Exploring Zeelandic Flanders by bicycle
Zeelandic Flanders (Zeeuws Vlaanderen) is the southern most region of Zeeland that borders on Belgium. It is separated from Zeeland by the a large waterway called the Western Scheldt. Growing up in Zeeland we referred to it as "that place across the water", and the in Zeelandic Flanders would do the same thing the other way around.
Being geographically cut of from the Netherlands like this it has been historically been a disputed area between Belgium and the Netherlands, and the local dialect and culture is a unique mix between Dutch and Belgian.
There is a ferry between Vlissingen (a city with the bizarre name "Flushing" in English) and Breskens. Before the opening of the tunnel cars could go on there. Now the ferry is only for bicycles and pedestrians.
The goal of our trip was to explore Zeelandic Flanders by bicycle. We had camping equipment with us but no reservations at any campsites, as we did not know how far we would get.
All our stuff was loaded on the back of the bike in some newspaper delivery bags with the tent packed diagonally on top. They can carry a ton of stuff, but I do bump into them with my heels and they create quite a lot of drag when going against the wind. My girlfriend has a crate on the back of her bicyle with a backpak in it.
The other side
We arrived at the train station in Flushing with our bicycles on Friday afternoon. From there it is only a short walk to the ferry that goes every 30 minutes and the trip takes about the same time.
After arriving on the other side we explored some of the towns, of course we had to get our picture taken at the town "Boerenhol" (Farmer's hole) where we got some delicious prunes from a farm shop.
We decided to follow the coast and go south. Because Zeeland is popular tourist destination during the summer you come across campsite every few minutes.
In Cadzand we came across a World Peace Flame monument. There are only a few in the world, and another one happens to be in our home town The Hague.
Eventually we neared the Belgian border and decided to cycle along it, going through the beautiful small town "Retranchement" and continued onward to Sluis, one of the larger towns in the area. Sluis features one of the Netherlands' two Michelin star restaurants, but since reservations need to be made months in advance we had dinner at a place with a shorter waiting time.
As we are no longer on the coast the amount of camp sites was limited. I called one of the campsites outside town if they had a spot available.
Since it was a farmer's camping I expected something relatively small, but it turned out to be a rather large camping, nevertheless we got a nice spot on the edge looking out over the field. The tent was setup before sunset and we even got a little discount because we arrived so late in the day and were only staying for one night.
The night was a bit colder than expected. We had our sleeping bags zipped together which allowed some cold air in, especially my feet were uncomfortably cold.
The next morning we headed for Oostburg to get some breakfast from the local baker there. The tent was wet from condensation but we did not want to wait for it to dry and packed as it was.
Away from the coast it is less touristic. Although the quality of the roads and cycling paths is excellent, just as most places in the Netherlands there is not much to see.
Much of Zeelandic Flanders is covered with endless fields of Barley, used for brewing beer. We came across the small town Turkije which is mostly notable for the fact that it is named similar to the country Turkey.
We faced the wind straight on and there was little shelter. Because all gear was packed on the back of my bicycle the front wheel would sometimes lift of the ground when going up a slope.
As we were nearing Terneuzen Mimi was getting exhausted, we took a break and had to slow down the pace.
It is not possible to cycle through the tunnel, you can only take your bicycle on the bus that goes through there. You do need to make a reservation by phone, which I did. In 2013 the price to take for a bicycle through the tunnel was 1 euro.
When we arrived at the bus station there was an earlier bus about to leave. The bus driver however let us on with our bikes and did not charge us anything for the bikes. The space that is intended for wheelchairs can hold some bicycles, but it is not ideal. The straps once again proved useful holding everything together.
The bus only takes you through the tunnel and then stops at the "Scheldeplein" which is a bus station in the middle of nowhere from where buses go to other places. We got off the bus here and cycled to my parents' house from there. It was still quite a cycle, but at least I was in familiar surroundings.
At my parents' house the sun was quickly disappearing behind the trees, so we quickly set up the tent to let it air and dry out. With a little breeze and some direct sunlight it took around 15 minutes.
All in all it was very nice trip. We got to see many of the towns in Zeelandic Flanders, even though it is a bit quiet on a Sunday in the towns that are not on the coast. We did not experience any failures with the bicycles, but the limitations as touring bicycles became more obvious.
After this trip I got a small handlebar bag to offload some weight to the front of the bicycle, and now always bring a pair of socks to keep my feet from getting cold in the sleeping bag.