I arrived in Amsterdam on an early flight from Dublin, took a train to the main station and cabbed it to my brother (Peter) and sister-in-law’s (Kathi) home on Keizersgracht, one of the main canals forming a belt around central Amsterdam.
This was my second visit to their house, and I was greeted by Kathi, Albert (the dog), and JP (the cat) when I arrived. After a day of walking around the city, we met up with my brother and jumped aboard their little boat for a ride through the canals and a riverbank picnic.
The next morning, we awoke bright and early to take off on our bikes for the northern part of Holland. Most Dutch residents have several bikes, and I believe that Peter & Kathi have 6 between them. We’re talking upright, proper Dutch bikes, made from indestructible steel (or is it iron? They feel like iron when your lugging them on and off of trains) and 3 gears if you’re lucky. Kathi was riding what is affectionately named the “bunny bike”, since instead of a bell, it sports a rubber bunny head that squeaks when you squeeze it.
We hopped on a short bicycle ferry near the Amsterdam train station, then rode our bikes along the west coast of Lake Markermeer, cycling north through some adorable Dutch villages, and then jumped on another ferry from Marken to Vollendam.
After passing through the town of Edam (yep, where the cheese comes from), and pedaling against the strong wind along the dykes of Markermeer, we came to the station in Hoorne and boarded a train for Harlingen Haven where we left our bikes and boarded the Passaat, an old school wooden sailing schooner that would be our home for the next couple of days.
I had no idea what we were in for, but it turns out that we would be actually working with 8 other guests as the crew of the ship, which was sailing up to the Frisian Islands (also known as the Wadden Islands) in the Waddenzee (east of the North Sea). So much fun…We set sail the next morning on a gloriously sunny (yet windy) day – perfect sailing weather. We got to work right away, under the direction of first mate Fiona and Captain Frank, raising the 5 sails of the boat, and cruising to the lovely island of Vlieland.
Never heard of Vlieland before, but what a gem of a place. Who knew that there were white sand beaches in the Netherlands?? When we arrived, we rented bikes and cycled through the sand dunes (and crazy wind) around the island, visiting the island’s little village and coming back for dinner aboard.
The next morning, we sailed back to the mainland and returned by train to Amsterdam. After a couple more days of exploring the city, it was time for me to say goodbye and jump on a plane for the beautiful city of Prague. “Dank u” Peter & Kathi for a great time!