Getting Away From It All -- In Crowded Holland
It's not easy to get away from the crowds when you live in one of the world's most densely populated countries. But if you know the right places, you can escape from the city to your own little bit of nature even in the Netherlands -- and for free!
Last fall we did just that. Two panniers on each bike? Check. Tent? Check. Portable BBQ? Check. We wouldn't normally take a BBQ on a bike tour, but on a short overnight trip you can get away with a few liberties and indulgences.
With the essentials on board, we started cycling toward what we think is among the best-kept secrets in the country: a paalkampeerterrein.
What's that? Loosely translated, the name means "pole camping site," and there are about 30 of them across the country. The name comes from the fact that these simple tenting sites (don't count on water or a toilet) are marked only by a wooden pole. There's no cost to use them and they're usually set in a wooded area or other nature reserve. Only cyclists and walkers can use them, and we've fallen in love with a few particularly scenic ones.
Our favorite paalkampeerterrein so far is just off a quiet bike path in the middle of the Dutch countryside. Across a narrow bridge is a small patch of land, surrounded by water and trees, and with just enough space for three tents. A true hidden getaway. With only a few cows to keep us company, we cooked and laughed the night away at our own private campsite.
As night drew in, we marvelled at the fact that we couldn't hear any traffic -- something that almost never happens in the Netherlands, but you can find this silence at a pole camping site.
The next morning, a stray rooster from a nearby farm wandered through our campsite to say good morning as we made pancakes for breakfast. Then, with the early morning fog burning off, it was time to set off for home again -- past windmills and over the canals of Holland.
We felt refreshed, and thankful, for this little oasis of nature, and for a well-deserved break from our normally hectic lives.
Tip for this adventure: See the locations of the paal camping sites by clicking here.
Favorite local bike shop: Bike4Travel, located a short ride away from this campsite, has everything you need for bicycle touring.