The story of us driving along the coast of Markermeer came about because of a visit by friends. They had booked themselves into a rustic hotel along the coast, and we were hooking up with them for the few days. Now if you look on the map of Holland, there are many small villages all over. It’s no different on the shores of this inland lake.
If you look up the internet, these towns and villages show up as part of the Edam-Volendam municipality. The area is also known as “Waterland”, and for good reason being on the shores of a ~700km² lake. The Dutch way to experience this is via biking – ie cycling on foot though groups of Harleys are known to show their presence once in a while too. Well, we are lazy and only use the car. And this is one regret that we have of not having wondered onto the roads even less traveled by visitors to Holland.
Warder, one town on the Markermeer
So in search of the hotel (The Tolhuus) which our friends booked, we scoured the map and GPS looking for the nearest town in which we could drive to. The hotel has since closed permanently. But it was situated along the Ijselmeerdijk road in a town called Warder, so you can take in the views of the lake from the safety of the dike.
To get to Warder, it was via a drive via route N247 (about 25km from Amsterdam) into the small roads that eventually leads to the town. As we got off from the main road, we got the feeling that we were lost and not getting anywhere. The road got smaller and smaller and all around was but farmland and no one in sight! But perseverance paid off and we found the town at the end of the winding road!
Now this is quite typical of the Dutch countryside, open fields for grazing and/or crops and canals running through them for both irrigation and water control. You will notice that the word water and control can be rather frequently used, but bear in mind that a large proportion of the country lies below sea level. Climate change can be devastating if not managed in places like Holland.
Indeed, Warder is not a name that can be easily be identified. It has been billed as an “old cheese town” but we did not easily find any signs of it. Perhaps all the cattle we saw along the way are milked for making cheese… It is also said to be a great place for bird watching. We even saw people windsurfing on the lake.
Apparently, there is a little beach, over the dike where one can sunbath, swim or picnic along the lake in the summer. It was April when we were here and we didn’t think the weather justified that (it was still 18-20°C and warm enough for us).
The adventurous drive
Now if you have the time (and we did), you can drive on up along the Ijselmeerdijk all the way to Enkhuizen where the locks are located connecting the Markermeer to the Ijselmeer. Don’t ask us why the road along the Markermeer is named Ijselmeerdijk (it joins onto the Zuiderdijk). Past the town of Hoorn, we came to Enkhuizen, a former Dutch East Indies trading post.
As we approached the town and locks, there were replicas of the large trading ships deployed by the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) docked by the berths of the Enkhuizen harbor. Such a majestic sight to behold. History buffs (like Mel) will recall of the days when the Dutch sew together a large trading empire across the world. As intrepid traders, they had been the first Europeans to discover Tasmania and even colonized New York (New Amsterdam).
The natural thing to do from here is to drive over the dike that runs over between the two lakes. Called the Houtribdijk, it is a 28km drive towards the polder that is called Flevoland.
But that is not all.
Remember all that land reclamation we mentioned in the story of the Zuidersee? Well, much of the southern edges of the lake had been reclaimed as you can see in the little map we lifted from the web. One of the places we often stop by on a weekend when out about is Lelystad. There is an outlet mall popular with Dutch folks coming in for a bargain (Batavia Stad).
It is interesting that Flevoland is not very much developed (when we were there) though it had been reclaimed for some time. It is probably much changed now with new residential towns built on them. The expanding urban creeping from Amsterdam has not stopped.
We only hope that the Dutch people will preserve as much as they can without commercializing all that is their heritage and inheritance.