I made it to Hardenberg yesterday just in time to see the final ascent of the hot air balloons. An annual balloon festival takes place here over the Vecht river, which brings Hardenberghers and their kids downtown to watch, listen to music and eat cotton candy.
Getting here wasn’t a piece of cake. It rained on me all day, slow steady Dutch rain. Even geared up in all my waterproof covers, after 6 hours under constant rain pelting the moisture gets to you. When I returned to my campsite after the balloon viewing I was chilled, and was quite happy to find a people from the campground gathered around a warm fire, and Ramblin Martin playing some sweet folk tunes.
I took today off from cycling to recover after the marathon of the last two days. Downtown Hardenberg was deserted, I’d forgotten how many stores and cafes are closed Sundays in Europe. For a while I walked along empty cobblestone streets lined with neon signs of shuttered stores. The streets were clean, and decked out with flowers, a well tended city center.
Then I found the one place that isn’t closed on Sunday: the movie theater. I decided to expand my nascent vocabulary of Dutch by going in to watch Despicable Me, dubbed in the local language. A cartoon is a cartoon, and though I don’t enjoy the genre in my real life, the Dutch version was light and made me laugh. I needed the amusement before the rain chased me back into my tent anyway.