Welcome to Texel (pronounced ”tessel”; or something like that) where they produce all the annual wind for the Netherlands. Oh, and lots of sheep products too. Dan and I took advantage of a string of four days free to finally this pastoral island way in the North.
I went thinking it was a vacation, with writing retreat on the side. Dan had the opposite idea. Fortunately we came to a compromise that resulted in a bit of writing before breakfast, about an hour at lunch, and until bedtime after dinner. In between we explored the varied environment and bike paths of Texel. Here’s some highlights:
Bikes are the way to get around Texel and on some of the other Wadden Island, they are pretty much your own option. We rented bikes in the port and petalled 20 km to our B&B on the other end of the island. The bike paths are great and weave through the polder, woods, and dunes equally.
De Cocksdorp is the little village we stayed in during out long weekend. It’s a bit touristy, but further from the port than pretty much everything else and not next to swimming beaches. That makes it a bit less obvious in its touristy-ness. According to Wikipedia, 70% of Texel’s income is tourism, so when Dan & I guessed that at least 50% of the houses were probably for visitors we were probably underestimating. De Cocksdorp itself is a bit out of the way for visiting the island throughly, but it was really cute.
Lots of people in De Cocksdorp (and the rest of Texel) spoke primarily Dutch and German. Fortunately enough people spoke enough English, that we didn’t have any problems. It was a little funny to have people automatically assume I was German when I looked confused. A little funny, but not terribly helpful. I’m glad I know a bit of Dutch.
On the northern point of Texel is a red lighthouse. It’s mostly remarkable for being 2 lighthouse; one inside the other. The interior one was damaged in WWII. After the war, the island rebuilt around it to preserve it. We’ve not sure, but we think it is still used as some sort of radar tower. We didn’t notice a light coming from it, but it didn’t get dark until 10:30pm and by then we were in our room.
One of the biggest draws of Texel is their huge beaches. The sand is wide and white and frankly beautiful. Dan forgot his bathing suit and it was a bit cold for actual swimming, but we did go walking along the water a couple of time. The sand is so soft that if feels like walking on custard/oopeck might.
In addition to the polder which dominates the center of the island, Texel also boasts large protected areas of dunes, salt marshes, woods, marshes, etc. De Sulfter was my favorite. It is a failed land reclemation project where the Dutch were unable to completely drain the water. Today its a major mating area for the islands many birds. De Sulfter, like many other protected areas, is literally protected with electric fencing.
Ecomare is a seal sanctuary where they raise and heal seals so they can return to the wild. Naturally some cannot return and so have a permanent place at the sanctuary. They were under construction during our visit (yay, discount), so some of their critters were off-sight but it was cool to visit a sanctuary. Ecomare also has a small nature museum (kind of lame), and a small aquarium with awesome glowing jellyfish (which you can’t pet of course), and a small spiny ray (that you could).
There are lots of domesticated animals on Texel, but they are best known for the sheep. The sheep were out just about everywhere and we tasted the local dishes. The lamb stoofpot was pretty good. Sheep cheese? Not so much. It takes a bit dry and plastic.
I suspect that there is a magical connection between expats and Irish pubs (or at least sports pubs). We happened upon one in Den Burg while hunting for a good meal to make up for an hour of pushing a flat bicycle across the extremely windy polder. Their baked mussels plate was really good and really reasonably price. A Dutch gentleman was busking nearby and it was pretty funny to listen to him butcher American oldies.
On Sunday we had a bit of struggle getting back off the island, since we wanted to get up and eat well before the rest of the island. Naturally nothing was open and we had to get back to Den Berg where we’d left Dan’s bike with the flat. As it turned out when we called the rental shop, we could have exchanged it for a new bike right in town the night before. Annoying, but at least we didn’t have to bike the 15 km back to De Cocksdorp in the wind. We ate breakfast, swapped the bike, and petalled back to the port and back to real life.