Monday, 3 December 2012

Edam-Holland | Magic Dutch Atmosphere, Cradle of Remarkable Cheeses.



Edam is one of those distinctive and more than appealing places of Holland in which you can breathe the true, magic Dutch atmosphere in all its essence so famous all around the world to be an iconic cradle of remarkable cheeses, a destination you can not miss if you are planning an unforgettable trip to The Netherlands.

Situated at just 23,0 kilometres from the beautiful capital of the country Amsterdam in the province of North Holland part of the Waterland region, that centre of approximately 7,500 inhabitants facing the IJsselmeer, a shallow artificial lagoon of 1100,0 square kilometres south of of the Markermeer, a lake of approximately 700,0 square kilometres named after the peninsula of Marken, a former island, it is an absolute emblem of the relevant history of that Nation despite its reduced size.

Iconic , economical pillar of that European Kingdom in terms of development of trade, fishing navigation all activities which increased that wealthy, active country during its glorious past but also in the present.

Edam forms with the nearest Volendam a bipolar municipality of 28,500 inhabitants well known to be a very peaceful, idyllic centre but at the same time boasting a notable artistic patrimony highlighted by a very attractive architecture with a stunning presence of stylish  wooden houses dated the 16th and 17th centuries.

It is in sites like that you can discover the enjoyable true, traditional atmosphere of the most characterful, old Holland.

If you are thinking on holidays, a trip or a short break concretely to the Capital of that attractive land which is always a very trendy destination among the most important in Europe from the enchanting City of Rembrandt and of the Canals it is a must to visit that beautiful and captivating site enjoying a fantastic radial excursion or why not having a very pleasant stay in its boundaries.

That centre is also in its kind a destination in which every visitor can learn step by step the history of a land which gained a notable importance in the European Continent and worldwide developing a profile which in different chronological stages was able to elevate iitself as a cultural,  economical hub as in the case of the production of those prestigious, renowned cheeses which created in Edam a sort of little, big empire.

The soul, spirit, aspect and image of that place is pure charm, it is enough strolling its narrow, charming streets taking a look to its scenic bridges, picturesque windmills, historic monuments next to beautiful Renaissance buildings.

That magnificent environment, great result of outstanding works by a more than distinguished artistic school made history not just in the The Netherlands and all that is something else which immediately delights the visitor. 

In addition worth a special mention the kind and hospitable inhabitants, an important detail for the warm welcome the tourist recieve anytime, certainly a great incentive for the visitors who feel around them a very friendly atmosphere which increases the desire to breathe with extreme enthusiasm a unique experience of tourism.

Apart all that and much more you will understand in a while why Edam is so attractive and appealing, a place which with a great pleasure immediately capture the attention of everybody transmitting a special feeling to discover its boundaries  metre by metre.

Pure, true traditions in a culture which never lost its roots are other secrets of the  enchanting appeal of that fascinating Dutch centre, symbol of the most picturesque and traditional Holland with a secular history to narrate with pride highlighted by to those famous efforts of an entire nation which fought against the difficulties caused by the sea but stealing it lands to establish inhabited centres and relevant infrastructures.

The Edammers historically had to fight to develop their first populated settlement against the waters of that giant called North Sea which gave Holland many chances to create successful trade operations during its history but sometimes rebel, difficult to tame due to the territory of The Netherlands under the sea level, a cohabitation which often became an eternal challenging duel.

Amsterdam but also many other coastal towns, including Edam had to work very hard during many years in a sort of endless chess match versus that immense, extension of waters but at end winning, a triumph of the humanity against the strength of nature.

 It was not a game or a joke, all that was characterised also to save human lives with the aim to build cities or small villages surviving by the challenge of that friend but in many cases also enemy. 

Edam was very tenacious thanks to its first settlers who won that battle creating around it a sort of shield to defend itself with success.

The current name derives from those operations managed in medieval times concretely in 1230 when the locals established the construction of a famous barrier which could protect the former settlement. 

