What a great country to end our travels in... lovely scenery even though it’s flat flat flat, fantastic for cycling, with windmills, canals, water bridges and boats everywhere!
We’re cheese lovers so we started in Edam - many of the shops are generous with their samples and after trying most of then, we didn’t come away empty handed obviously, so no need to buy any cheese for a while when we get home! We then timed our stay in Alkmaar so we could see the Friday cheese market, dating back to the sixteenth century, you can watch the inspection and buying process followed by the carrying of the sold cheeses across the square to some carts which then transport them to the awaiting lorries. There is a special kind of jog that the carriers do in order to keep the cheese as still as possible on the trays, and despite the weight of carrying 8 cheeses (over 100kg in total) on each, the cheese carriers really seem to enjoy their jobs!
Some sunny days meant we could really enjoy the huge beaches west of Alkmaar (Bergen and Egmond), with their dunes, soft sand and great beach cafés.
Hoorn was another favourite with a pretty harbour and marina and we made some German friends Roland and Marianne 😀 who we met on the site next to the marina and shared beers and wine as you do!
From Hoorn we journeyed into the past for a day travelling to Medemblik by steamtram then on to Enkhuizen by steamer, seeing how freight, mail and people used to be transported.
At Enkhuizen we went to the Zuiderzee museum which sets out the culture and history of the region with 100 houses shops and workshops brought back to life. All so interesting and very well presented. Then we jumped back into the 21st century and got the double decker train back to Hoorn.
In Amsterdam, a visit to the house where Anne Frank and her family hid for 2 years during WW2 was top of our list, her courage and bravery and that of all those in hiding with her and those who tried to protect them, was so clearly evident in every room. A re-read of her diary will be on the reading list once home. On a very different theme, a walking tour of the red light district gave us an interesting insight into the Netherlands open attitude to prostitution and drugs.
On our way to the Hook of Holland for our ferry back to England, we spent our last couple of nights in Kinderdijk. If you like windmills this is the place to come to! The nineteen mills on the surrounding canals are a UNESCO world heritage site. They were built to keep the region safe from floods and you can see how
clever the Dutch are in managing all the water around them.
The cycling culture in the Netherlands is amazing. We had such fun on our bikes. There were excellent cycle paths everywhere we wanted to go and less vehicle traffic as so many Dutch seem to use their bikes for short journeys and even very young children and babies are ferried around by bike. We did find it strange though that only serious racing cyclists wear cycle helmets and as we are obviously not in that category we really stood out as tourists in ours!
... oh, and the goats in the Netherlands think they are humans!
So we’ve loved the Netherlands, just like we loved Germany and France before, they are all beautiful and interesting in different ways. But now it‘s time to return to the UK and go back to work. So the next post on the blog will be an overall summary of the highs, lows and statistics of our six month travels!