Touristing in Holland
Well, the internet access at this hotel is blocking my normal email software, and with the alternate, I’m having trouble sending pictures, which is unfortunate. But I’ve got this blog sitting around that I don’t use for anything, and it supports pictures, so I figured, why not use it? I put together this whole wonderful photo-journal-y thing.
I had a few pictures I wanted to send yesterday, like this one:
But because of email problems, I couldn’t send them then. And I’m not going to dig them out now, because those are yesterday’s pictures, and I’m telling today’s story.
We got up bright and early and went down to the hotel restaurant for our offensively expensive breakfast buffet. I mean, it was good, but pricey. Still, it was there, it was convenient, we’ll probably eat there again tomorrow morning. I justified it to myself by resolving to pilfer several boxes of hagel every time we go. So far I have a box of puur chocoladehagel and two boxes of puur chocoladevlokken. (I know that’s what it is ‘cuz it says so on the box.) For tomorrow I have my eye on those little candy sprinkles…
Anyway, we caught a bus to Centraal Station and found the place that we were supposed to meet our bus tour, and spent an hour just wandering around early morning Amsterdam:
Then, we went to the tour bus’s starting point and climbed into the back of the bus’s upper deck, where we met up with Kirsten Vreugdenhil. The first stop on the tour was a klompen factory, where the klompen are made by using special equipment to copy a mold, sort of the same way that keys are copied. It takes about five minutes to make a pair.
There were lots and lots of shoes in the souvenir shop. The whole place was very touristy. We didn’t buy anything.
But you know how European shoe sizes are bigger than American sizes (like, European size go up to 33 or 40 or whatever?) Turns out they’re serious:
(This must be where that nursery rhyme came from…)
The next stop was a cheese factory, in Edam. Cheryl was flabbergasted by the fact that they only made Gouda cheese, and you couldn’t actually buy Edam cheese. Again, we looked around the souvenir shop and said, “These aren’t interesting souvenirs. This just looks like anyone’s Oma’s kitchen.” Imitation Delft blue porcelain, little wooden shoes, windmill figurines…other people on the bus thought it was great. We just thought that we’ve seen this stuff all our lives, and left it alone. I bought some chocolate (which I had with tea tonight); Tim bought some cheese.
After that, we went to a couple ex-fishing villages. See, what happened, is, there were these fishing villages on the coast, and then the Dutch reclaimed more land from the sea, and suddenly the fishing villages weren’t on the coast any more. This had an adverse effect on the local fisherman. These towns are now pretty touristy; they reminded me of a place like Gimli. The first one was solid souvenir shops along the coast, but then we took a small alley into a residential area a little ways back, which was really nice to wander around in. It was really mazelike, and the houses and alleys were arranged in such a way that at times it felt like you were walking through someone’s back yard. Kirsten eventually noticed a street name that actually translated to “Maze”.
We took a boat from the first town across the lake to the second town. (See, they left a lake there, where the ocean used to be, so all the docks and everything are still on water, but it’s freshwater now instead of saltwater). The second town was really weird. All the buildings were painted exactly the same way, and the place felt like a ghost town: there was almost no sign that anyone actually lived there. It seemed like the whole town was just painted facades like a movie set, and that if you looked around behind them you’d just see them propped up with boards.
That was the first half of the tour. For the second half, we went to Delft, and saw how the genuine Delft blue porcelain is made. There are at least two different places that make it, and it’s fairly expensive (you’re looking at $60+ for a single plate. The thing that I found most interesting: they use clay that’s imported from England. Apparently you can’t get the right sort of white clay in Holland. This raises questions about how and why this sort of thing became traditionally Dutch, but who am I to argue? Another oddity: A lot of the stuff they do is other colours besides blue.
Then, we did a driving tour of The Hague (Den Haag?). The tour operator explained how Amsterdam is the capital of Holland, and The Hague is the capital of The Netherlands, and expressed derision for guidebooks that don’t distinguish between Holland and The Netherlands. She spoke at length about The Hague, going on about how “It’s more park than city!” and “Remember, this is all one city, we haven’t left the city!”, and we couldn’t figure out what the big deal was, until we realized that while it looked like a perfectly normal city to us, it actually had space between the buildings! And parks! And areas where you could actually swing a cat without hitting some architecture! To someone used to Dutch cities, this is probably a big deal. To us, though, it wasn’t that remarkable. We saw some neat things, though: the international court of justice, the war crimes court, and the palace (which was surrounded by people: apparently the queen was actually in the palace thatday, having invited the Olympic medalists to tea).
Finally, we went to the miniature city, which was nice, because it allowed us to see everything interesting in the rest of Holland (sorry – The Netherlands) all at once. Much more efficient than driving around.