This is my 25th story on this travel blog. So far I quite enjoy writing all the stories and taking you along on my journey through the world. A lot has happened since my first blog. The site became more and more beautiful, also because of my husband’s drawings. He then started a photo site. And the latest addition is our own webshop where you can buy postcards with our photos on it. 25 is a special number and because I’m Dutch I’ll write to you about 25 places in my own country that are special to me.
I was born in this city and have lived here for several years. I still have family and friends living here and a lot of my family history took place in this city. As a child I always believed it was big and chaotic. But after travelling the world I now think it’s small, yet interesting. There are many cultures around and all the restaurants, pubs, art houses, museums and theatres make it a fascinating city to visit.
When I was four, my parents moved to Zwaag. This is where I and my sisters spent most of our childhood. Zwaag is part of the municipality of Hoorn. Hoorn in itself is an old and pretty city (it received city rights in 1356/1357) with a small harbor. It blossomed during the 17th century and its VOC ships sailed to the East Indies. It still has buildings and places reminding us of that – sometimes controversial – trading period.
My husband and I went on a short break to the Province Drenthe, where we stayed in a small town called Exloo. The weather was fierce. It rained and there was a lot of wind. We got some bicycles from our hotel and cycled to the dolmens. The wind almost blew us away. These dolmens are well worth visiting when you’re in the Netherlands. There are 54 of these graves in Drenthe and they are over 5,000 years old. To me Drenthe is extra special, because at the end of this break my husband asked me to marry him. The weather made sure our drive home took twice as long as normally, with roads closed, branches falling off trees etc. A trip to remember.
When I moved out of my parent’s house I started my law studies in Utrecht. I lived there for almost five years. Like Amsterdam, Utrecht has canals. However, in Utrecht you can sit near the water as it has medieval vaulted cellars. Although a lot has changed since I lived there (e.g. a brand new music venue and renovated train station) I still love going there.
My husband and I got married in this small but very pretty fortified city. The City Hall, in which our wedding took place, was built in 1601. On the outside of this beautiful building you will find two sets of stairs. Naarden has an annual photo festival which is one of the best of this country. From above this old city looks like a star, surrounded by water. The new part of Naarden lies outside this fortification and has a train station that is a 15 minute walk to the old part. I can definitely recommend a visit to this city when you’re in the Netherlands.
Most people have quite a few prejudices about Almere, but it brought me the love of my life and a beautiful daughter. It is an interesting place to live in with many wind turbines. Almere is situated in the Flevo polder, which is the world’s largest reclaimed artificial island. The area near the harbor and the Oostvaardersplassen (a nature reserve) are my favorite parts.
This place is one of the most special ones to me, because this is the place where I met my husband. Or actually, I met him at Fort Island in the waters of IJmuiden. Mention the Dutch steelworks ad most people will think of IJmuiden. Less known is the island that is part of the defense line of Amsterdam (in Dutch ‘Stelling van Amsterdam’). During WO II it was part of the Atlantic Wall and these days it is a UNESCO Heritage site, which you can visit. One of Eryn’s Godfathers moved to IJmuiden, so we still come here quite often.
This city was named after Cornelis Lely, a famous civil engineer, who was the brain behind the Zuiderzee Works. If not for these works the creation of the Province Flevoland, and therefore also the city of Lelystad, would have been impossible. One of the Godfathers of our daughter Eryn lives in Lelystad, as well as one of my sisters (her aunt). When we visit my other sister, we drive over the Houtribdike, a dam between Lelystad and Enkhuizen. In the middle is a restaurant called Checkpoint Charlie. They have nice food. It’s a nice drive. Unfortunately the bus company thinks otherwise. It only runs a school bus twice a day, that does take other passengers.
I have been to this city many times. One of Eryn’s godfathers used to live there. It’s a very appealing city to go to for a walk or take photos. There are several gates, but I especially like its old medieval gate called ‘the Koppelpoort’.
My husband was born in Groenlo (in that part of the country they call it ‘Grolle’) and partly raised in Neede. The city Groenlo was a prosperous city and because of its location near the border with Germany it fought many battles over the years. Especially during the 80-year-war it was constantly under siege.
11. St. Maartenszee:
When I was young, my aunt and uncle had a summer cabin at St. Maartenszee. Whenever we would go to the beach, we would come there before walking to the sea. It was a nice walk through the dunes before we got to see the water.
