Discovering Amsterdam's Waterlands by bike
Riding a bike through the Waterland north of Amsterdam brings us back to the Dutch Golden Age.
Monnickendam: Famous for its
Waterland covers an area of 115 square kilometres, 67 square kilometres of which consists of water - lakes, canals and ditches. It is a former bog area which was drained in the early Middle Ages.
In the 17th century, successful businessmen moved there as they wanted to be close to the Dutch commercial centre and enjoy peace and quiet, but build their homes on relatively large plots of land. Waterland soon became an upscale residential area.
Little has changed in 400 years. In Broek in Waterland, the village closest to Amsterdam, residences of 120 square metres start at 400,000 euros (551,400 dollars). Similar-sized homes dating from the 17th century sell for more than 1.5 million euros.
Waterland consists of 10 small towns and villages, usually made of wood, characteristic of the Dutch Golden Age. The area is best discovered by boat, bike and on foot.
Our journey is a 15-kilometre bike ride, starting and ending in monumental Broek in Waterland.
We begin at the Pannenkoekenhuis (pancake restaurant) ride past the Dorpsstraat - main street - towards the church. Arriving at the former village port Havenrak, we enjoy a beautiful view of the water. We can also buy authentic homemade Dutch food in local stores.
We cross the church square, pass the bridge and turn left to Roomeinde. Riding on narrow dike roads, surrounded by water and ancient villages, our landscape is truly 17th century-like.
Only the sounds of birds, ducks, cows and sheep are audible. One would hardly think the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam was nearby. We continue on the Noordmeerweg, a dike road leading to another lake. After 150 metres, a right turn leads over a bridge on the Het Dee canal past sports fields, and onto the village of Keerngouw to see beautiful pastures where cows and sheep graze here in summer.
After one kilometre, we turn left onto the Overlekergouw, ride another kilometre and follow the road as it turns left after some 700 metres and past the Monnickenlake polder.
The drained land alongside leads past historical farms. At the N247 road, we take the bike tunnel underneath.
We cross, pass over the bridge and turn left, towards the Main Church, bringing us to the Kerkstraat (Church Street) and the historical church clock tower. Like similar villages, this one also has its own pancake restaurant. From April to August, farmers sell their own jams, fresh strawberries, raspberries or cherries by the roadside here.
Most Dutch polder lands were recovered down through the centuries from the sea by pumping engines. De Poel is one of those medieval pumping engines we now pass.
It is time for a tea break in the beautiful tea garden Einde, in the village of Zuiderwoude. After our rest, we continue to the church on our right from where the splendid Amsterdam skyline is visible.
Having reached Monnickendam, we pass the bird view point where all kinds of bird can be watched.
The road will eventually lead us back to Broek in Waterland, the village where we started and supper in one of its picturesque Dutch eateries should not be missed.
Destination: Broek in Waterland is 8 km north of Amsterdam. Climate and best time to travel: April - September. Most airlines fly to Schiphol Airport. The Dutch airline is KLM. Language: Dutch, English. Also, but less frequently: German, French.
10 September 2007
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