My Great-Grandfather was born in Apeldoorn in what is now the Netherlands, so going to the Netherlands has always been a must. Other members of my family had already been several times, but for my Birthday I decided to go by myself. I arrived in Amsterdam and stayed at ClinkNoord Hostel, which was a perfect location as the Central Train station was about a 10-minute walk from my accommodation. Although I visited many cities in the Netherlands, Giethoorn was always on the top of my list.
Giethroon In The Off Season
Giethoorn is a small town, about a 3-hour train ride North of Amsterdam. I made sure to leave early in the morning and once I arrived off the bus, it looked like everything was closed up for the season. It was November, but I thought surely at least one store would be open……I had traveled so far. As I was here in the off-season, I was unsure if I would be able to take my coveted boat ride through the city with no roads.
I walked into the only open restaurant, ‘t Zwaantje (Little Swan), that morning to get some Hot Cocoa to warm myself up while I tried to come up with a plan. They happened to not only be a restaurant but were also a Boat tour of Giethoorn! You may know Giethroon as the city without roads, and to get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime, it is filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a ‘Make a Wish’ Destination.
You may know Giethroon as the city without roads, and to get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime, it is filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a ‘Make a Wish’ Destination. I climbed onto the boat with 4 other passengers, which I was told was quite unusual as the boats in the spring are overflowing with tourists & the canals of Geithoorn are crammed with boats. I am one who loves the quiet, uncrowded destinations so this was a perfect situation for me. There were blankets in the boat, and they allowed me to bring my Hot cocoa with me which was fantastic. It was unusually sunny and warm for being the end of November, so the young man driving us around allowed me to open the windows and take photos of this fairytale city.
The History Of Geithoorn
The name Geithoorn was derived from Geytenhoren. Geytenhoren is a term assigned to this city after the Peat farming diggers pulled up ancient goat horns from 1170 AD. It is believed that these goat horns are actually ones that may have drowned during that flood. After time the name was shortened and changed to Geithoorn.
Geithoorn was a peat moss farming town. With the Netherlands being so close to water sources wherever you go, peat moss was easy to grow, and very lucrative in the 13th century as peat moss was used as a source of fuel in the wetlands throughout the Netherlands. Peat moss is dug up from the bottom of lakes and is dead plants that accumulate over time, piling on top of each other.
The Peat moss is then created by drying it (typically on rooftops) and then pounding it down into easy to transport pieces. This fuel type was beneficial to those in the 13th century because it did not come with as much smoke as the local wood did, warmed the house nicely, and burned for an extended period of time comparatively. Those individuals tasked with digging out the peat moss were not paid that well, the turf makers or the ones who stamped out the water with their wooden shoes were paid much better and considered well to do in the 15th century.
Canals were dug in between houses to both help grown and drain out the water so that the peat moss could be farmed more efficiently. Houses were built on the dry land between these homes and thus Geithoorn was created. Over time coal took over for peat moss as a source of fuel and Peat Moss farms became a thing of the past.
Want To Live In Geithoorn?
Homes were sold to individuals who enjoyed the solitude that comes with living in a town like this. Now Geithoorn has been made so popular by different travel magazines that an 800 sqft house could cost you between € 195,000 to € 800,000 (per 2017 quotes). The individuals that live there are under strict community codes as well with no blinds being allowed so they use special plants and vines to give some form of privacy. If your thatched roof is in bad shape, well you have to replace it and it could cost you around 10 euro per square foot.
The People in Geithoorn:
Despite it being winter it was still so beautiful and peaceful. I met some lovely people on board who also happened to be in school studying Tourism. The boat operator was a young man who looked like he had turned into a human popsicle. He told me that after you are on the boat all day you go home and just can’t seem to get warm again because the cold seeps into your bones. It was chilly, but I was just glad it wasn’t raining as had been for the last several days.
He also told me that the boats are built so that children who wish to come and see Giethoorn but are unable to get out of the hospital bed or disconnect from their IV’s can be rolled onto the boats and taken on a tour as part of the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’. Being someone who works in the medical field this made my eyes a little misty and was so grateful for the kindness and accommodation that these people offered to children and their families.
