Today was a fantastic day! Don [Marlene’s father] drove us [Marlene, Ro, Maureen (Marlene’s sister), Sigourney (Maureen’s daughter) and me] in Volendam, lovely little (quite touristic) fishing village in the North Holland on the mouth of river Ij. The village is famous because its inhabitants still wears traditional Dutch clothes. To be honest I really thought that wearing a wooden clogs is a myth but then Marlene told me that she was wearing them and also she bought every year new pair for Ro! Indeed you can by them in the shops here with all proper sizes and everything but I never thought some would use them. Well I was 100% wrong! One of the first images when we arrived in Volendam was a guy in jeans on the street wearing wooden clogs! (no jeans aren’t part of Dutch traditional clothes).
So anyway, inhabitants of Volendam made their town famous because of the clothes with those high pointed bonnet on women’s heads that became one of the most recognizable of the Dutch traditional costumes. The houses are lovely as well. Everything was quite in (as one of my friend said) “Hansel and Grethel” style :)
And the we took a picture in traditional costumes as well. Don is playing an accordion, Marlene is testing her muscles with an enormous piece of Dutch cheese, Sigourney is showing some smaller pieces, Maureen just picked fresh tulips from the garden, Ro is grinding the coffee and myself showing my pray from the fishing. And of course we all wearing lovely wooden clogs!
By the way Volendam is the place where Picasso and Renoir spent some time.
After a nice walk, coffee and taking some photos we headed back home. Luckily today was The Day of Open Mills! I’ve never been in one before so this was a perfect opportunity. And where would be better place to do so than in Holland! We passed beside few and then stopped near one where the miller explained us the history of that precise windmill (which I didn’t understand cause he was speaking Dutch, later I got translation) and the working mechanism. He was so nice when he realized that I don’t speak Dutch he explained me in English and even opened the highest part of the windmill (which was closed for visitors) so that I could see it.
Many would think that windmills have been used to grind the corn and wheat but actually the main role was to drain the land of lakes and marshes , and extend the shoreline to create fertile farmland. Don’t forget that much of the Netherlands lies below the sea level.
The whole mechanism is made of wood and was working using the power of the wind. I was confused cause I thought it’s moving in one stable rhythm but miller said the case was quite opposite. Then outside I saw system of ropes that are modifying the changes in the wind.
Also nearby windmill there was a little shop where people were buying flour made in that same windmill. One man was shaking a sack of flour homogenizing it. he explained me that they have few flour types with different level of pulverization and they are mixing them in some precise measurement and then by turning the sack upside down he homogenizing it in the final flour. It’s totally traditionally made! And beside that little shop there was a tent where one girl was selling pancakes made from the flour from that mill. We took some (they were delicious) listening not quite Dutch melodies which one older man was playing on his accordion.
I must say that the route was quite scenic and in lovely little towns we were passing through we were making stops to take pictures. For instance Monnickendam (which we visited on out way to Volendam) is beautiful. When we continued our journey back Don was explaining me history of that part of the Holland. He showed me also some places which aren’t on tourist’s maps like steal factory, the steam train still working and railroad that it uses especially to transport steal from the factory (you know, steam locomotive is something you really can’t see in Holland). We also went to the IJmunden harbour which is quite huge with big cruisers and numerous fishing boats. In the harbour there are three huge locks which are enabling the ships to go from the sea into the dutch-canal-system and vice versa. There is a fourth one which can only be used for letting the surplus water out of the canals into the sea (North Sea) [this part was edited thanks to Don]. The harbour was curled among wast dunes and among the dunes there was hidden Atlantic Wall.
I must admit I was totally ignorant about the existence of Atlantic Wall but luckily one of Don’s passions is history (and as far as I noticed, especially wars) so he explained me bunch of things about it. The wall has been made by Nazis as a defense from the Allied forces. The wall is a system of coastal fortifications stretching from the very north of Norway till the shores on the french-Spanish border. Indeed the wall is mainly covered with weed or sand, some parts integrated with the dunes but he showed me some places where is still visible as well as a bunkers in which Nazis had huge canons.
It was such a nice history lesson about which I didn’t have a clue which was really icing today’s cake.