Much of the Netherlands lies considerably below sea level, as you well know. Through the process of building dikes to wall out the salty sea and through pumping the water into canals, the country of the ingenious, resourceful, and doughty Dutch has literally been born of the sea.
-Joseph B. Wirthlin
After spending a week in busy, tourist-saturated Amsterdam, a week in quaint Edam in the northwest Netherlands was quite welcome. I rented the world’s most precious tiny house situated on a canal and was treated to swans and ducks gracefully gliding past my window as I typed away at my laptop. During my stay, the weather was unusually windy and heavy rain trapped me inside for a few days, but there were some gloriously beautiful days that I made the most of with a bike ride with Mango. Rain or shine, though, it’s hard not to fall in love with Edam and Volendam.
Edam is about a 20-minute bus ride from central Amsterdam, but given the laid-back, rural charm of the area, it feels much more remote. This cute-as-a-button town has less than 7,400 residents and dates back to the 1200s. Edam is known for its cheese and cheese market, which has unfortunately been downgraded to an annual tourist attraction. This is the perfect town to relax for a bit and rent a bike to explore the beautiful region, which includes two UNESCO inscriptions.
You know how every region has a spot where locals spend their summer months with the family? The type of place with a ‘tourist trap’ boardwalk full of vendors hawking tchotchkes and cheesy (quite literally in this case) but fun experiences? Well, that’s Volendam in a nutshell. On the southeastern border of Edam is this picturesque Dutch harbor town on the Markermeer Lake. It’s a bit larger than Edam with its 22,000 residents but a much more popular tourist attraction thanks to its colorful wooden buildings, old fishing boats, and traditional clothing which is rarely worn these days. The cigar band house was closed when I visited in February, but Experience Volendam was open (meh). Overall, this was a cute town with much more action than Edam, although I do admit that it felt a bit contrived.