Away from the traffic, the random musicians, crazy museums, and countless pastry places that I have oh so frequented, my American group decided to go to the "farm country" side of The Netherlands, technically "Holland," as it was below the dikes, and therefore, "reclaimed land." Welcome to the world of Polderville (to see what a polder is, refer to 1st blog post....aka--reclaimed land via the building up of dikes and such).
My group took a wonderful trip up the IJsselmeer (a totally man-made "lake" in the middle of The Netherlands and completely kept as fresh water too!) to the tiny town of Medemblik. Interestingly enough, the entire area had to be reclaimed from the sea, so the dike that you see to the left was at one time completely submerged. The Dutch eventually used those iconic windmills to go right ahead and show that water who was boss, and thus reclaimed all the land, called polders. Now, it is some of the greenest, most fertile land on the planet, and trust me, with the amount of cows, sheep, goats, and horses roaming around, the stuff they are eating is first-class. The entire city (if you want to call it that) was very quiet, far from the craziness that is Amsterdam. The houses were in the traditional Dutch size--small, but could actually have yards....prime pieces of real estate if you'd like to see green grass on your property.
The quaintness and quietness isn't all that comes out of Medemblik. Apparently at one time, it was supposed to be a big time harbor for Napoleon's Navy, so they built this big harbor, built all these buildings, but got stood up on the date alone, thus ending the night and ruining prom. Actually, the citizens changed the harbor into a world-class yacht playground and the old navy houses into fantastic low income housing. On our way back, we took a steam train ride to a bustling town of Hoorn, and were feed copious amounts of cheese, bread, meat, bread, bread, and super-dense bread (a true Dutch meal). All-in-all, a very nice day to feel really Dutch and to see the stark contrast to the city I am living in.
Now comes a part that I may have to later devote an entire post to, and that would be food, but more specifically, PASTRIES. I love dessert, yes, I at times like it too much, but life is short, and what will one more bitterballen (not a dessert, but anyone here will understand) really do to my lower intestine??? Any-hoo, I need to say that the Dutch stroopwafel,(pronounced Str[long 'o']p-vafel people!) a cheerful mix of caramel-honey goodness smashed between two piselle looking wafers is "de lekkerste ding'' that one must try immediately upon getting on Dutch soil. Cover it in Nutella and you may cease to exist. By far, my favorite bakery is called Lanskroon on Spui (pronounced Spow) and Singel. Its cheap, cozy, and full of wafel-like delicacies. Personally the Hopjeswafels (above) were very good, which was two thin vanilla wafers with a caramel-coffee stroop in the middle. Of course, they have many others, and let me say, their chocolate covered nougat truffles are worth the .80 Euro!!!
There is something about dark-chocolate flavored vanilla pudding and milk chocolate mousse that should probably be illegal. But, seeing that this is Amsterdam, the crazier it is, the more likely it is to be in a store. If one wants a good way to take an hour to down a dessert, please go to Unlimited Delicious, and please, try not to order a whole taart, as tempting as it is, one of the little guys will do quite as well!!
So, there it is. Reclaimed Noordzee water and pastry delights, can't get much better than that. The fact that one can be in total farm country with a 20 minute bus ride north is truly stunning. And to think that it all fits on a map the size of my home state is equally as awesome. Cows and trams; chocolate and cheese; old and new; sea and dry land; it about sums up this country. They like to have one thing, but never the other side too far away. All one has to do is walk around to Oude Kerk to see what I mean. (Let's just say that the notorious Red Light District begins practically on church property, but they were Calvinists, so really what is to hide right?).