Highlights of the Week – Week 2

With no blog updates from the last couple of (busy) days and a free weekend ahead of us, I thought now would be a good time for a “Weekly Highlights” post.

Monday was our first day using the vans. Since we’re not bound to the public transportation system, we are can go to more “off the grid” locations that – while perhaps historically or geographically interesting – are not quite important enough for a bus stop.

For our first excursion, we drove through several polders – former lakes that were drained in order to build towns, villages, and farms. These polders (like much of the Netherlands) are lower than sea level and are at a risk for flooding, resulting in the Netherlands’ impressive flood and water management systems.

Notice how straight the road and the canals along the road are as we drive through the polder. This is typical of Dutch polders as they were very well planned out
Notice how straight the road and the canals along the road are as we drive through the polder. This is typical of Dutch polders as they were very well planned out
We stop at the CONO cheese maker in Beemster
We stop at the CONO cheese maker in Beemster

After driving through these polders, we stopped by a windmill museum and got to see the inside of a working (though not operational) windmill. Unfortunately for us (while we were walking around) it was a very windy day. Fortunately for the windmill, this meant that it could spin. We got to see some of the interior workings of the windmill and also the area where the miller would live. Many of the modern-day water pumps in the Netherlands use an Archimedes’ screw to pump water – the same technology that was used in these original windmills to drain lakes.

The windmill museum we stopped at. On days when the wind is not as strong, cloth sails can be put on the windmill in order to catch more wind
The windmill museum we stopped at. On days when the wind is not as strong, cloth sails can be put on the windmill in order to catch more wind
Turning the Archimedes' screw to take water out of the river (and put it promptly back in!)
Turning the Archimedes’ screw to take water out of the river (and put it promptly back in!)

After seeing the windmill museum, we drove along the top of one of the original North Sea Dikes. While the road is only wide enough for one vehicle, it is a two-lane road requiring a great deal of coordination. Luckily, our professors did not have to test their driving skills too much, as there were no other cars on the dike that day. We then drove to the newer sections of the North Sea dike, which is currently under construction to make it even more resistant to flooding (the new improvements will be rated to withstand a 1-in-100,000 year flooding event)

Driving along the old North Sea dike. Notice how high the dike (and road) is compared to the pool of water on the right
Driving along the old North Sea dike. Notice how high the dike (and road) is compared to the pool of water on the right
Many ran up to the top of the dike
Many ran up to the top of the dike
Others walked
Others walked
Reaching the top of the dike
Reaching the top of the dike
"You will smile and you will like it!" - Bob
“You will smile and you will like it!” – Bob
Looking from the top of the dike into the area below
Looking from the top of the dike into the area below
Standing at the top of the North Sea Dike it was very windy. The sea is just barely visible past the barrier
Standing at the top of the North Sea Dike it was very windy. The sea is just barely visible past the barrier

Tuesday we continued our tour of the drained lakes, visiting some polders created by the draining of the Zuiderzee and the creation of the freshwater IJsselmeer (Note: this is not a typo – ij is considered a digraph in Dutch and when a word starts with ij and is capitalized, both letters are capitalized – the more you know!). One of the first sites we visited was the town of Urk, which used to be an island in the Zuiderzee. As islands in the Zuiderzee were incorporated into the mainland Zuiderzee was drained, the economies and societies in these islands often changed dramatically. Fortunately for Urk, much of it remained coastal and Urk is still an important fishing port today.

