CYCLING THROUGH SCHIERMONNIKOOG

I love Holland for it's friendly and liberal residents, vivid culture, easy walkability, and varied nightlife. But there is so much more than the coffeshops in Amsterdam most associate with the whole country.

If you're seeking an even richer Dutch culture, I suggest visiting a few small villages that are just a short drive from Amsterdam's Schipol Airport. Here are two that I visited during a weekend trip to Holland.

SCHIERMONNIKOOG

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This island is mostly car-free, situated within an archipelago of islands off the northern cost of Holland. Primarily a summer destination, the island of Schiermonnikoog is home to only 800 permanent residents. It holds a campground, hundreds of vacation houses, and about 15 hotels.

Like most of Holland, an efficient method of transportation on Schiermonnikoog is a bicycle. Rental shops are ubiquitous and do not worry if you prefer to walk, many places can be accessed by foot as well. I'm not a cyclist by any means, but it is fun to do as the locals would. Bike to the beach, through the national park, or have an ice cold Amstel with mustard soup at an outdoor cafe. There is lots to discover on Langestreek, one of the main streets on the island.

Ferry service is available at least two times a day (even in winter months) however if you choose to stay overnight, consider Hotel Graaf Bernstroff. It is in a convenient location surrounded by cafes, bike paths, art galleries, and tourist shops.

Hotel Graaf Bernstroff

LAREN

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This small village, also in North Holland, is known for it's affluence and 20th century art colony. It's beautiful location on a nature reserve provides endless cycling and walking possibilities. Much like the rest of Holland, Dutch culture is carefully preserved in Laren. You will be impressed by the old windmills and thatched roof houses -- and the protected deer park. Don't leave the area without trying poffertjes (mini fluffy Dutch pancakes) at Corn de Haan, which has been family-run for 100 years. Because everything should be doused in butter and powdered sugar.

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