AmaWaterways river cruise ship AmaCerto leaves Amsterdam heading for Volendam and Edam. Gliding north along the Markermeer and Ijsselmeer rivers, the ship arrives just after lunch for a tour of the towns now united under one municipality.
Once docked, I walk the short way into Volendam where the waterfront is teaming with tourists darting in and out of restaurants, shops and photo galleries. As much as I’d like to shop, exploring this city of 22,000 and the historic lessons it’s ready to teach are more appealing to me.
Originally, Volendam was situated at the location of where Edam is at the mouth of the IJ Bay. In 1357, residents dug a shorter canal to the river creating its own separate harbor.
This removed the need for the original harbor, which was dammed and used for land reclamation—something the Dutch are experts at. Farmers and local fishermen settled there, forming the new community of Volendam, which means filled dam. Today ships of all ages and description line the harbor.
Walking along residential streets, I pass pristine cottages with meticulously kept gardens; many situated along narrow canals. It is no wonder that Picasso and Renoir spent time here along with other artists when the city became an artists’ retreat in the early 20th century.
To get to Edam I take a bus (provided by AmaWaterways). Edam is much smaller than Volendam with just over 7,000 residents. Edam, which means dam on the little river, is most famous for its cheese. A chartered town since 1357, Edam was also known as a shipbuilding center; once boasting 33 shipyards. Halve Maan, the ship that Englishman Henry Hudson sailed when attempting to discover a northern route to the East Indies in 1609, was built here. Hudson’s attempt ended up on the island of Manhattan.
Every street offers a glimpse of its rich history and the lives off its once rich inhabitants. Past 17th century architecture in residential neighborhoods as well as the commercial center, it is easy to imagine this town as a bustling commercial center during its heyday.
(teahouses in Edam)
Highlights include the tea-houses where wealthy homeowners relaxed along the canal, the 16th century leaning Carillon tower and the historic museum with the floating cellar.
If you go: I was on the AmaWaterways Tulip Time cruise though the Netherlands and Belgium (www.amawaterways.com). I enjoyed its fine dining and friendly staff!