Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gouda galore, fishing boats & a very long dijk: some travels through North Holland

On Friday, Dad, Mitch and I headed up north for a little road trip to the West Frisian islands. Although this is practically the other end of the country, it's still only 2hrs drive (yes, it's a very small country!) so we decided to go via a few places in North Holland where none of us had ever visited.

Our first stop of the day was in the cheese filled town of Alkmaar. Every Friday morning between April & September, there is a traditional cheese market on the town square. The traffic getting into the parking lot in Alkmaar was pretty awful and so we were a little late getting to the markets. By the time we arrived (about 15mins after it started), there were so many day trippers and tour groups we couldn't see a thing. Dad held a bike still so Mitch could stand on it to snap a few photos while I jumped up and down on the spot in the hope of seeing something.

After a big downpour, a lot of people cleared the town square and we could finally watch the men in traditional outfits running around the town square carrying a 25kg cart with 8 blocks of gouda weighing 12kg each - it's no wonder they had a couple of accidents, sending the big mounds of cheese rolling onto the town square!

Alkmaar was quite a pretty town from the little bit we saw of it, although I have to say one visit to the cheese market in my lifetime will probably be more then enough. Although, the free taste testers were pretty good!!!! After filling up on komijnenkaas, we escaped the touristy crowds and headed for the fishing town of Hoorn for a lunch break. We spent some time wandering down to the harbour and checking out the old fishing barges and crooked buildings. I was especially pleased to find a craft store that had a decent selection of wool and an awesome knitted toys book - once I translate the patterns and start knitting, there'll be photos to come!!!!

Our final destination on the mainland for the day was the ferry terminal at Holwerd. To get over to Friesland, we took the 32km long Afsluitdijk. This impressive piece of engineering was built between 1927 and 1933 to dam off the Zuiderzee and reclaim land. There were stopping points along the way with monuments and explanations/photos of how the Afsluitdijk was built which made me realise just how vulnerable this country would be to the sea without all these man-made reinforcements.

After a rather roundabout route to Holwerd (I love having a GPS but sometimes I do wonder what it's thinking when it takes us off the highway and onto tiny little roads that resemble driveways and back onto the highway for no apparent reason), we arrived with plenty of time to spare and Mitch and Dad ran around taking photos of the mud flats before we headed over to Ameland for the weekend. More to come....

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