Dutch Landscape: An amateur bike ride


September 2012

I have been living in  Delft for two years already, but I always seemed to be too busy to visit Delftse Hout. It took a moving and a new, Korean house mate, to lead me there.

Hyejun is the sweetest person on the planet and a very good cook. When she saw my eagerness to experiment with Asian food, she suggested to go to the Oriental Market together, so she could explain to me what some of the things sold there were.

We started our ride the last warm weekend of this summer, me being thrilled as I got more and more used to both my new bike and biking. After two years of letting my mild phobia of biking  take over, this year I really had to get a bike, as I started Dutch courses, and my teacher lives at Den Hoorn, fifteen minutes biking from Delft. OR forty five minutes walking. So...

After my first stress-and-sweat filled rides, I was at the point that I could actually enjoy a ride, as long as there were not too many cars involved. Nikos was always biking with me, making sure of my safety and the one of Delft citizens. This Saturday was no exception. So the three of us were biking next to the canals, in a safety distance from one another, as my unsure steering did not allow for closer contact. I was secretly mad at myself for not trying to face this phobia earlier. It felt sublime. It felt like flying. Scary and fascinating, something that most Dutch take for granted, a feeling I re-discovered a bit before my thirties.

For the first time, I appreciated the flat scenery. I brought into my mind the steep slopes in the streets of Athens and then the wild scenery of my grandparents village. I wondered if someday I would be confident enough to bike there. I felt relaxed and enjoyed the rows of trees and the tranquil water. I wanted to absorb this serenity, to carry it with me the rest of the week. But once I looked left or right, my steering wheel followed my head, leading me off of my path. Lesson learned.

Once we reached the Oriental Market, my biking adventure was paused. But it was worth it, as the supermarket was an exceptional place from every aspect. Full of products unknown to me and some I had only seen online and wished I could try, but dimmed too exotic to find in Europe. We looked around with Hyejun for a while, but as she had to meet some friends at Delftse Hout and was in a hurry, soon she left. And after filling our bags with seaweed and coconuts and Asian mushrooms and other unidentified things, we decided to also explore the area.

Yet another moment in the same day that I blamed myself for not getting out of my comfort zone more. I could have enjoyed this place so much more. The lake, the thick grass, the parents and the kids enjoying the sunshine... I felt I had jumped right into Seurat's “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte“. We went to get a coffee, but it was five in the afternoon, so the bar had just closed. These early closing times keep being a surprise to me, but it seemed that no one was in a rush to finish up their drinks, even though the waiters started gathering the empty chairs. This fact made the scenery look even more like a painting: almost still, yet it filled you with warmth and sentiments.

We decided to continue biking and go off-track, towards the villages. We both love sheep. So it was a great surprise that during our ride we could be so close to them, just small canals preventing us from reaching and hugging them. The sun started to descend slowly and it was as if the whole plane was meditating. At this time, I forgot how man-made this scenery was. I forgot that these grazing fields might have been much more filled with animals and wildlife. I just enjoyed riding through them, feeling like a sail boat crossing a calm sea. I felt that nothing could go wrong, that we could not get lost. Nikos kept looking at the signs: “Nootdorp”, “Pijnacker”, “Den Haag” and numbers of kilometres next to them. I did not mind where we would end up, it could as well be the end of the world. I felt I was in the right place.

After two and a half hours of biking, the birds started calling each other to fly back at home, in the dense foliage. The sun was about to set and I did not have my bike lights with me. So back to Delft it was.

Seurat "Sunday afternoon on the island of Grande Jatte"