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Sunday International Cycling: Groningen - Wymeer (Germany)

We went into Germany! It looked much the same as the Netherlands, except for the signs in Gothic script and the Lederhosen.

Seriously, on Sunday, Sidsel and I took the advice we were given in early August and went to the Dutch-German border area to look at the old smuggling route through De Lethe. We neglected to bring any butter to smuggle, but we did bring plenty of bananas. Those Germans are starved for them.

I misremembered where exactly De Lethe was supposed to be, so initially we took a more southerly route than we ought to have taken, but we discovered our mistake in time and didn't have to make too much of a detour. We went through Ommen, Midlaren, Zuidlaarderveen, Oud-Annerveen, Spijkerboor, Veendam, Oude Pekela, Blijham and Bellingwolde, only taking one break in Oude Pekela.

Throughout our trip, we had excellent weather. The forecasts on Saturday had been pretty bad: a cold, dark, rainy day was forecast. But the only evidence of that we got to see was when I decided to take my sweater off in Midlaren. Sidsel said "look at that" pointing behind me, and lo and behold there was a giant rain cloud just behind us! Fortunately, it was going North-East, and we were not. We enjoyed great weather throughout. The area was nice to look at too. Not as many giant farmhouses scattered throughout as we saw on our northern trips, but wide open spaces everywhere. We did lose quite a bit of time trying to get out of Veendam, though, and that's not a nice town to get lost in.

Bellingwolde, on the other hand, looks quite nice. It seems to be the town where the people who own all the land in the are have put their farmhouses, and they look like cozy little abodes too. The gaps between them have been filled by newer, smaller houses, but it has maintained its rural character.

From Bellingwolde, we went into De Lethe (now a national park) but couldn't immediately find the smuggling route. So we improvised one of our own, crossing into Germany over empty farmland. Naughty, eh? But if crossing the border was that easy during, say, World War I, that's probably the reason people in Bellingwolde could afford those big houses. Of course, on the other side of the border, there was a path marked "Schmugglers Pad", because the Germans are nothing if not organised.

The area of Germany that we visited, though, was a bit dull. Tiny villages and scattered farmhouses, with occasional groups of kids playing in the streets. A nice enough place to live in, but I wouldn't want to visit it. The best way to sum it up is that Bellingwolde, bucolic as it is, is probably the place those border Germans go to if they need some excitement. Not that Bellingwolde has, like, any good bars, as we discovered when we came back and decided to take a break for coffee and apple pie. The bar we settled at - the first we found, after some searching - had German Schlagers on the P.A, an aroma of onions pervading everything including the apple pie, and softcore porn in the men's room (Sidsel didn't use the ladies, so we don't know if there was porn in there as well). Had we wanted beer, we'd have had to drink Amstel, and it probably would have smelled of onions.

Back home over a more northerly route! Winschoten, a forestry and salt drilling area called "Tranendal" (Vale of Tears), Muntendam (snackbar break - my fries came with a rancid-tasting sauce. Some luck, eh?), Hoogezand-Sappemeer (where we realised we were riding like a pair of old women), Foxhol and then along the Winschoterdiep (where we picked up some speed again). Home exhausted. 120-ish kilometers in total. Not bad.

This Monday morning, I notice I've taken a bit of a hit from the excertion, but week after week, the recovery becomes easier. We are now looking at doing even further trips. One part of the map that interests me is Emden, the area in Germany North-East of the Dollard bay, but I fear that will have to wait until next summer. There are two ways to get there. One of them is to take the ferry from Delfzijl, which only runs during the summer months. The other is to circle the Dollard - an additional 25 kilometers on top of cycling to the border and cycling through the area itself. I reckon we'd end up cycling some 250 kilometers on a trip like that. We need some more practice before we'll be able to handle that!


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