Walkabout in Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden Travel Blog

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The rather splendid and solid "kiosk" at Leeuwarden Station
The problem with deactivating one's alarm-clock is that one doesn't get up early. I had vaguely formulated a plan for Saturday morning that involved visiting the nearby town of Franeker, where there is the oldest planetarium in the world. But it was quite late, nearly eight o'clock, when I finally hauled myself out of bed, and then, of course, there were ablutions and breakfast. Now breakfast was a buffet, and in that kind of situation I have no self-control: it was here, I think, that my Great Weight Gain began, as I visited and revisited the pans of bacon and scrambled eggs. Then there were several slices of toast and marmalade, and I also sampled a currant loaf, all with lashings of fresh artery-clogging butter.
Refreshments are available on one of the bridges joining the north and south sides of Nieuwestad, which - though you would never guess from the picture - is the main shopping street
By the time I had polished off that little lot, collected my things from my room and waddled to the train station it was ten o'clock, and I had just missed the train to Frankener. Since the trains were only every half-hour, and I had to be back by three at the latest for the praamsailing that Wendy had organised, I abandoned the Franeker plan and went walkabout instead.

As well as revisiting some of the places that I had seen the day before, I was particularly pleased to discover the Prinsentium, a small park adjoining the river near Oldehove. There is a riverside walk, and one can inspect the many expensive-looking pleasure craft that are berthed here. There is also a sculpture of a lady bicyclist, and although I couldn't read the Dutch caption, I have to say that her inelegant and inefficient riding posture was quite unlike any that I saw being employed by real Dutch people.
Oldehove, as seen from one of the pretty little streets in the surrounding area - possibly Grote Kerkstraat, but I'm not sure
In fact, cycling seems to be highly disciplined: everyone rides at approximately the same speed, and very correctly, with a straight back, looking neither to right nor left, and pressing on the pedals firmly with the ball of the foot. Of course, the Dutch never have to pedal uphill, which helps. They also, without exception as far as I could tell, use sensible old-fashioned bicycles (which can be brand-new) with proper handlebars, decent-sized wheels, panniers, chain guards, mudguards, and even quarter-circle plastic protectors over the back wheel. I was told that they do also own moutain bikes and sports bikes, which they bring out on high-days and holidays, but I didn't see any. In fact it was rather touching to see little Dutch boys and girls pedalling dutifully along on bicycles that were not only similar to those that their grandparents would have used, but were probably the very same machines; and I wondered whether this helped to cement bonds between the generations in a way that couldn't happen here, where most children wouldn't be seen dead using the same sort of bike as their grandparents.
Oldehove: we get used to the apparent tilt of verticals caused by camera optics, so you need to check the vertical tree on the left to see the extent to which this tower really is leaning
And it was more than touching to see tall Dutch blonde girls doing the same ...

Although I had read of the Dutch love of cycling, I was quite unprepared for its extent, and only at Cambridge have I seen more bicycles in a bicycle park than at Leeuwarden Station. It makes being a pedestrian quite perilous, when you are used to the simple opposition of pedestrian versus car. Almost every road will have one or more cycle lanes to be negotiated; and that differently-coloured strip of paving, which in England you might suppose to have been placed there simply as a little jeu d'esprit on the part of the planners, here designates a cycle expressway, and you place your foot on it at your peril. When in addition everything is coming at you from the wrong direction, cosiderable concentration is required.

After exploring some more of the town, I headed back to the hotel to change, as I had got exceedingly hot. My next appointment was with Wendy at three o'clock, for praamsailing.
-amy says:
It's possible :S Maybe its students that get them? The person who I believe told me this, he's a student...but again, I probably DID imagine it up. I mean, I am living in a dream world half of the time :P
Posted on: Aug 21, 2008
londonstudent says:
PS Or maybe you just made it up after all :P
Posted on: Aug 20, 2008
londonstudent says:
I've never heard of that law, but I've just read that the average Dutch person owns three bicycles, so they must have got them from somewhere! Or maybe your informant was thinking of free bike rental schemes in city centres; I don't know whether they exist, but that seems more likely :)
Posted on: Aug 20, 2008
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The rather splendid and solid kio…
The rather splendid and solid "ki…
Refreshments are available on one …
Refreshments are available on one…
Oldehove, as seen from one of the …
Oldehove, as seen from one of the…
Oldehove: we get used to the appar…
Oldehove: we get used to the appa…
Swish boats on the river at Prinse…
Swish boats on the river at Prins…
More boats
More boats
A peaceful Saturday morning scene
A peaceful Saturday morning scene
Inefficient lady bicyclist
Inefficient lady bicyclist
If you have always wanted to enjoy…
If you have always wanted to enjo…
Leeuwardens skyscraper is right b…
Leeuwarden's skyscraper is right …
Peaceful country scene a few yards…
Peaceful country scene a few yard…
The bridge near the hotel is open …
The bridge near the hotel is open…
The causes of the delay sail happi…
The causes of the delay sail happ…
Leeuwarden
photo by: metsbwd