were many other cyclists, locals not touring, and most
exchanged a friendly 'Gitt Dag'. The year before we
had done a similar tour of Denmark and had noticed that
people used bicycles extensively for transport, but
rarely for recreation. In the Netherlands we saw family
groups and couples just out for a spin along the bike
paths. There were often three generations in a group,
and smartly dressed women of all ages, some in their
eighties and nineties.
We bought a picnic lunch at a supermarket in Oldemarkt
and ate at a table by the river along the way. It was
a hot day, over 30 degrees and it was a Monday.
All the shops we passed after lunch were shut
and there was nowhere to get a drink or top up our water
bottles. Our throats became increasingly parched.
We had a, mistaken, idea that cafes opened at 4pm
and detoured to a small village to try to find one.
a cafe a few minutes before four o'clock and asked
the lady in the house next door if it would open,
there was anywhere nearby where we could buy a drink.
She said no, but offered us a beer in her garden.
made us comfortable and went into the house to get
the beer. It was some time before she returned and
became apparent that she had been rounding up her two
sons and a couple of their friends to meet us for
impromptu English lesson. The two boys were full of
energy, wiry and fit, but polite and well behaved.
were clearly well brought up, and if that is typical
of Dutch children we are more than impressed.
Most Dutch people speak some English and most young
people are quite fluent. Apart from learning it at school
much of the popular culture, TV, music and the Internet
is in English. We didn't attempt to learn any Dutch.
Learning useful phrases is worse than useless if you
can't understand the reply. The exception is learning
how to pronounce place names to ask directions; although
keeping the map handy helps.