‘Nether’ ‘Lands’ – literally translated as low country. Same in French – ‘Les Pays-Bas’. This only clicked for me last week. Anyway as you will no doubt know it is a very low and flat country. In fact much of it is actually below sea level, hence the complex maze of dykes, dams and whatnot.
After arriving from similarly flat Belgium country, we made a beeline for the iconic Dutch feature – the windmills! So straight to the windmill mecca of Kinderdyk. Was impossible to park Frosty in the little village – every space was jammed and the paid carparks were only accepting cars so we were forced to drive a km or two past the village until we found a precarious spot on the side of the road to park up. In hindsight this was a masterstroke as it meant we were able to wander up a deserted path, past private properies and vege gardens and get up close to a windmill or two with no one else around.
A big contrast to the hustle and bustle as the busloads of tourists unloaded in the village and we had a lovely lunch in the van and wander around for a couple of hours. The windmills were impressive up close and most were hundreds of years old despite looking in tip top conditon.
Windmills, tick so it was onto cheese. Happily enough the weekly cheese market was due to take place the next day in Edam, which happens to be the kids’ favourite cheese. So we headed to the village in preparation. Wildcamping opportunities and camperstops were both lacking so we were forced to stay at the campsite. Which, it turned out, was lovely – right on the water so the kids and I had a swim that evening and the next morning. Hammered the washing machine too. Next day we walked the 2km into town just in time for the start of the cheese stuff.
First up was the procession of cheese carriers, the band, local kids and some traditionally dressed old timers. Then the cheese arrived at the market where the weighing, tasting and bargaining got underway.
One of our resident feature writers filed this report earlier.
Next target was the fishing town of Urk. I’d heard from a couple of motorhomers in Paris about a tradition whereby every day at 5pm, the ladies of the tiny village ride down the hill on their bikes, with kids in tow, in traditional conservative dress to meet their fisherman husbands coming home after a hard day on the boats. Turns out this was absolute crap and the tourist office had no idea what I was talking about. But thankfully the town, although a lot bigger than I’d imagined was well worth a stop with a camperstop right on the harbour.
Next up, we backtracked towards Amsterdam and parked up at a huge camperstop in the North of the city. It was basically just a huge carpark in the middle of an old industrial area but a 10 minute walk and 14 minute ferry got us right into the centre. In fact, the industrial area surrounding the camperstop turned out to be very interesting indeed.
Giant old shipbuilding warehouses had been taken over by artists and alternate types and the area was clearly in a state of revival.
The camperstop, despite being bland in appearance, turned out to be a riot of characters… well our little end did. The first neighbours we met were 3 german students away for the weekend in a parent’s campervan, living it large.
On the other side we had Juan, a flamboyant, gay Belgian guy who was sharing his little motorhome with 3 ladies! He was a real character and very friendly – even kindly offered the kids a cannabis lollipop!
Then Nathan and Marne and their three kids arrived in an absolute beast of a motorhome, towing a trailer equipped with quadbikes. We went to be at 10-ish, about the time they went out for dinner taking their kids (including a 5 year old) out til 2:30am!
Next day the German guys said goodbye and were replaced shortly later with three Gold Coast guys, Jarrod, Jarrod and Nick who were on a 3 month roadtrip through Europe. They were in an old beatup van, with one mattress, 3 surfboards, no fridge or water facilities, several cases of beer and 800,000 miles on the clock. They were the cliched Aussie backpackers, bearded with long hair, living on next to nothing and having a great time…. and friendly as anything.
Then we met Uli and Monika from Germany on holiday with their kids – Uli happened to be a hamster expert and dropped the bombshell that Cadiz was actually a girl, not a boy as we’d originally been told. Abbie was delighted! So although we were hardly there for the 3 days in Amsterdam, there was always someone to have a chat or a beer with back at the van.
Amsterdam itself was great fun. It really is a party town and very different to other cities, not just because of the obvious things. We did a heap of walking while we were there, checking out the interesting goings-on on every street corner and stopped for a drink in the Grasshopper…
The second day, we met Nat for the afternoon and had a traditional Dutch lunch in an iconic hotel in the centre. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that we met Nat and Ben (from Adelaide/UAE) in Slovenia many months ago and travelled with them several times all over Europe. Their adventure has now come to an end, Ben now working in Dubai and nat visiting family in Amsterdam before headed back to their new life in Dubai. Needless to say it was great to see her and Chelle spent the rest of the afternoon and evening catching up while I took the kids out and about and then home.
Our last day was the day of the annual ‘Gay Pride Festival’ so we caught the ferry into town with 400,000 other people. It was great fun, music was pumping, beer was flowing freely and the atmosphere was fantastic.
Like Sydney’s Mardi Gras, there’s a parade of floats but naturally they use the canals for the procession. Through climbing on things, kids on shoulders etc we were able to check out what was going on through the crowds lining the banks.
Highlight was James meeting Conchita Wurst, the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner!
We had a ball in Amsterdam, meeting some lovely people along the way but it was time to move on. We’d decided that we would check out Scandinavia after all so time to head North…