Day 11 - Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans, Delft, The Hague, and Madurodam

this world is strange, so strange it is
you know it really hurts inside, yeah ... sometimes
no matter how good you are to people you know
they'll make you cry sometimes ... sometimes

Sometimes - Raphael Saadiq

Day 11 is quite a full day in the number of places I visited. The day is divided into 2 half-day trips. I booked them together and I got some discount. The first half-day trip took me to Volendam, Marken, and Zaanse Schans. We started in Volendam which is this town by a body of water. Now that I think of it, I don't know if it's fresh water. Anyways, first stop was to this cheese shop where they also make the cheeses there. There's a demonstration on how the cheese was made and we got to sample a few. I wouldn't say I'm like crazy about cheese, but it is kinda nice to see so many different kinds of cheese. I didn't get any though. I only got cheese biscuits to snack on. I was kinda hoping I'll get to see some kaasstengels in the shop or my cheese biscuits will be like that, unfortunately it's not and there's no Kaasstengels in the shop.

After that it seemed our timing was good that the guide herded us all to a stroopwafel shop. We went to the basement where the demonstration kitchen is and watched this lovely old chef made Stroopwafel. He asked for a volunteer to help him and a Japanese girl in our group was chosen. I would have liked to do it, but being alone, I really didn't want to put myself on the spot. If you're not going to click the link there, I can only describe stroopwafel as a biscuit with a waffle shape and pattern. It's thin but it's composed of two layers in which the middle of it can be filled by caramel, chocolate, or honey. Ingredients wise, it's quite simple. The chef even told us to take picture of the recipes if we wanted to. You kinda need the specialized iron to make it though.

Of course we got to taste some samples, but I think to really enjoy this is to do it as what the chef said. First put the stroopwafel on top of your hot cup of tea or coffee. The steam from your drink will kinda melt the filling and make the biscuit softer. I didn't buy any because I didn't feel like it. The guide told us we're breaking for lunch there, but it's too early to eat. I don't think it's even 11 AM at that time. So I opted for actual waffle from that stroopwafel shop. It's quite a big waffle and I chose to have it with nutella, cream, and peaches. It's glorious! I had difficulty finishing it though because the portion was rather too much for me. I made it to the end, but after that I was like, I need to walk this off. So I walked around a bit seeing the water.

Then we took a boat to reach the village of Marken. It was a calm ride, so I didn't feel sick. Two Italian boys went to sit in front of me. One of their mother sat with me in the full bus. They're kinda cute and I decided to bust out my Italian. I asked if they're brothers or cousins. They said they're friends and one of them spoke rather fast for my very rusty Italian, but I think their moms are teachers and teach in the same school. I could be so wrong. When I wanted to ask their age, even that simple thing tripped me. Certain phrase just stick with you without you have to think about it. For example: to ask what is your age in Italian is, Quanti anni hai?, but there's two of them and I reached Quanti anni ... and my brain said you need to conjugate. My Italian is getting bad now that it took me some time to confirm it's avete. The boys knew what I meant though and didn't wait for me to finish my sentence. If I remembered correctly they're like 7 and 10. One of them is Luca and the other if I'm mistaken it's Marco. I watched them play their games. Kinda nice that they got along. One curious thing is that when they're playing scissors, paper, stone, they're saying pikachu, pikachu. I don't know what's up with that. So anyway, we docked in Marken. I think many people in the village there have their own boats to get around. The docks are not very big, but they have quite a lot of small boats. The village is kinda cute with their houses and quaint gardens. I always wonder how people whose place of living is a tourist place cope with having tourists walk up their streets and taking pictures of their houses and gardens. I really don't think I can do that. I can have a nice garden, but I may not be able to sit in it lest some random tourists walk by and take pictures of my house and garden with me in it :(

The other purpose of visiting this little village is to go see how that famous Dutch clogs are made. The shop / workshop was rather cute and outside on the walls of the shop, there were old clogs being used as planters for flowers.

The clog maker demonstrating the process was full of energy and kinda funny. Basically the clogs are made using machines but some manual works using hands are required, for example: to cut certain parts. The wood used are poplars. I think they can use other types of wood, but I forget which one. I also forget if the wood must be freshly cut or dried first before being processed. I think they have to be somewhat fresh or damp when they're made into clogs because perhaps dry wood will crack and such? I don't know, I really can't remember. I did try some clogs in the shop. I had difficulty estimating the size because they look big as a whole, but the space where you put your feet in can be smaller than you expect.

After that, we took the bus to go Zaanse Schans. This is a village where there are still many old working windmills, as such it's quite a touristy place. I think it's crowded even on a normal day, but that day being Sunday, there's some sort of festival going on. So I think there's even more crowd than usual. I don't know what the festival is about. I think even the guides didn't know what they're for because they're also rather surprised. Anyways, there's many people, stalls, and activities.

