Exploring Holland

I spent one week in the Netherlands driving around the country last August . The Netherlands is a small country, it’s half the size of the state of Virginia and 2x bigger than the state of New Jersey to give you a comparison. So travel distances around the country are short. Amsterdam, the capital, is the largest city but there’s so much more to see to get to know the character of the country. Since I have Dutch roots, I wanted to explore the countryside and small towns to experience traditional Dutch culture and see the windmills and other hidden gems.

Rotterdam is a one hour drive from Amsterdam or you could take the train. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the south. It’s also the largest cargo port in Europe so you see shipping docks and cranes along the river. The center of the city was completely bombed during World War II so all the buildings are relatively new and built with modern architecture.  My personal fave was the Cube Houses and the Market Hall. There’s also a lot of street murals that are worth seeing. I only spent eight hours there but made the most of it.

I walked along the Boompjes and watched all the boats sailing the Maas.
Theater square with cranes symbolic to the port city of Rotterdam

Built in 2014 the Markthal is a residence and office building with a market in the middle and a 4 level parking underneath. The inside has a 3-D digital augmented reality artwork.

The Cube houses in Rotterdam are an innovative architecture built in the 1970s on top of a pedestrian bridge. The cubes sit tilted 45 degrees on a hexagonal pole. Each house is 3 levels high with slanted walls and the top floor is mostly glass and is used as a garden since its so hot in the summer.

I had a great plant based burger in Rotterdam at Flower Burger, an Italian vegan fast food chain. They make 8 different burgers with colorful buns. I had the Cherry Bomb burger which is a lentil and basmati patty with a pink bun colored from beetroot juice and cherries. For breakfast I had traditional Dutch pancakes poffertjes.

Zaanse Schans
If you want to see the famous windmills of the Netherlands then you should head to Zaanse Schans. There are a lot of day tours to go there but honestly it’s so easy to take the train and save some money.  The train from Amsterdam is only 15 minutes then it’s a 10 minute walk. Entrance to Zaanse Schans is free and there you have demonstrations on how cheese and wooden shoe clogs are made. You have to pay to enter each windmill to see how they work. Honestly this place looks like a post card with characteristic village of buildings from Holland’s past.

The purpose of windmills was to pump water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers beyond the dikes so that the land could be farmed. See a third of the Netherlands is below sea level. So, they have an impressive set of dikes that protect the country from flooding. They haven’t had a major flood in 66 years. Today there are about 1000 windmills left in the country and some are used to saw wood or crush grain.

Is the Venice of the Netherlands and just looks unreal. Pretty thatched roof houses that are only accessible by canals. It’s so quiet and remote. Then I had a traditional Dutch pancake lunch.

Is a charming fishing village 30 minutes north of Amsterdam, 6 stops on the train.  There’s a cheese factory there where you can learn all about Dutch Gouda cheese and sample of course.

I went to a Delft pottery factory where I learned about the traditional white and blue pottery.

I would love to go back and visit the flower fields when the tulips are in bloom. And also visit the city of Haarlem.

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