The highest point of the Netherlands
There is a saying that runs “When you are on the top of the hill, you can only go down.” It sounds quite obvious. It’s true, you can go to live on the top and then the reverse seems to apply better to you: “When you are in the valley, you can only go up.” But for most people, the saying is plausible. Nevertheless I had my doubts, so I wanted to investigate the truth of it. As my dear readers will know, for me riding on my race bike and philosophizing often go together and sometimes they are two sides of the same coin. So in order to find out how much worth there is in this saying, I took my car, threw my race bike in it, put my wife on the seat next to me in order to have some pleasant company during the trip, and there I went to the southeast of the Netherlands where you find the highest hills of this country. With some effort (for it appeared to be one of the best weekends of this summer), I found a hotel and after some rest and some eating, I got on my bike.
The highest point of the Netherlands was only ten kilometres from my hotel, but I thought that it was better not to take the quickest road to the top. Since most things in life go better after some preparation, I decided to take a roundabout route. It would give me a thorough warming-up and so I could get a bit accustomed to cycling on the hills, for the molehills near my town are hardly worth the name of hill, not to speak of “mountain” as we call them there. However, I had profited by riding on these molehills and actually, and I went up and down without excessive effort. It showed that I was in good shape, for also for pro cyclist the region has some fame; not because the hills are so high, but because you find there hardly one flat centimetre, which makes cycling there very strenuous in the end.
So when I reached the climb I had came for, I had got already some feeling for the right gears and the right tempo, albeit that I was still a beginner. Nevertheless I was quite nervous. But it was without reason for the road to the top of the Netherlands appeared to take me somewhat less effort than the last long and sometimes steep slope I had past, so when I was there I was very self-satisfied. However, I was not the only philosopher on the top. Anyway, there were lots of other cyclists and it seemed that an organised bike tour was going on with this hill as its summit. There were many old cyclists, too, but when you looked well, you could see that most had bikes with electric drive, so in my view they were not of the right philosophical type. Moreover, there were several cafes, a watchtower and a maze. It was almost as an amusement park. But I didn´t was there for amusing myself. So I rode around the monument indicating the top of the Netherlands and also around the flags that indicated the place where this country, Belgium and Germany meet, which was some 50 metres from there, so that I had been in three countries. Next I went downhill and back to my hotel.Until now I hadn’t got any philosophical feeling, and I was a bit disappointed. Most what looked like it was that I had thought of Petrarch climbing the Mont Ventoux. But there had already been many Petrarchs before me on this hill. Then, I got the idea that I had to do it again, like Sisyphus, although the main difference between Sisyphus and me was that he would never reach the top, and I could go there as often as I liked. Happily my wife and I had booked the hotel for two nights, and since the next day I was not too tired from the effort the day before I got on my race bike again, and since I needed again a warming-up and some more experience, I did the same route as the day before. It was a good idea, for although I didn’t ride really better, I was more relaxed, better changed gears and felt more at ease. And I knew the route already a little bit. So after an hour I was again at the top of the Netherlands, and now I smiled, for now, a brain wave told me: not yesterday’s ride but today’s ride taught me a lot of philosophy. It is true, when you are on the top of a hill, you can only go down. But here the story doesn’t end, for after you have gone down, you can go up again. And again. And again. And each time you’ll be better and enjoy it more and you’ll learn from it. “When you’re on the top of the hill, you can only go down” is not true. Even more, when you are on the top of the hill, you must go down, and up and down, and up and down… And so you become prepared for higher hills and for real mountains. And now I am prepared for it, too.