A small village, a dam,  the river IJe and the birth of a former town called IJedam which translated means the dam on the river IJe  which was the first name of the current Dutch municipality are the first historic highlights of that great place.

The old community in that time started to develop a tiny agglomeration of houses mainly arranged on the border of that waterway and in the meantime was also established a former local fleet creating since then the pioneer small trades which became since then the main resources next to fishing and small farm activities which also had an important development decade by decade.

When the works to cross the Zuirderzee, a former large bay of the North Sea later called IJsselmeer ended with the channel dammed in 1230, Edam started to be a very active hub in that geographic area thanks to very busy dock which was year by year enlarged, reinforced and transformed in a very important harbour helping that village to gain prestige at National level.

In the early 14th century Edam reached its golden ages becoming a relevant customs port, since then it started to receive the payment of tolls in transit on its waters by merchants and traders who used that harbour as fundamental stage along main routes sailing towards other destinations.

The hard work of the locals gave relevant fruitful and conspicuous results culminated in 1357, a very special date because that former humble village obtained in that year the title of city by Count Wilhelm I of Holland.

It was a period extremely successful elevating itself as one of the most wealthiest realities of the entire country, boasting a high reputation because its prestigious name reached popularity all around The Netherlands.

The increasing fame of that powerful site since the Middle Ages permitted thanks to that financial incoming to enlarge its trade operations when on the banks of the current harbour were established approximately 40 piers with an excellent capacity to host several boats some of them with notable capacity, something unique considering the size and the population of Edam in that time. 

In that period there were important towns in Holland much more populated which did not reach the 20 piers in their ports and that site thanks to its miraculous, outstanding development become soon a sort of maritime and fluvial Dutch capital due that impressive network arose in its boundaries compared at the same level of Amsterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen.

Furthermore brilliant successes achieved during its history began from that iconic port with international activities linked to navigation facilitated  by that access created across the Markermeer which was in a very short time elevated as a strategic gateway on the North Sea, a great open door towards new goals and conquests of fame consolidating Edam in the highest commercial ranking reaching a  position of notable resonance.

The flourishing local activities had day by day an impressive escalation and it was that intense and increasing development which permitted to host on its soil an important market

It was since then in the medieval era that merchants coming from all around Holland, France, Great Britain and Germany flocked there making that town one of their privileged destinations for exchanges, arrangements to establish new businesses.

Edam was transformed in a  favourite meeting point which created new relationships in terms of commerce generating several relevant partnerships since the times of the Holy Roman Empire continuing later with the Dukes of Burgundy descendant of the iconic House of Valois.

Unfortunately in the 16th century The Netherlands suffered several inundations and there were several big problems to contain the unceasing flows of the sea penetrating in the mainland and due to all that Emperor Charles V decided to close many ports.

Naturally facing that difficulty generated by that natural disaster the priorities were those to save the inhabitants with the primary goods and sadly Edam had a pretty sad decay.

To solve those notable problems which decreased the local business, Edam needed to develop new projects to protect its boundaries trying to re-establish the navigation with a series of new dams managing a reset of the main channels to contain those insidious waters. 

Despite those difficulties  born the first famous, small but productive dairy establishments which later transformed Edam in a cradle and International capital of remarkable cheeses production highly appreciated worldwide. 

On 16th April 1526 the Emperor gave the locals the right to establish a market where those products were sold.  


The 16th century was highlighted by hard, long works with several arrangements of the old systems of canalisation generating an interruption with a consequent decline of flourishing activities for the laborious refurbishment which took place all around the territory during the times of William I, Prince of Orange also known as William the Silent of the Taciturn, renovations which continued with his successors, the sons Philip William and Maurice.

In 1594 Edam obtained by the Royal House the eternal permission to continue to have its beloved market for the loyalty and collaboration during the defence of the siege of Alkmaar in 1573 against the Spanish troops led by the Duke Fernando Álvarez de Toledo.  
 
That was an important chapter in the notorious Eighty Years' War ended in 1648 which saw as protagonist the revolt of the seventeen provinces against the never accepted hegemony of Philip I of Spain.

