Glory of Green
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Stories from the Great Outdoors

 

What a weekend! It started rock bottom in a tent in the garden and ended on a pitch perfect high note paddling away on a Dutch canal. Going to Amsterdam this spring or summer? The Dutch have water everywhere. Rent a kayak, a boat or a canoe. Even with over a million inhabitants in the urban area of Amsterdam, and over 1,5 million in the greater metropolitan area, it’s easy to combine nature with sightseeing. We rented a cosy cottage at Vinkeveen – a small idyllic town south of Amsterdam.

The rock bottom

Sleepless at 1 am on Thursday night – technically on Friday morning – it struck me that I had never seen a smoke or fire alarm in the house we rent in Belgium. I went for a quick tour of the house and discovered that my hunch was completely sound. Not one alarm in the entire house. I started perceiving the brick house as a giant chimney. We even have some troubles with the electricity – and the light inside the microwave is chronically hot. Anxiety was quickly setting in.

As Norwegians, we are prone to address security issues with outmost seriousness. No biking without helmets or boating without vests – or sleeping without fire detectors. No way! Adding the fact that I have experienced two fires myself and know several people who has had their apartments ruined, I’m not willing to take the chance.

It’s not like someone came and told us in advance that time in Istanbul when the hotel started burning. It just started – silently – and then suddenly the hallway was full of smoke and we were saved by other people screaming. In my home no one is going to scream – we’ll just be dead. I once read that in a room filled with smoke you have seven breaths – then you’re unconscious. And so, after pondering what to do for a while, I decided not to stay up all night and rather go camping in the garden.

By close to 2 am the tent was up, sleeping bags collected, kids woken, head lamps on and everybody dressed in wool. One kid slightly concerned with the thought of fire and the other slightly concerned with her mother’s sanity. Husband safe and sound at work in the USA. The general mood in the tent has definitely been better.

An involuntary microadventure in the garden. Absolutely no filtering needed on this one…

The Norwegian cabin

After picking up kids at school and husband at airport on Friday, we headed for Vinkeveen, 18 kilometres south of Amsterdam. The town lies next to three lakes – the Vinkeveensee Plassen, that are connected by canals. It turned out to be super idyllic!

To get to the little red cottage, we had to use a boat and cross a narrow canal. A terribly angry brown duck yelled at us for entering her territory as we arrived at the island, but as we had rented what the motel called a Norwegian log cabin, we felt perfectly at home. We had a fire place and wood all around – and completed the Norwegian feeling by buying a smoke and fire alarm on the way there and sticking it to one of the beams in the ceiling. 

One crazy duck on the run.

The high note

Amsterdam has a nice, relaxed feel to it, even on a Saturday when the city centre is crawling with people. We stopped by Anne Frank’s house, took a stroll through the city and ate a great salad at Venkel. Next time, we’ll do Van Gogh.

However, the highlight of our excursion was found on Sunday when we spread out the inflatable kayaks and started exploring the canals. Renting a boat seems quite easy if you don’t have your own.

In early May the waterways were sprawling with birds nesting and nursing. Small ducks and geese with busy parents were everywhere. Baby-bird watching is such a rewarding activity. We went on an unplanned trip, going where the wind blew – and then against it. Not all canals were connected. Some bridges are too narrow to pass under and some canals are to narrow to paddle. It didn’t matter one bit. The lake was a bit windy, and we decided to stay between the strange narrow lanes of land, instead of going out on more open water. Look at the map and you’ll understand. This is a beautiful canal labyrinth with lush greenery, some architecturally interesting houses and gently rocking boats.

Mama duck and baby duck - and bread crumbles.

Ducks in the making.

The water in the canals was clear as crystal – and swimming is popular in summer. The temperatures were freezing however, and we’re not into ice bathing. At least the temperature in the air must be a bit summery. This was the week end when snow fell some places in Belgium. On the other hand – not being able to swim, gave us a very good reason to go back. We’ll also have to explore the open lake and the islands – and maybe paddle the canal that takes you to the city centre. So many experiences left!

Other practicalities

If you want to go to Amsterdam, leave the car at Johan Cruyff Arena and take the train in. It’s efficient and easy. Amsterdam is for bikers, walkers and public transport. If you go in the other direction you can visit Utrecht.

We found our accommodation at Airbnb. There was more than one possibility at the lake. 

Buy tickets months ahead if you want to enter Anne Frank's house while you're in Amsterdam.