Sunday, July 15, 2012

June in Amsterdam - Bidding Adieu Part II

This is Part II of June in Amsterdam. Part I is here.

One Friday Anissa and I headed north along the Markenmeer to Marken, a formerly isolated island that is now connected by a causeway. First inhabited by monks in the 1200s, they built dikes and began farming the tiny, flat polder land until the Dutch Count kicked them out in the 14th century. Problems with the soil and frequent flooding made farming more and more untenable, so in the 1500s and 1600s the island's inhabitant started fishing. The frequent floods often wiped out buildings and killed people, so the houses in Marken were build on top of mounds of soil or tall stilts. These traditional little wooden houses are a major tourist drawcard today.

In the 1930s, the Zuider Zee that surrounded Marken was turned into the IJsselmeer, an artificial lake, when the huge Afsluitsdijk was built, wrecking the fishing industry there, and in 1957 the dijk connecting Marken to the mainland was built. This dijks were part of the Zuider Zee Works, a plan to dam the inlet with a series of dijks and drain huge sections to develop new agricultural land. These plans have been reformed over the last century, but some sections of land were developed, including that of Almere, a new city built near Amsterdam from the 1970s onwards, now the 7th largest Dutch city. Now, about 1800 people live on Marken, most working in the tourist industry, or commuting to Amsterdam.

We walked around for a bit, checking out the tiny village, the church and the museum, and then walked out to the lighthouse on the north-eastern corner. This is about all there is to do out there - its pretty, but the place is tiny! We then grabbed something to eat at a wee seafood stand and took the ferry across the Gouwzee to Volendam. Volendam was originally just the location of the harbour for the nearby town of Edam (unsurprizingly the home of Edam cheese) but later became a town in its own right. With a population of 20 000 people its much bigger than Marken, and is a huge tourist destination - hordes of tourists were walking along the waterfront and clogging up the entranceways to the many souviner shops, meaning I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Marken. Something about the place remind me of Akaroa - a small waterfront town not far from a big city, but not even Akaroa is so touristy!

Me dressed in a traditional dutch outfit
Anissa and I had many laughs getting our photo taken in traditional dutch dress at a studio. Apparently several people still wear traditional dress on a daily basis in both Volendam and Marken, but we never saw anyone in it! I also let Anissa talk me into spending some time dangling our feet into a Doctor Fish tank. Its a weird sensation, not one that is pleasant in the beginning, but in the end you get used to it, and it feels a bit like really mild pins and needles. We walked around a little, and checked out an amazing second hand store where I found a box full of old camera lenses that were made in the former GDR and Soviet block countries, very cool, before taking a bus back to Amsterdam.

Me and Ollie on the roof of the NEMO building
The next day we visited a couple of photography galleries in Amsterdam, they were both quite impressive and the buildings hosting them were amazing, and then Sunday I was back at Anissa and Willem's place for a roast lamb dinner with Jp (the guy whose boat we'd been out on) and another couple of their friends. I miss throwing my own dinner parties, so I really enjoyed sitting around with everyone and the chance to make a pavlova! The following weekend Anissa and I went to the Anne Frank House, an amazing museum.

Ollie in the monkey house at the zoo
I also spent a lot of time in June getting out and about with Ollie, we went back to the library again one raining day and had lunch in a cafe afterwards, went to the Zoo where giraffes and penguins were the highlights for him, but going into a monkey house where they climb on branches over your head couldn't tear his attention away from the potato chips he was eating! And finally, we went to the NEMO interactive science centre. He was too young to understand anything, but he had a lot of fun running around pressing all of the buttons and watching things work, and the view over Amsterdam from the top of the sloping roof is quite cool. Taking him places is exhausting work, by the time you drag him, the stroller, and our bags on and off buses and trams, keep him quiet and sitting still sometimes, and run around after him other times, but he's always so excited about everything, even just riding on the bus, so its a lot of fun.

Not really a conventional "bachelorette"
And then suddenly it was time to say goodbye! I'd had a pretty good stab at sorting through my stuff and packing everything up, and after a suprizingly unemotional goodbye with the kids, Rogier dropped me at Anissa's where I would stay for the weekend, leave my stuff while I was in Portugal, and return to for a couple of nights before I headed down to Munich. That night we threw a leaving party for me, themed as a bachelorette party as coming over from England to have your stag night or hens party is really common and it sounded like a good idea when it surfaced at another drinking session. 

Me with friends at my "Bachelorette" leaving party
It was a good night, although I didn't like "being engaged" and accepted all of the free drinks offered to the bride-to-be and can't remember very much of the night! I do remember we started off at the Amsterdam Hell's Angel's Bar, and finished at the Irish Pub that Jp works at, and I do remember feeling like death all Saturday and having to repack all of my stuff and try to shed more things. And then I was off to Portugal early Sunday morning, for my first child-free week in nearly a year!

More photos of Marken and Volendam are here, and photos taken in Amsterdam are here.

I've signed up for Live Below the Line, and will live off €1.40 a day for five days to change the way people think about poverty and raise money for charity. Support me here.

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