The 17th century was highlighted by several efforts to re-establish the navigation businesses which returned to be an important source of re-development with new extensive arrangements thanks to the birth of emergent activities created to find alternative solutions due to that previous unlucky period.  

The locals decided to establish on the banks of the river some shipyards providing work to many people, operations favoured by William III of Orange, Stadholder of Holland who was also King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689 to 1702, date in which he died.

In the same time began another considerable activity consisting in herring fishing which reached very high peaks, in addition the productive dairy activities continued their expansion with an increasing fame starting to be very popular also abroad.

Some years later further works were focused to preserve the functionality of the canals, basis of a more efficient, modern system of navigation which represented another period of golden ages launching Edam in the highest national ranking once again.
  
The town became one of the most important points of departure linked to the famous International Transoceanic expeditions which made the fortune of The Netherlands.

Many trades were managed towards Oriental Countries such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia next to many other destinations in the Far East, operations which were the beginning of a more than successful economical boom with a relevant fleet and the creation of major companies, monopoly trade institutions among the most regarded in the world.

Edam was in all that undoubtedly an emblematic protagonist of that notable maritime network which conquered a multitude of overseas markets, elevating The Netherlands as one the countries most admired in the international panorama for the fast escalation it had despite its size.

A walk strolling the captivating local streets is to discover the fascinating, magic air you can breathe in that Dutch centre in which its houses and buildings have harmoniously preserved their typical, traditional former architectural image transmitting the visitors special feelings as a journey in the glorious past of Holland.

All the old constructions perfectly restored are very well conserved, the traffic is very well organised with parking in strategic positions without cars which do not collapse the circulation inside the old municipal walls surrounding the town facilitating furthermore the pedestrian visit.

You can start to discover the immense beauty and fascination of Edam from Damplein, a beautiful square representing the vital, beating heart of the community, lively local core greatly surrounded by charming Neo-Renaissance buildings mainly dated the 17th and 18th centuries.

Among them one of the most shining protagonist you can admire is Raadhuis, the Town Hall, definitely the emblematic artistic local symbols consisting in a splendid Dutch Renaissance Palace ended between 1737 and 1738, an outstanding work by the Master Jacob Jongh.

That superb and stylish construction elevated as Rijksmonument, a title delivered to monuments of immense value in the country  reflects in all its essence the most refined, classical style used by the most talented Dutch architects, a stunning masterpiece with stupendous architectural details all around its exterior layout highlighted by a very charming high tower. 

Notable is the arrangement in perfect symmetry of wide rectangular windows placed on two levels, the beautiful facade is completed by a central wooden portal, fine marked lines with different elements inserted in the front side with a perfect criteria.

Other scenic highlights are a beautiful sloping roof and three square arched windows placed on it next to the presence of some picturesque chimneys which with a charming, scenic turret complete the very attractive upper section of that magnificent building.

In addition to stupendous exterior , the interior is equally stunning representing a sublime hymn to the most elegant refined Dutch Rococo.

 That site is also well known to contain some important wallpapers painted in the early 18th century by Rave depicting the Crown of the Kings Salomon and Saul. 

Raadhuis is furthermore the official seat to celebrate civil weddings, it hosts Edam Tourism Office, a section is occupied by a museum located on the top floor and for all that it is considered an indisputable symbol of the community.

Edam Museum is great local attraction you can not miss. Located in the oldest building of the square, a superb construction dated 1540 which with its stunning silhouette is one of the main artistic beauties present in the local boundaries.

That splendid stone house was restored at the end of the 19th century to preserve its relevant architectural value considered for its fine details, executions of lines and decorations one of the most representative of the entire province of North Holland. 

It is very interesting to visit that exhibition because it is like a walk in the old Dutch domestic life, inside you can see an old style bedroom, a captivating living room with also an original kitchen situated in the ground floor. 

From there you can enter in an area in which you will notice some boxes and bricks floating on the underground waters.

According to an old legend or real story linked to that peculiar presence, the house was erected by a local sailor who disappeared some years later probably lost in a sea trip.

