The Netherlands are FLAT

Oh dear cubed. Another 100 mile day. This time round the houses on the official Dutch-German North Sea tourist route, and into quite a lot of headwind.

So, must be getting fit, or something. Perhaps it had to do with spending over nine hours, longest day yet, very happily in my comfortable, supple saddle, spinning along from Germany into the top right-hand corner of the Netherlands.

Am writing this in the bar of yet another gorgeous campsite (OK, I’ll stop comparing them), half watching Germany play Poland in the Euro2008 footie. Ah, Germany have just won 2-0.

I could have taken 1000 photos in both Poland and Germany as I pedalled through of cars flying the relevant national flag, sometimes four at once, one from each window – legitimate national pride in a continent where nationalism has killed 10s of millions in the past century.

But I didn’t – so as a substitute in the collection above, a flag-bedecked village street here in NL. Same idea, just orange instead of reds, whites, blacks and golds.

Tonight’s camspite is on one of the extraordinary dykes that keep the Netherlands, entirely appropriately named – Low Country -, dry and the sea out.

My tour is taking me right round the edge of the Dutch coast, and I am reminded at every turn how the Dutch and the North Germans have seized their lands from the sea. At great cost.

In the 19th century, I found while still near Otterndorf, 100,000 people lost their lives in just one storm flood, at a time when the coast was much less densely populated. A huge, Tsunami-sized catastrophe.

Very many of Holland’s famous windmills were of course built in the 19th century as pumps to keep the water table down in the polders – the fields – reclaimed from the sea.

See one such beautiful beast above. I wonder if the locals complained then about all these windmills in their back yards in the way today’s Brits, but not Germans or Dutch, moan about wind-powered electricity generation. Very probably.

Protecting land and livelihood requires sacrifice. There’s the huge financial cost of building the world’s most sophisticated sea defences around the entire coast – see pic above of some of the technology.

And some communities too have to give up their homes and move. The other picture above is of where a church had to be demolished in the 1970s to make way for a new five-and-a-half-metre high sea wall.

The original gravestones repositioned on the new dyke indeed give food for thought, as global warming begins to push sea levels even higher.

Tomorrow, across the world’s longest flood-protection dyke, towards Rotterdam. In two weeks, I’ll be home.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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