Cycling below sea level? Many people don’t dare think about it, they’re afraid they’ll get soaked. Not a completely unfounded fear, because if we were living in the Middle Ages then that it is quite likely that would happen. The many names that end here in ‘braak’ (break), for example, refer directly to the many spots where the dykes broke through. Here, meadow streams grew into flood channels and inland seas. Now there’s little of that left to see because many of those lakes were reclaimed. Just like the Beemsterpolder, part of which you will pass during your bike tour.
In 1532, during the reign of Emperor Charles V, a system of dykes and water management was invented to increase the safety of the inhabitants. As you will see along the way, to a large extent, this is still in operation. In Edam, the constant threat from water never prevented the construction of impressive buildings. In this old trading city, the rich merchants of the time liked to show off their wealth. Many of those old merchant houses still adorn the old city centre, untouched by time.
Sometimes grateful use was made of all that water. As with the Stelling van Amsterdam: a unique defense line around Amsterdam used to protect the city. Along the trail you pass three of its forty forts: Fort near Edam, Fort Benoorden Purmerend and Fort Kwadijk. At the Visitor’s Centre the Breek in Oosthuizen you reach the lowest point of North Holland: more than six meters under sea level. Stop here for a cup of coffee and to stretch your legs. And your feet will stay dry because with the coming of the Afsluitdijk the Zuiderzee was tamed.