Sinterklaas V Santa Claus

Hi there:-) We usually give holiday tips for your stay in Holland, but this time we wish to share some deeply rooted, Dutch folklore. If you travel to Holland early December, you will experience “Sinterklaas”, a feast for families, especially for young children who strongly believe that Sinterklaas is real, until they are told by their parents, or accidentally hear from their bigger sibling, that it’s all a load of hog… much like the case of the other famous presents-giving character dressed in red.

Every year, on December 5th, Holland (and parts of it’s former colonies) celebrate “Sinterklaas”. Sinterklaas is a “saint” who lives in Spain and comes to Holland by boat on December 5th. Along with him are his helpers, “Black Peeters”, as well as his white horse. Sinterklaas comes to Holland to hand out presents to all the well-behaving children (and to the badly-behaving as well, don’t worry parents:-)). He rides on the slippery and snowy rooftops of our Dutch houses on his white horse (yes, he’s an excellent horse rider!) and the black Peters go down the chimneys (or sneak into the house otherwise if there is no chimney) at night to deliver  presents and sweets to be found by anticipating children the next morning.

In earlier days, well-behaving children would get sweets and presents, whereas badly behaving children would get a symbolic (or actual:-() cane for a “good old fashioned” beating up and were made to believe Sinterklaas would take them with him in bags to Spain..don’t you just love rigid Dutch education!

Sinterklaas, a bishop who lived in today’s Turkey (Myra) in 3 AC, is a guardian of children and sea men, unmarried women and…oh, prostitutes. On your trip to Amsterdam, you can visit the Nicolaas Kerk which is dedicated to this Saint.  You’ll find the church between the water where ships would come in and sail out, and the Wallen (“Shores/Strand”), internationally known as the Red Light District,  and it’s location is one for obvious reasons…

All things said, today, Sinterklaas is a happy occasion for all…that is…
For the last few years, there has been, to say the least, a “vivid discussion” concerning Sinterklaas’ helpers, the Black Peeters. Black Peeters are often white people, made up looking like black people (see blog picture). Some dark(er) skinned people in Holland today, take offence in the matter, and relate the origin of the holiday to the Dutch slavery past.  “Conservative” Sinterklaas celebrators argued that the black skin is merely  derived from “travelling down the chimneys”, and does not have anything to do with the issue of African descent nor slavery, although this argument is somewhat dismissed today. As a result of public pressure, Black Peeters in recent years, have not been made to look black anymore. They have all kinds of colors smeared on their faces, or just just a few coal stains from “going down the chimney”, and they are usually just called “Piet” (Peter).

It is assumed that over time, the Santa Claus story developed from the Sinterklaas story and other European stories alike. Dutch immigrants in the New World may have adjusted their holiday to their new environment (reindeer instead of a horse) and the holiday was probably also influenced by similar holidays celebrated by immigrants from other parts of the “Old World”.

Anyway, if you’re planning a trip to Holland with your youngsters at the beginning of December , (when fare prices are lower, yeah), join the crowds and welcome Sinterklaas anywhere in Holland! Your children won’t regret it, that’s for sure!

 

 

Nice to Meet You!

Here we are, Petra and Jennifer, mother and daughter from Holland starting a new blog about…obviously…Holland, our beautiful country. Our blogs are in Hebrew and in English. Petra lives in Holland, Jennifer has been living in Israel for the last 23 years.

We are here to help you plan your next trip to Holland, our beautiful country. We will give you insider’s tips, the hottest recommendations and lots of fun information. Wishing you a nice trip on our website and to Holland of course! Oh and please – subscribe and share, thank you!:-)

header picture taken by Aleš Krivec

“This Is Holland”

Waiting for the ferry to:
“This is Holland”

Hey ya:-) I just came back to Israel from my 2 1/2 week trip to my motherland Holland. It was great being home again!!! We experienced so many things which we will share with you. One of the highlights was the fairly new “THIS IS HOLLAND – the ultimate flight experience”. It’s basically a huge flight simulator which takes 20 people seated in two big chairlifts “soaring” through the Dutch skies while looking down on interesting and famous places and sites. The high quality screen, all around you while you are hanging in midair in a big sphere, including added movement, water drops and scent, grants the experience of actual flight. It is an amazing experience, a new highlight in Amsterdam: we whole-heartedly recommend it!

