5 minute read

More Than Amsterdam

Words and photos by Jonna Dodge

What comes to mind (other than Amsterdam) when you think of Holland? This past summer I traveled with my sisters, Opa, and Oma* to our family’s home, and was able to experience my heritage and the place they had emigrated from; Oma arrived in the U.S. in 1949, and Opa came in 1972. We spent our days biking to surrounding towns and lesser-known villages. When biking wasn’t an option, we opted for the tram, which got us from one point to the next in little to no time. Of course, we made a day out of visiting Amsterdam, but read on to find some hidden gems if you’d like to experience more out of your trip through the Netherlands.

*Dutch f or Grandpa and Grandma

Dutch cheese market vendors

Dutch cheese market vendors

Alkmaar

No trip through Holland is complete without talking about cheese. Here in Alkmaar you can visit the cheese market, where they demonstrate the old-fashioned way traders would weigh and sell cheese. Make sure to plan your trip with this experience in mind. It happens every Friday during select summer months. Vendors line the canal offering traditional dutch foods like poffertjes (mini puffed pancakes); they’re worth every calorie.

Delft

This small city in southern Holland is known for its unique blue and white pottery which is hand painted—a practice dating back to the 17th century. It’s an old city which gained popularity as a port for the Dutch East India Company and was the home for various artists, like painter Johannes Vermeer. While we were there, we visited the city hall and saw two massive churches—the Oude Kerk (old church) and the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) which holds the Dutch royal family’s burial vault. Have good walking shoes and take the stairs to the top of the tower to see an amazing view of the city. My sisters and I walked along city canals to the Royal Delft Experience where we took a guided tour through the last remaining Delft factory and saw a master painter at work.

Spotted a herd of holsteins in the countryside of Marken

Spotted a herd of holsteins in the countryside of Marken

Marken

Marken is another charming fishing village that was separated from the mainland in the 13th century by a storm. The best way to travel around is by foot. We took a long walk through the countryside to the lighthouse and saw homes built on stilts for protection from the water. Rounding out our day trip, we had lunch on the island, eating fresh fish, which was really all they had on the menu.

Dressed up like the "locals" in Volendam

Dressed up like the "locals" in Volendam

Volendam

This vibrant fishing village is located in North Holland. While there, we walked along the dam and took photos wearing traditional dutch clothing. From this waterside town, we took a 30-minute boat ride to Marken, a peninsula-turned-island.

Beautiful seaport village of Hoorn

Beautiful seaport village of Hoorn

Hoorn

This is one of those towns we came across by accident. We went for dinner in an old defense tower called Hoofdtoren, a late-Gothic structure, used to protect the port during the 16th century. You go up a spiral staircase to the second floor where there’s a quaint little dining room. The food served was delicious, and getting a small window view is worth the wait. Reservations are recommended

Bike riding along a canal in Gouda

Bike riding along a canal in Gouda

Haarlem

This is another small town with some interesting callouts in history. Haarlem was known for having a massive beer brewing industry in the 17th century and also being the epicenter for the tulip mania: when exotic tulip varieties and bulbs were sold for exorbitant prices. This is also the hometown of Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, an autobiography about her family hiding Jews in their home during the Holocaust. Her original home is now a museum, but it’s key to book tickets months in advance. The countryside between Leiden and Haarlem is covered in an array of color from tulip fields during springtime. We recommend taking a bike ride for the best experience.

Gouda

Gouda sounds like what it is, a city filled with cheese. Similar to Delft, this city has a historical town hall worth visiting, with bustling store fronts and markets on select days of the week. You’ll find a whole new world of options when it comes to Gouda cheese combos. We took a day trip here and visited the Kamphuisen Syrup Waffle experience. Pro tip: You can purchase a combo ticket which gets you access to this factory tour and the Gouda Cheese Experience for a better price.

Windmill sighting on our boat tour on the Rijn

Windmill sighting on our boat tour on the Rijn

Rijn Boat Tour

We took a whole day to ride through the canals of South Holland starting in Alphen aan den Rijn and ending at the seaside city of Katwijk. Packing lunch for a picnic on the boat, we saw the Dutch countryside in a new light. Boating with a local allowed for a personalized tour filled with rich history and authentic sights. We saw countless windmills and pastures with cows, and topped the day off with gelato on the beach.

My sister Emma with the box of fresh cherries that we purchased from the Lindenhoff market.

My sister Emma with the box of fresh cherries that we purchased from the Lindenhoff market.

Baambrugge

A no name little village where my Opa was born. Here we visited the family farm and market called Lindenhoff, which sources organic meats, produce, and cheeses from growers across the nation and ships them to homes. You can stop by for a fresh cup of coffee and sweet bakery treat at their cafe.

This article is written in memory of my opa, Wim Griffioen, who passed away four months after we went on this trip.