A statue of a woman watching the sea and waiting for her husband and sons to return. Unfortunately, many sailors did not return.
A statue of a woman watching the sea and waiting for her husband and sons to return. Unfortunately, many sailors did not return.
A memorial to all of the sailors who lost their lives while working out of Urk.
A memorial to all of the sailors who lost their lives while working out of Urk.
Unfortunately, accidents still occur in modern times. Fortunately, there are very few
Unfortunately, accidents still occur in modern times. Fortunately, there are very few
On a stormy day, the water near Urk (and places close to the coast) can be quite threatening. Note (just barely visible in the background) the modern windmills taking advantage of the strong winds. These wind farms are controversial in the Netherlands, with many being placed off the coast to preserve landscape aesthetics
On a stormy day, the water near Urk (and places close to the coast) can be quite threatening. Note (just barely visible in the background) the modern windmills taking advantage of the strong winds. These wind farms are controversial in the Netherlands, with many being placed off the coast to preserve landscape aesthetics
One of the churches in Urk
One of the churches in Urk
Urk remains an active fishing community
Urk remains an active fishing community
One of the larger ships in the dry dock at Urk
One of the larger ships in the dry dock at Urk
"Check out my boat, guys"
“Check out my boat, guys”

After visiting Urk we stopped at the (former) island of Schokland. Over the years – because Schokland was primarily a sandy island – it shrunk as the wind beat against it. Eventually the island itself became too small to be inhabitable and was incorporated into the mainland. Unfortunately, this day was very rainy, so good pictures are few and far between.

Here we can see the remains of the sea wall that separated the island of Schokland from the water.
Here we can see the remains of the sea wall that separated the island of Schokland from the water.
Another view of the sea wall at Schokland
Another view of the sea wall at Schokland
The weather at Schokland was not pleasant. Nevertheless, we had fun (sort of haha)
The weather at Schokland was not pleasant. Nevertheless, we had fun (sort of haha)

On Wednesday, we made the 2.5 hour drive up to the city of Groningen, where we were hosted by the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen). There, we had a short lecture about earthquakes in the Groningen area. This is an especially interesting topic as earthquakes are not natural in the Groningen area, starting less than 10 years ago. These earthquakes are also interesting because they are man-made – as natural gas is removed from the ground, the ground shifts and earthquakes occur.

Arriving at the University of Groningen
Arriving at the University of Groningen
During the presentation at the University, we were treated to coffee and breads
During the presentation at the University, we were treated to coffee and breads

After this short but interesting lecture, we got on a large bus and drove around the area north of Groningen. We first stopped at a small town and had lunch at a local café. The owner told us of how the café was severely damaged during one of the earthquakes and had to be closed for three months for repairs. While the cost of the repairs is covered by the NAM (a joint venture between Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil), revenues from lost business are not covered, highlighting the frustrations of many locals and the importance of earthquake management.

Our bus gets ready to leave the University
Our bus gets ready to leave the University
Marcus, as usual, finds something funny
Marcus, as usual, finds something funny
This historic cafe is a popular destination for cyclists touring the country
This historic cafe is a popular destination for cyclists touring the country
Our lunch consisted of sandwiches and mustard soup, a local Groningen favorite
Our lunch consisted of sandwiches and mustard soup, a local Groningen favorite
Lunch was very good
Lunch was very good
Shenanigans at the lunch table
Shenanigans at the lunch table
The owner of the cafe explains to our group how damage from the earthquakes has affected his business. At one point there was a crack so big that he could stick his hand through it. While the gas company paid for the repairs to the building, it was closed for business for over 3 months
The owner of the cafe explains to our group how damage from the earthquakes has affected his business. At one point there was a crack so big that he could stick his hand through it. While the gas company paid for the repairs to the building, it was closed for business for over 3 months
The chairman of a group of concerned citizens advocating for transparency from the gas companies
The chairman of a group of concerned citizens advocating for transparency from the gas companies
Leaving the Cafe Hammingh
Leaving the Cafe Hammingh

After lunch we visited a dike and small water pumping station north of Groningen. Just a few days before our visit, there was a small flood in the area and debris left by the waters makes the high point of the flood. We then visited a pumping station operated by the local Waterschap (water board). These regional water boards manage many aspects of water in the surrounding area, including water levels, water quality, and sewage management. There, we heard a short presentation about the responsibilities and functions of the pumping station and water boards in general. After leaving the water board we visited another small town and saw a local church. For our last stop, we stopped at one of the NAP’s natural gas extraction facilities. This extraction facility was surprisingly open, with only a gate protecting the facility from the outside world. At the end of our trip, we were treated to dinner with some of the University of Groningen students, many of whom will be visiting Calvin this spring.

