Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Marken, and a face full of bugs

Riding day 3 also started with a ferry, as we again crossed the IJ on our way to an island that's not really an island anymore. We saved this trip for last on what I expected to be the warmest day, as I expected it to be cooler -- because it basically runs up the edge of the lake called Markermeer (a part of the IJsselmeer)...
The lake
...which used to be part of the ocean until the Dutch got mad at it and turned it into a freshwater lake. But more on that later.

Our route this day was 59 km including the free ferry crossing.
Life on the edge of the water
The ferry crossing this particular Sunday was MUCH busier than the one yesterday (this ferry is people, bikes & scooters only); the whole area seemed more popular with Amsterdam day trippers.
A wall of bikes
After the usual bout of getting lost off track in Amsterdam Noord, we got to the water's edge and then navigation was much easier. The sailboats were out in force this lovely day -- but look carefully at the picture.
See those black splotches?
Those things are not lens aberrations. They're flies; probably gnats. There were clouds of them.
Every black speck is a gnat. Probably 200 in this picture
They were brutal to ride through. They hit my glasses like bugs on a windshield and splattered. They got caught between my glasses and my clip ons, blocking my vision. One got in my eye, blinding me, and causing me problems with my eye for days. They covered our arms and legs and chests as we rode. They got in your mouth or nose when you breathed. They just made for horrible riding for over 30 minutes on the lake edge until we almost got to Marken. And then they were gone.

So to Marken, which used to be an island, and use to be in the middle of the ocean, a part of the once-Zuiderzee. But that ocean had issues, and at high tides the island would flood. 1916 was the worst.
The sign  
The sign on a house
On a house near the harbour
So in 1932, they dammed the whole sea with a 32 km dike called the Afsluitdijk that turned the fishing island of Marken into... not much. It stopped Marken from flooding, but killed the economy. It enabled them to build mega polders in Flevoland, and even the US Society of Civil Engineers calls the projects one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

But Marken, with its weird houses built in clumps on high ground, and even then on stilts, didn't do so well. At one time, over 200 fishing boats called the harbour home. Now - not so much. Stranded, in the late 1950's, the plans moved partially forward to start building a polder, and a dike was built to Marken. And it became popular with tourists who find the harbour pretty and the houses fun to take pictures of -- though we could find none on stilts any more. When the treat of flooding ended, the stilt areas were enclosed, and now just look like lower floors.

But the little blobs of tight houses on high ground remain scattered around the island.
A cluster 
A lakeside cluster
Now they have new problems. See what look like boat ramps on the right of the above picture? They're not for boats; they're for ice. Ice forms on the lake in the winter and blows towards shore; it can breech the dike. The angled metal things break the ice up and protect the houses.

They also have a lighthouse, which used to be more important than it is now. But it has a nice beach and a little park perfect for a picnic.
Lunch view 
The beach 
Through the fence 
The beach sand is mostly broken up shells
Marken's not that big. We parked our bikes and walked most of the town in an hour. The houses are small and jammed together and in a specific palate of colours. I personally think they're missing an opportunity to hold the world Hide and Seek championship here; the older sections are just a maze.
A courtyard 
A spacious area 
Main streets 
146 years older than my country 
Classic colours
More courtyards
And very few of the houses, even the newer ones, are even marginally straight.
Look at the filler between these two houses
The church in the middle of the older section is pretty and seems appropriately out of place.
A path leads to the church 
The main drag in this section of town 
The church square 
The highest thing for miles 
It doesn't match, but that's OK
As you can tell by the banners, it was the day after Liberation Day.

The harbour was busy, and justifiably so. It's a lovely spot.
They even welcome you 
Once all houses, now stores and houses 
No fishing boats, but lots of other kinds 
A busy spot 
Lovely caf├ęs
One of the best parts about riding TO Marken in the morning is riding BACK with the afternoon tailwind. Our route (again from holland-cycling.com) took us back more inland (and away from the bugs). It offered an "adventure" option: a fietsroute across the fields to a bike-only ferry to Holysloot. Cool idea, we thought. Wet idea, it turns out. Not only do you have 5 bridges to cross on foot...
Me crossing 
Karen entering the bridge 
No riding across this
...but the "path" is more concept than reality, and had several mud bogs to cross (we got soakers). Still, it was an adventure, and the ferry was fun.
The ferry arrives. Need to call it? Ring the bell 
Halfway across, looking back 
Arriving at the thriving metropolis of Holysloot
The ferry costs €1.20 per person/bike, and they have 300-400 passengers a DAY in the summer. Profitable.

The route also took us through Ransdorp, which features are REALLY tall unfinished tower, first built in the 1300's.
About 32 m high 
Kind of a mix of styles
Inside the lower part 
Looking down at the entry
It costs a whopping €0.50 per person to tackle the incredibly tight circular staircase and climb the thing, first to the mid level, then to the flat top.
Looking up 
Looking down 
Karen taking pics at the mid level 
Our route home, leading direct to downtown Amsterdam 
Karen playing with camera settings 
We rode WAY over there 
Muiderslot Castle visible to the left of the tower 
Sailboats around Ft. Pampas
We deviated from the recommended route to get home, making up our own way  across a bridge (the Schellingwouderbrug) to end up at the main Singlegracht Canal. We returned our bikes, and, kinda wiped from 3 solid days of sun and biking, decided to take a day off completely.

Again, Marken's a cool place to visit, and popular on the bus tour route for a reason. It's an easy 90 minute bike ride from downtown Amsterdam.

Just watch for bugs.

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