Make Your Own Wish In Giethoorn
No matter what time of year you choose to go, Giethoorn is a beautiful place, with beautiful people. I cannot wait to go back and compare Spring to Winter touring of this place, but would not have had my own experience any other way for my first time there. The cottages on their peat moss mounds, the rolling clouds lazily floating by, the people that I met, and the feeling of gratitude for my heritage leaving this place was one of the best Birthday presents I could have asked for…..almost as if I fulfilled my own ‘Make a Wish’ dreams.
Windmills have been recorded since clear back in the 12th century. Most of these records point to windmills being used as some of the first water pumps. The complicated building process, and intricate details of working these gentle giants is amazing in and of itself. When you couple this with the history of Windmills in the Netherlands, it will give you a new appreciation for this natural energy.
The Humble Beginnings
In a letter dated the Thursday after St. Nicholas’s Day of the year, 1299, John the First, Duke of Brabant and Limburg, grants to Arnoldus, named Heyme, as an addition to the territory the latter held in fee from him, the right to erect a windmill between the village of Hamoda van Rode (Sint Oedenrode) and Skinle (Schijndel), in the place which he should consider the most suitable, and for this purpose grants to him the hereditary right of free wind. (The oldest known document containing a reference to windmills is considered to be the privilege which was granted to the burghers of the town of Haarlem in 1274 by the Count Floris V.)– (see source here)
The Necessity of Windmills Increased:
It was the year 1421 when St. Elizabeth’s Flood hit Holland. A heavy winter storm rolled in on the night of November 18th and massive waves brutalized the Dikes, striking them without mercy. The primitive Dikes gave way and all the lower lands of Polder were rapidly flooded. Without our modern technology, nearly 30 villages were swept up in this cataclysmic disaster, killing thousands. The Rijksmuseum holds several paintings depicting this terrible natural disaster. Here you will see the devastation of families being swept away, bodies floating in those towns and being fished out by the surrounding village people. The damage was not only done to their physical surroundings, but would remain like a festering wound on the people of Holland.
The Evolution of the Windmill:
In the next two centuries, the Windmills of the Netherlands would begin to evolve. The Internal structures were adjusted, tweaked, and changed, and the Sawmills were created. This enabled the rapid building of fleets of ships which gave way to the East Indian Company and the Dutch Golden Age.
This is the point in the Netherlands history where their ships, trade, and production of goods shaped much of what the Netherlands is today. The East Indian Company gave rise to the Delft Pottery, Tulip stock markets, and the Dutch people earning the title of ‘The Water People’ because of their ability to flourish not just at sea, but to transform their wetlands.
Abandoning Wind for Steam
The production of Windmills peaked in the 19th century with nearly 9,000 working windmills. The production of items such as artistic pastel colors, flour, wood, chocolate, and yarn also increased. Yet these gentle giants would be abandoned for steam power. Why? Because as a Windmill worker, if the wind was blowing, then you were working. It did not matter what time of day it was if the wind appeared; money was to be made through work. When steam was introduced, the option to sleep during the night became a better situation for its workers and eventually many of the windmills fell into disarray and decay.
Where are the Windmills Today?
In the 20th century, a Dutch Windmill society came through and with the help of numerous donations, many windmills were restored and now preserved in a town called Zannse Schans. Although this town is quite touristic, it gives some lovely views of the iconic Dutch Windmills.
A trip to Kinderdijk (see map to Kinderdijk) will put you right in the middle of a masterful engineering feat and World UNESCO Site as of 1997. This is where you will truly see just how astoundingly simple, yet powerful these gentle giants can be. You will witness the soggy ground of the Netherlands, ride a boat through the waterways, and see Windmills which are still occupied and operated to keep the towns dry.
Kinderdijk is also the site of the old St Elizabeth’s flood, where Kinderdijk actually means ‘Children’s Dyke’ after a cradle had been found bobbing up and down in the water after the flood with, what is assumed, the house cat keeping the cradle steady.