One of the dikes and a smaller modern pumping station
One of the dikes and a smaller modern pumping station
Our guide, Eric, is a professor of geography at the University of Groningen. He was friendly and knowledgeable
Our guide, Eric, is a professor of geography at the University of Groningen. He was friendly and knowledgeable
One of the smallest operational harbors in the Netherlands. This photo was taken right where the flood waters were a few days ago.
One of the smallest operational harbors in the Netherlands. This photo was taken right where the flood waters were a few days ago.
Here we can see debris left from the water after a small flood only a few days before. This point is several meters about the current level of the water.
Here we can see debris left from the water after a small flood only a few days before. This point is several meters about the current level of the water.
When the tide is low, you can walk to the islands in the distance. However, our guide said that some of the water drainage ditches are 100 meters deep. Caution!
When the tide is low, you can walk to the islands in the distance. However, our guide said that some of the water drainage ditches are 100 meters deep. Caution!
It was quite windy and cold at the end of the dock
It was quite windy and cold at the end of the dock
One of the modern water pumps
One of the modern water pumps
The manager of the pumping station gives a presentation (in Dutch) while our guide translates
The manager of the pumping station gives a presentation (in Dutch) while our guide translates
Our group listens intently to the presentations
Our group listens intently to the presentations
The pumping station we visited said that they bought an American flag so that they could fly it when we visited. We (at least the US students) felt quite honored
The pumping station we visited said that they bought an American flag so that they could fly it when we visited. We (at least the US students) felt quite honored
Walking back from the modern-day pumping station. The weather is finally starting to look better!
Walking back from the modern-day pumping station. The weather is finally starting to look better!
As we stopped at the church, the rain finally stopped and the sun came out. Note the golden glow of the sunset
As we stopped at the church, the rain finally stopped and the sun came out. Note the golden glow of the sunset
"As you can see, there is not much protecting the station. Someone could easily get in and cause a lot of trouble. I believe you would call them a nutcase?" - Our guide
“As you can see, there is not much protecting the station. Someone could easily get in and cause a lot of trouble. I believe you would call them a nutcase?” – Our guide, Eric 

After all of our excursions to the north of the country, we finally took a trip to the south when we visited Utrecht on Thursday. The first place we visited in Utrecht was the Domkerk (“Home Church” of the Bishopric of Utrecht). Initially a Catholic church, almost half of the church is “missing” – part of the church was constructed during the Reformation and resource were low, so the flying buttresses that support the rest of the church were not able to be constructed in this section and, during a wind storm, that section of the church blew down. Fortunately, the church tower remained standing and we climbed to the top of the tower, nearly 100 meters above the streets of Utrecht. After visiting the Domkerk, we saw a few more sights around town before heading to the town of Maarssen along the Vecht River where wealthy merchants would often build summer homes.