We got to the windmills area. There are quite a few of them. Our guide took us into one which since I didn't write on a journal during this trip, I kinda forget which windmill it was. Okay, if I'm not mistaken, it's called The Cat and it produces paint. Inside it's rather dark and not very spacious. There's a miller explaining how the whole thing works. There's this big stone and it's very old maybe hundred of years. I can believe it's old because it's so big and looks so heavy that I don't think it's easy to shape a stone like that and put it in. The wind will cause the stone to move and grind whatever thing the miller puts in the track. It was moving rather slowly when we're there, but even so I can see that if you accidentally put your hand in the track, then it's going to be one scary accident. So the stone will grind whatever ingredient put there into a paste which the miller would later collect and these paste go through other processes. Right now I can't remember much about what they are. After the explanation, I opted to go up to the balcony. That being an old windmill, the ladders are quite old and basic. Luckily it's not a very high climb that going down wasn't that scary. Since we didn't have much time, I didn't go to the shop so I didn't see what souvenirs they have. Instead I used my little time to take pictures of the windmills from the outside.

That was the end of my morning trip. For pictures, you can go here. We made our way back to Amsterdam in which I changed to another bus for my afternoon trip. This afternoon group had less people and I got to sit on my own which was great for me. The afternoon trip took us to Delft, then a drive through The Hague, and it ended in Madurodam. First stop was Delft. Delft is famous for its ceramics which are often in blue colour, known as Delft blue. The KLM flights that I was on had its safety video feature animation done on Delft tiles. I thought it's digitally made, but at the end of the video the stewardess stood among the many many tiles used to do the animation. In Delft, the first stop was the Royal Delft workshop / museum / factory / shop. There's a guide bringing us through the different rooms and explaining things to us. This is not my first time in a ceramic factory / shop. My first time was in Cappadocia Turkey where I saw several artists doing delicate works on the ceramics. This time around in Delft we just saw one artist. The most interesting and curious thing is that when the artist first painted on the ware, it actually came out black. The guide told us that only after it's fired, then the Delft blue colour will appear. Very interesting. The guide also taught us how to read the marking on the ware to know that it's a real Delft ceramic and if it's hand painted. We walked through several rooms that show the different works that the factory / shop has produced. Not all of them are actually in blue. We also saw the place where they have their kilns and the guide showed us how a mould works. The whole visit is quite interesting, but unfortunately this visit is guided so we didn't have much time to explore on our own. Leave it to me, I may need more time to see everything. One of the most prized possession is perhaps a recreation of Rembrandt's The Night Watch. It is composed of individual tiles and done by 2 master artists. You can go see it my Flickr album.

After that visit, we went to the town center and we were given time to explore the town center with its square and church. I didn't find it particularly interesting. I haven't seen all of The Netherlands, but I wonder if many of their towns and cities are similar to each other in a way that they just have a lot of canals. One thing that was kinda enforced many times in this trip is the fact that The Netherlands is a low laying country. So water control to avoid flooding is of the utmost importance. Much has been said about its effort to design Jakarta (then Batavia) during its colonization of Indonesia with canals being built too, but unfortunately years of mismanagement causes Jakarta to just keep on drowning in flood. We have some good progress with Pak. Ahok, but I don't think such progress will continue with the incoming incompetent governor. We may even slip back to disarray. Okay I digress. I still get work up thinking about what happened in the last Jakarta gubernatorial election. So anyway, Delft with its canals remind me of Amsterdam. It doesn't have as much canals as Amsterdam and by comparison that day when I was there, it's quieter, but overall I didn't think the town to be particularly special or anything.

Leaving Delft, we had a drive through The Hague. It's quite quiet driving through it. Maybe because it's Sunday and people didn't work? I don't know. We passed several important buildings, but only stopped at one, in front of The Peace Palace. Honestly I don't know anything about the significance of this place until I went to that Wikipedia link. In front of the palace there's this eternal flame and surrounding it are different rocks representing different countries. I don't know how the rocks were chosen, but some look more artistic than others.

Last stop was Madurodam which is this tourist attraction in which you can see many important and famous Netherlands's buildings and architectures in miniature. It's not very big, but it's quite interesting. It's quite interactive too. You can make certain things move, like the ship and such. If you're a kid or a grown up who still get amused by these things (like me), this can be quite interesting and fun. One thing though, I don't know these buildings and architectures so I didn't get very excited seeing them. It didn't stir a lot of wonder I guess. I saw them and I think they're pretty, that's all.

For pictures from the afternoon trip, you can go here. Perhaps I should have included more pictures from Delft in that Flickr album, but the ones I have are really not very good at all and kinda boring. Well it's not like all the pictures I put in Flickr are super interesting or anything. I also don't have many pictures from The Hague because it's just a drive through and even the ones I have are not very good because as you know I kinda sucked. So, sorry if the album doesn't give you much insight of what Delft or The Hague are like. The afternoon trip may not be as interesting as the morning one, but I feel that the whole day did give me a somewhat more complete look and understanding of the things that The Netherlands make and its culture :)

:) eKa @ 9:09:00 PM •


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