As we were leaving Delft in the Netherlands, we decided to take one last look around this beautiful town and to our delight found two markets – a general market and a flea market – so much to see. Stalls weighed down by round, bright yellow cheeses, the heavy scent of the blooms from the flower seller, the appetizing aroma from the bakery stall and so many stalls full of bric-a-brac. Amongst it all I found the top and bottom for a bell pull I have embroidered on this trip, a fantastic find.
Lunch time was fast approaching so we had to try the local produce. Paul tried the Netherlands famous raw herring, gutted, boned but still complete with tail, garnished with raw onion. He so enjoyed it he went back for more…….I headed for the bakery and had an apple shortcake followed by a caramel shortcake, delicious.
Then it was Amsterdam here we come. From our camp site a quick trip on the Metro and we were in the heart of the city full of its canals, bridges, barges and leaning buildings. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the Amsterdam culture so with that in mind our first stop was a ‘Brown Coffee Shop’ for a sweetened latte and a joint (!). Not having smoked for 18 years the tobacco hit me hard and my head was spinning and a while later the pot kicked in…oh!.....Paul had to walk me to the park opposite and lay me down on the grass :--) The spinning sensation eventually eased but the feeling of not being in complete control of my limbs stayed with me for a few hours. Paul’s body is so used to heavy doses of nicotine the effects on him were not as strong. It was a bit of fun but I don’t think I will be doing it again too soon!
To continue our immersion into the Amsterdam culture we ventured into the Red Light District. The ladies, small, large, thin, fat, young (18) and old (60+) stood in their windows in all manor of clothing - floaty chiffon, sexy undies, laced corsets and stockings. There was something there for (almost) every man. It was quite a peep show. Paul says he was disappointed as he was only allowed to go window shopping :--)
Continuing with this theme we toured the Sex Museum. What a laugh, lots of fun and some very weird things to see.
At the Cheese and Wooden Shoe Factory we were given a lesson in the making of clogs. They are carved from fresh very wet willow and they have different shaped toes depending on your occupation (fisherman, farmer, mason etc). It is a skill passed down from father to son. We were also given a demonstration on the making of Gouda cheese followed by a taste testing. Paul chose smoked Gouda with ham while my favourite was Gouda with stingy nettles, very tasty.
Voledam-Edam, Hoorn, Haarlem and Alkmaar were all beautiful towns. Lots of canals, bridges, cobbled streets, squares surrounded with café’s and fantastic architecture. We enjoyed walking around them all. While in Hoorn Paul tried eel….ugh!
We drove across the “Closure Dyke” that joins the Central part of the Netherlands to the Northern Netherlands. The dyke is 30kms long (with a stopping point with a café half way across) and 90m wide. It was like driving across the middle of the ocean.
We crossed the border into Germany and our first stop was Bremen. A town made famous by the Brothers Grimm with their tale “The Four Musicians of Bremen”. The tale is about 4 animals, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cockerel, who had all got too old to be of any use to their masters so they ran away from their homes. The four met on the road and decided to go to Bremen to become musicians. Along the way they foiled a robbery with their singing (or barking and crowing!). The town is very proud of its story. In the centre of the town is the Old Town dating from the 12th century, fascinating wattle and daub houses, extremely narrow lanes and small sunny plazas. Whilst there we tucked into our first Bratwurst.
We drove through the Elba Tunnel into Hamburg, a big busy city which also had a Red Light District which Paul said we should see!!!! The area was very seedy and the street lined with brothels is out of bounds to any man under 18 and to ALL women so Paul had to have a look on his own (window shopping again!).
We stayed in a camp site in a northern suburb of Hamburg and the streets were named after Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters, Hansel, Gretel & Rumplestilskin.
We drove north to the town of Lubeck. A 12th century town under the UNESCO World Heritage banner. The small town is completely surrounded by a canal with cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and spires on every corner. We sat in a café over looking the canal with a cool glass of wine and watched the world go by – bliss.
We are amazed at the amount of cyclists in these very flat countries. The children learn to ride a bike at a very early age and are to be seen riding 2 wheel bikes (no stabilizers) along the cycle paths at around 3 years old (their parents are following on their bikes). You see lovers cycling side by side holding hands, people walking their dogs while cycling, people texting on their mobiles while peddling away and many of the older generation cycling into town to do their daily shopping.
We are now heading to the northern countries. Our next update will be winging its way from Denmark or Sweden.
Hope you are all keeping well.
Love Liz and Paul x x x