LET THEM EAT CHEESE

We are currently staying in the Waterlands. This is a flat, low-lying area of the Netherlands that has been heavily irrigated via canals.

When it’s windy, the flat part means that wind is Serious. It howls at our house in the night, whipping ice and rain into your flesh like it’s trying to prove something. You don’t wind, stop it!

It has done this almost every day except the first since we arrived. You can’t win the vacation weather lottery every time.

Two Dutch Stuff Days were ahead of us. On Thursday, we visited the Zuiderzee Museum, and on Friday, the Alkmaar Cheese Market, as well as a little bit of Zaanse-Shans. Cheese!

On Thursday, we had some wild weather luck. There was a large gap in the rain. It was windy, but there was still a gap. This meant that it was a great day to visit the Zuiderzee Museum (pronounced ZAI -der-zay). This indoor/outdoor Museum captures the life of Zuiderzee before the massive dam and dykes to tame a North Sea inlet were installed. This area has been flood-prone for centuries. A massive flood in 16 provided the final push to begin the land reclamation.

Dutch: If the sea doesn’t cooperate with us, we will control it. So, a lot of land was reclaimed. It is fascinating to read the Wikipedia article about this project (the Zuiderzee works).

On the west side, we are kind of close to Edam and Volendam.

Reclaiming the land put many fishing villages out-of-work, so the museum tried to recreate the Zuiderzee people’s buildings and artifacts. The museum had 140 outdoor structures, which were all disassembled in the 1950s and 1960s and moved to the museum. They are now time capsules that show life in the area around the sea between 1880-1930.

Each open house is worth exploring, as they have many indoor displays and replica homes of village life. In the outdoor museum, we only saw two people dressed in traditional clothing. This is probably because there were only about 30 people in the museum that day. When the weather is nice, it looks like there are a lot of people around!

The streets are empty!

We had the place to ourselves largely because of (or in gratitude for?) We had the place to ourselves mainly because of (or thanks to?) It was almost deserted. There were a few tourists and a small school group, but the place was mostly empty. The perfect place to wander in and out!

 

The indoor museum was our second stop. It chronicled the rituals and cultures of the towns that make up the Zuiderzee. The exhibits brought life to the different towns, showcasing their clothing and home décor as well as rituals.

 

Toward the end of the museum visit, I noticed the wind was back to demon threat, and the windows were being pelted by raindrops. After our museum visit, we headed back to the ferry and through the village. Walking took about 15 minutes. At this time, the rain poured down on us, then cleared, and was then very menacing, until we returned to our car. Crazy weather.

We went back to Den Oever, where the dam began. This seemed like a great idea, but the wind grew stronger. It was now a dragon threat. This wind was so strong that you could lean against it and not fall. So…I went and did it.

In the photo below, you will see that the sky appears to be blue. This is a lie because it was raining just 30 seconds after I took the photo.

Windyyyy natuuuuure

It was an interesting choice. We saw water, so that was cool.

It was a sunny, bright day on Friday. Alkmaar’s Cheese Market is on! From early April until September, this happens every Friday morning at 10am. This is the only second cheese market in the year. Since I rescheduled my trip, I’ve been anticipating this.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve been chanting, “cheese, cheese, cheese” My chants will bring relief to Rhett and Justin, even if they don’t like the cheese market. I’ll go back to singing temperature by Sean Paul.

The cheese was delicious!

Alkmaar began trading cheese in the 1300s. The cheese market was established in earnest during the 1600s. It is mainly tradition and spectacle – the history of Alkmaar – that are on display.

It was packed when we arrived just after ten. Rhett lifted me onto his shoulders, so I could see all the cheeses being moved back and forth. The tulips were placed between the cheese rows to make it more festive.

The cheese is then bartered, the price agreed on, and taken to be weighed. The cheese is transported by cheese carriers who carry up to 130kg on a wheelbarrow to the weighhouse. A cheese father is also present, who acts as a sort of master of ceremonies. As the day went on, they had translations in several languages.

 

Overall, the event was festive. A few stands sold snacks, poffertjes and crafts. Oh, and cheese. I may have bought 5 pounds of cheese for home. This is the reason why my luggage is overweight.

We visited the museum after lunch. It is located in the weighhouse, overlooking the festivities of the cheese market. There were informative displays about traditional Dutch cheesemaking and how it evolved into modern automation. They even had a milking robotic.

 

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