Last September when I was staying in Amsterdam for a few days, I took a day trip into the surrounding countryside. In just a few miles city streets gave way to green fields dotted with black and white cows. I was a passenger on a tour bus and the guide was taking us to three stops to sample traditional Dutch life.
Our first stop was the old fishing village of Marken, at one time an island, but which is now connected to the mainland by a causeway. It was a sleepy morning when we arrived in this picturesque village of less than 2,000 residents, but the wooden clog maker’s shop was open and gave my group a demonstration of how they’re made. A traditional Dutch shoe, wooden clogs were once a staple for keeping feet dry in the Netherlands’ muddy fields. We were told they are still worn some by gardeners, farmers and fishermen, but the biggest consumers are now tourists.
After the wooden shoe factory, I walked through the car-free village center. I was told it’s usually packed with tourists, but because of the time of day and year I had the place almost to myself.
Finally, I came to Marken’s harbor.
Here I boarded a boat to cross the Markenmeer to the next fishing village, the ultra touristy Voldendam. We were scheduled for a cheese-making demonstration in the factory. The best thing about it was the taste test afterward. (Note: You can buy most of the cheeses here at the airport on your way home.)
Our tour guide saved the best for last: Zaanse Schans, a village and living museum with more clog and cheese makers, and eight historic wooden windmills. Of the more than 10,000 windmills that once operated in the Netherlands, only about 1,000 remain including these eight along the River Zaan — an area which used to be home to hundreds. They provide a fascinating glimpse back in time to when these mills produced everything from paint pigments and ground spices, to lumber and oils. Admission to the open-air museum is free as are some of the windmills, but others charge a small fee.
(WordPress photo challenge of the week: Roy G Biv)