Wooden Shoes and Windmills

Trip Start Apr 25, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

Flag of Netherlands  , Utrecht,
Friday, May 17, 2013

 So we jump on the train from Brussels to Amsterdam then spent a few hours walking the main street of Amsterdam - totally amazed at the number of bicycles and canals! I knew Amsterdam had canals but I didn't realise there was a canal every street block!
We visited the Heineken Experience which was good fun! My favourite part was simulation of the beer making process and we were the beer... First the ground moved like we were being rolled and crushed (wheat), then the roof rained on us :) (water added) and then we were mixed around in a whirlpool! On came the heat lamps and we were cooked. Then we rattled along a conveyor belt in the bottles and our caps were stamped on. Next my favourite- the room was filled with bubbles!l as the bottles were cleaned :) 
Next train stop - Utrecht to visit my family! We enjoyed a wonderful family dinner finishing with Mario's homemade ice cream :) amazing! After dinner we drove into the town centre Mario and Gysbertha's place and it wasn't raining so Gysbertha, who is always full of beans :) takes us on a stroll through the town at night to see the canals and Dom Tower all lit up! It was so beautiful!
The following day Gysbertha and Elena took us on a tour through the Dutch countryside through Amsterdam to Volendam - a seaside holiday town with heaps for tourists to show you their traditional Dutch clothes and foods! We enjoyed their apple & cinnamon cake and also salted herring and eel, often served in buns with raw onion. Their fish is salted to be cooked and then the salt is washed off with milk and is served cold in oil! It tastes like normal fish but is incredibly soft and is a strange feeling in your mouth! 
After a fun photo dressed up in traditional clothing (which was so warm!) we visited a clog making factory and cheese factory - lots of Gouda and Edam yuummmm! They also have dips with their cheese.. Not dip on the cracker but on the cheese! 
We headed towards Marken which used to be an isolated island before it was connected to mainland and apparently all the families there were one big family because they all inbred! (like Tasmania haha) all the houses on the island are so cute and matching, they were even all the same colour I guess the island just had one tub of paint to share :)
Later on, I joined Elena for a quick visit to their local supermarket- it was fascinating! In UK I still knew what the products on the shelf were even though the packaging was a bit different, but over here everything was so foreign and interesting! For example, there was a a whole section of shelving just for sprinkles that go on your toast for breakfast!
All the houses I'm Netherlands are quite compact.. The blocks are small so they build up instead of out but I think it's really clever! Nearly every building is 3 storeys. It actually makes getting around the cities easier and quicker as they are less sprawled out - Perth really needs to cotton on to this! 
On Friday, we had a delicious breakfast, courtesy of Mario and Gysbertha, of fresh croissants, ham and cheese (their cheese is amazing we ate it every breakfast!) next, our fantastic tour guide :) Gysbertha took us into the city again. We climbed up the 465 very small and very steep steps to the top of the Dom Cathedral - the highest cathedral in Netherlands. In the afternoon we toured the museum of music - a collection of the first automatically playing musical instruments from musical clocks to street organs which were epic! I WANT A DANCE ORGAN FOR MY HOUSE! It was really fascinating to think we now just press play on an electronic device and music just comes out! 

Gysbertha showed us a typical Dutch snack shop which you put coins into the slot and open the flap and choose a fab snack - we had croquettes, cheese and beef filling SOOOO GOOD!
To round off our amazing Utrecht tour Gysbertha treated us to a canal ride to experience Utrecht from the water which circled the city centre. In the evening we met back at HQ (Mascali-Zeo residence) where all the family grabbed their umbrellas and we headed out for dinner at a Dutch pancake restaurant! The pancakes are huge! And either savoury or sweet with every topping imaginable even happy meal type things for the kids!

We were totally spoilt by my family! They were so kind letting us stay, feeding us wonderful food, showing us around, paying for everything! and even washing our clothes!! Incredibly generous and hospitable.. we were very blessed and it was so nice to chat and laugh as travelling can be a little lonely when not many people speak your language or they simply don't want to sit down with strangers and chat :) 

 Chel........sea Chelsea Chelsea, the crowd chants as we arrive in Amsterdam. Marijuana fills my nostrils, passing cafes we step into the Heineken Experience, which I keep mistaking as a German beer. Simulating the beer making process we are sprayed, boiled and swished around, then a lesson in pouring and tasting, we shoot off to the train station.
Arriving in Utrecht we are greeted by Pepijn who takes us back to his home to greet the rest of the family. His wife Elena, children Mauro and energetic Sarah and the overly generous Mario and Gysbertha.Treated like a royal couple we endulge in endless tastings and sightseeing.
Feeling like a five year old sponge, I soak up everything I see and learn. From the art of bell playing and tuning, amazing musical history of automatically playing instruments to the process of cheese and clog making.
Heading up to Volendam we are informed of our surrounding's history and importance by Gysbertha and Elena who make great tourist guides. Countless canals and large windmills we begin to see the life of the Dutch.
Jumping into the portal of time I find myself in traditional Dutch clothes, warm woollen tops making me feel slightly slimmer, pants are nice and large to keep the rain from soaking through on rainy fishing days. A stylish furry top hat and finally some wooden clog shoes. I then clutter off to the photography room.
Watching the clogs get made was an interesting experience . The blonde haired blue eyed young Dutchman speaking broken English demonstrates. It's hard to believe in times past it took a whole dat to carve just one pair!
Squished in the toilet with my knees touching the door I ponder the spoilt life of the Australian, a glass of cognac, a slow climb up the stairs I cuddle my wife and nod off to sleep. 

 Dank u wel


Language: Sarah's top 3 spoken words we learnt from her :) 
* lekker - good
* neigh - no
* ick - me

* bike riding is the most popular mode of transport.. It makes the cities feel more like towns as their is far less congestion 
* you only have to be 16 years old to drink here
* this place has a monopoly on the water supply of the world I'm sure. Canals EVERYWHERE!! Lots of dikes built so the country isn't washed away! A lot of it is below sea level or only just above. Nederland translates to 'low country'..

* the oldest wooden shoes (clogs) found here in 1232! 
* the biggest bell in the Dom tower - Maria it's name was, weighed 800kg! And was made in 1505! Hand shaped which affects the tuning. There are no clock makers in existence anymore who can shape the bells by hand like this
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Pepijn,Elena Mauro and Sara on

We loved having you here and hope to see you back later this year. Good luck and enjoy your trip. Big kiss from us all.

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