Friday, July 26, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 7

From Hoorn we went cycling in a southerly direction along the dike. After leaving Schardam we cycle alongside the Beemsterringvaart. The Beemster, Schermer and Purmer are the largest 17th century polders, i.e. areas of reclaimed land. This would have been impossible without the invention of the wind-driven water pump. It may be interesting to note that the engineer of this essential apparatus was appropriately called 'Leeghwater', which means 'empty water' in English.

Edam is a good place for a break and famous for its little 'Edamers', the round cheese balls (coated with red wax for export). Together with the Gouda equivalent they are probably the best-known types of cheese in the world. Here you can sample the atmosphere of a well-maintained old-Dutch town, though now lacking its former activity. The ship-building trade played an important role in Edam's prosperity.
We continued to Volendam. Originally Volendam was a small fishing community. Practically all its inhabitants used to wear their distinctive and picturesque traditional costumes. Volendam started as a settlement when Edam dug its new, shorter waterway to the Zuiderzee in the 14th century. The old harbour became superfluous, a new dike was built and soon farmers and fishermen settled down. In the second half of the 15th century a new village came into being: Volendam.

Then we continues our way to Monnickendam, which received its municipal charter in 1355. There was a flourishing seafaring trade with the Baltic countries (Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Suriname, as there used to be an direct waterway between the Zuiderzee (the Southern Sea) and the North Sea. When this waterway was closed down, in the 15th century, the importance of Monnickendam declined. However, in the 17th century a barge-canal was dug between Monnickendam and Amsterdam and trading between these cities grew. For a long time past Monnickendam has been renown for its eal smoking. Up to this day eal and other fish is smoked in the harbours.

Then on to the former isle of Marken. It was not until 1957 that this island was connected to the mainland by a dike and it has retained its own particular character.
The houses here were built on man-made little mounds, called 'werven', to escape the regular inundations. When there was no more room on these mounds people started building houses on piles, which made them stand 2.5 m. above street level. The Marker Museum shows you how people used to live and work here. The inhabitants are the only ones allowed to use their cars, so Marken can only be visited on foot or on bike.
The last part of the stage took us through an area called Waterland. In this soggy peat land the houses and villages are hardly above the level of the water.
Once we were back at the boat in Amsterdam we went to the city for a beer in a terrace and to enjoy a superb dinner.

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