Our Barge, Odysseus

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Holland: Home of Happy Cows and Don Rediscovers Google Earth

If you've seen the tv ads, California cheese's claim to fame is that it comes from happy cows. The cows in Holland must be ecstatic because they have a lot of cheese here. That brings us to Alkmaar and the primary reason for our visit, the traditional cheese market. Begun in the 17th century, every Friday between April and September about 30,000 kg of cheese is stacked in the central square (Waagplein or Weigh Square) beginning at about 7 am. At 10 am a bell is rung, and with hundreds of tourists watching, dealers and testers check out the rounds and deals are made. Then porters in their colorful hats load the rounds onto wooden sledges and carry them to the weighmaster. That task complete, the cheese is then loaded on to carts, then into trucks and off to it's final destination. It's all quite a show. The big conglomerates control the cheese trade these days but this is a good re-creation of the way things used to be.

We didn't get there early enough to be at the front of the crowd so the pictures were a little sparse but you can get the idea.

These are a couple of the porters doing their job.

The mooring spot we had in town was very picturesque; on a little side channel off the main canal.

And as the headline says, I remembered Google Earth so here's a shot of the mooring spot from overhead. The Waagplein is to the left and we were tied up about where that first boat is on the side canal at that runs from left to right. When we were there that whole first section of canal was full every night, with boats going past the second small lift bridge further down the canal.

Also, we continue to marvel at our mooring spot in Haarlem, right in the middle of town so here's a shot of it too. We were tied up under the trees just behind where that big barge is preparing to go through the lift bridge in the center of the picture. The Grote Kerk (home of the Muller Organ) is just above and to the left.

These GE pics are just thumbnails. If you click on the picture here you should get a bigger view.

After the excitement of the cheese market it was off to the east to visit Prumerend and the coast. We had very relaxing few hours underway; the weather was very pleasant and there was no traffic on the canal except for a traditional Dutch sailing barge ... actually sailing the canal!

From Purmerend we bicycled out to Edam and the coast of what used to be the Zuider Zee, now enclosed by dikes and called the Marker Meer. It was a beautiful day and a light breeze so the water was a busy place with lots of sailboats. The next day was clear but really windy so we stayed put and did a little maintenance. We weren't actually tied up in the town spaces but staked to the bank on the other side so it was free. Tuesday it was just a 2 hour trip down the Noorhollandsch Kanaal to the big city, Amsterdam!

No comments: