Our 1st week back in Europe 29 May 2014 - Northern Holland
After a wonderful 10 days on the National Geographic Orion ship and exploration ship cruising from Darwin to Broome in Australia, we spent 5 days with our son Adam. It was so good to be with him.
We then left for Amsterdam on 27 May and arrived on 28 May with Emeritus Airlines with a 3 hour stopover in Dubai. We arrived in Amsterdam at 1.00pm their time after 18 hours total, in the air.
We then hopped straight on the train to Utrecht, an easy transition.
I had been communicating through Facebook, with my cousin Mary Bampton (nee Walsh) who, with her husband, was travelling through Europe. They were staying in Amsterdam and so they caught a train to Utrecht and met us at Central station. It was fantastic to catch up with them. We found a coffee shop and sat down and caught each other up with all the family 'happenings'. It was fantastic that they made the effort to catch up with us. After 2 hours, we said goodbye and caught a taxi to Donna Turner's place, who looks after our motor
home over winter.
Our motor home (Mollie) was ready for us with a service, road worthy certificate (APK), some general repairs that were done and registration and 3rd party insurance done. The only thing that wasn't done was to buy a second gas cylinder because she had been caught with a public holiday and nothing was open. Last year (for 6 months), we used only 1 gas cylinder (which was still going) but this year we are planning to do more "wild camping" ie pull up anywhere and camp without power, so we needed the backup cylinder. It wasn't until Leeuwarden in northern Holland on 30/5 that we found a place to fill up our original cylinder and buy a second one.
We stayed in Donna's driveway in our motor home for the night and drove off at about 9.30am on 29/5. It was really good to be back in Mollie. Tom took the first shift for driving. It didn't take long to get back to driving on the other side of the road.
We first drove to Volendam on the eastern side of the peninsular. This village is very traditionally Dutch. Clogs were being made as
was cheese and flowers were being sold. We found it really interesting.
We then drove back to the Zaanse Schans Windmill Village which is really
Dutch. There are 7 major windmills which contribute to the manufacturing of spices, wood, oil, flour products etc. We saw a fellow making clogs. There was a working clog museum. Several of the windmills were working and so we could go in a see them operating. We weaved our way over canals and just wandered around this beautiful, quaint village. There were even children walking on upside-down flower pots with strings attached (the old stilts). Great fun. Time was getting on so we left.
We drove to Alkmaar which is north of Amsterdam and very Dutch. The whole of northern Holland is flat, below sea-level, people actually wear clogs (particularly the older Dutch people) and there are lots of windmills.
We found a camp site just NW of Alkmaar on the way to Bergen. As it was Friday, we found out from the camping site (Camping Alkmaar) that there was a cheese auction on where 36,000kg of cheese was auctioned in the traditional way, every Friday, from April to September. As this
area receives considerable rain and has a mosaic of canals because much of the land has been reclaimed since a major dyke was built in the early part of the 20th Century, there were lots of cows!!!
We were only a few kilometers from the city centre so we hopped on our bikes and rode into the town centre. Oh the auction....what an amazing performance. There were fellows in white coats and long pants with blue, green, yellow and red hats. The head guy wore an orange hat. The cheese traders wore light brown coats. The mayor of the town rang the bell to start the proceedings.
The large flattened rounds of cheese are transferred from trucks to big carts and as they are auctioned, 12 rounds are transferred to curved wooden decks which are colour coded to match the guys hats. Two guys with harnesses over their shoulders lift an end each and run in unison, carrying the loaded curved wooden decks. It's a real tradition.
After the auction we had coffee at one of the cafes and then road our bikes around the town.
We then road back to the camp site and drove
NE to the 30 km A7 Dyke. This was built in 1933. There is now fresh water to the south of the dyke, holding the sea water back on the northern side of the dyke. Extensive land has been reclaimed and is very productive with primary industries. As far as the eye can see it is FLAT, green with lots of canals and dotted with cows.
We stopped half way across the dyke to look at a statue of the person who was the Minister for Transport when building of the dyke was agreed to. Unfortunately he died 4 years before the dyke was completed. The dyke was very important to the management of the sea level of Holland so that more land became useable. From the tower, we got a great view of the dyke and the different levels of the bay compared to the sea.
After that, we drove further east, to Leewarden and booked into Camping Weidumerhout. The owner of this camp site was extremely helpful. The camping ground was surrounded by farmland with black sheep grazing and half a dozen black horses. There were lots of little lambs in the paddocks also. We
also saw several rabbits. Again, canals were everywhere. There were quite a few Dutch people in the camp site that had kayaks which were ideal for the canals.
That night, at the camp site, we saw a beautiful sunset while we sat in our motor home (it was too chilly to sit outside). The sun is setting at about 9.50pm which is fantastic. The 1st night after our flight, we went to bed when it was day light!!!!!
We were now off to Germany, driving further east.
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