Herm explains some of the history and significance Utrecht

If the middle part of the church had not collapsed, this picture would have been taken from the inside of the church (and would have been of a ceiling!)
If the middle part of the church had not collapsed, this picture would have been taken from the inside of the church (and would have been of a ceiling!)
The Domkerk is also called St. Martin's Cathedral. This relief shows St. Martin cutting off part of his cloak and giving it to a freezing beggar, earning him sainthood
The Domkerk is also called St. Martin’s Cathedral. This relief shows St. Martin cutting off part of his cloak and giving it to a freezing beggar, earning him sainthood
Climbing some of the many stairs in the Domkerk tower
Climbing some of the many stairs in the Domkerk tower
One of the very large bells in the church tower
One of the very large bells in the church tower
We could really feel the wind as we stood on one of the outside platforms on the church tower
We could really feel the wind as we stood on one of the outside platforms on the church tower
A view of Utrecht from the Domkerk tower. Note the cross shape typical of Catholic cathedrals of the rest of the cathedral below
A view of Utrecht from the Domkerk tower. Note the cross shape typical of Catholic cathedrals of the rest of the cathedral below
Eating lunch
Eating lunch
Even though we were under a roof, we were still in the open air
Even though we were under a roof, we were still in the open air
Everyone is thankful to be out of the rain for a short while
Everyone is thankful to be out of the rain for a short while
Some of the Gothic-inspired flying buttresses of the Domkerk. If the middle section of the church had these buttresses, it probably wouldn't have collapsed.
Some of the Gothic-inspired flying buttresses of the Domkerk. If the middle section of the church had these buttresses, it probably wouldn’t have collapsed.
This brick building is allegedly where the Union of Utrecht was signed, unifying the northern Dutch provinces
This brick building is allegedly where the Union of Utrecht was signed, unifying the northern Dutch provinces
After the Netherlands became Protestant, many Catholic icons were (unfortunately) destroyed or covered up. This icon depicts Mary (in the center) holding Baby Jesus
After the Netherlands became Protestant, many Catholic icons were (unfortunately) destroyed or covered up. This icon depicts Mary (in the center) holding Baby Jesus
A painting of John Calvin in a Christian History museum in Utrecht
A painting of John Calvin in a Christian History museum in Utrecht
In Maarssen, we took a tour of an operational Catholic priory lead by one of the nuns.
In Maarssen, we took a tour of an operational Catholic priory lead by one of the nuns.
Walking up the path to one of the summer homes of wealthy Amsterdam merchants from the 1600s
Walking up the path to one of the summer homes of wealthy Amsterdam merchants from the 1600s
Henk goes house hunting "Do you have anything with a little more space?"
Henk goes house hunting
“Do you have anything with a little more space?”
Walking along one of the canals through Maarssen
Walking along one of the canals through Maarssen
Boats still pass through the canals!
Boats still pass through the canals!

Amsterdam

This past weekend we enjoyed a wonderful walking tour through the charming neighborhood of the “Jordaan.” The area is adjacent to the western edge of the Prinsengracht canal ring. Looking over the area is the beautiful Westerkerk (West Church) where some of us worshiped (in a Dutch language service) Sunday morning. Afterwards we enjoyed classic Dutch open-faced egg sandwiches (uitsmijters !) at the nearby cafe, De Oude Wester (The Ol’e Wester).  Enjoy these pictures from that area!  – Herm

Students deciphering a 'gevelsteen' (inlaid carved stone) in the Jordaan.
Students deciphering a ‘gevelsteen’ (inlaid carved stone) in the Jordaan.
Marcus in front of amazing old and leaning facade.
Marcus in front of amazing old and leaning facade.
Uitsmijter sandwiches at the Oude Wester. Hmmm lekker !!
Uitsmijter sandwiches at the Oude Wester. Hmmm lekker !!

Third Day in Amsterdam – New Sections of the City

For our third and final (official) trip into Amsterdam, we visited some of the (relatively) newer parts of the city – constructed after the canal ring system was constructed and expanded. One of the first sites we stopped at was the location of the former headquarters of the Dutch West India Company. While certainly not as familiar as the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compangnie: the VOC) it is of special importance for those from the United States – after the Dutch West India Company founded New Netherlands in North America (later renamed New York), Peter Stuyvesant was chosen as a governor of New Amsterdam (incidentally, he would be the last governor of New Amsterdam). Peter Stuyvesant is also known for building what would later become Wall Street and Broadway.

