We took a train in the morning out to Alkmaar, in Noord-Holland – with our fietsen in tow. We were going to cycle about the polders! I was so excited.
Alkmaar was very cute; we headed into town from the train station and stopped at De Koffiemolen cafe to grab a bite to eat and some much-needed coffee. The sweet baristas gave us a little trinket from Noord-Holland that I still have as a bike keychain. We cycled slowly through the narrow city streets, looking at the classic architecture and the sights and sounds. There was actually an entire carnival with huge rides and booths that had completely overtaken the old town. It was really something to compare between the US and Europe where instead of using a giant fairgrounds in the middle of nowhere, they popped up rollercoasters right there in downtown in the street!
After an hour or so, we started our ride out of town toward Middenbeemster, the village in the middle of what is known as “De Beemster”, a polder that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was so great to be biking along the rural roads and beautiful countryside! Windmills were a common sight, and as we rolled into De Beemster, we found a cute restaurant to grab more coffee and food. I had downloaded a cycling tour that we did using headphones, so we cycled around town and then back into the countryside, learning about the history and how the polder system works. One thing that struck me was the difference in water levels – it was so noticeable how the polder is significantly lower than the surrounding area.
Also along the way were a series of UNESCO World Heritage sites that are the Stelling van Amsterdam or the fortifications of Amsterdam. These dozens of locations were built before WWI but then never used because military technology basically made them obsolete.
We finished our cycle along het Noordhollansch Kanaal which felt like it went on forever, but was just a great, easy ride into Amsterdam-Noord. We got one more meal in Noorderpark at Pompet (and a well-deserved biertje) and then caught the ferry back into town. It was such a fantastic day with great weather and beautiful sights! I can’t wait to do another ride like this to another town.