2018/08/31 – Holland – windmills, clogs, cheese, bicycles and dykes

Holland – The Netherlands

Holland has a population of around 17 million people but has only a small land mass of 41,526 sq. km a large percentage of which is very flat and below sea level.

Beautiful clogs for sale everywhere

The official language is Dutch, however most people speak very good English as it is taught from an early age at school.

The currency is the Euro.

Wild camping is forbidden, however, several motorhome friendly municipalities have regulated facilities where overnight parking is allowed.

Ready-made joints, cannabis related products, rolling papers, pipes and bongs can be ordered legally in coffee shops, however we decided to stay on our natural high of just being with each other.

Bicycles can be seen in their millions and the Netherlands has more than 32,000 km of dedicated bicycle paths.

The Dutch are the most prolific travellers of any country we have encountered whilst travelling – whether it be NordKap in the far north of Norway, Sounion on the southern tip of Greece or anywhere in between we always saw the yellow number plates with NL and knew we would be able to speak to them in English and get a smile and help in return.

We were not sure where we wanted to go in Holland – we first visited Holland in 1978 but travelled by EuroRail so we were restricted to cities and towns on the rail network – we were not keen to travel to some of the  larger cities we had visited previously, including Amsterdam so decided to ask for help.

Unfortunately the wrong time of the year for the tulip festival

We sent an email to our friends Marie-louise and Robert de Reuver for their assistance – they had lived in the village of Oirschot near Maastrict Holland until they moved to near Skierniewice, Poland around 11 years ago.

They suggested around a dozen places to visit – thank you Marie-Louise and Robert.

Friday 31st August

No sign of any border gates and breezed through into The Netherlands from Germany for the first time this trip.

No toll roads which was a huge plus for Germany and now The Netherlands.  The countryside is very flat and green with lots of wind turbines and solar panels in use to store energy.

Our campsite for tonight:  Camperplaats. de Huurne, Wierden – GPS N52.349861.   E.6.574310

A little country village which borders onto the National Park.  This CP has all the services included in the fee of €10 – electricity, water and wifi a bonus inclusion.  Don’t need electricity because we have super solar panels and leisure batteries but is good to give the leisure batteries a full charge from time to time.

Beautiful rural setting with heaps of space between Mohos.  Even have a fire pit with timber cut and ready to use.  What a temptation as we love nothing more than sitting by a fire under the stars.  Still very wet under foot so this was not a possibility – shame, shame, shame.

Not too crowded at this Camper Stop – don’t have to fight for sites now that summer is over

Chickens were roaming about and even saw the largest hare we have ever seen, scooting across the paddock beside the CP.  A really peaceful, quiet setting, well laid out with tourist information and even offer free parking if you eat at one of the local restaurants in Wierden – a wet 2 km hike through the countryside so opted not to do that this time.

Saturday & Sunday 1st & 2nd September

❤️❤️❤ ️Our campsite for two nights:  Camperplaats Haamstede, Giethoorn – GPS 52.728649.   E6.076620

Giethoorn is affectionately called “the Venice of The North” for very good reasons.  Just an amazing village and a “must see” on your bucket list.

The CP is just great and is set between green pastures and the canals with a bikeway on both sides of the canal.  There are several CPs in the area, but we found this the best as far as location and services – amazing bathrooms.

Gets a bit tight under some of the bridges

Sunshine on both days which made the exploring just wonderful.  Day one we took off on the bikes along the canal where fisherman sat shoulder to shoulder with the longest rods we have ever seen – bit of a hazard for the passing pleasure craft but everyone seemed to work it out.

With the Mecca of canals, comes the draw bridges which have an operator opening and shutting these all day to allow the craft to pass under.  Being a weekend and with a bit of sun, the canals were packed with day trippers in all sorts of weird and wonderful water craft.  The bikeways were really busy and we passed by many marinas in the canal system and small villages along the way.

One of the many draw bridges in the area

Sunday we walked across the drawbridge into the touristy area where there were hundreds of people walking along the waterfront canal area and as many boats were lined up all eager to take the tourists on a canal tour.  Restaurant after restaurant was packed with people and souvenir shops selling clogs (even saw slipper clogs).

On our canal boat tour

You can be part of a canal tour where the boats seat about 30 people and provide a guide giving a commentary or you can hire an electric boat and do the trip yourself.   We elected to do the tour for €7.50 each and sat back and were just totally gob smacked.   The hour trip took us through narrow canals where the beautiful homes all featured thatched roofs and country gardens.  Many of these homes are on small islands with the only access to them via small pedestrian bridges. Many have no cars but a garage that houses a boat – the only way to get to these homes. 

Lovely homes along the canals

People were meandering through these canal streets and enjoying the many trendy restaurants in and around the canals.  Our guide told us there are 1100 boats that use the canals daily – 600 of these are tour boats – the others being home owners and locals.

One of the restaurants on the canal/lake system

After the canal tour the boat headed across the massive lake system here.

Give this area a five star for interesting spectacle.

Monday 3rd September

Our campsite for tonight:  Almere-Haven. Almere Haven – GPS 52.333691.   E.52.221710

Passed over many of these canal drawbridges along the way to our next interim stop over.  This is not one suggested by our friends but a stop on the way to the next one they suggested.

Lots of roadworks gave my driver and NAVIE a head ache but finally got around these to the harbour.

Only two Moho spots available here but we are directly on the harbour front overlooking a sea of yachts and large cruisers.  Restaurants again line the foreshore, but the harbourmaster informed us they had just finished a harbourfront festival yesterday (the last for the season we think) and most of the restaurants would be closed today.

Forgot to take photos in Almere – except this street art shot

Took a long walk around the harbour and into the village centre where the pedestrian mall was busy with many of the shops open.  All very trendy but once behind the mall area there were only very run down and empty shops and buildings.  Apart from fabulous harbour front and town mall – not a lot to see.

Tuesday 4th September

Dropped into Kaasboerderig Simonhoeve in Katwoude –  GPS N52.486580  E5.032450 which is a trendy clog and cheese factory.  It is also a gratis overnight place for Mohos but we opted not to stay here as the weather was not great and though only a 1.5km bike ride to Volendam and a further 2kms to Edam, thought it best to find somewhere closer to stay. 

Demonstration of how clogs were made manually

Saw a demonstration on cheese making and clog manufacture which was really great and then visited the shop on the way out. 

Now there is a different sort of cheese?

Really enjoyed the cheese tasting – they even had one named “Cannabis”.

Fancy a cheese?

Visited Volendam and Edam – both great little towns (though extremely busy with bikers).  Didn’t like any of the CPs here so moved on.

Our campsite for tonight:  Jachthaven De Grashaven, Hoorn –  GPS N52.633930.   E5.057290

What a little gem.  The CP is great and right in the yacht harbour grounds where hundreds upon hundreds of yachts lined the foreshore.  Could have spent a day or more just walking along looking at the boats but opted to head along the seafront today followed by a walk into the village.  This CP is right on the point of a peninsula in the Markermeer – a huge expanse of water, ideal for sailing.

Hoorn city square

Cobble stoned narrow streets made it difficult for cars to get around but had to watch out for the bikers.   The village square is wonderful and we did our usual trick of people watching with a half litre or two.

Hoorn city centre

They even have a convention and exhibition centre here on the harbour – we shuddered at the memories it brought back.