This past year I took a trip to visit Amsterdam during my spring break to see what all of the buzz about the city of endless canals was about. I loved the city, even if it was a bit cold when I arrived in April. It had so many beautiful buildings, and dozens of canals running through it. That’s why I had to take a boat tour, exploring the many canals of the city and learning more about its past and the culture of the city.
The truly interesting part of visiting Amsterdam, and the Netherlands as a whole, was not what was inside of the city, but what was around the city.
One day my boyfriend and I took a bus trip to see some of the surrounding areas of Amsterdam such as Kinderdijk.
Kinderdijk is known for its many windmills that are still in operation today! When we arrived we were sadly only given a short amount of time to explore the village by ourselves, as we had other destinations to visit on our tour still that day. As a group we walked over to one of the operational Windmills where the owner explained to us how the windmill works and what he produces inside of it, which was peanut oil.
The owner of the windmill explained the many steps that he had to perform in order to convert the peanuts into oil. He would start by crushing the peanuts with huge stones that would be moved by the windmill fan blades when wind was present (unfortunately for us there was no wind that day). After this he would gather the crushed peanuts and heat them up to make them more formable. Lastly he would put them into specially created bags and squish them with heavy metal pieces that the windmill would also move with wind power. The squishing process would then yield peanut oil at the end of it.
After the demo of the windmill, we were given a quick history lesson from our tour guide. Our tour guide explained to us how the windmills were used in ancient times to empty lakes, and surrounding wetland area to make the land dry and inhabitable by pumping water back into the ocean. Even today, over 25% of the country is under sea level, and in ancient times when the country was first being populated, way more of the country was under sea level. With the power of wind and the windmills the Dutch people were able to convert all of the wetlands into rich and fertile farmland. It is fascinating how they managed with how little technology they had hundreds of years ago.
Overall it was extremely interesting to learn how the windmills worked, but this was only the first stop on our journey for the day. The second stop we made was in a port city called Volendam. In Volendam we went and visited a cheese factory where they still to this day create cheese wheels. We were given a short demo of the various steps to create a cheese wheel, and how it would take weeks of patience and work to create the wonderful Gouda cheese we consume around the world today.
Afterwards we were given a cheese tasting which was by far the best part of the visit to the cheese factory. At the end we obviously made sure to buy some delicious cheese wheels to bring back home with us!
While also in Volendam we got to learn about the Stroopwafel, a classic sweet treat found in the Netherlands. We learned through a live demo about the original woman who created the Stroopwafel recipe, and also got to see them made freshly. The Stroopwafel is created by taking a special dough and pressing it through a special metal waffle iron that makes the waffles very thin. The baked Stroopwafel is then cut in half and molten caramel is added in between the 2 halves. So you can say that the Stroopwafel is actually a sandwich!
These thin but flavorful treats were an awesome way to enjoy the early afternoon, as it had just begun to rain outside.
Rushing through the rain, we made our way to a boat which took us across the Markermeer (the neighboring sea) to our last stop of the day, a wooden shoe factory. The first thing we noticed as we walked inside of the wooden shoe factory was hundreds of pairs of wooden shoes hanging from the ceiling above. We were seated on some benches in front of three gigantic metal machines that are used to create the wooden shoes (clogs). The clogs are extremely helpful to the Dutch people to avoid getting their feet wet constantly in their marshy land. After this brief explanation of the purpose of wooden shoes we were given a live demo of how to convert two chunks of wood into shoes. This process today is done with machines, but once upon a time ago it was all done by hand.
As we made our way back into Amsterdam, I left the surrounding countryside with a deep satisfaction of seeing so much culture from the Dutch people in a single afternoon. They were such a clever people, to be able to use their early technology to master and control the surrounding wetlands enough to inhabit them. The Netherlands is a beautiful country, and has a lot of interesting history behind their famous icons as well. I certainly hope to go back one day to explore more of this culture filled country.
If you want to experience the Netherlands’ culture in the same way you can book the exact same tour here on the Viator’s Website https://bit.ly/2c72jjm
I really recommend taking this tour if you have a bit more time to spare in Amsterdam and also if you want to see more of the Netherlands than just its capital!