How to Visit these famous Windmills:
Really, no matter what train or bus you get on, you can see windmills along any of your rides. I would recommend visiting Kiderdijk though because of its historical significance and Zaanse Schans for the views and ability to showcase the complexity of these clean energy engineering masterpieces. To get to Zaanse Schans, take bus 91 from Central Station and it drops you off within a 1-minute walk of the start of the walkways to the Windmills. Be sure to check out the Museum inside. The cost is 5.50 Euros for a roundtrip ticket to Zaanse Schans. (Night bus rides cost around 7.50 and the bus drivers do have change, should you need it).
To get to Kinderdijk, leave from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Blaak and transfer from the train to the 144 Bus towards Ridderkerk. For the most up to date information regarding bus times, visit Rome2Rio.com and take a screenshot before you leave. I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I loved revisiting what I now call ‘my windmills’. My Great-Grandfather was from Holland and actually helped run one of the mills here in my hometown, so these were very special places for me to visit. If you decide to visit, you will be greeted by warm volunteers who love to hear your background story and make you feel as if you are traveling with your uncles. If you have any suggestions on other windmills or picturesque places our Culture Trekking Community can visit, do not hesitate to list them below.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the flip side.
When I tell people I’m staying in a Hostel, their first reaction is typically silence – then they say, ‘Is that safe? I mean aren’t you worried about how clean it is?’. The thing is that hostels of the past are not the hostels of the future. With more people wanting to travel, and more frequently – the mid-range cost of accommodation like hostels are now the preferred choice. You will see hostels are really stepping up their game with options, activities and more. ClinkNoord was no exception to this new wave of mid-range accommodation.
When choosing a Hostel these are the things I look for:
Reviews on 3 different sites: Booking.com, TripAdvisor, HostelWorld
Read several reviews on each site (typically 5-6)
Pay particular attention to the cleanliness rating, anything below 2-3 points from the highest score, knocks it off my list as a potential place to stay. I had that one bad experience with bed bugs and still have scars.
Do they have free Wifi and how reliable is it – this is very important for me. Being able to communicate and edit material for my blog while on location. Wi-Fi also allows for last minute trip planning or changes if there is inclement weather or an emergency at home.
Breakfast – European travel can get quite costly in some areas so I love me a good solid breakfast that doesn’t cost more than 6-7 Euros
Activities: if there is inclement weather, do they have things to make my stay enjoyable still
ClinkNoord passed this first test with flying colors. So I booked a stay with them in a 4-bed dormitory room with a private shower and bathroom. The 4-bed dormitories are quieter, and the room that I choose to stay in typically. Being that I am a very light sleeper I find the people who stay in said 4-bed dormitories often tend to be so as well. They generally are quieter and more respectful when coming in late at night.
Prior to checking in at ClinkNoord, I had been kept awake by a screaming child the entire flight to Amsterdam (luckily it was a non-stop flight). Arriving at ClinkNoord I was grumpy, tired, and my 2 bags felt like I was carrying 5,000lbs. It was only 9am and typically you are not allowed to check-in before noon. Feeling hopeless as I entered, I knew I would be turned away and told the room wasn’t ready yet.
Approaching the counter with reluctance, I was promptly greeted with a warm contagious smile. The receptionist told me she thought they had a room ready for me right then…..at 9AM…..WHAT!!!! This never happens, even in the biggest Hotel chains! I almost crawled over the desk and hugged her out of relief. Bottom Bunks are a hot commodity in dormitory type settings! Guess who not only was able to check in early, but also claimed a bottom bunk?!? OMG! I can’t tell you what a relief it was to walk right in and get a little bit of shut eye. The Wi-Fi had a good signal so I told my family I arrived safely.
Traveler Tip: Wifi here is free and very reliable, it was very useful during my stay in Amsterdam.
God bless me, I was able to lay down for 2 hours and could not have been more grateful. After I awoke I promptly started exploring the city, the staff were so friendly, and gave me recommendations on where they liked to visit and explore. Their recommendations were different than what a hotel concierge would give, it felt like I was talking to a long time friend that was giving me the inside scoop on the city.
