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DAY 21

DATE: 27:07:2010
Sheeps, mills, future and sea
Zaltbommel is another surprise-town: tiny, and yet even here the center is pedestrian, well furnished, with shops very illuminated like a metropolis. We leave it after the usual hearty breakfast and go to the sea direction.

The route today is characterized, in the first phase, by the sheeps. It is their environment: the fences delimit the fields reserved for them, the cycle path runs just in the middle... so how do they do to prevent the animals leave running along the road? With bars like those of the Alps, entrusted to the management of passers-by? No! Here they use the 'veeroster', very ingenious construction that could really have been invented in this area (I've never seen anywhere else, although that I have not traveled much).

In the second stage we enter a unique district full of windmills. Just those old ones with brick, wood and canvas, as the Dutch stereotype. The wind is strong, but the mills are all planted motionless. It's a pity, they do not use any more an energy that would be there ready available... But tourists flock en masse to visit them. We are leaving the area, I regret a little not having taken any photos as good tourists do... but through some houses of the near village I glimpse a special point. I stop the bike, go back, and... into a single panoramic image I find at least 10 mills!

Stage three, the city of the future. Rotterdam is hard to describe, but just imagine a kind of Blade Runner where instead of flying spaceships there are bikes, and you're done. Since the old town was completely destroyed during the war, everything was rebuilt, the guide says something like 'with the maximum freedom typical of the European style'.
I was waiting an opprobrium, and instead the environment is welcoming and harmonious. The tower blocks are there, but are aesthetically clean. The streets that the guide - of only a few years ago - showed how busy and dangerous for the bikes have already been completely redone: now pedal vehicles have the same dignity of those with motor, there are enormous spaces for those who go by bike physically separated from traffic, but really well separated. They were not careful of expense nor of space consumption: reduced roadways and parking lots, added sidewalks for separation between bikes and cars, often with trees, and here is the new bicycle road next to the automotive one. As in Venice, the flows are completely separated and conflicts are made impossible (there are still problems at intersections, with traffic lights, where it is needed the maximum attention).
A lot of people go by bike, but they go because the roads are like that. It is necessary first to build suitable roads, if we want to promote urban cycling mobility.
Other walkways are on different levels, above and below ours. However the tram tracks are everywhere, a tram can emerge out of all sides when you expect it less than ever, it needs a great care to the inextricable mass of traffic lights.
Finally while we're leaving the town, crossing a suburb a bit degraded, here on the side of the road - right in the middle of the car parks - is the icing on the cake: CLOSED STEEL CONTAINERS FOR THE SAFE PARKING OF BICYCLE!

Fourth stage, the sea. We are almost there. We are still along the canals of the Rhine, in the port zone (the port of Rotterdam is huge, it alone is as big as a city). The ships are no longer only the narrow, low and long fluvial barge; now there are the ocean cargo, high wide and massive. I see them while they arrive from who-knows-where, ready to finally put the foot on the mainland after weeks or months of uninterrupted navigation; while others have just switched on the engines and head towards the infinite, where the river and the land end and the horizon begins...

Part of me has embarked on those ships. The Grandride is coming to destination, but my journey does not end, I do not want it to end. I already feel on the high seas, locked in my cabin to write memories of the past, and hopes for the tomorrow.

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