For a small European nation, the Netherlands boasts of a lot of interesting sights. Inflation has definitely jacked up the cost of living in Europe. We could see that very clearly in the cost of travel during the period from 2000to 2005.
Taking the canal cruise in Amsterdam for example. It is definitely something to do as newbies to Holland. In 2000, it costs us just 12 guilders per person. This was the time before the introduction of the Euro. Today (July 2016), it costs €18pp for the same one-hour cruise. The conversion rate was €1 = fl2.2 at the commencement of the monetary union. We really got a lot more bang for our buck as they say…
The following is a brief description of some of the sights that we have caught while living in this country. Now the things you can actually do is quite endless and these are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring Holland.
Holland in miniature
If you do not have the opportunity to see more of Holland due to whatever constraints, a useful place that we bring our guests to is Madurodam. Located near Den Haag (The Hague), this is a miniature park of all major buildings and attractions of the Netherlands. From the visit, one can perhaps then decide where to go in the country.
On one occasion we had redeemed three tickets worth €6 each (it is more like €14.50pp today). It is a park to spend perhaps 2-3 hours enjoying the exhibits. You have to know that it is in the open though and subject to the elements. Today it is the in-thing to use drones to capture photo images and videos. Well the miniature park affords you the same experience too. Just imagine you are the drone!
While the UK has its Stonehenge, we were surprised to learn that Holland has Dolmens and megalith monuments too. Seemingly concentrated in the northern part of the country in the province of Drenthe, there are 53 of them documented by enthusiasts.
Now we don’t know enough, but it is claimed that these structures are well over 5000 years old putting them at the same time as the building of the pyramids of Egypt. If you think they are not large, well the photos of Suan posing next to them should give an idea of size. And they are heavy too, made of granite and some well over 25 tons…(some say 40 tons)
The Dutch call them Hunebedden because it seems like giants built them. They are part of the new stone age culture called the “funnel beaker” culture from around 4000-3000BC. Like the same structures in the UK and Brittany that we visited, the question remain : why expend such enormous efforts to build such structures. And these are said to be graves.
This is a story of conservation. For centuries, the stones from these relics were used for everyday life – building dikes, building churches. It was in the close of the 19th century that the government embarked on program of protecting these precious heritage. Some have been restored as faithfully as possible. Now this journey is best made via a drive. Today there is a Hunbedden centre where you can learn a lot more than we did. Find out more there and explore!
While many countries in the world will boast of their own cheeses, the Dutch ones are renowned around the world and well branded. Who has not heard of Edam and Gouda, both named after the cities where it was originally produced?
As one of four remaining cheese markets in Holland, Alkmaar is the one that most people come to experience. The others being at Edam, Gouda and Hoorn. Mel and Suan has only brought guests to the Alkmaar one.
Open from the last friday of April till the last one of September, the cheese market operates from about 10am till past noon. We are at the Waagplein and there are loads of people since this spectacle can only be viewed each friday. Loads of cheese are displayed on the grounds and merchants and producers alike inspect them while negotiating prices.
The highlight is when a hand clap takes place, after which the cheese is weighed. The loads of cheese are then moved on curved wooden barrows carried by two men to the buyer’s transport vehicle(s). These carriers are men from a guild with rather strict traditions and roles in the execution of the market. If you do come, make sure it’s a friday and be early to jostle for a spot to watch the proceedings.
In our stories about the windmills of Holland, we discussed the reasons for building so many of these structures in this low lying country. And we also delved into how the delta creation effect of the great rivers can cause havoc to settlements on those territories.
Well Zeeland in the southwest of Holland is one such delta. Like Rotterdam and its surrounds, Zeeland had historically been battered by storm surges from the North sea causing enormous misery. So today it too has a series of storm barrages to keep out the sea.
One thing that we discovered about Zeeland is that they have numerous apple orchards. We believe cider is also produced here though we did not manage to buy any. Fruit picking is definitely an activity in the late summer.
It was late autumn when we drove through and there are so many decorative fruits on sale. Large pumpkins (non edible) were on display. You just need to pay an amount you like in the tin the owners left on the cart. Just in time for Halloween too.
Yes, Holland has so much to offer that it can continue with bits and pieces of the many other places we visited. From Delft for its ceramics to the beautiful cathedral of Leiden, there were so much to see and do. We have been many other cities in Holland (Breda, Nijmegan, Roosendaal etc) but did not take in photo memories. These are etched in our minds forever as part of the experience of living outside of our country for an extended period.
The many other sights of Holland is for your taking. These days, it is far more accessible for one to travel these roads so-called off the beaten path. We hope you will have fun traveling in Holland as we did.