Friday, August 24, 2012

Holland in the summer: North and South

I have been living in Holland for five years and three months now—man, that seems like a long time—and yet I'm still discovering its treasures. Holland is such a small country and sometimes you feel like you've seen it all but, no, there's always more. There are hidden gems everywhere you travel. You just need to dig a little deeper, search for them.

This summer, we have been busier than ever before, traveling around the country and seeing (almost) all that is has to offer. We still have places to visit, people to meet, there are plenty of good times to be had. Of that I'm certain.

We traveled north, to Volendam, an old Dutch fishing village. Small traditional houses, drawbridges, traditional costumes and wooden clogs, a harbor filled with old fishing boats and well, fish; that's what Volendam is famous for.

We ate a lot of raw Dutch herring there. And yes, we liked it.
Haring met broodje en ui (herring with bread and onion or pickles) and on the far left, smoked eel. Not the most romantic food, no?

And of course, we had our sweet treat, poffertjes, little Dutch pancakes, dusted with lots of icing sugar. They're delicious. Who needs regular pancakes when you can have these?

We traveled southwest to the province of Zeeland, Zealand in English, and if that name makes you think of New Zealand, you're correct. The island country of New Zealand is named after the Dutch province of Zeeland after it was discovered by a Dutch seafarer.
Zeeland is famous for its tiny brown shrimp and its pastry. Oh, the pastry, I loved it all.

We first visited the capital of Zeeland, Middelburg, which during the Middle Ages was an important trading center and one of the most powerful cities of the Low Countries.

The Middelburg Stadhuis (City Hall), built in late-gothic style during the Middle Ages. It is now a University.

Then we went to the picturesque village of Burgh-Haamstede.

We went to the most amazing bakery, run by a Jewish baker, with recipes for bread and pastries almost as old as the village itself. The owner, Harry Sonnemans, collects Volkswagen cars and motorcycles and his bakery, as well as the surrounding area, is filled with crazy VW knick-knacks.

Okay, this is the stuff dreams are made of. Soft and amazingly fluffy like the best doughnut you'll ever have, with a cinnamon-y, nutmeg-y, dark brown sugary, sweet glaze. And did I tell you it's baked? Yep, no greasy oils here. This is the Zeeuwse bolus, a traditional pastry of Zeeland, of Jewish origin.

This is the Zeeuwse kruidkoek, meaning spice cookie, and it's a spicy cake-biscuit. It's sticky and gooey and soft and has chocolate and marzipan and nuts inside. Crazy good.

Take a speculaas biscuit and remove that pungent spicy flavor, leaving only the cinnamon and brown sugar. Coat it with caster sugar and you're set. Perfection. That's the Zeeuwse speculaas, milder than the traditional speculaas and much more to my taste.

In the upcoming months, I plan on sharing with you recipes for all the aforementioned sweet treats. Hold on tight!!


  1. that's what I was going to ask next! I would love to try making these pastries! Wow, one of these with coffee for breakfast! Holland looks like an antithesis of what Lebanon is. Flat, pretty, clean, stable, organized, just the image of a perfectly ordered life. Unlike here, where it is mountainous, chaotic, disorganized, crazy and totally totally unpredictable!

    1. Holland is the antithesis of Greece as well, especially Athens, where I'm from, so getting used to living here was, and still is, hard. The pastries are delicious, Joumana. I will share recipes!

  2. These pictures make me want to visit Holland again. I think I had the Dutch herring every day, at least twice a day when I was there. I'd love to see some of the recipes for the sweets!

  3. Did the framing of the dormers on the little brick house in Burgh-Haamstede remind anyone else of measuring spoons?
    The charming and atmospheric photo journal captures the fleeting beauty of a northern summer. Thanks so much for sharing! - Mark

  4. This is another beautiful essay! I love your sense of humor as you take all your photos... Looks like a wonderful trip! ~ David

  5. thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Magda!
    As always, wonderful pictures and a great post! I stayed in Amsterdam for 4 days last September and I loved it! People in Amsterdam are a delight! I did a lot of sightseeing, and I barely had time to eat (so not like me). So in a couple of weeks, I'm coming back for more! :-) I did have harring (Are you kidding? I'm Russian!) and kaas, but this time I'm going to try all the sweets too!

  7. Ah so cute and delicious! Hope to make it to Holland some day. I have some Greek-Dutch cousins to visit.

  8. Kat — you're one of the few non-Dutch people who like the raw herring. I like it too!

    Mark — yes!! Measuring spoons! I hadn't noticed till you said it. Great eye, Mark! :)

    David — glad you liked it!

    Anonymous — thanks for reading!

    Yuliya — hello! do try the sweets, you're gonna love then. Admittedly, they don't look that good, not like French pastries but they are quite delicious.

    Anna — hope you make it too!

  9. I am already attracted to this country, but now I am dying to go to Volendam and to taste those bolus! Thank you for taking me on a quick vacation!

  10. hi, your photos make me think back the moment i was there ( Volendam fish village) with Expat Explorer tour Oct 2011,and i do miss Holland, the spectacular view. I bought waffle for my lunch. There famous with fried seafood, i guess so. and i did bought Stroopwafel at the nearby Store and if lucky can get some valuable choco too.. such as Ritter Sport 250g,with Euro 1.80.