The Alkmaar Cheese Market and windmills

Cheese trading started in Alkmaar in 1365, and at that time the city owned only one set of scales.

 

The bell rings at 10am every Friday for the start of the market, where thousands of kilo’s of cheese are sold every week.

The cheese is inspected and tested by inserting a special cheese scoop into it.   It must smell and taste perfect before it is sold.

The auction starts where bidders clap their hands to bid, and the last clapper is the winner.

Then the cheese carriers come in and load the cheese onto their barrow, each cheese weighs about 13.5 kg, and they load 10 cheeses at a time.

They walk with a special ‘dribble’ a particular walk/run to make sure the barrow hangs still.

We caught a canal boat from right out front of our camping spot into Alkmaar, then he took us on a windmill tour on the way back later in the afternoon.

WINDMILLS.

I thought that windmills only ground flour, how wrong was I!

They are used to pumpwater, an important job here in Holland, but they can also used to make paint, mustard, paper and as a saw mills.,  and loads more. You can probably bet which one Brian wanted to go into.

Claude Monet was fascinated by this area and produced 25 or so paintings of the region, The Voorzaan and the Westerhem being the most well known.

 

 

THE NETHERLANDS

We have been to the Netherlands previously, but not in a camping car where you can get a really good look around, and do a bit of ‘eten & drinken’ as the Dutch say..

Our route takes us across the 30kms dijk, yes 30kms long, and it was built mostly by hand.  Just incredible!

Also through some lovely towns like Giethoorn that is built on the canals, and the lovely historic Enkhuizen, with it’s outdoor Zuiderzee Museum where you can explore authentic Dutch homes, workshops and wooden sailing ships.

 

 

And where we stay the night on the harbour side, overlooking the most tall ships that I have ever seen in one place.

This is our view tonight at 11pm, (yes it’s still light at 11pm) from Hermione, not to shabby.

 

THE FRIESIAN COAST the GERMAN BIGHT and the NORTH SEA

 

 

The heat wave hitting Germany now has made us think of ocean breezes so we’re now on the North Sea coast.

A dijk on the German Friesen Coast
yes it’s much cooler here, and windy

 

To the north of us is Denmark, and to the West the Netherlands.  Our Danish friends are presently in Crete so we will visit them later on this trip, so West it is, that is of course after Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven and maybe one or two of those Frisian Islands.

In Bremerhaven we even find one of those U -Boats that was built in one of those huge structures in Lorien we saw last month.

This one had been scuttled at the end of the war, but it has since been raised and returned to it’s former state, and it makes a great museum.

 

The Frisians have their own dialects, and they are often unintelligible to even each other.

Apparently it was where our English language derived, but truthfully in the amount that I have heard spoken here it’s certainly not familiar to any English I learnt at school.

Moin, is is Frisian for hello, good morning, good afternoon, even bye, so moin for now.

 

THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO GERMANY THAN THE BIG CITIES

 

We have just spent the past couple of weeks working our way north, and up through the central part of Germany.

 

Even managing to wake up at 4.30am to give Chris’ parents, Robyn and Russel a wave as they cruised past us we camped along-side of the Rhine.

Apart from the busy Rhine area with it’s touristy castles and busy towns, the rest of this Central area is really just farms, forests and beautiful towns of 17th century half timbered houses that UNESCO doesn’t seem to know about, and that are still lived in to this day.

In the tiny town of Lich, in the Hessen region and where they brew Licher Beer, we had to have our muffler repaired. Brian had used a coat hanger to hold it together for a while, but bumpy roads ahead meant we had to do something a little more permanent.

So after asking at a couple of different garages that didn’t have a hoist large enough for Hermione, they sent us to a Toyota dealer in town that was not only happy to move a car out of the way to do our repair, he then only charged us 40 Euro for an excellent patch and weld job. An hour later we were on the road again.

Small towns, you can’t beat them!

This area called Niedersachsen, or Lower Saxony and was likely where most of our British ancestors came from long ago in the Dark Ages, after the Romans left this area.

Now it’s home to towns like Goslar, Celle, Luneburg with it’s mineral baths and salt mines, Wolfenbuttel (the home of the liqueur Jagermeister) and Hameln where the story of the Pied Piper that charmed the Rats into following him from the city originated.

The Harz National Park is also in this area, it’s heavily forested with huge oaks, pine and spruce trees and it’s own legends of witches that flew down from Denmark, and of dragons that consumed tiny timber townships with fire.

