Nettetal – in Holland in search of poffertjes (Thursday 16 August 2012)

I am going back to England tomorrow so today was my last full day (and my last chance for a cycle ride) in Nettetal.

In the morning I had the delight of an hour and a half’s video conference training thingie for work but was then able to take Poppy out to the supermarket to buy our fresh rolls for lunch (and two more rolls for the freezer for me to use for sandwiches tomorrow morning for the journey). Poppy is getting exceptionally good off the lead when cyclists go past – no point in chasing them as there are dozens of ’em, she just stands out of the way. This holiday has been good for her learning to cope with shared space roads.

After lunch I was ready to set out on my final cycle ride, yet another downloaded GPS track but this time one that was heading over to the Netherlands for some variety.

I wasn’t sure if the track was clockwise or anti-clockwise but decided to do the ride clockwise today so I ended up in Venlo. I had spent some time on Google and had apparently found a restaurant in Venlo centre that serves poffertjes, the little pancake thingies I love. I put a waypoint on my Garmin satnav for the poffertjes restaurant and headed off on the ride.

Rather than cutting the corner from Sassenfeld across to Breyell I followed the route to Lobberich (where the previous person had started/finished) and had a chance to cycle through some unfamiliar bits of the town. I finally got up close and personal with the church whose spires are often visible on the skyline and help me to orient myself when cycling around lots of similar-looking fields.

From Lobberich I went to Breyell, crossing the A61 motorway, then found myself cycling along a long, straight road past loads of fields. I played chicken with this tractor but let him win – he had a double trailer so I had to go onto the grass verge and let him have all the tarmac.

I arrived in Steyl crossing over a single track railway with one of the oft-seen little wayside chapels

Steyl morphed into Kaldenkirchen again and I went through the town centre again, including passing the waffle Eiscafé. Here is a picture of it so you know where to stop for one of those wonderful waffles if you are ever in Kaldenkirchen

Kaldenkirchen has lots of random artwork scattered around, including a few of these blobs in the middle of the pedestrian precinct – an interesting item to catch out unwary cyclists who aren’t entirely looking where they are going

As I left Kaldenkirchen I once again found myself in the huge area of woodland that I went through yesterday, although today’s route didn’t spend as long in the wood fortunately. Plus it had been dry so I didn’t get covered in mud as yesterday. It was very obvious that I was approaching the border with Holland

There was nothing to mark the actual border, though, and when I returned home and looked at the GPS track it was clear I had cycled a good half mile right along the border. These things don’t seem to matter much anymore.

I had to go off route at one point as they had dug a giant hole in the ground where the route used to go (the GPS track was over a year old)

This was a bit hard work on the trike – very sandy in places, a steep downhill and then a steep uphill. I had to walk up the last 50 metres as I had run out of traction on the sand.

When I got to the top (and the path turned back into non-sand) two chaps stopped me and asked me how far it was to Germany. I pointed back the way I had come and said that a sign a quarter of a mile away was a German sign. We had a bit of a chat – these two chaps were out for a cycle on their electric bikes just so they could say they had been to Germany. Rather like me, really, but going the other way. The chaps were Dutch but we all spoke in German. When they found out I was English they said “Oh, lots of gold medals” so our olympic success is well known!

I continued on, crossing a couple of motorways before arriving at a sign for

Although I just skirted round Tegelen this time and instead headed over to Steijl. I saw a couple of cafés in Steijl and half thought about my poffertjes but a quick look at the menus showed they didn’t have ’em, so I carried on.

My GPS track had a crossing of the Maas river at this point and I was slightly surprised to discover there was no bridge – instead there was a chain ferry which cost 60 cents.

It actually rather reminded me of Reedham Ferry in Norfolk as there were cafés at both sides of the river where you could sit with your cup of tea or beer and watch the ferry go back and forth and various other river craft try to dodge it and the chains.

This is looking back at Steijr church

It was very attractive on the other side of the Maas, lots of open fields, masses of cyclists, smooth road surfaces. I arrived in Hout-Blerick and then continued on, crossing under the A73 and arriving in Blerick.

I could see Venlo across the river and soon enough crossed over on a railway bridge with a huge cycle track to the side.

This was the sign pointing over the bridge – indicating which way for Germany (Duitsland)

Once I was across the Maas again I went off-route and headed for my waypoint for the poffertjes café. I was most disappointed to discover that they only do poffertjes in winter, they don’t consider them a summer option, so I had to settle for apple pie and cream instead.

It was OK but not as nice as the German equivalent. You’d think that, being only about 2 miles from Germany, some of the cake expertise might make its way across the border but it appeared not. Still, it was nice to sit out in the pedestrian precinct and watch the world go by.

The route back from here was the same one I took a few days ago, heading up through Venlo (yes, there seems to be a bit of a hill) and past the Venlo Airfield memorial. This is the actual sign on the border:

And here is Alfie with front wheels in Germany, rear wheel in Holland

I zoomed back past the Krickenbecker See and heading back on the familiar route to Sassenfeld. I rounded a corner at one point and found myself behind one of the amusing horse-drawn wagons which you see periodically and are usually full of Germans drinking.

I was behind this one for a good five minutes, crawling along at their speed and having a chat with the people in the back who all looked very cheery. After they’d got over the fact that I wasn’t Dutch we had a nice chat and one of them decided to practice saying “Leicestershire” to me. He was disappointed to discover I was from Essex. I didn’t want to overtake this wagon as it was almost as wide as the road and I didn’t know what the horses would make of me and my flags. Eventually they turned off onto the main road and I crossed over onto a side road, waving at the friendly boozers as I left.

I got back at 5pm, having had a very enjoyable ride, and have now disassembled Alfie and put him in the car ready for our trip home.

It’s been a great place to stay and to visit by bike – I can heartily recommend Sassenfeld and the general Nettetal area as a relaxing holiday destination by bike or on foot. Great food, fab cakes, lovely scenery, brilliant cycle paths. Just bring your mosquito repellant!

Total distance: 28.22 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 39 minutes
Average speed: 10.6 mph
Average heart rate: 114
Maximum heart rate: 153
Calories burned: 897

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