Thursday, April 26th was a full schedule. First of all, we all had to wake up at O’Dark Thirty, sleepily drink our coffee to try to wake up and be ready to board a bus parked outside our boat. We were going to tour the famous Flower Auction in Aalsmeer. It is the largest floral market in the world!
We managed to wake up, board the bus and then travel a short distance to the market which is located somewhat near Schipol Airport.
Around 20 million flowers are traded here every day. Visitors are welcome, however, they must arrive early (hence the early bus ride!) and only observe the action from walkways above the flowers in the busy warehouse floor below where little transport trains of cars of flowers crisscross the world’s largest covered market at astonishing speed. It was definitely a definitive study in logistics!
It is important to know in advance that the auction is not at all like Keukenhof Gardens. You will not get up close and personal with the flowers – the most interesting part of the Aalsmeer flower market is seeing the logistics in action, rather than admiring flowers up close.
As you can see it is a hive of activity. Endless numbers of small trains full of carts loaded with containers of flowers and plants are moved by electric-powered trucks or automated rails. It looks all chaotic with a highway system (and clearly a highway code to go with it) allowing the various wagons to be moved to where the schedules demand.
Flowers arrive from around 10 pm, are cooled and then sorted throughout the night. The auctions take place in the early morning hours; then the flowers are distributed immediately. By late afternoon, all the flowers will have been moved out and shipped to destinations worldwide. Afterward, the warehouse prepares for the next round.
Tourists at the Aalsmeer FloraHolland flower auction can observe the actual trading through soundproof windows.
This is how the flower auction functions. Buyers sit in an almost college classroom like manner on one side of the hall with their computers. In front of the hall, the flowers and plants are pulled through the hall on automated trains.
The huge screens display the auction information – the clock determines the price. The auctioneer sits behind a glass screen. The buyers bid electronically as the flowers move by.
Once the flowers are sold, the most impressive part of the logistics springs into action. Wagons and containers are sorted and sent to the correct loading bay so each buyer receives his wares and can speed it on to the shops, further distribution centers, or to Schiphol Airport for export. Payments are received the same day and all sold flowers clear the building by late afternoon. I was very impressed, how about you?
After that educational and enlightening process, we boarded back upon the bus and headed back to the boat where a yummy breakfast was awaiting us. While we ate, the Skipper set sail and we headed back to Amsterdam where we started. It was fun to sail as we ate.
Along the way, I took some shots of several floating homes hugging the banks. I thought they were very interesting and quite varied in design.
Once we docked, the next item on the itinerary for that day went into effect; our final bike excursion through the countryside. We were headed for Broek in Waterland. Below is the route we followed.
We all packed our lunches, gathered up our coats and helmets and proceeded outside to the dock, finding each of our respective bikes and prepared to take off on our last excursion together. It was a lovely day for an exploration of the surrounding countryside and small villages.
After a short while of cycling, we took our first butt break in a quaint little village, which I think was called Ransdorp which had a very tall church tower built in the early 1500s. This village is where Rembrandt’s love, Gertje Dirks, was from.
Arie stopped us to take a break at what used to be the City Hall.
There he proceeded to give us a brief talk about the customs of the Dutch people. I learned something about my mother. She used to tell a story about how when she first set up housekeeping with my dad after they got married that he proceeded to start pulling the curtains in the evening, something she wasn’t unaccustomed to. Evidently, having grown up in a Dutch/German family, she was used to always leaving the curtains open and not drawn. When she saw my dad drawing the curtains she asked why he was doing that. He answered, “Well, it’s just how I grew up, why?”
She responded, “In my family, we always left them open! Are you trying to hide something from the neighbors Ken?” she inquired. “Is there something you need to tell me?”
“No, nothing!” he exclaimed and proceeded to leave the curtains open. My mom never could make out the difference in their upbringing. Now I know and wish I could tell her; while Arie was telling us about the Dutch and their curious customs, one of the customs was all about not drawing the curtains so neighbors in their small village would not become suspicious that they had something to hide! Ah! So that’s it!
