We were parked outside Roadhouse Checkpoint Charlie in the middle of the Houtribdijk, a 27 kilometre long dam that crossed what was once the Zuiderzee. Mrs TomTom was adamant that we were floating in the water and was being quite insistent that we got back on the N302 before Davey Jones claimed us for the locker.
Our visit to the Zuiderzeemusem had taught us that in years gone by, life around the Zuiderzee had been a harsh one. Storms and flooding would reek havoc on the coastal communities. Rising sea levels and erosion of the peaty soil combined to make matters worse.
In 1932 the Afsluitdijk was completed, a 32 kilometre long dyke that cut the Zuiderzee off from the North Sea. The resulting lagoon was renamed IJsselmeer, Lake Ijssel. The dyke served to protect the communities that lived along its shores, although it killed off the fishing industry. In 1975 the more southerly Houtribdijk was completed and this was where we now sat. To the north east of us was the IJsselmeer and to the southwest the newly created Markermeer.
Both have roads crossing them and we thought it would be fun to cross them both, and take in some of the lovely old villages along the way. The guide book listed a few places that looked interesting. We wouldn’t have time for them all so we picked a couple at random.
Volendam was nice enough but very touristy with far too many trinket shops. In many ways it was like a little seaside town, except these days it’s lakeside. Like many popular places in the Netherlands, Volendam had a cheese shop masquerading as a museum. Cheese is incredibly important to the Dutch, eating considerably more than the european average. And it’s not surprising, their cheeses are excellent, not at all like the rubbery Dutch cheeses from the local supermarket at home. We stayed for the demonstration that was being run for a visiting bus tour and learned a little about cheese production. We may have purchased one or two cheeses as well. Possibly more.
Markem was pretty too and much quieter. It was also mostly closed. We found a restaurant for lunch that offered views over the little harbour and braved an outside table despite the dark clouds on the horizon. Entertained by the sparrows who were trading cuteness for breadcrumbs, we watched the sky darken and thought about where to head next.
With rain forecast for the next few days we were looking for something with a roof. With a destination in mind we headed north to cross the Afsluitdijk.