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It's Dutch Colonial Williamsburg!

sunny 16 °C

Friday, 25 April 2014
Enkhuizen/Hoorn, The Netherlands

Today was another split day. We set sail late last night across the Ijsselmeer, a VERY large lake similar in size to one of the Great Lakes and sailed all night, including through a pretty spectacular thunderstorm. This morning about 8:30, the captain gave us the alert that we were about to sail through the Hourtribdijk Aqueduct. This is a pretty famous aqueduct, and you all have probably seen pictures of it without knowing the name. You see, it’s the aqueduct where the ships sail OVER the road! There’s a lock set into the dike, and the road runs perpendicular to the lock and under the road. FR-EEEEEAKY! It was quite breezy on the sun deck, but the view was definitely worth it! Think of the engineering required to keep all of that working…awesome!

After subverting all the first law of civil engineering (water runs downhill), we docked in the quaint town of Enkhuizen, in the province of North Holland. Here’s an interesting factoid for you: Holland is actually only two provinces in the country of the Netherlands: North Holland and South Holland. However, this includes the three largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, so most people associate their conception of what is Dutch with these two provinces: windmills, canals, cheese, etc. Anyway, our target for the morning was the open-air Zeiderzeemuseum. It’s a fascinating museum, and the best way I can think to describe it is sort of a Dutch version of Colonial Williamsburg. They have houses, shops, farm buildings, schools, and a church, all of which are original buildings that were saved and moved to the site of the museum in Enkhuizen. They represent various periods in Dutch history, from the late 1800s to the early 20th century, as well as various regions of Holland (NOT the Netherlands). There are craftspeople in the “town”, such as a basket maker and a blacksmith, and they do demonstrations. There is also an apothecary and a baker, as well as an example of a Dutch school with a room representing the early 1900s and one from the 1930s. There are also houses belonging to typical residents, including a “poor widow” who sells flour and kerosene and takes in laundry to support herself, as well as a married couple, the husband of whom was a fisherman who was injured in a boating accident. And just like Williamsburg, and even Plymouth Plantation, the reenactors know only their time period and don’t break character to answer questions. They also have assigned roles. We had a very knowledgeable guide named Yvonne, and several interesting things she told us included:

The clotheslines…they are made of plied rope (two strands twisted together). Rather than clothespins, the rope is untwisted slightly and the edges of the garment are tucked into the twist. This method of fastening works in any kind of breeze, which is important since it was REALLY friggin’ windy today. (You’ll understand when you see my hair in the pictures…it ain’t pretty.)

The roofs are both thatched and tiled. The thatched side is toward the sea, since it can weather the wind better. The tiled side is needed to collect rainwater for drinking, since the water in the omni-present canals is brackish. If there has been no rain for a while and salt from the sea air has crystallized on the roof tiles, there are two rain barrels: one for the first little bit of rain needed to wash the salt off the roof, and the second for the potable water. AND there’s a diverter “trough” between the two! Ingenious!

The trusses or main beams of the house are anchored on the outside of the brick walls (always brick…there are few stones in Holland, while bricks can be manufactured) with large iron brackets. This helps keep the trusses in place as the homes, which are built upon land reclaimed from the sea, settle as the earth compacts beneath them.

Sheep are used to maintain the dikes. Yes, they do a good job of keeping the grass mowed, but their feet (which are daintier than cows) do an excellent job of tamping down the earth of the dike to ensure structural integrity.

I could have spent all day at this fascinating museum (I didn’t even get to the gift shop, and I desperately wanted a book to take home), but we had to cut our visit short because it was time to head back to the ship so we could set sail for Hoorn, our mooring for the rest of the afternoon. Lunch today was one of the best so far: spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and tiny little ebelskivar pancakes for dessert. This is a classical Dutch dessert, and there’s actually a word for it, poffertjes, but if you have the ebelskivar pan from Williams-Sonoma, you can experience them for yourself. Or you could buy me the special ebelskivar iron, and I could make them for you. Regardless of where you get your pancake fix, there were also French fries. I know, French fries don’t go with spaghetti, but they were for some main dish that involved meat and sauce that I had no interest in. Maybe Dutch stew?

After lunch, it was back up the gangplank and onto the motorcoaches for our afternoon outing: a cheese-making farm and a museum with a functioning windmill! On the way to these locations, we actually passed through tulip fields, and I can promise you (and later show you…this Internet is too sketchy to try to post many pictures) that it looks just like the pictures you see: long rows of tulips blooming in color-segregated blocks. Yoeli, our guide, told us that very few of the flowers are actually used—they are grown for the bulbs. But riddle me this, Batman (and maybe this question will get answered tomorrow at Keukenhopf Gardens): to get the flower in the first place, didn’t you have to start with a bulb?? Inquiring minds want to know.

