Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cheese Please!

Today was exploring Haarlem day...and ended in a nice unexpected tour of Northern Holland.  With Julie in class, I headed out to discover more of this charming little town.  Haarlem is only 30 minutes from Amsterdam but it seems like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city.

After wandering the streets and little alleys, I met up with Julie and some classmates for lunch.  The weather here is perfect for sitting outside at one of the many sidewalk cafes.  Julie's instructor invited me to join them on their tour of Northern Holland...the best part was the tour ended up in Edam..one of the spots on my day trip list.

The Dutch are experts at water management...they have to be with 25% of the country below sea level and 50% at one meter (just over 3 feet) above sea level.  Between last summer's visit to Molen Stolen (windmill in Stolen, NL) and today's visit to Museum de Cruquius, I've learned a good deal about moving water!  First stop today was to the Cruquius Pump Museum...site of the world's largest steam water pump.

In late medieval times there were numerous lakes between Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden. As a result of erosion and peat digging, several of these lakes merged to form the Haarlemmermeer (Lake Haarlem). After 200 years of ideas and talks (quick by Dutch standards), the Dutch turned to their neighbors to the north in England to build their steam engine pump system to drain the lake. 

Our next stop was Edam...again I was so excited as this was one of the places I wanted to visit and it would have required several bus transfers if I took public transportation.  We met with our local guide and first toured the Grote Kerk of St. Nicolaas. Surprisingly, this charming little town has one of the largest churches in all of the Netherlands.  Like most churches in the Netherlands, this church was originally Catholic but during the Reformation, it became a Protestant church.

Part of the renovations that occured upon the church becoming Protestant was that none of the windows have any religious reference.  One of the windows is actually a depiction of a battle scene.

In the 15th century a local well-to-do man was concerned his daughter would not have a nice area to live in her elder years and built these row houses.  As far back as the 15th century, these have been rented by elderly ladies (over 50 years old).  Originally the rental for the year was 60 guilder (approximately 25 euro today)...which was a lot of money back then.  As is typical Dutch custom, there is always a "catch" and the catch for living here is that when you entered, you pledged that upon your death, all your possessions would go to the church.  To this day, elderly single ladies can rent a house for 60 euro a month...but they don't have to pledge their possessions to the church upon their death.

The rest of the afternoon we strolled the streets so here's a few pics of the town. 

No visit to Edam would be complete without a stop in a cheese shop.  In July and August, the town re-enacts the cheese market from 15th century...since we missed it this year, it's just another reason to return.  We did stop in for a large slice of garlic herb cheese.  I was very proud of myself for not buying a wheel as I do love cheese.
This Beligan white beer is
pretty popular here and is served
with a lemon and your own muddler.

Eventually ended up having a few beers in main square. One of my favorite things about European holidays is sitting in a cafe and watching the world go by.  After a drive-by of the North Sea, we made our way back to Haarlem. 

Julie and I had dinner at spot on the market square where we learned a new term for describing tender chicken...squeezy.  When we were asking the server about the chicken, he said "oh how do I say it...it is squeezy."  We figured it would either be tender or chewy and took our chances...it was tender.  I reciporcated and taught him a phrase...fancy dancy.  When he brought our desserts (part of a fabulous prix fix menu), I say "look how fancy dancy those plates are."  He liked the phrase so if you're in Haarlem and a server says "fancy dancy" don't be surprised!

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