The man built that space to keep dry his residence but due to the constant presence of water he did not use cement, plaster or other materials to establish coexistence to the surfaces but he simply placed provisional material as that you can see nowadays.

Since then nothing changed with that passage preserved as in its former appearance as a long time ago, a way to show the visitor the true historic image of that place.

Grote Kerk, the Great Church also called St. Nicolaaskerk is another old, iconic emblem of Edam elevated in the 15th century, a  majestic Religious temple dedicated to St. Nicolas Patron of the sailors after its establishment was largely restored in several occasions due to fires and wars. 

The current wooden roof you can admire nowadays replaced a previous stone one while the present tower was re-built two centuries later, ended in 1701 it was elevated over the renmants of a previous construction.

The architectural design was developed on a rectangular plan consisting in a Latin cross with a wide nave and lateral small aisles. 

During the works other elements were changed or added such as new stained glass windows donated by Edam merchants and citizens, a library and a prestigious organ made in the 17th century

Groete Kerk had other operations of refurbishment in more recent time, concretely in the 60's, the last took place in 1979 when it was officially consecrated once again. 

Very close to that Church in a street called Breestraat you can see the oldest wooden houses of Edam which are absolutely a stupendous local highlight, mandatory for every visitor.

That complex of magnificent buildings represents in its kind another special masterpiece of the genial, talented Dutch architects because it is not so easy an application of Gothic art in buildings using strong materials but you can imagine how can be very complicated in a timber layout .

The perfect symmetry of those captivating houses erected along that charming street forms a special and picturesque setting so special and unique in its kind, all built all in the the same period, exactly in the 16th century  and worth a mention that as a sort of miracle survived to two big fires.

After a terrible devastation which severely damaged numerous structures the municipality ordered to build only stone houses to avoid future disasters caused by further fires but despite that those magnificent constructions are still very well conserved, elevated as a captivating landmark of Edam.

Charming arcades, captivating doors, scenic, ample windows, rosettes, splendid harmonious facades, they are a unique example of fine art well known all around Holland for date construction, style, status of conservation and obviously the Edammers are so proud to have those outstanding masterpieces at home representing a vaunt and a distinctive icon of the rich local heritage patrimony.

Marie Kerk is another local Church very important I recommend you to take a look without hesitations. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary originally that Sacred temple was built in medieval times, concretely in the 14th century

Today of that former building only remains the tower containing the iconic Carillon of Edam  made by the master Pieter Van den Ghein in the 16th century, a perfect mechanical instrument which perfectly continues to work and nowadays every quarter of hour it sings a short melody enchanting the visitors.

Unfortunately that beautiful Gothic architectural element is the only survivor of the former building which was demolished in 1883, in the 70'sthe tower had a restoration and today it is well conserved reminiscent the former erected in the Middle Ages.

Edam has other very interesting Churches in its boundaries, I recommend you a visit to St. Nicolaas Kerk situated in a fascinating street called Voorhaven a long artery which runs between two canals. 

As Grote Kerk also that Sacred building is dedicated to the Patron of the sailors, the difference between them is that one is a Catholic Church erected in the mid 19th century so pretty younger than the previously mentioned.

Elevated on an irregular rectangular plan with three naves, the transept covered by a barrel vault, a great highlight of that structure which has a very balanced layout, a bit sober if seen from far but once facing it you will notice a perfect symmetry of all the architectural elements especially in its front side.

In the charming area of Voorhaven you can also admire the Lutheran Kerk, a Religious site which replaced  an old hospital dated the 15th century.

The place on which it was elevated was originally occupied by the former Town Hall which changed location in the current Damplein and that land was donated to the Lutheran Community which established that Church in the 18th century.

The structure has a pretty austere aspect, it is particularly famous because it hosts a relevant organ, the interior boasts a very special and outstanding acoustic making it an ideal place for concerts and musical events.

Kwakelbrug also called simply Kwakel is another great landmark consisting in a peculiar, unusual bridge but also for that it is one of the local attractions most photographed attractions enchanting a lot tourists.