There is an elevator to all levels of the building so getting to my room with baggage was no trouble. Directions to my room were colorfully displayed on all of the walls, and was easy to find. There are ART PIECES EVERYWHERE in this place! Being an artist myself, this made me smile from ear to ear despite my fatigue. Upon entering the room I noticed how clean it was, the crisp bed sheets were placed on my pillow, the bedspread neatly folded – hooks on the side of the bed for a towel or a coat. It was also very quiet…..HEAVEN!
Two other beds were made of the 4 that were in the room, so I knew I would have at least one roommate. There is always a sense of excitement when I come to Hostels because I truly never know who I will meet. I often meet those who are adventurers, like myself & regale me with their travel tales. Inquires on my end are made as to what to see when visiting their home countries (to put in my memory bank). This is one of the main reasons I LOVE to stay in Hostels, to meet people & to have activities to participate in available in order to do so.
Upon further exploration of my room, I was very pleased to see a mat for the shower, towels for each bed, soap in the bathroom (which was a separate area from the shower). Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion were situated on the shelves. In my sleep-deprived state, I actually questioned if I was staying in a Hostel or in a Hotel. I really loved that the bathroom was separate from the shower room. Both rooms had doors that could lock as well as lighting and an exhaust fan.
When you stay in a hostel with 4 other women in the same room things can get a little dicey with getting ready for the day. With my dorm being filled to capacity during my stay, there were no issues with access to the bathroom or shower, nor were we inundated with unsavory smells. I promptly inspected and made up the bed. In doing so I discovered some very nice amenities.
Each bunk bed has a power strip at the head of the bed, with a personal reading light, an electric plug, a shelf above the power strip for glasses/contacts or other paraphernalia you may like to keep within reach at night. If you lay down on the bed, each bed has a decorative piece of wood that shields you a little more from both ambient light and light that may come from the neighboring bunk beds.
Electricity, A/C and Heat:
To get electricity in the room, you must insert your card into the slot near the door and keep it there. This is not a problem for me, but I also leave quite early every morning to go and explore. When back into the room I noted that in removing the card it also turns off the heat to the room. Each room has it’s own thermostat equipped for both heating and Air Conditioning.
It would take about 20 minutes for the room to warm up, but the heat and humidity produced from my nightly shower helped accelerate this process. ClinkNoord Travel Shop ClinkNoord was actually a former laboratory and was tastefully transformed into a vibrant place for travelers of all ages.
Traveler Tip: Most rooms have their own thermostats because the windows don’t open. For those who like to do laundry in the room during your travels, this fact, could create an issue for you. There hooks in the bathroom to hang wet clothing, as well as laundry services available at the front desk for about 6 Euros (self-serve) – they also have the laundry soap available, which is included in that cost.
Each room has an electronic card reader outside the room with correlating cards to allow the guest inside. The facility has a security guard on duty as well as security cameras everywhere! There are lockers in each room to secure any valuables you may want to have protected.
Traveler Tip: Be sure to bring your own padlock to each hostel you stay at. ClinkNoord does have Padlocks available for purchase should you forget your own.
I personally kept all my things unlocked while at ClinkNoord and checked out with every item. It is a rule at Hostels, in general, of “don’t mess with my stuff and I won’t mess with your stuff”.
The facility itself closes its doors around 7 pm every night. You can still access the building with a card scanner on the side with a buzzer for the front desk to be let in. I really appreciated this, as there was a new nightclub literally within a few hundred feet of the Hostel. Being able to ‘key in’ made me feel incredibly safe once I entered the doors of ClinkNoord. If you arrive early you can utilize their locker system for your luggage which is right at the front desk. They have padlocks for sale or you can use your own.
Traveler tip: When staying in Hostels it is much easier to travel with and store luggage when only traveling with a backpack and a carry-on.