Piet Heyn, Vice-Admiral of the Dutch West India Company
Piet Heyn, Vice-Admiral of the Dutch West India Company
Peter Stuyvesant, Last Governor of New Amsterdam (New York)
Peter Stuyvesant, Last Governor of New Amsterdam (New York)
A plaque commemorating the relationship between the United States and the Netherlands: "This plaque is presented in the ongoing spirit of over three and a half centuries of friendly Netherlands American relations prompting Dutch and American friends in New York to Contribute towards the renovation of Het West-Indisch Huis (The West-India House) in whose quarters the decision was made to found Nieuw (New) Amsterdam in 1625" - June 21 1984
A plaque commemorating the relationship between the United States and the Netherlands: “This plaque is presented in the ongoing spirit of over three and a half centuries of friendly Netherlands American relations prompting Dutch and American friends in New York to Contribute towards the renovation of Het West-Indisch Huis (The West-India House) in whose quarters the decision was made to found Nieuw (New) Amsterdam in 1625” – June 21 1984

 

Radiating out from the center of Amsterdam are the three canals that were built during Amesterdam’s expansion period. The three main canals are called Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal), and Herengracht (Lord’s Canal – incidentally, this does not refer to medieval lords but to wealthy and powerful merchants in 1600s Amsterdam). As Amsterdam expanded additional space was needed to build new canals and city defenses (the threat from Phillip II and the Spanish army was still looming during this time). In order to make foom for these expansions, land needed to be “reclaimed” from people living in the city and from people living illegally outside of the city’s walls. This practice, referred to as “squatting”, was popular despite the fact that “squatters” did not enjoy any protection from the city – land outside of the city was cheap and those living outside the city had no obligations to the city and did not have to pay taxes. In order to accomodate residents displaced by the expansions a district called Jordaan (from the French word for “garden”) was created. The Jordaan district was inhabited primarily by poorer citizens and eventually the canal running through the district eventually became so polluted and such a health hazard that it needed to be filled in and made into a road. In an interesting twist of fate, what was once a working-class district and the home of both Rembrandt and Anne Frank is not one of the most expensive and desirable housing locations in Amsterdam.

Gevels in Jordaan district of Amsterdam
Gevels in Jordaan district of Amsterdam
The English word "stoop" comes from the Dutch word "stoep" - a raised entryway in front of a house. A fancy stoep indicated wealth, as did a fancy gevel
The English word “stoop” comes from the Dutch word “stoep” – a raised entryway in front of a house. A fancy stoep indicated wealth, as did a fancy gevel
Henk expounds
Henk expounds
A stark contrast between old and new hoisting hooks. These hooks used to (and can still be) used to hoist packages and furniture to top floors
A stark contrast between old and new hoisting hooks. These hooks used to (and can still be) used to hoist packages and furniture to top floors
This large building was built by monks and used as living spaces for the disenfranchised (poor, widowed, etc)
This large building was built by monks and used as living spaces for the disenfranchised (poor, widowed, etc)
Gevelsteen were common in Amsterdam as well - this one indicates that the resident was a letter reader-and-writer (a valuable profession when many were illiterate)
Gevelsteen were common in Amsterdam as well – this one indicates that the resident was a letter reader-and-writer (a valuable profession when many were illiterate)
A side view of the Westerkerk (West Church), a still operational church in Amsterdam
A side view of the Westerkerk (West Church), a still operational church in Amsterdam
The coat of arms of Amsterdam on the spire of the Westerkerk. Amsterdam's coat of arms consists of an escutcheon (decorative shield) with three St. Andrew's Crosses and the Imperial Crown of Austria. No one is totally certain of the meaning of the coat of arms.
The coat of arms of Amsterdam on the spire of the Westerkerk. Amsterdam’s coat of arms consists of an escutcheon (decorative shield) with three St. Andrew’s Crosses and the Imperial Crown of Austria. No one is totally certain of the meaning of the coat of arms.
The private garden of a canal house of a wealthy individual
The private garden of a canal house of a wealthy individual
A painting of the Westerkerk in the winter (from the same home)
A painting of the Westerkerk in the winter (from the same home)
An old Dutch Bible turned to Psalms 83-85
An old Dutch Bible turned to Psalms 83-85

After our walk through the Jordaan region, we were treated to a dinner of rijsttafel (literally “rice table”) – an Indonesian inspired meal consisting of a rice base with sautéed and seasoned meats and vegetables on top (the side dishes are served on the table with the rice, hence the name). While it might seem strange to have an Indonesian dish while staying in the Netherlands, it has an important cultural importance and enjoys significant popularity – up until the 1940s, Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands and Dutch colonists serve rijsttafel in order to give guests a taste of Indonesia as well as display their wealth through exotic dishes.

