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Sunday Cycling: Groningen - Ter Apel

For an activity that's supposed to make me fit and healthy, our cycling trips have a way of making me feel like crap the next day. Often, it's my own fault though: yesterday I dictated an unusually brisk pace for our 55-kilometer trip to the monastery museum in Ter Apel, and my terrible map-reading skills were responsible for getting us lost on the way back.

Ter Apel is at the south-eastern point of the province of Groningen, but the more scenic route is through Drenthe, so we took a right turn after riding east to Kropswolde and then rode through Annerveen, Eexterveen, Gieterveen and Drouwenermond. During that first part of our trip, the sun was shining brightly for November, and I had serious problems with temperature control. Between me and the air were a t-shirt, a hooded sweater and a winter coat, which meant I was sweating before Sidsel and I were out of the city. In the end, I had the hoodie tucked Sidsel's rucksack (my side-bags were packed with provisions) and put the jacket on my saddle and sat on it. Then 10 kilometers later I was finally cool enough again to put the hoodie back on, but I sat on the jacket for the rest of the trip. Just as well, because riding through Drenthe means riding over badly maintained brick roads. "Feel Drenthe, in your arse", said Sidsel, parodying the slogan the province uses to attract tourist.
The country-side of middle Drenthe was quite fetching as always, and the low sun over the empty land made for some pretty effects. Twice during our ride we met teams of rural folk playing klootschieten on the streets. It's a game in which people have to get a ball from one place to another in as few tosses as possible, so it's a good excuse to go out in the country on a nice day and have a long walk.
The museum in Ter Apel was a bit of a disappointment. I suppose it's one of those destinations that you go to casually on a day when you also take in a few other attractions - if you're traveled 55 kilometers by bicycle to get there it doesn't satisfy. That said, the building itself, built between 1465 and 1560 (with one wing added in the past few years to replace a part that had been burned down a few centuries ago) is nice to look at, the glimpse of the different rooms in the monastery (a refectory, a sacristy and a priory, to name some) is interesting and there were some good exhibits in the new wing. One of them was of a northern artist, Siemen Dijkstra whose colour woodcuts of landscapes look like paintings. As art, it's not innovative but the man can make a dramatic, imposing image, and his technique is impressive. The other is by a ceramics artist, Joan Seyferth who mixes traditional Chinese and Ancient Egyptian styles and influences.

We decided to go back over the non-scenic route, which turned out to be a mistake. I missed the left turn to Musselkanaal, but serious lostness didn't occur until we'd found our way to Stadskanaal, getting hungry and tired, and I insisted on following the signs towards Veendam even though they only applied to motorists. It took us an hour, including a hair-raising ride through a pitch-dark park, to recover from that and reach the exit we should have taken. At that point, we had ridden 25 kilometers, but only got 10 kilometers closer to Groningen, with 45 more kilometers to go! Although I take full responsibility for screwing up with the navigation, the underlying pattern is that we always run into trouble in the larger towns. We should avoid them, going from hamlet to hamlet instead; the signage in the small villages is usually much better, and there are fewer exits.
We ate a not very good Doner Kebab in Hoogezand, after which we had a relatively easy final stage back to Groningen.

And now I have sore legs. I awoke at 10.40 AM with the beginnings of a head-ache, and even with coffee and paracetamol, didn't manage to wake up properly until dinner time. Walking to and from the studio helped a little, but not enough.
No cycling trips in the next two weeks. I hope Sidsel will have forgiven me for my navigational incompetence by then...

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 8, 2004 6:05 PM.

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