The Food & Bar:
The Zinc Bar at ClinkNoord is a where you order both your food and your beverage of choice. In the offseason, it is not hard to order things & the bartenders are very friendly. They have so many options to drink, including rose and red wine that is pretty decent (aka no headaches in the morning). Summertime is the high season for tourism, ZincBar is reportedly VERY BUSY.
As I am one who does not like the large crowds, I really enjoyed a little quiet time and some conversation with the bartender. He shared his story (hint: it was the cutest love story – insert BIG aaawwee – to find out more about this story shoot me an email below). The food from the Bar is typical Bar food – potato wedges, burgers etc… Their food is nothing to write home to your mom about. It is cheap and fills the belly after a long day of exploring the city and satisfies the comfort food cravings.
Breakfast in the morning is one to rival any fancy hotel chain. Both carnivorous and vegetarian options available, with plenty of variety for each. They have some of the best orange juice I have had in a very long time. A Hostel breakfast is often so much cheaper than what you would find in a city, so eat heartily and save on your budget. (Sample breakfast plates below).
Beyond the crisp and clean sheets for the bed & blankets have duvets over them. Towels were provided for the 4-bed dormitory, and are available on request for the other dormitories for a small fee. There is no carpet in the dorm rooms, which is great for sanitation. I also saw someone cleaning the hallway floors the next day with one of those big machines you see going around at hospitals.
The staff do not change your sheets daily unless requested, no extra cost incurred. Extra sheets and blankets are also available for those who need it. Bed Bugs are disgusting vermin that can easily follow you home, so I always ask about them when checking in. You will be happy to hear that Housekeeping passionately denied any infestations within the building at any time. So at least at ClinkNoord you can sleep easy, knowing you won’t be bringing unwanted guests home with you. (How to Spot Bed Bugs Video coming soon). Extra shampoo and conditioner available at the front desk for those who need it.
Who Can Stay At A Hostel?
There really is no age limit to most Hostels, unless it says ‘Youth Hostel’. ClinkNoord actually had quite a range of people there. Entire families were staying there, older, younger and everything in between. ClinkNoord does have a rule that if you bring children (younger than 16) you have to rent an entire room. If the children are under 18 they have to be accompanied by an adult. Those under 18 years old cannot stay in the 14-bed dormitory unless a parent is with them.
There are too many people (especially in the States) that do not realize that Hostels are for EVERYONE! The atmosphere is soooo fun to be in, the breakfasts are surprisingly delicious, and having in house activities ensure a good time no matter what. The best part is, this is a perfect way to save on your budget. Budgeting allows you to do really incredible activities and visit destinations further away — because your money is going further. ClinkNoord actually offers musicians a ‘stay for play‘. If you perform 1-2 nights during your stay, you receive a free room and board (offers may vary).
The staff at ClinkNoord are incredibly kind, helpful and love to just chat with you and listen to your story. While interviewing a staff member, I asked how it was working for ClinkNoord. Her response warmed my heart,
“I will never forget when I first started working here, how nervous I was. The manager came up to me and told me that I shouldn’t be. The most important thing while working at ClinkNoord for her, was to be myself. When my manager said that, I knew this was going to be a great job”.
What is the Best Time to Stay in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is beautiful all year round, with plenty of activities in each season. If you want to be outside, ride your bike through tulip fields and climb 12th-century Cathedrals to see the massive bells — well Spring & Summer are for you. Cooler weather, less crowded streets, museums & Christmas Lights suit your fancy? Well then Fall and Winter are good for you. ClinkNoord’s off season is from November to February. It does get incredibly busy almost every other time of year so be sure to book in advance. I stayed with them at the end of November and still found the area & surround towns beautiful.
A good time to plan your trip to Amsterdam is around one of their many Festivals. ClinkNoord staff recommended: Festival of Lights, Amsterdam Music Festival, King’s Day, and the Gay Pride festival.
Amsterdam is full of Art, Engineering feats, Culture and much much more. Stay tuned for my full review of Amsterdam, a City Guide. I will also be offering my full itinerary with pricing I encountered at each juncture.