A sampling of Rijsttafel side dishes
A sampling of Rijsttafel side dishes

Also, some people jumped in the canal in the morning.

The initial jump
The initial jump
The water was also muddier than expected
The water was also muddier than expected

 

Second Day in Amsterdam – Rijksmuseum

After getting off of the bus in Amsterdam we stopped at the Visitor’s Center for the (soon-to-be-completed) Noord/Zuidlijn (North/South Line). As Amsterdam has become more-and-more populated, commuting in the city – even with the Netherlands’ efficient transportation system – has become increasingly difficult. This extension to the existing train route attempts reduce congestion and traffic,  taking an estimated 16 minutes to travel from Station Noord (the North Station) to Station Zuid (the South Station). For both efficiency and aesthetic purposes, much of the route will lie underground. As much of Amsterdam was built on reclaimed land, most of the buildings in Amsterdam are supported by wood piles (posts) driven more than 60 feet into the ground. In many cases the existing piles supporting buildings today are the original piles. To avoid these piles, the underground section of the line follows the existing roads above ground, necessitating complex construction methods such as underground borers.

A model of the Noord/Zuidlijn above a map of Amsterdam
A model of the Noord/Zuidlijn above a map of Amsterdam
Looking at the displays
Looking at the displays
Examining a model of one of the large machines used to bore the tunnels for the tracks
Examining a model of one of the large machines used to bore the tunnels for the tracks
The tooth of one of the borers
The tooth of one of the borers
A model showing what the underground line looks like
A model showing what the underground line looks like
Many old Dutch artifacts were found while digging the underground portion of the line
Many old Dutch artifacts were found while digging the underground portion of the line
Being an important trading center, many international artifacts - such as this Asian vase - were found as well
Being an important trading center, many international artifacts – such as this Asian vase – were found as well

Before heading to the Rijksmuseum (National Museum), we stopped in Leidseplein, one of the famous squares in Amsterdam and renowned for its abundance of restaurants and vibrant night life.

Eating fries and drinking Starbucks in Leidseplein
Eating fries and drinking Starbucks in Leidseplein

Following the completion of a ten-year renovation plan in 2013 (to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), the Rijksmuseum reopened and continues to serve as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands. In order to see the highlights of the museum, our group got guided tours of the main attractions. The Rijksmuseum was moved to its current location by Louis Napoleon (brother of Napoleon Bonaparte). Napoleon Bonaparte created the Kingdom of the Netherlands and made his brother Louis king. At the museum we saw many highlights from the Dutch golden age (the 1600s), including several Rembrandt paintings.

A tapestry
A tapestry: “King Louis Napoleon of Holland donates these trophies to his capitol city of Holland to commemorate the brave Dutch who have conquered their enemies”
Portaits of King Louis Napoleon
Portaits of King Louis Napoleon
The exterior of the Rijksmuseum
The exterior of the Rijksmuseum
The controversial bike path through the museum (originally, the museum did not want the bike path, but pressure from lobby groups won)
The controversial bike path through the museum (originally, the museum did not want the bike path, but pressure from lobby groups won)
A plaque commemorating the reopening of the museum in 2013 and the dedication from the Queen
A plaque commemorating the reopening of the museum in 2013 and the dedication from the Queen
Some of the "Founding Fathers" of the Netherlands
Some of the “Founding Fathers” of the Netherlands
Willem I van Oranje (William I of Orange)
Willem I van Oranje (William I of Orange)
Charles V splits up his kingdom and gives Spain and the Netherlands to his son, Phillip II who would become one of William of Orange's enemies
Charles V splits up his kingdom and gives Spain and the Netherlands to his son, Phillip II who would become one of William of Orange’s enemies
After reading our course book, we had an appreciation for the portraits of these early Dutch figures
After reading our course book, we had an appreciation for the portraits of these early Dutch figures
The impressive library of the Rijksmuseum
The impressive library of the Rijksmuseum
A portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn painted in the style of Rembrandt by one of his friends
A portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn painted in the style of Rembrandt by one of his friends
Admiring the artwork
Admiring the artwork

