We purchased tickets the night before for a trip to see the Dutch countryside. After an exhausting trek from our flat to where we boarded the coach (bus) we finally got on our way. It turned out that the “country” is very close to the city. Until the tour guide got going (he spoke five languages fluently) I didn’t know a whole lot about the Netherlands (Holland).
I learned that name Netherlands’ literally means “Low Country”, influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding three feet above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes. The polders amount to nearly 17% of the country. With a population density of 406 people per kilometer (a kilometer is approx 5/8th of a mile) – 497 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is a very densely populated country for its size. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and a higher population density. Notwithstanding the density of the population the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agriculture products after the United States. Why? Fertility of the soil and mild climate.
The Tour Guide thought we might get a thunderstorm. CTP’s pic verified his prognostication:
Think it’s gonna rain – asp
We were taken to where we could see several windmills.
Windmills under lowering skies – asp
Windmills played a crucial role in the development of the Netherlands. In the past windmills were used in various ways to create land, build ships and produce flower, oil and even mustard! Until year 1400, living conditions in the Netherlands were far from ideal. The country consisted of wetlands, swamps and marshes separated from the sea by a belt of dunes. Villages were often destroyed by ravaging floods. In 1421, in a particularly bad flood, over 70 villages were washed away and thousands of people drowned.
Enter the windmill. After sea defenses were put in place windmills were used to drain the numerous lakes, swamps and wetlands. This drastically improved living conditions. In the 16th century, changes were made to the structure of the windmill and it became possible to use them for other purposes, such as for the production of oil, paper and to saw timber.
To get to the windmill we were to visit we had to walk in a shower alongside one of the polders which was full of life – ducks:
Some of us don’t mind the weather
Regal amongst the reeds – asp
If it’s raining have a kip with mum – asp
Next we walked through a small village:
never did find out what Zilch was
There was a beautiful door which showed the age of the village:
Top of the door – 1795 was when village began
The sun came out as we approached the windmill on the right below:
Inside we met the miller who was extracting peanut oil from peanuts imprted from the USA!!
Milling peanuts in the windmill – asp
Being inside a structure this old that worked perfectly was freaky.
Look how old everything is – asp
We left the windmill and moved to another building where clogs were being made. A very attractive display of clogs filled with flowers lined the approach path:
Clogs and flowers – how Dutch can you get – asp
Netherlanders call a clog a klomp. Klompen are whole feet clogs. Approximately 3 million pairs of klompen are made each year. Whilst a large part of the market is for tourist souvenirs some Dutch people, particularly farmers, market gardeners, and gardeners still wear them for everyday use. Klompen can be made from willow or poplar.
There were hundreds of pairs hanging from the ceiling of the building and along the walls:
Finished clogs – asp
We watched the clog maker turn out a pair of clogs in about ten minutes:
The clog maker and his machinery – asp
At the back of “factory” was a shop selling clogs and Dutch memorablia. This I coveted:
I would have bought it if I knew of a way of bringing it home
After we left the clog maker we boarded a ferry across a lake which, before the dyke at one end was built was open to the sea. We arrived at another tiny village where we were to have lunch before returning to Amsterdam. We had just bought our take out when the pending thunderstorm hit. And did it rain. For about twenty minutes it sheeted down. We took shelter under a shop awning and avoided the worst of the downpour.
You’ll be pleased to know that the thunderstorm did NOT spoil my lunch – raw herring on a fresh roll topped with chopped raw onion. Holly didn’t like hers so I was forced to eat two. The herring downed I mentally crossed raw herring off of THE LIST.
Eating raw herring in a thunderstorm
Holly and Annalise pigged out on fresh cooked pancakes from this stall:
The pancake stall just before the heavens opened
Feeling very lucky that we had avoided a soaking we boarded the coach for the short trip to Amsterdam for the second part of the days adventure where I hoped to strike numero uno off of THE LIST.