Outside Amsterdam: Alkmaar
Welcome to the first post in my new Outside Amsterdam series! As I was preparing to leave for my exchange and was telling people back home in the states where I was going, I realized that a large majority of people didn’t know where the Netherlands was and if they did, the only city they could think of was Amsterdam. Obviously, there's a lot more to this country than Amsterdam and in my first 2.5 months here I’ve already had the chance to visit some pretty cool places. I think it’s important to take this opportunity to share them with you.
Here in the Netherlands, we had Herfstvakantie, or fall break, last month. During this week off, my host family and I traveled a few hours north to the small village of Sint Maartenzee in the province of Noord-Holland. I think it’s crazy that while we were across the country if I drove for the same amount of time in the U.S. I could still be in Illinois. However, in this short amount of time, the scenery completely changed. Unlike the tightly packed townhouses of Uden, up north there were countless farms spread out over the countryside. With cows lining the canals and windmills rising above the houses, it was pretty magical.
During the 5 days that we spent in Noord-Holland, we visited some really interesting cities. Alkmaar was definitely my favorite. When I think of the stereotypical Netherlands, a city like Alkmaar is what I picture. Boats are paddled through the canals and under low bridges, houses older than the whole United States line the streets, and brightly colored bikes rest up against railings. It was definitely one of those days when I can’t help but be absolutely blown away by this country.
It wouldn’t be a cute old town without an adorable vintage candy shop, am I right? The Inde Soete Suyckerbol is an Old Holland sweets shop with the most adorable jars full of drop (Dutch black licorice) and other small candies. As you can imagine, the man who works there was incredibly nice and laughing along with all of the customers like old friends. Most of the candy was stuff that I had never seen before and to be honest some of it scared me. I mean, there were legitimate twigs that were apparently candy. Naturally, I wanted to try everything so we bought a little brown cone full of a variety of things. I’m going to be 100 kilos heavier when I get home…
The city itself is absolutely adorable. I know I’ve said this before and I’ll definitely say it again, but I can’t get over just how OLD everything is. Some of these houses are hundreds and hundreds of years old. The amount of history lining the streets is incredible.
While in Alkmaar, we also went on a small boat ride around the city. While it was mostly just ducking under low bridges, I still enjoyed it. It’s not every day that you get to cruise through canals.
Even though Alkmaar isn’t as big or bustling as Amsterdam, not even a little bit, it is the type of place that I like to visit the most. The small little villages in the Netherlands are some of the cutest and homiest places I have ever been. There is so much to this country outside of what you can find in a guidebook!