After leaving the Rijksmuseum, many of us returned to Leidseplein for dinner.

Settling into our Surroundings and our First Trip into Amsterdam

After a four-hour layover in Detroit and a six-hour flight, we finally arrived in Amsterdam after a long day of travel and a six-hour time change on 7 January at around 8:00 am. Unfortunately due to the travel we were not as wide awake as one would expect for a group of college students at 8 in the morning…

Deep in thought
Deep in thought
Updating friends and family
Updating friends and family
Work or play?
Work or play?

Unfortunately very few of us got any sleep on the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam – likely due to the wide breadth of movies available on the flight. After arriving in Amsterdam we cleared customs – the Dutch customs agents were no doubt confused by the large number of student with Dutch last names and US and Canadian passports. We then collected our baggage, got our OV chip cards (used for public transportation), and picked up the vans that will serve as one of our primary means of transportation for the next three weeks – along with the Netherland’s excellent public transportation system. Now that we had our vans and had our luggage loaded into the vans (in what appeared to be a life-sized game of Tetris), we made the short drive to Broek-in-Waterland, where we will be spending the majority of our three weeks in the Netherlands. There we were greeted by the driver of the Albert Heijn truck that delivered the food we ordered. Just as the United States has a penchant for naming supermarkets after individuals (see: Meijer), so too does the Netherlands. Soon after our arrival, we moved our luggage upstairs and into the rooms we will be sleeping in. The bedrooms – though sparse – are comfortable, with bedding and towels provided and a washer and dryer in the building (parents, take note). After we settled in we had our first Dutch-style meal, consisting primarily of bread, cold cuts, cheeses, and a multitude of spreads (such as mayonnaise, spicy mustard, and – of course – Nutella). Following lunch, we had a short time to settle in and get used to our new surroundings before our first official activity in the Dutch Landscapes course.

Our first meal in the Netherlands
Our first meal in the Netherlands
Relaxing after lunch
Relaxing after lunch

After our break, we boarded our vans and drove to the nearby town of Monnickendam where Henk Aay took us on a short tour of the town, which dates back to the 1300s. Interest‌ingly, the name Monnickendam comes from the Dutch word monnick (monk), paying homage to the monks who initially sponsored much of the early water management efforts in the Netherlands (amongst many endeavours), and the local symbol of Monnickendam is a monk carrying a club. One of the first things we saw was the St. Nicolaaskerk, a church dedicated to St. Nicholas (the patron saint of, amongst many other things, fishing, merchants, and sailors – an important figure to the early Dutch, needless to say). The church took over 250 years to finish and as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside.

The symbol of Monnickendam
The symbol of Monnickendam
The front of the St. Nicholas Church
The front of the St. Nicholas Church
St. Nicholas Church side view
St. Nicholas Church side view
Just inside the church
Just inside the church
Church seating
Church seating
Impressive church organ
Impressive church organ

We continued our tour of Monnickendam by waking along many of the paths and bridges though the city and along the canals. There we saw several of old houses built along the roads and canals. Many of these old houses were decorated with facades (gevels) with a unique (and often intricately-carved stone called a geavelsteen). These gevelsteen plaques were often related to the profession of the resident of the house and served as a means to indentify homes as there were no addresses. As one can imagine, things like FedEx overnight delivery likely did not exist and getting mail from other cities probably took a long time. After our tour, we returned to Logement Waterland and had our first group meal together.