It is a balanced bridge unique in its kind built on a canal in Shepemakersdjik, a stunning masterpiece developed with old mechanic system made by chains, a sort pioneer and example which was took as model in many places of The Netherlands to build many others.

Not far from that superb creation you can admire Gemeenlandhuis. It is one of the most charming corners of Edam highly suggested to visit simply for the composition of the layout of that site consisting in three houses erected around a green, wide courtyard separated by a charming cobbled passage.

That space was embellished by the presence of a series of statues representing the four seasons and beautiful flowerbeds as charming complement.

 It is a small site but what will impress you is the symmetry of every detail with the presence of traditional Dutch houses next to cobblestone surfaces, sculptures, flowers a masterpiece of harmony very well studied.

Generally the Dutch talented artists are masters to assemble and arrange special, different elements regarding urban plans but also adorning determined areas and that one is a clear, evident example of that innate talent, a little magic place with a charming, appealing atmosphere able to charm anyone and including very inspiring.

The economy of Edam today is mainly dedicated to the production of those famous cheese well known worldwide.  

That town is the cradle of products highly appreciated for their genuine quality, flavour, distinctive taste all around the globe, remarkable cheeses which before to be sold have meticulous tests, selection after special methods of preparation.

The high quality of those emblematic dairy products is the result of a long tradition cultivated and developed generation by generation. 

The production in the factories of Edam currently reaches all the international markets and all that is simply fantastic if you think that centre only has 7,500 inhabitants and an economy which is today mainly devoted to tourism and cheeses.

That so famous cheese wrapped in red wax is a sort of legend and the town to pay homage to that icon but also to keep with pride its roots linked to that activity  celebrates in a picturesque square called Nieuwhuizenplein flanked by coloured, fascinating houses its famed and glorious Edam Kaasmarkt, the legendary cheese market of Edam. 

That special event takes places from 08 July to the 18th August every year and it is simply fantastic to assist to that great attraction in which protagonist is that dairy emblem.

The vendors continuing the long, old historic, local tradition come into that charming space transporting the cheeses by carriages horses and ships just like in the 16th century, once there those products are placed all around that environment, displayed as in an outdoor museum.

That historic representation unique in its kind is also something not just linked to a folkloric event but it is an operation perfectly reminiscent the history of a significant stage deeply rooted in the local community.

Those delectable cheeses are protagonists next to experienced people representing the merchants of some centuries ago who check the quality of them with the iconic ritual of extraction of pieces using a specific cylindrical drill.  

Depending of the result in terms of quality after tasting, the cheese after to be controlled and weighed in a final stage it will have its defined value with a consequent established price ready to be sold.

The history of Edam cheese is secular also linked to the transoceanic expeditions of the Dutch merchants and sailors who used it as basic food aboard of their boats also used in the Far East as goods of exchange when the traders of The Netherlands started to develop an intense activity related to the exportation in Europe of Oriental spices.

Those exotic products  were protagonists of that barter with that dairy delight which immediately enchanted the taste of those Asiatic populations.

There are different kinds of Edam cheese, mild, salty and nutty. Some of them have a different curing process and they are classified in base of a specific treatment with meticulous operations of preparation.

Determined cured cheeses are sold after three months, in that case the product is considered a young Edammer cheese while after six months of conservation it is classified as a semi-cured Edammer.

Over those months it achieves the title of cured Edammer which is practically the top, the most prestigious award with a sort of consecration at the highest level and obviously it has a different price.

The cheese is sold also in different size and weight with a variety of types such as Mini Edammer, the rectangular Edammer among others. 

 The weight can be from less than one kilogramme and over 2,5 kilogramme but there are also some kinds reaching 5,0 kilogrammes.

Very appreciated in the Haute and Nouvelle Cuisine, perfect as ingredient to combine different kinds of recipes, sauces or simply "au gratin" the great success of those dairy masterpieces has conquered the most important European markets from Scandinavia to Spain, from Great Britain to Italy.

