"Landscapes vary enormously from vistas of newly-reclaimed land afforded by the 32-kilometre Buitenplaatsenroute in Flevoland to the bracing spin through spectacular dunes provided by the 56-km Duinroute in North Holland," promises the bike blurb from the Netherland's Tourist Board. The Gelderland route The Gelderland Valley route takes cyclists across the Hoge Veluwe nature reserve, a pristine wilderness and wildlife bird sanctuary. Peaceful and green Gelderland has more bike routes than any other province, with a total of 33 itineraries.
The Parc Hoge Veluwe, Holland's largest national park, is worth a visit for both its nature and culture. A system of "white bikes" (free for the borrowing) allows you to ride at no charge between its forested slopes, stopping to visit the wonderful Kroller Muller museum where Van Gough's Sunflowers is housed.
Natural inside and out -- the surrounding province is also dotted with brasseries and pankuiken (crêpe) houses for before-and-after fuelling, and cherry stalls picturesquely marking the countryside along the way.
The Hoge Veluwe and the Kennemer dunes near Haarlem lie at opposite ends of an ancient dune chain, which puts most of the hills in Holland to shame. They are two of the few real wild patches of the country, renowned for their vegetation and elevation.
"Areas where the land rises" emphasizes my guide book, "are in Gelderland, the Veluwe, up to 321 feet [98 metres] in Overijssel, Salland, 231 feet [70 metres] and Utrecht, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, 210 feet [64 metres]
In an easy morning's drive we cross the entire Netherlands, 159 kilometres through the provinces of Utrecht and Salland to Arnhem and Gelderland.
The trip is broken up by exclamations from my friends, "Look, this is another small mountain we are passing now!" as we cross a barely discernible hump.
It must be the "do-it-yourself-mountain" of Arnhem Land, which Dutch cabaret artist Paul van Vilet refers to tongue-in-cheek. The do-it-yourself depending on the effort you put into imagining it as more than a hill.
Okay -- so we cheated seriously -- and did this part by car. Just because it's small doesn't mean you have to do all of Holland by bike, but the opportunity is there. Transit for bikes Transport, too, is made for cyclists. The Dutch take their bikes on trains, planes and automobiles. And if you want to cover some of the terrain by train, over 300 stations allow you to take bikes on board.
If you go
Bike transport. If you are taking your bike with you, make sure you let the airline know at least a week in advance. Once in the Netherlands, you can take bikes on trains for 10 guilders ($6.45) one way or 17.50 guilders ($11.30) for up to an 80-kilometre journesf //y. Eurail and Europass holders can usually carry bikes on to most trains in Holland free of charge, or for a small fee. Rail passes may be purchased on-line at http://www.railpass.com. Bike rental. You can rent bikes at some 300 stores in Amsterdam alone and at the depots of some 100 train stations in the Netherlands for approximately 7.50 guilders ($4.85) a day. Give them the full once over. They come in all shapes and sizes including standard, speed, tandems, mountain bikes, kids' bikes and with kiddies seats. The catch is that they must always be returned to the place where they were picked up from, so you have to do a round trip. Bike paths. There are 10,000 kilometres of designated bike paths or fietspaden in the Netherlands, on a very organized and clearly-marked network. These appear on the ANWB 1:100,000 scale maps, which you can pick up from the 350 tourist information offices (VVV) in the country, along with information on bike routes and accommodation. Look out for the Netherlands Tourism Board's (NBT), booklet Cycling in Holland, with its suggested routes and other information. Organized Bike Tours. The NBT in association with the VVV offices offer good value cycling holiday packages around the country. The European Vacation Tours and Groups ( http://www.europeanvacation.com) organizes self-guided biking tours throughout Europe, including the Netherlands. The pedal tour begins and ends in Amsterdam via a circular route and takes in a great deal of countryside along the way. The cost is from $1,185 (Canadian) depending on the time of year and number of travellers. The price includes accommodation with private facilities, breakfasts, four dinners, seven- or 21-speed bikes with panniers and repair kits, luggage transfers, local contacts and detailed notes and maps. Amsterdam-based Cycletours Holland ( http://www.cycletours.nl) runs seven-day bike and boat trips, on canal boats, from $100 (U.S.) a day, including all meals, accommodation in up to 12 independent hotels bikes and guided rides of 17 to 50 kilometres a day, though you have the choice to go off for solo rides. Best season. Holland only has about 50 really sunny days a year, but the best months to go are between May and September. Foot-and-mouth. For updates on possible travel restrictions because of foot-and-mouth disease, go to http://www.netherlands-embassy.org and click Agriculture. Information. (888) 464-6552 or http://www.holland.com.
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