Having spent, off and on, a couple of weeks in the Netherlands and travelling a couple of thousand kilometres across Europe with a bunch of of Dutch Moto Guzzi riders has left me with some powerful impressions of this place and the people.
The core of the Dutch people are caught up in their history.
Having succeeded from the rule of Spain the Dutch have faced constant threat of invasion.
In the Rijksmuseum, The Threatened Swan, captures this aspect the Netherlands constantly threatened by the dogs of war.
Incorporated into France under Napoleon
Brutal occupation by Germany in WWII despite declaring neutrality.
There is the constant fight to maintain control of there country.
In the Rijksmuseum there is a further insight
Up past The Night Watch
On the third floor there plays a documentary video about the Dutch and the constant battle to control water.
Reclaimed land from the sea and mighty rivers
fighting flood and inundation
Water in the huge rivers flowing through the country to the sea.
Water in the canals and behind the dams and dykes of Amsterdam.
Tilting aparment buildings sured up against subsidence as the water tries to reclaim the land it once covered.
It’s this fight for control from outside forces that give the Dutch a core strength, an inner stoicism.
But the Dutch are more than stoic.
Riding with an eclectic group of Dutchies over 8 days revealed a certain joi de vivre that sat well aside the stoic determination.
An eclectic group; women on classic bikes, old veterans of the tour, white haired old men on new bikes, riders from all walks of life. All pushing hard on the tortuously twisty routes through southern Germany, Austria, the Swiss and Italian Alps to Mandello.
Every night laughter good food and of course beer.
The Dutch love to laugh, and drink the beers they are so proud of without losing control.
After all beer is mostly water!