Travel Blog – Groningen to Utrecht, Holland

12 09 2009

In Groningen we had read about a Seal Sanctuary to the north in a town called Pieterburen so we headed that way first. We had also read of a local specialty called ‘mudlopen’, literally ‘mud walking’. It was quite a bit off the beaten path and on the small backroads of Northern Holland. On the way we decided to stop for lunch in a town called Winsum and after a walk around and me not wanting to have soup or sandwiches for lunch we once again had frites and some curry roll things called krokets. These things seem to be available everywhere in Holland, even in these strange vending machines where they cook them put them in trays and as you walk past you can slip a euro in and take it out. Presumably the turnover is fast enough that they are fresh but still, I’m not sure…

So continuing north on smaller and smaller roads and following the GPS whenever possible (it still didn’t have most of the roads) we finally arrived in Pieterburen. This place is tiny, really really tiny, and seems to have nothing but the seal sanctuary and the mudlopen. And lots of tourists. As such the seal place was very easy to find so we got to spend an hour or so looking at the seals… how cute ;-)

The place seemed well run and takes seals in from all over Holland to rehabilitate and look after them. There were also dioramas to teach what effect humans have on seal habitats and windows where you could watch the younger and sick seals being treated.

Seals. Yay! (f8.0 1/100 105mm)

Seals. Yay! (f8.0 1/100 105mm)

On the way back to the car we passed a small petting zoo, or random group of animals behind a fence that Alyona treated like a petting zoo. I’m assuming they didn’t mind such things as the gate was open with just the cattle-stop to keep the animals in. And she did take good care of them…

Petting Zoo (f8.0 /80 65mm)

Petting Zoo (f8.0 /80 65mm)

Seeing as we had no idea where we were in relation to the sea we asked at the local tourist office to get directions. We still got a bit lost and second-guessed the directions a bit but did manage to find it. Of course the problem was that unlike in NZ where you just head down hill, in Holland there is a huge dyke in the way so you can’t really see anything till you park at the bottom and climb up. Which we did and then had fun taking shots from the top.

Jump 1 (f8.0 1/800 24mm)

Jump 1 (f8.0 1/800 24mm)

Jump 2 (f8.0 1/640 24mm)

Jump 2 (f8.0 1/640 24mm)

The colours of the wheat and hay fields stretching into the distance was amazing, especially when contrasted with the stormy clouds overhead but with the bright sunshine coming from closer to the horizon. And the flatness. The never ending flatness of Holland broken only by the dykes used to protect and segment the country.

On the other side of the dyke were the mud flats that are estuarial (sp?) waters and part of the North Sea. The tide was out but you could imagine what it might look like if there was a storm at high tide. We couldn’t go too far out both because of time pressure and my shiny white shoes (which I did take off after a bit of cajoling), but we did walk out a couple hundred meters till it became obvious that we would have to walk a lot further for any change in landscape.

The mud was cool and squelchy and a lot like walking in a mangrove swamp. I could see the fascination people have with it and why they might want to spend a few hours out walking on this stuff. Very messy though…

Mudlopen (f8.0 1/1250 28mm)

Mudlopen (f8.0 1/1250 28mm)

After washing our feet in the basin of the toilets of a small farm building that we had parked the car at we hit the road again and navigated our way towards Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.The hope was to catch Martin and pick him up from his flight from Oslo that would land at 7:30. At the same time it would be cool to take the slightly longer route around the outside of Holland following the North Sea. On the map it looks like a really long bridge as part of a huge arc but it turned out when we arrived to be one massive dyke the whole way. The motorway is on the inside of the dyke but beside the large internal sea so it was still a very nice drive. And pretty fast too as while the posted limit is 120 everyone else was going closer to 150, so we kept up with them and as a result were only half an hour late to pick up Martin.

We then drove the 40 minutes or so to Tony’s place in Utrecht and with a little bit of phoning, gpsing, using maps on the side of the road, and realizing that his road was in fact pedestrian-only we finally caught up with Tony and dropped off the car at a place a few blocks away.

The night was spent having fun, catching up, and seeing some of Utrecht’s nightlife which is pretty cool as even though they are a small city there is a university so there is still a lot of youth culture around. But of course Amsterdam was the real goal for the next few days…

Travel Route

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