"You can shake the sand from your shoes, but it will never leave your soul."
The Dutch coast. Well over 500km of beaches in a not so very tropical country. We are kind of a delta, where some of the mayor rivers of Europe flow into the North Sea and not to be forgotten, 25% of our country lies below sea level. My house as well. Well, not really. I live on the 3rd floor, so I will be ok. Knowing this, it is easy to imagine how important the coast is for the Dutch. It keeps us safe from the waters.
There is something else though. Coast is unique nature, coast is beaches, coast is many people enjoying themselves in every season.
In Winter it is a great place for long, cold hikes. Ending with a hot coffee or choco in a bar in one of the sea side towns. Imagine the rare cases of snow on the beach or the storm seasons, with waves hitting the shorelines. In some places this changes the way the coast looks every time again.
In Spring the first people come out to enjoy the sun again. Behind the glass windows of the newly build beach tents. The birds are nesting in the dunes, the plants bloom and the dune grass is fresh green. Time to make long cycle trips along the coast, trying to see some wildlife, and again drinking a coffee or choco in a café with a view.
In Summer we go crazy. Around 30 milion (!) people visit our beaches every year. Over 300 beach pavilions make sure there is something to drink, eat or party throughout our Summer season. People enjoy the sometimes marvelous sunsets and various music or fire works festivals.
I love our beaches mainly when it is quiet. I do not like all the bodies packed close to the shoreline. This means I like it in stormy weather, when the sea shows its angry face and the waves crash the shores. I like it when it is very nice sunny, but still too cold to sun bathe, in early Spring or late Autumn. I also like it in the evenings when the sun is setting, the terraces are full, the atmosphere is nice. Having a drink or dinner with friends, enjoying a balmy evening. I most of all like the dunes, our corridor which protects us from the sea. The nature is lovely, nice hiking trails and cycle paths follow the coast line from one to another lovely seaside town. A lot of Dutch heritage sites can be found along the coast.
Some of our best and most quiet beaches can be found on one of our Wadden islands. We have 5 inhabited islands and 8 uninhabited sandbanks north of our country, surrounded by the very shallow Wadden sea and the northern North Sea. They are Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog. Friendly places, with their own island culture. Lovely places to cycle and make long strolls along the endless beaches. If you like cycling, these are nice places to discover on two wheels. Apart from some headwind from time to time, it is easy going. Along the way there are many villages with a good cup of coffee or a nice island brewed beer. Nature on these islands is typical Dutch I would say. Sand, meadows, swamps, dunes, forrest, you can find it all. And the towns are picturesque, mostly historic, not too big and crowded and with typical Dutch 'gezelligheid', an atmosphere we cannot translate in any foreign language.
But there is a sad note to be mentioned. We, the Dutch, earn a lot of money with our coast, see the visitor numbers. Good for us, but not good for nature. Project developers want to build many huge hotels in this nature. Destroying the view, nature, environment. Something I regret a lot. With 17 million people we are already in one of the most crowded places in the world, and many people claim there is no place without artificial noise in our country. A sad development I would say. I really hope that I and the generations after me can keep on enjoying this beautiful piece of earth for a long, long time, and I will do my best to make it happen. Promise!