|I chose Edam for the map entry, but the map shows Leiden where I also visited.
September 20 Edam, Marken and countryside
I took a taxi to the car rental agency, since it is nowhere convenient ,even though it is called ‘downtown’. I picked it up with no problems. It may be the first time they didn’t try to sell me the extra insurance! Thanks to the GPS, I found my way. The first part of the drive involved juggling freeway traffic on the north side of Amsterdam, but by the time I got near to Edam it was less hectic. I found parking and walked into the little town. It was very picturesque, and there was even a little bit of a market. I enjoyed walking along the canals, and visited the local museum in a 400 year old house. The front room of the house was a shop, with kitchen, living room/office and a room with multiple ‘box beds’, like closets with a bed about waist-high. The bed room was over the kitchen with an opening to the chimney to share the heat. It looked like it would get pretty smokey though. When I got outside, I realized that the whole house tilted...glad I didn’t realize that when I was inside!
Back at the car, I headed for the old fishing village of Marken. It was a seaport for years until it finally became a ghost town by 1932 when they built the dikes to contain the Zuiderzee. In 1957 they built a causeway to the island, the harbor revived , and it became an attraction for tourism. The traditional houses are wooden, painted dark green with white trim. The narrow streets and paths wander with no discernible plan, and include little draw bridges named for the royal family (Beatrix, Wilhelmina, Juliana). Fortunately I found my way back to the car before my parking time ran out!
After Marken, I meandered various country roads along the dike, and through the fields with no fences (narrow ditches/canals keep the livestock in place). I had fun spotting windmills. This was the area drained in the 17th century, so they needed the mills to pump the water as well as for grinding grain. At one point I could see six mills within the 360 degrees from where I was. There were several of the modern windmills in use also. Although I started the day on busy freeways, I spent a lot of the afternoon on single track roads with occasional cyclists and cars approaching from the other direction. Very exciting!
Back in Haarlem I topped off the tank (once I figured out how to get the cap off), stashed the car in a garage, and hit the market for a dinner salad and dessert, got back to the room and flopped. It was a very full day. Up early in the morning to return the car, then I’m off to the station to take a day trip to Leiden.
October 21 Leiden day trip
Got an early start to pick up the car from the garage and get it back to the rental office before 9:00. I made it on time despite some rush hour traffic on the way. The lone Hertz representative wasn’t in yet so I turned it in to one of the other staff and got a taxi to the station. I used my transit card to ‘check in’ to the station, and located the next train to Leiden with no problem. It was a quick 20 minute ride, and I headed out from the station to do the walking tour from the guidebook. The town has lots of canals, a couple of windmills, lots of houseboats, and the University of Leiden. A professor from here introduced the firs tulip in Holland in the late 1500’s...and the rest is history. Interesting that some other plants introduced to new lands turn into destructive pests, but the tulip turned into a national industry! One of my favorite things here and in other Dutch cities, is the ‘hofjes’. These are housing built around a courtyard for the elderly or poor. There were a couple where you could enter (quietly) through an ordinary door and enter a lovely garden surrounded by the homes. Technically the center garden is public property, so entry is allowed.
I stopped for a lunch break at a restaurant along the river. Technically my table was on the deck of a boat attached to the bank permanently—I couldn’t feel movement. There was no railing, so I took a table one row back from the edge! I enjoyed an assortment of local appetizers—tasty and interesting.
Leiden had a some famous locals. Rembrandt was born here, this is where the Pilgrims lived for ten years before leaving for America, and Einstein worked at the university.
After all the walking I ended the tour by taking a boat trip around the canals. The boat had a cover, so pictures were not great, but it was a nice trip. The cover had to be lowered going under some bridges, and the driver had to duck!
On October 3, they celebrate the ‘Relief of Leiden’ from the occasion in 1574 when the city was under siege by the Spanish, and William of Orange and his forces broke through and brought the starving people herring and bread. I’m glad we have turkey for our celebration instead! We passed boats of people in costume re-enacting the rescue, and singing songs of victory!
I made my way back to the station and to Haarlem. It was great to get back to the room and kick off my shoes. I wandered out to dinner at an Irish pub and now back to get organized and packed up to go on to Amsterdam tomorrow. I have really enjoyed my time here in Haarlem, but now it is time to move on to the big city for a few days.