 

There are beautiful mountain top lakes with water that is ice cold, even on the unseasonably hot 30c days we have been having for the past week.  The past few nights we have camped looking over these beautiful lakes and forests, after wandering medieval cobblestoned streets, and enjoying the occasional kuchen (cake) with our coffee and or possibly a big beer for Brian and a chilled glass of wine for me.

Like I said, so much more to visit in Germany than the big cities.

Stuttgart, Porsche and Mercedes Car Museums

Well to say Brian was in his element these past two day’s is really an understatment.

Stuttgart is home to both Porsche and Mercedes museum’s and we spent the best part of a day at each of them.

Brian checking out a new work truck for Craig Abraham

The cars were very impressive, but I have to say architecturally the  Mercedes building was the standout for us both.  Eight levels of off form concrete in curves, ramps and with the best finish Brian has ever seen.  Pod like elevators that showed  short car videos on the opposite wall took you up to the top level, and from there ramps gently bought you from floor to floor,  all with a very impressive collection of cars.

The city of Stuttgart was also lovely, and was much more than we expected from a huge automobile manufacturing centre.  Huge parks, a great transit system of street cars and trains, a fantastic old palace and the best museum of History we have seen in a long time.

The old palace in Stuttgart

 

 

 

GERMANY… Bavaria

Our good friends, Gisela and Werner live in Bavaria, Germany in a lovely town called Kaufering just east of Munich.

 

We first met the Wendl’s in 2009 in Morocco.  At that time they were travelling in their caravan with Leonie (5) and Felix (3), and Lea was just the size of a peanut, and we have kept in contact with Skype and visits regularly since then.  We travelled together in Morocco and had great adventures in Marrakesh, then trip into the Sahara by camel staying overnight in a Bedouin tents, and so much more.

 

Werner, like our friend Georges in France, makes sure that Brian tastes all the local beers, and other local delicacies like Leberkase, literally ‘liver cheese’, although there is not a speck of cheese in it.  It’s actually a mix of finely ground corned beef, pork and bacon baked as a loaf in a pan, then you eat with sweet Bavarian mustard, a pretzel or on a semmel (bread roll).   It’s filling, and not for the faint hearted, a good workers lunch that is usually accompanied by a beer.  I like the pretzel.

 

Kaufering is very close to the Romantic Road, a 350km route through quintessentially German towns and scenery with castles, which was a medieval trade route that linked towns.   A great drive if you ever visit Germany.

 

There was an event in Landsberg, just down the road, for Hymermobiles built before 1983, so sadly Hermione didn’t qualify, but we did go and check out all the old Wohnmoblies.  I would have loved to look inside some of them. 

 

It has been lovely to visit the Wendl’s this week, and we plan on meeting up during the summer in France for more Hijinks in a Hymer.

ALSACE

Located in the north eastern region of France, and bordering Germany and Switzerland the Alsace region reflects a real mix of culture and is dotted throughout with fairy-tale villages.

It also has one of the largest wine areas in France producing an excellent dry Riesling, with a delicate smell of peach.

We followed along it’s wine route for a few days, visiting it’s fairy tale towns like Riquewihr, Kayserberg and Ribeauville, and coming away with some lovely memories, and more importantly a few bottles of wine.

VEZELAY and the MORVAN REGION

 

One of the departure points in France for the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site Vezelay was a must see in Burgundy for us.

Perched high on top of a hill and once fortified with most of it’s walls still intact, and a most magnificent 11th century Basilica Saint Mary Magdalene with reliques, or physical remains said to be Mary Magdalene.

 

 

 

 

The Morvan Region is an unspoilt area in central France with vast forests, large lakes, clean rivers and in the spring vast areas of blossoms that had me reaching for my anti-histamines.

 

Mor comes from the Celtic word for black and Vand – mountains.

GEUDELON

This is a fascinating project in the Burgundy region of France, a 12th century chateau fort being built from scratch, using only tools and equipment from the Middle Ages.

Fifty master builders have taken on this extraordinary challenge in a disused quarry, in the heart of France, surrounded by all the natural materials required for the construction – stone, wood, sand and clay.

Quarrymen, stonemasons, carpenters, blacksmiths, tile and rope makers, are building this castle from scratch, and it was an amazing site to visit.

Brian is always intrigued on how in the Middle Ages workers managed to build these impressive structures, and Guedelon answered many of his questions.

Started in 1997, it’s due to be completed sometime in 2020.