photo of Marken from the ferry
Since my father was visiting us from California, we wanted him to experience a bit of Dutch nostalgia and witness first hand one of Europe’s most charming countrysides. Luckily, the Netherlands is such a tiny country that chances are we could get to any destination within a reasonable amount of time. We sought our sights up North, just half an hour from Amsterdam in Waterland – a municipality of North Holland consisting of the famed, picturesque villages of Edam, Volendam, and Marken. With a squirmy one-year-old and a rambunctious four-year-old in tow, the day-trip needed to be something easy, convenient and relaxed – so we aimed for two out of the three tourist destinations (Volendam and Marken).
Upon arriving at the marina of Volendam, my father explains out loud, “So basically Volendam is the Dutch version of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. I love it!” I nodded yes as my eyes wandered onto the promenade lined with souvenir shops, bars and restaurants, and hordes of tourists. The major differences, I pointed out, are that Volendam is a couple of hundred years older and here you can be enticed by Dutch delicacies such as kibbeling, herring, and smoked eel. They even have their own dialect.
For a megadose of Dutch kitsch, we took photos in traditional Dutch clothing at Foto de Boer. According to local lore (workers), there really isn’t much of a difference in terms of price and quality from the various shops because they are all under one ownership. My four-year-old and dad enjoyed dressing up and playing with the various props. My dad even offered to buy the male costume for the boys for Halloween until I told him that it wasn’t celebrated in the Netherlands.
photo of Volendam from the ferry
The moment we were done taking pictures, we headed straight for the twenty-minute ferry ride to Marken on the Volendam Marken Express. Stepping onto the boat provided a welcome relief from the touristy crowds and a quiet sanctuary promising a bit more of an authentic experience.
Referred to by locals as ‘Mereke’, the island of Marken is a traditional Dutch fishing village with a population of 1,810. First established in the thirteenth century by monks and situated on the former Zuiderzee, Marken evolved into a harbor for whaling and herring fishing in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1957, a dike was constructed, connecting the island of Marken to the rest of the country and transforming it into an off-the-beaten path tourist attraction.
We had a two hour leisurely lunch at the seaside terrace of Café-Restaurant Land en Zeezicht. The lunch was delicious, but when we visit again, I’d love to try one of the small market stands offering the local seafood fare.
We then explored the hidden alleyways and back roads of the village, allowing my oldest boy to run around and my baby to fall asleep in the stroller. The well-preserved village with green wooden houses built on pillars, perfectly manicured lawns, and laundry hanging out to dry, made it easy to imagine going back a hundred years or so.
By the time we were headed home, we had our fill of going Dutch and grateful for experiencing a beautiful town that time seemed to forget. An added bonus on the late afternoon ferry ride home was seeing all the boats and yachts sailing into the sunset, a nod to the rich boating tradition of the Dutch.