See  link underneath for more information about prices etc. (In Dutch, German and English)
(Minimum body length requirement is 1.20 mtrs., accessible for handicapped people)

https://www.thisisholland.com/en/home/

DIRECTIONS:
At Amsterdam Central Station, follow the signs to the IJ side (IJ-zijde). When you reach the river IJ, turn left and walk to the free ferry (the sign next to the two ferries reads:  “Buiksloterweg”), which will take you across the river IJ within 3 minutes. After you get off the ferry, turn left and walk (two minutes only!) to THIS IS HOLLAND.
After the experience, you can take the ferry back towards Central Station and leave the train station on the other side to proceed towards Dam Square and other popular sites in the city centre.

Wet Monkeys

Petra means monkey business

 

“King Julian” 
Northern Bald Ibis, critically endangered
Darwin’s Rhea

Last week we visited a park called “Apenheul” (“Monkey Hill”) near Apeldoorn. This park has over 200 monkeys walking around freely between the visitors…unique in the world. The park is beautifully designed and maintained and it’s wonderful to see so many monkeys walking and running about freely in very large areas! Besides numerous kinds of monkeys, there are also other animals, mainly birds, and some of them are quite rare (see pictures above). While monkeying around, we were taken by surprise by the rain… a massive cloudburst (yes, that’s Petra you hear as she’s getting the giggles to keep from crying:-)) which chased all of the visitors out of the park instantly! We had forgotten to check the weather forecast for that day and area…so unprofessional…:-)

 

Rain or No Rain?? That’s the question. (in Holland anyway)
Here are two sites where most Dutch people check the “weer”…”weather” on a daily basis and before they go anywhere:

https://www.weeronline.nl/

https://www.buienradar.nl/

Good for your Dutch practice too!

Giethoorn= Venice Dutch Style

Giethoorn is a village often called “Venice of the North”.  Its beautiful picturesque village houses are situated along little channels which flow into a shallow, natural lake. The lake is very suitable for water sports, especially for windsurfing and sailing.  Dutch children learn how to sail here because when you stand just about anywhere in the Giethoorn lake, your head will be well above the water. Besides sailing and windsurfing, you will find electric boats on the Giethoorn channels and lake which you can rent by the hour, half a day or full day. You can also rent faster, motorised boats but these are far more expensive and in our opinion, you should be at least a bit knowledgeable or experienced on how to manoeuvre a boat and about “traffic rules” on the water. By car it takes about an hour and a half to get there from Amsterdam, but it is certainly worth the effort. In Giethoorn there are a few electric boat rental places to explore the beautiful village, its channels and lake.

www.giethoorn.com

National park de Weerribben-Wieden

We also visited the  National Park “de Weerribben-Wieden” which is close to Giethoorn. In contrary to the Giethoorn lake, created by forces of nature, the much larger waters of this national park ” de Weerribben-Wieden”, were formed as a result of human activity: from the Middle Ages, and until shortly after W.W.II, peat was stacked in this once swampy area. When the peat ran out, the wholes filled up with water and the locals went from peat stacking to being fishermen.  There is lots of wildlife in and around these waters such as otters, and some quite rare birds like the bittern (in Dutch: Roerdomp) and the bearded reedling. Listen to the bittern’s call (0.27 sec.) you may recognise it from between the reed when you are in Giethoorn. Eventually, the lakes dried up as a result of changed weather conditions, and vegetation existed mainly of reed. Fishing was then replaced by reed industry which had various end products such as house-roof sheeting, a typical Dutch product you find on roof tops all over the Dutch rural landscape. Today, both Giethoorn and the nearby National Park “de Weerribben-Wieden” are maintained and protected but also used for recreational purposes, open to the (international) public which comes from very far and really appreciates the beauty and uniqueness of these sites.

Visit: National Park “de Weeribben-Wieden”
and: np-weerribbenwieden.nl

Giethoorn by boat with undoubtedly the best skipper in the world!:-)

Rotterdam

Photo: User:IncMan
The famous cubehouses of Rotterdam

At a distance of less than 80 km’s south of Amsterdam, you’ll find the city of Rotterdam; the city where Petra was born and raised.  In Holland and even beyond, the city is famous for its citizens’ attitude to life which is best captivated in the saying:
Don’t talk but work.”
This attitude certainly shows in this modern city. The city has a very diverse infrastructure and lots of contemporary architecture. You can discover Rotterdam by various means of highly enjoyable transport:

City-sightseeing-rotterdam.com
This is an hop on-hop off bus with 6 stops throughout the city.

cityrotterdam.com
This is a hop on- hop off  historical tram( lijn 10). The tram is over 80 years old and is operated between the end of April and the end of October only.

spido.nl
This is a sight seeing boat trip around the enormous and famous harbours, the heart of Rotterdam.

water taxi rotterdam.nl
This small but quite fast boat, the “water taxi”, gets you across the river Maas which runs right through the city.

cityguiderotterdam.com
This guide provides you with all the information about the metro.

