Friday, August 3, 2018

Haarlem, Netherlands and Kampen, Netherlands

This is my 23rd consecutive summer in Lausanne, Switzerland. With Lausanne as base, my bike and I have pretty much dissected Europe. It's getting more complicated to visit new places as it usually involves flying and I'm not a big fan of planes especially with my bike in tow. I've had baggage handlers damage the bike, ship it to the wrong destination and even "forget" to put it on the plane. You want a definition of helplessness? Standing at the departure gate, looking out the window to see luggage carts loaded with suitcases pulling up to be transferred onto the plane AND, spotting the cardboard box containing my bike on the bottom of the heap of suitcases!

Several planned trips to France were canceled this summer. Train workers have been on strike since May. In 2019 European Union (EU) countries have to open their railways to competition and the bloated French train monopoly needs to pare back on expenses--meaning getting rid of vast numbers of overpaid, underworked employees. French rail workers can retire at 50 with full pension.
Summers in Europe can get very hot with temperatures averaging in the 90's for the months of July and August.  Last July I spent time cycling around England in deliciously comfortable 65 degree weather while continental Europe was baking in the mid-90's. I was planning a similar trip to England----cycling along England's southwest coastline but canceled. Why? England is having record high temperatures (in the 90's) along with extreme drought and I was constantly seeing pictures of overflowing crowds flocking to England's coastline and beaches. When traveling I like to have as much flexibility as possible and do not book hotels beforehand. So, my big problem would be showing up in a town and finding no room in the inn.

I've been cycling this summer to ski resorts and mountain lakes but haven't posted pictures since they're previously visited places.

Netherlands here I come! It's a cyclist's paradise--beating even Denmark, the people are friendly, its women rank amongst the most beautiful in Europe and many of its cities/towns still have preserved medieval city centers. This trip I'm flying into Amsterdam and heading to an area in the northern part of the country that I've yet to visit.

Haarlem (population 160,000) lies 10 miles west of Amsterdam. This is Amsterdamse Poort, the last remaining city gate. It dates back to 1355 and was one of 12 city gates encircling the city.
View of Grote Markt, called by many the most beautiful square in the Netherlands. That's city hall in the background. Haarlem has more protected (historic) structures than any other city in the country.
 View in Grote Markt toward the Great Church or St. Bavo's Church.
Sideview of St. Bavo's Church, the biggest church in Haarlem. By the way, here's a piece of trivia: Harlem in New York City was named by Dutch settlers after Haarlem.
There's a reason I'm showing you several views of St. Bravo's Church: the church houses the largest organ in the world. This Christian Mueller organ has been around for a while---Mozart played this organ back in 1766 (he was only 10 years old at the time).
This solidy-built imposing safe dates from the 15th century and sits off to one side of the gigantic organ. Valuables along with important documents were stored inside including papers granting city rights to Haarlem back in 1245. I don't think a modern day forklift could dislodge this sturdy sucker.
Marijuana (cannabis) has been legal in the Netherlands for years and coffee shops selling the stuff are everywhere. This one has what appears to be a CHP officer (California Highway Patrol) guarding the entrance.
Heading 60 miles northwest of Amsterdam brings me to Kampen, population 50,000. What has lured me here? It has garnered kudos as having one of the best preserved old towns in the Netherlands and as you know, I'm a sucker for medieval town centers. This is one of the three remaining city gate.
 The former city hall holds prime spot in the town center.
 Storefronts are a joy to wander past.
 Another of Kampen's three medieval city gates.

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