Monday, September 25, 2017

Autumn in Volendam

There are a few events and special places in my Netherlands list. Living in a country but being able to experience it as a tourist is maybe the best way to get to know it. I still have a "first sight" feeling and I want to take advantage of it to have a permanent vacation perspective of the cities.
I didn't think about what to expect from Volendam. I knew it was a fishing village and that we would take the famous photos with traditional Dutch clothes. Sharing my plan on the weekend with my job colleagues revealed a funny smile from them towards my experience. There is a very generic Dutch opinion on experiences and all of them described Volendam as a very touristic thing to do. So, this means they avoid it. Can't understand why.

Me and Silla woke up quite early on a very sunny Saturday to have our breakfast and arrange our car trip to Volendam. We were supposte to meet our friend Alvin that lives only one hour from there. On the way there we had to cross Friesland and landscapes are aways breath taking for me. A very rural country with big fields. Farming is quite advanced and heavy machinery is a constant. Roads are so easy to drive and with a limit of 130km per hour, travelling by car is quite a pleasant adventure. And with the best company in the world, I can't stop saying that I am the luckiest guy alive. Me and Silla like to train our languages while driving. We have the Dutch against the Portuguese language with a lot of english in the middle. Always fun!

Parking is not such a beautiful experience as driving. Here in the Netherlands is one important thing to do before you leave home. Check on google maps where you can leave the car or otherwise prepare to pay a lot to leave your car. Luckily, we found a very nice place next to the stadium, a mere 10 minutes walk to the centre. Volendam is quite busy, with tourist busses all over the place and people everywhere. Still it was quite easy to find Alvin and finally we were ready to enjoy our day.

We had a brunch in Café Centraal Volendam and we order the special fish here: Eel! They are served smoke and we had in a warmed baguette with a bit salad next to it. This fat speciality flavour is amazing! You really know you are getting fresh fish. Our friend Alvin had salmon and enjoyed it a lot. It looked amazing! These are quite expensive dishes, being in a very touristic place, but also because eel is becoming an en dangerous species. I have read that they are taken from France and Spain and grown in farms in the North. Pollution and damming of waterways are reducing the fish population.

After brunch we went for our photo experience. There are many shops where you can take pictures with the traditional clothes and I can understand why. It is a very profitable business and  it is considered a kind of a landmark of tourism in the Netherlands. One photo costs 20 euros, but yes, we do have a nice memory to bring home and to give to our family. It is quite a funny experience, as you enter a room full of people dressing up. There are a few girls helping us putting the clothes. A kind of vest and a jacket on to, bug big trousers, a hat and the traditional Dutch wooden shoes. You wait on a queue and then you choose your scenery: a kitchen or an outside of a barn. We choose the kitchen and the pictures can tell you the rest.

We decided to take the boat to the close island of Marken. Today it is not a real island as a road was build to have access to it. The trip is very gentle and calm. You can enjoy a very nice view and have a drink on board. It is a beautiful view and you can see the sailing boats around you, as it is quite popular to do it in this area. The island is very small but it is very traditional. Checking the houses around and the small ways into them, in the middle of the nice fresh smell of hanging clothes is a very calm experience. Time forgot to modernise this small island as they say. We had a few drinks here and headed back after our 2 hour visit.

Volendam has a very sad story to tell and you can see a monument that relates to it. I was quite shocked when I was told about it and I couldn't take my eyes from the place. In the New Year's eve of 2001 people were trapped in a bar where a fire started. Windows had metal bars and were an obstacle to the exit. 14 young people died, 241 went to the hospital and 200 were seriously burned. A terrible landmark but that shouldn't be forgotten and ignored.

We had our dinner in the Café Centraal, as "The Lunch" restaurant was holding a birthday party and all the tables were reserved. Still we had very nice fish and we were quite happy with it.

Time to head back home, while seeing the fog on top of the waters! Unique and relaxing Volendam.

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