Canal in Monnickendam
Canal in Monnickendam
Gavels
Gevels
A more modern gavelsteen
A more modern gevelsteen
A gavelsteen representing a resident's profession
A gevelsteen representing a resident’s profession
Ships docked in canal
Ships docked in canal
Ships docked at Monnickendam
Ships docked at Monnickendam

After dinner we were free, and several members of the group decided to put the Dutch public transportation system to the test and took the bus back into Monnickendam to go to a bar. While the trip to Monnickendam went smoothly, the return trip was a little less smooth (with one group missing two busses and another group walking back to Broek-in-Waterland).

The next morning, we had a Dutch breakfast (which, like a Dutch lunch, consists mostly of the same bread, cold cuts, cheeses, and spreads). We also had our first lecture at 8:30 am – with the aid of several cups of hot coffee, the lecture went smoothly and we all stayed awake. After the lecture, we met two local tour guides for a tour of Broek-in-Waterland. On the tour, we learned the history of Broek-in-Waterland and got to see several of the town’s most important buildings, including the local church and the Beroemde Huis (Famous House). In the local church, ceilings that were one intricately painted were covered over with several layers of paint as Protestants preferred a simpler aesthetic. Likewise, wall and ceiling paintings in the Famous House were also covered with several layers of paint. In both of these buildings, restorers used scalpels to carefully scrape away each layer of paint. Several of these large wall paintings are lost as they were sold to German and American tourists.

Listening to our guide while standing on a bridge - we always need to watch for cars
Listening to our guide while standing on a bridge – we always need to watch for cars
A canal in Broek-in-Waterland
A canal in Broek-in-Waterland
Walking through the streets of Broek-in-Waterland
Walking through the streets of Broek-in-Waterland
Listening intently
Listening intently
Facade on a house
Facade on a house
People spread out and take in the sights
People spread out and take in the sights
Inside the local church
Inside the local church
These paintings were covered by six layers of paint
These paintings were covered by six layers of paint
Church seating
Church seating

 

Church organ
Church organ
An old Bible
An old Bible
Delft tiles depicting the Bible narrative
Delft tiles depicting the Bible narrative
Paintings on the ceiling of the entrance of the Famous House
Paintings on the ceiling of the entrance of the Famous House
The original owner of the house fancied himself as a "macho" man, and this is reflected in much of the artwork
The original owner of the house fancied himself as a “macho” man, and this is reflected in much of the artwork
Local ducks
Local ducks

After our tour of Broek-in-Waterland, we returned to Logement Waterland for lunch and then headed out to the bus stop to catch the bus to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy, windy, and cloudy, but we (thankfully) made several stops at indoor locations. The first place we stopped was the Sint-Nicolaasbasiliek (the Basilica of Saint Nicholas). Like I said, he was a fairly important saint to the early Dutch. We also saw a Catholic church disguised after a house used after Catholics were forced into hiding and secret worship by Protestants in Amsterdam. We also saw several of the canals and buildings of Amsterdam (including a plethora of tourist shops – some sketchier than others).

Our group inside the St. Nicholas Basilica
Our group inside the St. Nicholas Basilica
Stained glass and alter in the Basilica
Stained glass and alter in the Basilica
Basilica seating
Basilica seating
Image of crucified Jesus
Image of crucified Jesus
Amsterdam locals and tourists walk in the rain
Amsterdam locals and tourists walk in the rain
Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam Central Station
Houses right along a canal in Amsterdam
Houses right along a canal in Amsterdam
Amsterdam was very wet
Amsterdam was very wet
Grave of Rembrandt's wife, Saskia
Grave of Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia
Boats and houses in and along canals
Boats and houses in and along canals
Houses were right up against canals to facilitate delivery by boat
Houses were right up against canals to facilitate delivery by boat
The Netherlands is known for its tolerance of many things
The Netherlands is known for its tolerance of many things
However, this tolerance does not extend to false cocaine
However, this tolerance does not extend to false cocaine