Waterbus.nl
This is a boat which takes you into Rotterdam but also goes to the nearby city of Dordrecht and additional places worth visiting.

splashtours.nl
This is an exciting tour on an amphibian bus, much like the famous London “Duck Tours”.

As you can see, there are plenty, fun ways of getting around in Rotterdam and see the sights!

Sink your fangs into some lovely… DUTCH APPLE TART…”APPELTAART”

Here’s grandma’s recipe for this delicious Dutch apple pie!

serves 12

For the PASTRY
250g plain flour
175g butter, softened
80g caster sugar
2 eggs (one and a half for the pastry mixture, half for brushing the top)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the FILLING
1kg apples (bit sour)
50g caster sugar
70g sultanas
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

METHOD
prep. 25 min         cook 1 hr
1. mix the flour, softened butter, sugar, cinnamon and one and a half eggs in a bowl. Knead it with your hands to a  consistent smooth dough.

2. roll out 3/4 of the dough to cover the bottom and sides of a greased  ROUND (24 cm) cake tin or spring form tin.

3. Preheat the oven to 170 C / gas 3

4. Peel, core and slice the apples. Mix this with 50g sugar, sultanas and cinnamon. Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

5. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into long strips, each about 1 cm wide. Start with the longest strips and lay the first two in an X in the centre of the pie. Alternate horizontal and vertical strips, weaving them in an over-and-under pattern. Use the shortest strips for the edges. If you are having trouble removing the dough from the work surface, roll the strips up like a rug and unroll them onto the pie. Press the end of the strips firmly to the edge of the pie and trim away any excess dough with a knife. Brush with remaining (beaten) egg.

6. Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until pastry is light brown.

Oh, and add a fair amount of sweetened whipped cream next to your slice for the ultimate Dutch experience!

EET SMAKELIJK! (Bon Appetit!)

 

WALIBI Holland

Ready for some Dutch excitement?!?!

GOLIATH

ROBIN HOOD
EXCALIBUR, G-FORCE, THE TOMAHAWK, SPACE SHOT,
CONDOR and SKYDIVER

These are some of the THRILL rides, you will find in WALIBI
PARK, situated in Biddinghuizen.

It will take you about one hour to get from Amsterdam to Biddinghuizen, the distance is about 70 km.

For the ones who are not such  dare devils, there are plenty of other fun things to do.
During the high season, you should take into account that the waiting time for the attractions can be long.
There is a way to avoid tedious waiting in line, but it will cost you quite a bit more (worthwhile though…in our opinion): the popular attractions are so called fast lane rides: you can get a bronze, silver of gold fast lane ticket for resp. 20, 30 or 50 euros, on top of the entry fee.
We took the silver ticket, which was very enjoyable.

Maybe you cannot get enough of the excitement, or you wish to explore the local area and you would like to stay overnight.  There are several types of cottages for rent at the park, but there are plenty of hotels in the vicinity as well.

 

Tour de Volendam-Marken

Every day, people from all over the world visit the villages of Volendam and Marken, which are situated on and in the Markermeer, the southern part of the IJsselmeer. (“meer” = lake) This area is close to Amsterdam, even in biking range, but has its own unique atmosphere. We were there too, last August… and here’s what we did 🙂

We spent a lovely, long weekend at the Marina Park, a nicely designed holiday park with many facilities, within walking distance from Volendam. The park is built in the typical Volendam architectural style and is situated on the shores of the Marker lake, offering nice accommodation in a great location. It has a closed off harbour for private boats, but there is a rental company that rents out power engine rubber boats for the public at large.

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Volendam has its characteristic small, narrow houses, an old harbour overlooking the Markermeer and the well known DIJK (Dike).  During the summer, tourists enjoy  browsing the small shops, the many restaurants and relax with a drink or a meal on one of the pub’s terraces on the waterfront. Volendam is mainly known for its remarkable, regional costume; you can see pictures of the costume everywhere and there are a few shops where you can have your photo taken wearing one…just what you need over your mantel stove!