Our first was the cheese-making farm. Well, more accurately it’s a diary farm that also makes cheese. And there were cows. One hundred of them. And they forgot to use their RightGuard this morning, that’s for sure. The farmers, Ari and Corey (the spellings are a phonetic best-guess), are an older couple, and he deals with the cows and she makes the cheese. He utilizes a robotic milking machine, and the cows have been trained (with food coercion) to enter it every eight hours. Each cow has an RFID tag, and if that cow has not been in the milking machine in the last eight hours, the machine dispenses food, then uses laser telemetry to hook Bessie up to the automated milker. Each cow takes about 4-6 minutes to milk, depending on the yield. There is also a robotic manure-cleaning machine that I think needs to be made to work a little harder. Yuck is all I will say about that.

We also got to see the baby calves. On Ari’s farm, the babies are separated from their mothers after 24 hours and are all kept in a special barn, segregated by age group. There was one set of female twin calves, and Ari said that those two calves will remain bonded for life—they will go to the milking machine together, graze together, etc. Apparently, though, if the twins are fraternal (one boy, one girl), that girl calf is of no use because the presence of the male fetus deprives her of the right hormones, and she never develops ovaries. Consequently, she is sent with the male calves to the beef farm to be fattened up and converted to Big Macs.

After tromping through the barns (I’ve never had to check the “I have been in the presence of livestock box” on my customs declaration form before…wonder what’s going to happen?), we went to the cheese-making operation, which is pretty much Corey’s exclusive domain. Using fresh, unpasteurized milk (ergo, no treats for you’uns, as it’s illegal to import unpasteurized cheese products), she heats it, stirs it, adds the rennet and whatever else (maybe some derivative of yogurt bacteria? She spoke English, but I never could understand what she was trying to tell me about how to get different varieties of cheese…and yes, I asked. By the way, Ari didn’t speak English, so Yoeli, the Dutch tour director, had to do simultaneous translation for us!) The whey is drained off after the curds coagulate, then the curds are cut repeatedly until the texture resembles cottage cheese. The curds are packed into a form, then pressed to remove excess moisture. She coats the outside of the cheeses with wax, then the cheese is left to age: 3 weeks for a small cheese, and up to 6 weeks for a larger size. Corey told us that it takes 10 liters of milk to make 1 kg of cheese! Oh, she did explain the difference between Gouda (pronounced “Gow-da,” like “Cow-da,” over her) and Edom: same recipe, different fat content. Gouda is (I think) 24% fat content in the milk, while Edom is 14%. Or maybe it was solids content… anyway, they are fromage kissing cousins.

After sampling the cheese, it was back on the bus for our trip to the Museum-molen, or the Windmill Museum. This museum features a trio of the traditional “Dutch” windmills (you know, the ones you immediately associate with Holland if you see a picture), one of which is still operational and set up for tours. Windmills were originally built to provide the mechanical power necessary (generated by the turning blades) to turn an Archimedian screw that was used to remove water from the polder. (And as near as we are able to tell, a polder is basically the Dutch term for a plot of land enclosed by a dike and from which the water has been removed to reclaim the land.) Since large portions of Holland are several meters below sea level, and given the first law of civil engineering (the second is that water plus dirt equals mud), water removal is an ongoing need. One mill is capable of displacing water about 1.5 meters (or, as we engineers say, the head is about 1.5 meters). If you need to move the water a greater distance, you just build another windmill in series with the first. This is called a windmill trace, by the way, in case this is a Final Jeopardy question some day. And, after displacing the water, the rotational mechanical energy of the mill can be used to grind wheat or other grains to make flour. Also, the direction of the blades is reversible so that it can be tasked to catch the wind, no matter which way it’s blowing. Nifty, hunh? And just like a lighthouse keeper, the miller lives IN the mill!

Then it was back to the ship. We had time to walk around the little town of Hoorn, but we had to do it quickly: all the shops closed around 6:00 pm. We did find one little ticky-tacky tourist shop still open, but it was perfect for what we were looking for: orange accessories to help celebrate King’s Day tomorrow. I picked up a lovely orange crown headband, and Julie got an orange flower lei. We saw Dutch people walking around with similar items, so I think we’ll blend in to what has been promised to be a helluva party. (I’m picturing Mardi Gras with Dutch accents! Hope there are no beads to be won…) I did feel badly, because I bought a magnet and in the course of doing so knocked a little ceramic magnet to the floor, where of course it broke. I apologized to the shopkeeper, who told me that breaking things is good luck in Holland. I offered to pay for it, and even introduced him to the expression, “You break it, you bought it,” but he wouldn’t let me pay him for it. I hope he does a booming business in orange leis and tiaras tomorrow!

We had a lovely dinner with our new friends Stephanie and Ann (you know, our future selves), including cherries jubilee flambéed right in front of us for dessert, then it was back to the room to rest up. Tomorrow is the grand finale: Keukenhopf Gardens and the Rijksmuseum in the midst of the King’s Day chaos in Amsterdam. This oughtta be an interesting experience!

Love from Hoorn…

Posted by hidburch 14:37 Archived in Netherlands Tagged windmill cows cheese hoorn enkhuizen zeiderzeemuseum museum-molen

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