Timing is everything in life. On my cycle around Zeeland my time, and luck, were up. I’d had nothing but glorious weather, cycling under blue skies and a hot sun as I toured Zeeland’s coast and interior. That was about to come to a dramatic end. After leaving the mighty storm barrier of Oosterscheldekering behind, I headed into a strong, and getting stronger, wind en route to the ancient fishing village of Zierikzee.
I was looking forward to seeing Zierikzee and then to cycle across the Zeeland Bridge, at 5km in length the longest bridge in the Netherlands. I can report from first hand experience that half way across the Zeeland Bridge is no place to find yourself during a thunder storm. This is especially true when the rain is monsoonal and lightning is streaking across the sky. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I reached Zierikzee after struggling for 20km into a headwind along the banks of the eastern Scheldt. After a full day of cycling it was exhausting stuff, and I was glad to arrive in the late afternoon for a rest and some food. I passed through one of the town’s medieval gates, it was immediately apparent that this was an historic town.
Zierikzee dates back to at least the mid-12th Century. It was a fishing village before becoming one of the towns of the Hanseatic League. Thriving on trade and fishing, it suffered a sudden decline in the 16th Century. That doesn’t seem to have prevented the town from constructing a wealth of beautiful buildings.
I parked the bike and went for a walk around, conscious that I wouldn’t have much time to explore before needing to get going again. It was another 25km to the town of Goes (there really is a town called Goes), where I’d get the train back to The Hague. The old part of Zierikzee is wonderful and, because I’d arrived in the late afternoon, there weren’t many other tourists.
Zierikzee’s central square is an attractive open space ringed by cafes and restaurants. I found a table overlooking the harbour and ordered up some food. I was only in the restaurant for 30 minutes, but in the time it took to eat a sandwich and sample a local beer the weather had changed dramatically. Big ominous-looking clouds had swept in and rain was definitely headed my way.
I’d have liked to spend a little more time wandering Zierikzee’s atmospheric streets, but I was now in a race against time and the elements, a race I was never likely to win. I cycled towards the Zeeland Bridge and, in the hope that the rain would hold off until I was on the other side, set off across its dramatic 5km distance. There were fabulous views down the estuary to the Oosterscheldekering.
The rain started to fall in big, heavy drops that grew in intensity until I was soon cycling into a torrential downpour. Thunder roared overhead, lightning illuminated the sky and the wind howled. I entertained myself making up newspaper headlines about the death of an idiot who decided to cross a bridge in the middle of a storm. It seemed like an eternity before I reached the other side.
The rain and lightning were extraordinary, so I took shelter under the bridge and waited. The storm eventually passed and somewhat bedraggled I set off again for Goes. It turned out that this was a false dawn. Ten minutes later the heavens opened again and I found myself wondering if people actually drown while cycling in Zeeland.
Goes is supposed to be an interesting town to visit, but I was soaked and my only interest was to not be there. I eventually I found my way to Goes train station and…wait for it…went.