Activities at ClinkNoord:
There are so many activities at ClinkNoord, there is no way I could fit them all into this post. You can choose from: Karaoke, Solo Traveler Meetup, Air Hockey, Foosball and much much more.
The activities change each night and all are listed on their website. For those who enjoy a more relaxed vacation, then head over to their reading nook.
Other Tidbits to Consider:
Gender for the rooms is based on self-identity gender. There is access to all parts of the building for wheelchairs. The staff at ClinkNoord do not expect to be tipped for their services. There are no rooms with views of the canal. The staff recycles everything they can & is produced by guests at ClinkNoord. Interestingly, grocery stores will actually offer 25 cent euro for every plastic bottle that you bring back.
If you like to find amazing deals at incredible prices, then ClinkNoord is going to be your best bet. They have it all – a 3-minute ferry ride to the Central Train Station, Concerts, Karaoke, Games, Full Bar, Food, Fun, Bike Rentals, Amenities, Free Walking Tours, friendly staff, sleeping arrangement options, safety. The staff can help you craft an itinerary that ensures you make the most out of your stay & create those memories we all crave. I will personally be back to ClinkNoord as often as I can and was truly sad to leave; mostly because of how kind the staff was in helping me celebrate my Birthday.
This was one of the best Birthday’s I have ever had, and I owe that to the staff at ClinkNoord. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to review your Hostel.
**This stay was in Collaboration with ClinkNoord for a discounted stay. Read my Full Disclosure for more information. All views are my own, as I value truth more than money**
I remember my Grandmother would always talk about Olliebollen, SinterKlass, and would put Oranges in the toes of our stockings at Christmas time. I have been a lot of places in this world, and was able to see Scotland last year; another ancestral home. This year I decided to visit the Netherlands to trace my Dutch Ancestors and find out what kind of genetics I could call my own.
Visiting the Netherlands
Amsterdam has been calling my name for over a year now; almost like it is beckoning me to come home. I decided to go this year for my Birthday, and find my way to Appledoorn, and walk the street where my Great Grandfather use to walk as a child.
I doubt that his home will still be there, and people are already teasing me about needing to do a urine test for drugs when I get back. Amsterdam is more than that though, its a calling in my blood, that says that although I’m American, I have the strength of the ancestry that comes before me. The sad part is, I don’t really know much of its history, only the history of my Grandfather and what he told me.
Taking Pride in my Dutch Ancestory
There is a part of me that is sad about going, in a way, I think its because I haven’t connected with this part of my ancestry & carried on more of the traditions of Holland (aka the Netherlands now). I hope to give this as a gift to myself, to remind me of the strong stock that I come from. I honestly have only met 2 Dutch people in my life, so it will be interesting to see how much of me I see reflected in that culture.
My non-american friends are always suprised by how Americans can’t seem to call themselves ‘American’ when people ask where they are from. I don’t know why, maybe it is because when your a part of something ancient and old it makes you feel stronger in some way.
Maybe it is the political climate, or things that have happened in our country that some people may be afraid of, I don’t really know.
What I do know, is that when we seek out the stories of those who have gone before us – there is a power and pride that goes into knowing your lineage. If you have never had your ancestral genetics tested, I highly recommend it. For some people, especially for those who have been adopted, it can really change your outlook. It helps you feel like you belong to something greater than yourself.
It motivates you to carry on the story that the people before you started. Allows you to share joy, stories of triumph and have pride in those stories. It helps me have a sense of confidence knowing that I can do just as much as they did, if not more with my life.
Search Out Your Ancestors
Who are your ancestors? Where do they come from? How did they live? Who did they love? What trials within the country did your ancestors overcome? How will you carry their legacy? Will it give you strength to draw from, knowing where your people have come from, to help propel you to where you want to go? Will you find a place where you feel like YOU belong?
These are questions I think are important for anyone to ask themselves. If you don’t know where your line comes from, go to ancestory.com & order a DNA test. It will likely knock your socks off once you see the results, but once you do…..research what makes you who you are today & then go and see where it is you and your DNA have come from.