Impressive is also how they  highly regarded also in countries of Central Europe such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia places in which they have a nore than notable reputation.

Simply great is also the success they have in North America, in U.S.A and Canada they areamong the most loved, appreciated cheeses while in Latin America in countries as Mexico, Argentina and Brazil they reached year by year a considerable fame just like in many countries of Asia.

One of the special features of that Dutch cheese is certainly its versatility. It can accompany ham in sandwiches, salami or salads, eaten with crackers or in slices after a lunch or dinner.  
In addition it could be inserted to garnish in several main courses, served as appetiser or in assorted starters, tasted with wines including accompanied by a fresh glass of fine Champagne or a Spumante furthermore perfect if combined with fruit such as raisins, melon or also cherries.

In Holland as you know one of the special and traditional landmarks is the typical and traditional windmill. There are windmills everywhere all around the country including in the capital Amsterdam and naturally also Edam has its historic windmill in Broekgouw.

That construction is a splendid example dating back 17th century which even today maintains its original aspect conserving the the original blades which perfectly work just like some centuries ago. 

Not far from Edam in an ample green area you can stop and visit Fort Bij Edam. That fortified area is part of the defencive system erected in the last century as defencive ring protecting the accesses of the city of Amsterdam surrounded by the typical Dutch polders.  
That complex entered in the UNESCO list in 1996 and during a radial excursion or a programmed visit in your route in an established significant itinerary worth to be visited. 
 
The local cuisine is excellent, strongly rooted in the local oldest traditions which continue to be alive also in the current gastronomic panorama.

 Apart the famous cheeses you can enjoy excellent fresh fish, seafood, a large range of soups, meat casseroles accompanied by a wide variety of mixed salads and much more.

The famous Boerenkolstamppot is a typical dish which includes the famed Rookworst sausage served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. That kind of sausage is also presents in the Hutspot, another notorious plate prepared with carrots, onions, cured bacon but also meat.

Pork and beef meats are the most represented in the local culinary scene and they are also the basic ingredients of the typical Gehaktballen consisting in meatballs served with potatoes, vegetables or also to prepare the Slavink, a notorious speciality in which the meat is wrapped by slices of bacon.

The delicious Frikandel is another famous culinary highlight, a homemade sausage made by mixed, grilled minced meat served with salad and chips while the Ertwensoep is a popular Dutch stew pretty common all around the national territory made with meat, sausages, onion, celery and potatoes.

Fsh is greatly present in the local cuisine with absolute protagonists the delicious, iconic Herring which could be considered a national pride for their delectable taste and history

Very appreciated are also the Garnaal, exquisite small prawns and do not miss to try the very tastefully divine Makreel, fried mackerel combined with mixed salads.

 If you are a seafood lover the excellent, eternally fresh Mosselen, sublime mussels among the best in Europe are something of simply superb while another exquisite product often present in the local gastronomy is the Paling,  eel prepared in different styles.

You can also find a big variety of desserts and cakes while about beverages you will be delighted by a big selection of Dutch beers well known worldwide for their prestige and quality.

Thinking and planning a trip to Edam is always a brilliant idea. Amsterdam is very close and a visit or a stay there is to discover an important piece of history of that splendid country called Holland. I added below some links including accommodations in the case you are thinking to spend overnights in that place.

It is a destination which can easily enjoyed with radial excursions from the major centre of The Netherlands.

 You will find in that magnificent city several companies managing Coach Tours with visit by bus combined with other destinations such as Marken, Volendam, historic Windmills and more. 

 Another brilliant idea I suggest you is to insert that site in a tailor made tour as final stage of a planned itinerary in a Fly & Drive reaching in a very short time for the drop off of the vehicle at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

The captivating and magic Dutch atmosphere you will breathe there is simply unique, there is in the air of that place something of extremely special and appealing immediately transmitting great feelings, definitely that marvellous destination of The Netherlands will fascinate your view at first sight donating you a great experience you will remember forever.

 Francesco Mari


Recommended Accommodations in Edam

Damhotel Auberge Edam
Hotel De Fortuna


Useful links