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Sunday, April 8th, 2007

The Netherlands - April 2007

Climbing through one of the trees in the sand dunes

Amsterdam is amazing! One of our best trips so far, right at the top of the list with our trip to Italy! The city is beautiful with brick houses, tree lined streets and many canals. Spent some time wandering around the streets, enjoying the sites and the relaxed attitude of the dutch. One of my favourites was being able to see Anne Frank’s House. Having read her diary as a kid it was very interesting to see the actual house where she hid during the war… I was surprised at how big their hiding area was, I had always imagined it as being small and just a couple rooms… but I suppose if you are stuck inside it doesn’t matter how big the space is, you will still feel imprisoned and feel the space is too small. The house was well preserved and the museum was set up really well.

 

Took a short tour on a canal boat, which was a nice way to see the city and learn a bit about it. All the houses have a hook on the gable which they use to move furniture in and out of windows during moves as the stairwells are so narrow.

 

We had the opportunity to meet up with a couple friends of ours who are from Holland. It was very nice to see them again after so many years and it was nice to be shown around Amsterdam by locals as they knew were able to show us some hidden spots in the city and we travelled around Amsterdam Dutch style… on bikes! That was really fun and made it so easy to get around! We hired a canal bike and had a good laugh trying to navigate the canals on that… it is the slowest form of transportation ever and we almost got run over by a big motorized boat!!! Hahaha and all the tourists on that boat were laughing at us and taking pictures of us as we tried to pedal backwards as fast as possible hehehe

 

Went on a day trip to the biggest national park in Holland, Hoge Veluwe, about 1.5 hours east of Amsterdam. There were free bikes we could use there which made it easy to see the entire park in an afternoon.  At first we were concerned that there were no gears but as the country is so flat in Holland it really didn’t matter. The bike I choose was a bit of a lemon as I discovered much later after trying out another bike and discovering I needed half the effort I needed before to get anywhere! I couldn’t figure out why he was having so much trouble on such a flat landscape… I gave Veronica a good laugh by bailing on my bike and falling over backwards on a park bench after I got my foot stuck on my pack which I forgot was attached to the rat trap.  I still have bruises a couple weeks later from that one!  After that she decided not to let me drive her around on the back of my bike back in the city.  Probably just as well! (I definitely trust the Dutch more than a Canadian! Especially after his graceful bail! Hehe). The park was very pretty, and I imagine it gets even prettier once the leaves come out. There were different landscapes from forests, to flat grasslands, to lakes, to sand dunes, all so different from one another.

 

Also had the opportunity to visit Alkmaar and experience the traditional cheese market that goes on there every Friday during the spring/summer which sells cheese made in Edam (apparently the square is covered in 23 tons of Edam and Gouda cheese). It takes place in the main square and the cheese porters wear all white. Members of different guilds wear different coloured straw hats with matching coloured ribbons (red, blue, yellow, and green). The cheese is inspected for quality (through smell and taste). Bidders from different guilds compete by clapping their hands and prices for cheese are decided upon once they firmly clap their hands. Once this is done they carry the big cheese circles to and from a 14th century weighhouse to tally the bill on wooden cradle-like racks suspended from their shoulders, which apparently weigh over 100kg… they look very awkward running around with the cheese…. From here the cheese is loaded onto trucks. The entire city centre is full of little stands selling cheese and little trinkets. Also got to see a clog maker in action in one of the little stalls. Later we went to the town of Edam to visit a cheese farm which showed us how they make the cheese and gave us free samples… which was a very good selling technique as it was close to lunch and tasted very good so we ended up buying some different flavours and spending 20 euros on cheese!!! Haha we now have cheese for a few weeks sitting in our fridge :P haha it’s very tasty though! :)

 

We visited the village of Schermerhorn to see the windmills that were used to dry the lake up and allow the fertile land beneath to be used for crops.  The windmills have since been replaced by electric pumping stations powered by wind-turbine windmills and 11 of the old windmills have been converted into living quarters for families.  We got the chance to go inside one to the various floors to see both the engineering of the windmill and the family’s living quarters which was very interesting.

 

For the last two nights we stayed in the beach town of Noordwijk, which is a good hour’s drive from Amsterdam but was worth it for the scenery. We spent a bit of time walking along the beach and looking at the seashells and gorgeous sunset scenes.  The wind was so intense that the sand formed ripples perpendicular to the water in the direction of the wind instead.

 

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