Windmills, Cheese, Stroopwafels, Wooden Shoes: A Day in the Amsterdam Countryside

A Day in the Amsterdam Countryside

Whew! I just completed my latest Masters degree course, so now I have a week off to unwind and gear up for the next course. 

But while I have a moment, let me tell you about my lovely visit to the Amsterdam Countryside in part 3 of my Amsterdam Adventure.

I know, I know it’s not entirely correct to call it the Amsterdam Countryside, but it was a day trip from Amsterdam to the Countryside. Plus, the tour guide kept referring to it as the “Amsterdam Countryside.”   

TICKETS & TOURS 

My disastrous bus tour of to Gibraltar made me skeptical of doing any more bus tours. However, with a free day in Amsterdam, I decided to check out the Amsterdam Countryside.

I booked the trip via Viator because the price was fairly reasonable, and sponsored by Tickets and Tours – a company whose tours I’ve usually enjoyed.

Countryside tour ticket
My Countryside tour ticket

Getting to the meet-up spot wasn’t difficult as Amsterdam’s public transportation system was very simple to figure out. Once I arrived, I felt I should’ve listen to my gut and splurge a bit more and taken a private tour.

The tour, which was advertised as “no more than 25” people, had more than 70 people on the bus. This is probably typical, but given that this is the age of COVID, I’d thought the company would stick to its policy of less than 30 people per tour. Not a great start to the tour.

Me on the Countryside Bus
Me on the Countryside Bus. Yes, masks were required. Didn’t mind the mask, but was really upset about more than 70 people & only one tour guide

Another point that upset me was that there was only one tour guide for the entire group. 

ONE TOUR GUIDE for 70 people!! 

This was just a disaster waiting to happen. To top it off, she did the tour in both English and Spanish, which meant more time waiting for her to finish her spiel, and less time exploring.

I made sure to mention this in my comments and online review. My review, however, mysteriously disappeared from the website. Hmm, wonder why?

Now onto the tour!

ZAANSE SCHANS

Zaanse Schans is a residential area where the 18th and 19th centuries are brought to life. It is a unique part of the Netherlands, full of wooden houses, mills, barns and workshops.
Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans is a residential area where the 18th and 19th centuries are brought to life. It is a unique part of the Netherlands, full of wooden houses, mills, barns and workshops.The highlight was the visit to the working mill.

Working Mill

Truthfully, it wasn’t much of a highlight for me. Trying to cram over 70 people into a small space wasn’t cool, so I decided to skip most of the mill demonstration and head up to the top of the mill to take some beautiful photos.

Luckily, I was able to squeeze my way out the main entrance of the mill and head back to the main area to do some souvenir shopping before we had to get back on the bus.

EDAM

The town of Edam, the namesake for Edam Cheese was the next stop, though it was originally supposed to be the last stop. Never mind the logistics, this lovely town was beautiful. My only wish is that we spent a little more time in the town so we could sample some Edam cheese or grab a snack. 

If you’re in Amsterdam, take a drive to Edam and just walk around. Trust me, you’ll enjoy lovely canals and architecture. And make sure you sample some Edam cheese for me!

VOLENDAM

Volendam was our next stop. This beautiful fishing village had me writing down the names of the real estate agents in hopes of buying a home here.

Following a lovely stroll into the seaside town, we made our way to the Cheese Factory Volendam.

The factory was very educational and intriguing. However, the demonstration was unremarkable and a mere five minutes, though it’s advertised as a 10-minute demonstration.

Guess they really want you to spend more time buying cheese than learning how it’s made. I will admit the strategy worked. I sampled a lot of different cheeses, some good and some not to my liking. However, my stomach didn’t like the cheeses at all and reminded me later that evening why I don’t eat cheese very often. 🤢   

I only spent five minutes in the store section of the factory, mainly because I was hungry and wanted to get a decent meal before we had to be back on the bus. Also, there were just too many people in that small store area to actually hear yourself think, let alone get any assistance from the customer service representatives.

I did break down and buy some fabulous smoked cheeses, mainly because my boss asked me to bring him back some cheese. Have to ask him if he liked the choices.

‘De Lunch’

Mercifully, the tour included time to grab some lunch at Restaurant ‘De Lunch.’ I think the tour company gets kickbacks from the restaurant because they were basically waiting for us to show up. However, once again, the tour size led to disaster as many people on the tour didn’t get their food or had a chance to eat before we had to move on to the next demonstration. Nevertheless, customer service was amazing and did their very best to accommodate.

Luckily, I wasn’t one of those people who didn’t get a chance to eat. I had plenty of time to enjoy my fried fish mix. And the hot chocolate with marshmallows & whipped cream was the perfect treat to end the meal.

​​Woltje’s Backerij

A stop at the Woltje’s Backerij was next. Actually this was the best part of the tour. Why? Here we had a very entertaining demonstration on how to make stroopwafels – the thick caramel version. Syrup waffles have been made in Gouda since 1837. It is believed that the first stroopwafels were made in Volendam around 1853. 

I enjoyed my very first stroopwafels when I lived in England in the early 2000s. The stroopwafel may be  an original Dutch waffle, but it is a worldwide delectable addition to any afternoon tea, or coffee for my fellow Americans.

Now since my mouth was enjoying scrumdiddlyumptious stroopwafels, I did my best to capture the demonstration. Excuse the shaky camera work, I was too busy woofing down stroopwafels to keep steady.

Excuse the shaky camera work, I was too busy woofing down stroopwafels to keep steady.

MARKEN

The village of Marken was the last stop on this countryside tour. Marken is a centuries-old peninsula, once surrounded by the Gouwzee and the Markermeer. It was formerly an island in the Zuiderzee. As Marken used to be flooded on a regular basis, residents built their homes on earth mounds, and then on mounds.

A visit to the Wooden Shoe Steam Factory to watch a local clogmaker take a simple block of wood and transform it into a wooden shoe was the highlight of this tour stop.

The factory uses machines from 1906, and a working steam engine from 1913 to make the clogs.

Again, with more than 70 people cramming into the souvenir shop, I avoided the crowd and stepped outside to take a few photos.

And no, I didn’t buy any clogs. The shop’s prices for authentic clogs were a little over my budget. I did pick up some souvenir clogs keychains that I gave out as Christmas presents.

Ten minutes later, we were back on the bus. Ninety minutes later – thanks to some traffic – we were back in Amsterdam and the end of the tour.

Overall, the tour wasn’t bad, and it was certainly better than my Gibraltar tour. I enjoyed my day exploring the Amsterdam countryside.

If you’re visiting Amsterdam and just want a peaceful day out from the city, consider visiting Edam or Volendam. It’s a nice change of pace from the bustle of Amsterdam city life.

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