahn, Wetter durchgängig nieselig, grau, trüb. 20 km vor dem Ziel beginnt es zu schütten, aber kurz vorher reißt der Himmel auf und man kann die Sonne erahnen.
    Seit unserem 1. Besuch vor ca 7 Jahren hat sich hier viel verändert: Neue Einfahrt ( wir standen natürlich vor der alten 😊), neue Rezeption und Platz sehr gut belegt. Als wir damals hier waren, standen hier ca 4 Womos und ein Zelt, jetzt ist gefühlt 3/4 belegt.
    Ich fürchte, dass es mit der Flucht vor der Böllerei nicht so geklappt hat wie wir dachten - so‘n Mist!

    Nach dem Einchecken müssen wir erst mal zum Hafen vor und Kibbeling essen.... sooooo lecker!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Provincie Groningen, Groningen, Groninga, Groningue, Grinslân, 흐로닝언 주, Гронинген

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