From the harbour, boats are seen sailing to and fro Marken. You can board a sailing boat, learn a thing or two about sailing from the pro’s and explore the lake. There is also a ferry, “the Marken Express“, which runs back and forth a couple of times a day between Volendam and Marken. We thought it was an enjoyable way of travelling back to Volendam and complete our circular tour.

Entering the harbour of Volendam. Picture taken from the “Marken Express” ferry

Marken was a small island until the year of 1957. That is when it was connected to the main land by means of a 7-kilometre-long dike…great for biking! We rented electric bikes here in Volendam (a good idea for the less – or untrained biker…there can be pretty strong winds on those dikes:-)) for a very reasonable price, and we set out on a wonderful 25 km. long biking trip to Marken via Monnickendam and other pretty villages, onto the 7 km. long dike which connects the island Marken with the main land. We cycled over the dike to Marken, had a look around in the pittoresque harbour village, cycled to the north side of the island towards the light house, “the White Horse“, which faces the waters of the extended IJsselmeer. In the afternoon, after having visited Marken, we took the Marken Express ferry back to Volendam, which took about half an hour. It’s no problem to take your bike onto the ferry, you just pay a little extra.

 

Light house “The White Horse”, Marken

There are plenty of biking routes in the area, which take you along the waterfront and into the beautiful Dutch countryside with many authentic small  cobble stone villages such as Monnickendam. The various landscapes, sea, grassy planes and old villages, are all absolutely breathtaking. Here is a great app for finding and designing your own biking routes in Holland, very handy and user friendly. You can add stops wherever you like on your route and the app will give suggestions for sights and activities in the areas of the stops you desire. Brilliant!

Another fun activity is to rent an electric boat in Edam. Pub/Cafe “de Harmonie” offers boats on the channels of Edam, yes, the village of that famous Dutch cheese. Take a map with you and sail away!

After a long bike ride through Volendam, Monnickendam, Marken, do what the Dutch do after a sportive, or any other effort…time for a cup of coffee or tea, a prosecco or a nice cold beer, even better…
You could  try the local smoked eel…it’s considered a delicacy!

Or maybe just play it safe with a bag of the famous Dutch chips!

Munching away in the harbour of Volendam

Whatever you do, have fun!!!!

Here are some more pictures from our trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Written in the Stars

Holland has many little treasures all over, waiting to be discovered.  Sometimes, such little treasures need to be whispered into your ear, so you’ll know where to look and to discover them.
If you are staying in Amsterdam or surroundings, you can drive over the “Afsluitdijk“, a shortcut over water, bridging the West and the North of Holland. In the North of Holland, in the province of Friesland, you can find many treasures, such as these:

The Antique Planetarium in Franeker

This planetarium, a scaled model of our solar system, is situated in the village of Franeker in Friesland and was built between 1774 and 1781. It has been working ever since. It was built by an enlightened amateur-astronomer by the name of Eise Eisinga, who constructed the mechanical planetarium according to astronomic insights at the time. Saturn was the farthest known planet back then. Besides the very impressive planetarium, there are exhibits of modern astronomy, documentaries, temporary exhibitions and an interactive exposition; “Space”. You can visit the scientist’s historic house and browse through his beautiful manuscripts.
This planetarium is the oldest working planetarium in the world.

If you wish to have a look at some antiquities, Franeker has a very nice antique shop “Allegaartje” (a bit of everything“) which sells antiques online as well. The site is not in English so if you are looking for something in particular or if you have a question, email them.

For a beautiful high tea or a nice meal, visit this beautiful pub-restaurant “De Stadstuin“, which is very near to the planetarium. The site is only in Dutch but if you take our “Dutch food test“, you will recognise many typical Dutch dishes on the menu such as kroket, bitterballen and pannekoek.
Tip: try a cup of “planetarium tea” or an ice-cold “planet-beer“.

 

And since you are already in Friesland, the North of Holland, you could combine the Franeker Planetarium with a visit to a museum village in Allingawier (Aldfaers Erf)This is an entire village preserved as it was a 100 years ago, today a cultural-historic museum. You walk around and you can enter every house and find out what a bakery looked like back then, what a black smith and a painter company looked like, and a renovation company. You can get guided tours or walk around by yourself. There is a nice playground for children too. The distance between the planetarium and the museum village is easily do-able, even if you are up North only for the day. This entirely antique village takes you back in time, to the slow rhythm of way back when.

We are sure you will enjoy this relaxing day of “time gone by” up in the North of Holland!