The second time I saw my now husband was during a hike he had organized. I went along as a participant, but I ended up spending the entire hike talking with him. In Austerlitz you will find a hill called the ‘Pyramid of Austerlitz’. In 1804 Napoleon’s soldiers built this triangle shaped hill. On top is an obelisk. You can climb it, which we did. At the bottom are a restaurant and a public playground. Next to the free playground you can find a small paid entertainment park.
My best friend lived in Rotterdam and I used to visit it every now and then when both of us were in a book club. It is an interesting city to visit, because its architecture is all post-war and modern. For a long time the harbor was the largest in the world and it’s still the largest of Europe. Its cube houses and the Erasmus Bridge are two of the many landmarks. When you’re there, don’t forget to have a drink in Hotel New York. It is situated in the old building of the Holland-America line and the view from there is really nice.
This city in the east of the Netherlands is home to several of our friends.
This town is on the route of the annual Red Cross Blossom hike (in Dutch ‘Bloesemtocht’). My best friend lives there beautifully near the river the Linge.
I cherish many fond memories of my autumn holidays as a child. My grandmother used to rent a bungalow in the forest of Ommen. We would wake up, open the curtains and see squirrels eat nuts at the bench in front of our bungalow. Every day we would hike, pick raspberries, blackberries or chestnuts. The chestnuts we would prepare in a pan with salt. We had a hand-pulled bolderkar (a wagon), with which we had many adventures.
17. Zaandam and surrounding:
My grandmothers grew up in this area. To many tourists this is a very appealing area because of the Zaanse Schans. At the Zaanse Schans you can visit several mills, watch how you make cheese and see how one makes a Dutch wooden clog.
One of our first holidays with Eryn was in the province Friesland. In the garden was a little house where we had our breakfast each morning, looking out over a lake. The province Friesland is known for its own language, its great ice skaters and swimmers as well as its many lakes.
As a teenager I went there on a school trip. It lies in the province Limburg, which is an interesting province. Geological seen the area is great to visit, but there is more to this province. Do try a ‘vlaai’ when you’re there. They are delicious!
20. The Hague (in Dutch ‘Den Haag’):
One of Eryn’s godmothers lives in this city. Although it is not the capital city of our country, most embassies are here. You can also find our government, several international institutions like the International Court of Justice and the Supreme Court in this city. Before Eryn was born I visited the Tong Tong Fair (previously called: Pasar Malam) almost every year. This festival is the biggest annual Eurasian festival of the world. It’s worth a visit. Just make sure you look after your wallet (one of my friends got robbed).
My husband studied in this city, his sister lives there and so do some of our friends. Deventer is a nice city with an annual book market and a Dickens Festival. During lastmentioned festival the entire city is beautifully decorated. In the churches there are choirs singing. There are Christmas stalls and food and drinks at every corner of the street.
Before I met my husband I came here often, because I was in a relationship with someone who lives here. It is a nice city, where people talk with a ‘soft g’. We usually stop by on our way to our holiday destination or just to visit my ex-boyfriend, who still lives in this city.
One of my sisters lived in this town for several years. Its name means ‘holy heights’ (in Dutch ‘heilig loo’) and it is a destination for pilgrims. It neighbors Alkmaar and has a nice but new forest. I always enjoyed walking from the train station to my sister’s house. On the way I would pass a pretty church, the St. Willibrorduschurch. However, there is another church in Heiloo that is more famous. That church is called the White Church. It was built between the 11th and 17th century. My sister moved, so I don’t come here anymore, but Heiloo is worth to be mentioned in my list.
24. Wadden Islands:
These Islands at the top of the Netherlands are a very special place to visit. I have been to most of them and each one has its own beautiful parts. On Terschelling I went to the annual art festival called ‘Oerol’. The first time I went to Texel was on a school trip in primary school. I was impressed by the beachcombing and a treasure hunt we did on the beach. At some islands you can see seals and if not, you can visit the sanctuary Ecomare on Texel. On the smaller Islands there are no cars allowed. It makes them every more attractive for people who are looking for a quiet place.
At 5 minutes walking distance from the train station one can find a monumental building that opened in 1940. In this building I went to secondary school. I took a bus and train to get there, so you could say my travelling started there. When you continue walking, you enter the center of Alkmaar. For four centuries Alkmaar has a cheese market and it is said to be the only city left where it takes place in the traditional way.
Also on Travelharts.com.
In order to protect Amsterdam from invasions the Dutch Water Line and a series of forts were built. Weesp has one of those defensive forts.
In the meantime we have published our 50th story on our blog. It’s a story about IJmuiden beach. You can read it here.
On a rare sunny day in the Netherlands people go to the beaches. One of them is in IJmuiden. Here you can collect shells, go to a beach pavillion and relax.