To this day, I always leave my curtains open, (except in my bedroom) just the way I was raised! I thought it was because I like the sunshine coming in through the windows when I rise in the morning, but I’ve learned that I definitely am a product of my ancestral curious customs and culture after all.
There were also some very quaint houses nearby.
Afterward, we climbed back on our bikes and continued traveling through the countryside to our next butt break at what used to be a landfill and has since been covered up and made into a lovely green space.
Not long after that, we continued following the bike route and then arrived in the beautiful little village of Broek in Waterland.
After riding through the small picturesque village we stopped for a break in front of the church. Arie told us a little bit about the village and provided enough time for each of us to explore on our own for awhile.
I wandered on foot around the village to get some shots of the beautiful architecture, gardens, and canals.
When I happened upon the graveyard, this cute little kitty instantly befriended me and cajoled me to pet her sweet soft tummy. She followed me for a little way, but finally said her goodbyes and wandered off again.
I continued on down the lane working my back to the church where I started. I so enjoyed the scenery as I wandered.
What a lovely little village…and so pristine!
When I arrived back at the church, to my delight, Arie had made arrangements for us to go inside! I love exploring churches and I’ve never been inside a Dutch one – yet! Let’s go inside and see what it’s like, shall we?
The original church was built before 1400 and was consecrated to St. Nicolas. On the 26th of September, 1573, during the Spanish occupation of The Netherlands, Spanish soldiers set fire to the church, destroying it completely. In 1628 the inhabitants of the village began rebuilding the church on its old foundations.
In 1585 the church became Protestant. The two boards on the west wall list all of the names of the clergymen who have served the church from 1585 to the present.
On the east wall is a tableau depicting biblical scenes and were used to illustrate the Bible stories told around the fireplace. And of course, they are depicted in the Delft Blue style!
The church organ was built in 1832 by Wander Beekes.
The only remaining stained glass window dates from 1640. It shows the history of the church in five parts, starting at the bottom.
First, the church has been set on fire by Spanish Soldiers. Villagers and the priest, holding the chalice, are fleeing.
Second, the destroyed church. A thatched roof has been laid over the remaining walls, and on the left, a temporary church can be seen. The people have returned and the light begins to return.
Third, the church is rebuilt. The light rises higher and the temporary building recedes into the background.
Fourth, the interior of the “new” church with the villagers gathering to attend the first service and finally, the fifth stage: inside the church during the first service. The title of the sermon was from Luke 13:22 “Fight to enter the narrow gate.”
In addition to the beautiful elements of the church, there was also an art exhibition of some very creative and whimsical pottery being displayed around the church that I found quite interesting. Particularly enjoyed the singing girls!
After that wonderful little tour of the church, we continued on the bike trail for awhile making our way back to the boat. Our last butt break was at a very interesting thatched windmill that is the only remaining windmill which mills chalk!
For posterity, we all gathered up for a group shot… that’s me where the arrow is pointing.
Tim Draper, from Raleigh, North Carolina, was designated as the photographer, so I took a picture of him atop the old grist stone, taking a picture of us, for his records!
We then all got back on our bikes and finished cycling the rest of the route back to the boat where we were docked right next to the Magnifique II, a sister ship.
After stowing our bikes and getting refreshed, we all got to enjoy one last dinner together, enjoying each others’ company. I sat next to these lovely three ladies from Sweden; Karin, Agneta, and SolBritt. They were so delightful and I hope to visit them someday in the future. Such nice and funny ladies!
As usual, the delightful dishes the chef prepared for us were sublime!
Afterward, we just kind of hung out, visited, swapped photos and email addresses and enjoyed our final hours together before retiring for the night.
Later that evening, after everyone else, except the crew, had retired for the night, I couldn’t resist hanging out on the deck enjoying the night.
We all slept rather soundly after arising so early in the morning, but it was such a long delightful day filled with interesting sights and such gorgeous scenery and architecture.
Attitude of Gratitude ~
I am grateful for new knowledge about my Dutch/German ancestors customs and lifestyle. I also particularly feel blessed for having the opportunity of wandering around the countryside with such nice congenial fellow travelers, taking in the fresh air, laughing, and enjoying the sights together.