We were going to catch the ferry from Volendam across to Marken but the ferry was crowded with tour bus groups and it seemed over priced so we drove. What a stunning drive it was through fields of wild ducks, geese and a variety of bird life flourishing in the grasslands and the dyke that hugged close to the road was holding back the water from cascading onto the road.
It was around 5pm when we arrived in the small quaint village of Marken. All the ferries filled with tourists had left and the last buses were just departing. Great for us!!!!! Marken is surrounded by grass green field and water. We started our journey here by enjoying the baby lambs jumping for joy in the spring fields. They were adorable bouncing around.
Marken is a fishing village that until 1959 could only be reached by the sea. Its pretty timber stilt houses were originally built close together on mounds. Now due to dykes, they have claimed the land from the sea and bricked the bottom level of the houses.
There were many pretty timber bridges that opened to let boats through the canals.
We headed home after another big day out!!! We are learning so much about the Netherlands. Our trip home was on a very tiny thin road through a wetland reserve full of bird life. The sun shone a gold trail over the water as it set. How much did I pay for this rogue tour!!!!!! Pity Rob had to keep his eyes on the narrow road or we would end up in the drink!!!
We did an hour and a half drive to Giethoorn in search of a unique village. Our journey on our misty drive lead us over many bridges. Fog on this low lying country seems common. Beside the busy roads the famous dykes did their job to force the water back. Giant telegraph poles sank into the watery depths. Wind turbines spun in timeless harmony. They looked like giant guardians of the Earth hovering over the flat lands.
Here British chocolate box thatched roof houses meet one meter deep spider vein canals. Giethoorn is a canal village with fluid liquid floating roads. It is called the Venice of the North.
We had planned on hiring our own 4 person small battery operated boat with Rob as the Skipper and I was going to be his First Mate but our Skipper & First Mate dreams were crushed as the cold bleak winter ??? wind picked up and renting a boat was a mere dream. As it was a one way route through the narrow canal system you had to go out onto the lake where winds would turn a hire canal boat into a bobbing pretzel.
Now being an early childhood teacher I have read, Who Sank the Boat many times … So we passed on renting a boat as Rob and I both had seen some sinking and floating experiments with our students go disastrously wrong.
Instead we jumped aboard a small hour canal cruise. Once aboard our larger enclosed water vessel, it was interesting as Rob and I like doing our own slightly rouge tours. We suffered in silence as it was like being stuck in a floating sardine can. We are sure that the captain of our boat was just learning to navigate his way around the corners of the canals as he needed navigating tips from our tour guide. We hit the shore when turning a few times making the sardines inside bounce and bump about and we were part of the assorted mix of sardines. Rob as Captain and me bobbing like a cork may have been a safer option. It was a cute canal to cruise along though it would have been nice if we had have been manning our own ship. Probably why we are both teachers!!!
We learned that the canal houses are heritage listed costing around 500,000 euro. Which is fine if it really was a quaint canal village. Truth is that during the summer months and weekends this tiny village is over run by tourists. I saw tourists pretending to knock on someone’s front door to get the look they desperately wanted for their photo. When we walked along the thin narrow footpaths the village serenity was lost as some tourists were sooo .. loud!! We were both thinking ….. You know we are visitors so treat where others live with respect. Probably why most of these chocolate boxes were latched up tight.
In peak season you can have over a thousand tiny boats stagnantly navigating these tiny canals. Just one big bottleneck of bobbing boats going nowhere like the problem solving car traffic puzzles. Rush hour! Wow!! There goes your quiet dream living, but we are lucky to be visiting this charmed village on a cold Spring weekday and we felt there were enough bus loads of tourists here taking over the whole pathways not moving, not thinking that there are other people who just want to walk on past. Now as it gets warmer ( but still needing many layers) we have come across tour buses fully loaded with people who are herded like sheep, plugged into headphones like empty vessels following their shepherd whose flag flies high in the sky. We couldn’t see the fun in crowded bus tours. These tours seem boring, limiting your opinions to go with the flow, stripping the tourists of problem solving and using their own skills in gaining new knowledge and navigating their way through the pitfalls and pot holes of travel. I should call it helicopter travel just like helicopter parenting. Travel is all about personal choice and feeling comfortable about your choices and safety so tour groups offer that along with social networking. Our sole travelling has the downside of not mixing with many people.
I think Rob was shocked when he got groped by a grandma from a tour group in a crowded souvenir shop. He was minding his own business harmoniously smelling the decadent soaps!!! But grandma wanted a sniff too!!!! We call her Grabma!
In winter just weeks ago these canals were frozen over and you could walk on them. Nature can teach us a lesson. It is ever changing!!!!! As our sardine tin headed out on the lake, which you can stand in as it is only one meter deep, we learned that this vast lake which goes on as far as the eye can see was dug out by hand. Why I asked? For peat! For Pete’ sake what is that I asked?? Peat is like fermented foliage.
The long metre reeds that growing along the banks of the lake and dykes are bundled, dried and used to make the thatched roofs which are very expensive. A thatched roof only lasts up to 30 years and then needs replacing.
The Illusive Tulip
On our way home we set off to find the brilliant tulip fields that look so awesome in postcards and calendars. Well turns out that it is not as easy as we thought it was going to be. We were in the Netherlands – the flower capital of the world, it is mid April and we found the sign saying tulip route. Our first sighting of the illusive tulip was in a ploughed dirt field. I likened it to a desert rose. Pretty as a picture, a rare gem in the rough that’s what we were thinking. Then we found the green field with fresh tulip buds not quite ready to bust open. What a sight this will be in a few weeks time.
We enjoyed the thrill of the tulip hunt. We are now officially flower stalkers. Rob was the first one on the field leading the chase. His mum would have been so proud of him as she is a true flower lover. Each year her newly planted flower beds are just stunning. I think I had flower envy over her huge sunflowers which beamed in their garden last year.
We understand that this year due to the extremely long cold winter the flowers are all blossoming later. It highlights the delicate balance between flora and the seasonal weather. This makes the sight of all spring flowers so special and very exciting!