It is always a treat to stay more than one night in a place, not having to pack up our touring belongings and dismantle our tent. We intend to do more of this in the next couple of weeks, having achieved the only goal we had set ourselves of reaching Copenhagen, the rest of our time is about meandering and visiting a few places that are on our list to see.
Emmen was not a place on our list, it is a relatively new town with the main attraction being a wildlife adventure park. It was though convenient and the campsite is laid back so perfect to relax. Though the town itself is relatively new, having expanded since WWII, the area has been settled for much longer. There is an abundance of what is referred to as hunebeds (dolmen) and one of the better preserved ones was only a five minute cycle away, so after a leisurely start (I slept in until 07.30!), we set off to view this prehistoric burial site. It was indeed impressive, set up on a small hillock within the woods, it was a peaceful place to spend some time.
We had a few things that we needed to buy, one being WD40 as my cleated shoes have started to stick and will not unclip easily, something that could be a disaster should we have an accident or even topple off. We therefore headed into the town centre, taking a route via the city park, and we were glad we did! It was laid out to be a real community asset, with adventurous play areas, mini replica hunebeds and interesting nooks to explore. I was delighted to find there was there a small flock of goats and a couple of pigs, but what was unexpected was the Museum of Contemporary Tibetan Art. Sadly it was closed on Tuesdays, but we did wander around an outdoor display of the finalists of a local photography competition which quenched our cultural thirst.
Having explored the park, we found a well reviewed cafe for some brunch that was owned and run by three sisters, and aptly named ‘Sisters’. Tummies full we set off on foot to fulfil our shopping list. By the time we had found everything we needed, it was well past midday and the sun was positively hot, so we headed back to our campsite so that we could have a relaxing afternoon.
We were now familiar with some of the other guests at the site, one was a gentleman who had a pug dog that clearly liked to have a constitutional walk every 30 minutes or so, and their arrival was heralded by the pug’s wheezy snuffling. Our youngest son used to say that when he was a grown up, he wanted to have a pug and it would be called Barry, therefore all pugs have since been referred to as Barry. After the second day of Mr V and I saying to each other ‘here comes Barry’, I had the opportunity to stop and say hello to the little character, who did enjoy the attention. I also found out that Barry was in fact Luna!
Our immediate neighbour and only other tent occupant was a lady called Gite, though we had exchanged pleasantries during the first day, and Mr V and I had wondered to ourselves how she had managed to transport her tent and the very nice deck chair and table on her bike, we had a long chat in the evening and it transpired that she actually lives in her camper van, but this is currently in the garage for a few days, the chair mystery solved. It transpired that when she had retired, she had decided that a routine life tied to one place was not for her, so she had divested herself of all but her essential belongings, sold her house and bought a camper van. She has travelled all over the continent down to Spain and Portugal, Italy and Greece and up to Norway, Finland and Sweden. She tends to spend the summers in the Emmen area as her grandchildren live here; she is truly an inspirational grandma. We had a philosophical talk about the burden of things, and that there is a societal lack of being satisfied with enough, seemingly alway on a quest for the better car, the bigger house etc, and the freedom of getting off that treadmill. On talking about where we have visited and our list of places that we would still like to see, Gite came up with further suggestions of places, and so our list grows ever longer!
The next day was due to be warm again, and we have fallen into the pattern of waking early and packing up to get on the road so that we get the miles under our belts by early afternoon, thus allowing ourselves to have a good chunk of time to shower, eat and relax. We were heading for Ommen, and had identified a campsite on the outskirts, however both Outdoor Active or Google Maps provided a route that was fairly direct. So Mr V cracked open the old faithful View Ranger; this is the app that has now been taken over by Outdoor Active, but because he had paid for a subscription, was still able to access it. The beauty of View Ranger is that you can plot your route using the junction points of the Fietsroute system, something that we did daily on our previous visits, but with the current technology had not needed to do this time, so it was ‘old school’.
There are pros and cons to each method, with Outdoor Active route planner, you very much stick to the route that has been ordained, or risk the red arrow of disapproval if you deviate, but it does not account for such things as ferries that only run on certain days. Manual plotting allows you to manage the route yourself, but you do have to be vigilant to spot the signs, which are not always as obvious as you would think, and can lead to frayed tempers.
As it turned out, the journey was initially easy to navigate with well positioned signage, so we were enjoying this retro experience, of number spotting, crossing each junction off our list and not really knowing how far to the next junction, sometimes close, sometimes not. We stopped for coffee at Coevorden after saying hello to some inquisitive deer and hens, and mused that it would be helpful if there was an App that mapped out the complete fietsroute – it then occurred to us that we have not looked to see if there was one in the last few years. Low and behold there is indeed (of course) and though it has it’s glitches and is in Dutch, but it was helpful especially when going through towns, which are always difficult. What it does have as a handy feature is annotations for cafes and campsites along or just off the cycleway, and we made use of one to enjoy some refreshing iced tea, and immense ice creams.
We arrived in Ommen and booked into our campsite around 13.00hrs and then took some time to relax in the shade before setting off to see what Ommen had to offer. I had listed this as a destination after reading an article on off the beaten track placed in the Netherlands to visit, and had expected the town itself to have that old Dutch town charm, around a central square. It did not quite live up to my expectations, and when I referred to the article, had to acknowledge that this was an assumption that I had made as it had referred to Ommen as having a slower pace. What Ommen does have is a tin model museum, however neither Mr V or I have any burning desire to purchase an entry ticket for this. What was fascinating though was the working windmill in the centre of the town. Ommen has five old mills, one of which I knew was now a museum with a reconstructed toll house next to it, I had wrongly assumed that the central one with the sails going round was this. However, what we found was the miller himself, who comes from a long family line of millers apparently going back 500 years (though not in this particular mill which was built in 1846). He told us that this mill is the only one in the town that still works milling flour and has been in his family for generations but that there had been difficult times and his father had diversified by raising pigs and chickens. He was immensely proud though that he continued this skill, which is apparently recognised by UNESCO, and that his granddaughter wants to learn the trade and take over the mill eventually. We were sorry not to be able to buy some of the many types of flour that he produces due to lack of space, but it was a pleasure and privilege to talk to him and we were grateful for the opportunity to peek inside the actual mill.
Having completed a little tour of Ommen, we headed back to our campsite to enjoy our evening and plan tomorrow’s route heading for the next place on our list; Giethoorn.