By bike to Monnickendam: On tour with Martin

Monnickendam bike trip: With Martin on tour

Not long ago I received an email from Martin. He is Dutch and originally from Rotterdam, but has lived in Amsterdam since 2002 (the same year I moved to London). Ever since Lhoste, he follows my blog and used the opportunity, now that I am in Amsterdam, to get in touch. We spent a fun day cycling (fietstocht in dutch) in the pretty landscape and villages north of Amsterdam all the way to Monnickendam. Thanks for a great day!

Our route – 49km through the countryside north of Amsterdam: Martin picked a route that he knows well leading us from the NSDM ship yard to Monnickendam and back on the dike along the Markermeer and back to Amsterdam. I had never been on the northern side of Amsterdam. The city operates free ferries over the Ij river from where you get a different angle on the city. There are also quite some off the beaten track sights as the former shipyard was transformed into a vibrant space.


  • Faralda Crane Hotel: Ever felt like you need to sleep in an old crane some 20-30m above ground? Well, there you go. If you feel like, you can even do a bungee jump.
  • De Ceuvel: De Ceuvel is a sustainably planned workplace for creative and social enterprises attracting entrepreneurs and artists alike (many having been involved in the project). It opened in 2014 after the former shipyard ceased operations in 2000. Built on heavily polluted land, it is now not only a cool place to get together, but is also host for phyto-remediating plants that clean the soil.

When cycling on this side of the city, you also see loads of the traditional wooden houses (nowadays in high demand with EUR1m a piece price tags) and you will see far less tourists than in the center … even though the area has now made into guidebooks.

From there we continued to a large lock and then straight into the nature where you leave the municipality of Amsterdam into the Waterland municipality (how fitting!). When you ride past the fields, you will notice that they are all individually drained to manage water levels, usually with a small canal around the field. Dropping ground levels resulting from overbuilding are a challenge though. We passed many cute villages before our lunch break in Monnickendam, but my personal highlight was our stop at a dairy farm that operates a fresh milk machine (90c / liter).

Monnickendam is a small town with 10k inhabitants that used to be an important port city with a weigh house for trading purposes. Nowadays it has a very laid back atmosphere and is also home to artists. Martin told me a bit more about his life over the sandwiches he had prepared for us and I could share a little more about mine.

Well rested we began our journey back following the dike and facing a decent amount of headwind. Makes you work as if you cycle uphill even though the route is completely flat (we had less than 100m total ascent over the entire 49km). Back in the city, we first stopped for another meal at a bistro for friet zuurvlees. It’s basically fries with beef stew. Now I can quote this and bitterballen as my insights into the Dutch cuisine! Tasty as well. Lunch was a moment to also speak some Dutch with Martin (we mostly conversed in German during our trip).

To flush it all down, Martin took me to one of his favorite cafe’s (Distilleerderij ‘t Nieuwe Diep) on this fine day and really turned out to be an oasis. Located on the shores of a lake in the middle of a park. Their specialty is all sorts of Jenevers & gins in a charming atmosphere and with a good amount of humor from the owner. Stand prepared to take the first sip of your gin right at the counter – he fills them to the absolute maximum.

We said good-bye near Amsterdam centraal and headed to the center to meet Johan – a former sellside competitor now at UBS under my old Morgan Stanley research management … and of course we ended up having a few more drinks while Roma played Liverpool. Great day. Dankjewel Martin (especially for all the insights … could only feature a fraction of your extensive knowledge here).


looks a bit gay … but is purely accidental ;o)


Team Schöfferhofer in Amsterdam

Team Schöfferhofer has managed its first outing though not the entire team on this occasion, as Felix sadly had other commitments. So it was down to max, steve and myself to light up Amsterdam. And so we did. My school time is now also up as i managed to get to B1 level in just 4 weeks. Next up is King’s day (27 April) when the country dresses up in orange and parties non stop to honour their king.

Team Schöfferhofer: The idea to do something else than just family occasions & christmas parties together came about last christmas. I guess it’s fair to say that everyone was up for it right away. Amsterdam was a good option to start as neither of us lives too far away with steve in Copenhagen and max studying in freiberg. Definitely easier than meeting in say Bangkok or Medellin … for now, anyway. 

First up, we nailed the weekend weather wise. Summer temperatures from thursday through sunday. The sunburnt faces of steve and max tell the pretty story well! Thursday we had say good introductory night in the center (which unavoidably includes the red light district being the center). The old sailor and excalibur made for good places to hang out, at least until they closed. 

Friday, Steve and Max went on a free tour (see Amsterdam walking tour: Fun facts) while I dragged myself to school on this fine day. By late afternoon we were back together and enjoyed a pretty hot afternoon. After loads of bitterballs (basically our main source of food for the entire weekend) and a few beers we explored town a bit more, but didn’t make it a too big one in the end. 

Bitterballen (plural of bitterbal) are a Dutch meat-based snack (similar to a coquette), typically containing a mixture of beef or veal (minced or chopped), beef broth, butter, flour for thickening, parsley, salt and pepper, resulting in a thick roux. It is usually served with mustard. See wikipedia for more.


Cycle tour in & around Amsterdam: Saturday was again looking great and we all felt in reasonably good shape. Our aim was to get on the bikes and cycle to the Ijsselmeer (great suggestion Max), some 15km away. Technically speaking we didn’t go to the Ijsselmeer, but the Markermeer since the Houtribdijk dam split the original Ijsselmeer into two (since 1975). The ride was pretty enjoyable. First through the north-eastern center of the city and then out into the nature on cycle path along canals and relaxed suburbs.

We made it to Blijburg aan Zee for lunch (=bitterballs) and relaxed in the beach bar. I need to go back there some time in the evening. Seems they have some good parties there! While we enjoyed the views, weather and beers … others went further with many people hitting the water (pretty cold as we would find out later that day). Proper Ostsee vibe! We took a slightly different way back and rode mostly along a dam to get back to Amsterdam. Good decision for we got to see the Ij brewery (Brouwerij Ij) with its windmill, which supplies the beer for my local pub back in Haarlemmerbuurt.

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Indicative route … poor navigation skills & sightseeing curiosity added to the mileage

Once back in the city we headed for Rembrandtsquare to watch a bit of footie (ManU vs T’ham in FA cup semi’s) and, would you believe it, ate something else than bitterballs … 3x sushi please! That actually tasted healthy. Football was a bit dull, but after stopping in another cool place (the bushdoctor) the evening kicked off in good fashion.

First Steve succumbed to his 80’s music desire. Just imagine Rembrandt square around which you’ll find plenty of bars. One of them was already pumping late afternoon while the others just got going slowly. It was a bar that let’s say attracted the generation of our parents more than people of younger age … what a laugh! Can’t quite recall which other places we visited (naturally crossing through the red light district again & stopping at my favorite pub -De Sluyswacht) before we eventually headed home.

On the way we also tested the waters of the IJ river. Cold exercise! And good to have Max giving a helping hand to get Max & myself out again. Pretty slippery stuff. I guess the folks in my local corner pub were a little confused by the wet hair given it hadn’t rained in days (for a change). But surely, after a swim in the Ij we deserved a beer from the Ij brewery. Tasty!

And then the first Schöfferhofer outing was almost over. After lunch and a stroll in Vandelpark and Museumsplein, Max went to the airport while Steve & I watched the other FA cup semi – Chelsea vs Southampton (2:0) before he also left for Copenhagen.

Good stuff! Next time hopefully with Felix. Apparently its gonna take us to Tallinn, where Max will study abroad. Can’t wait!

Dutch course done: This week also marked the end of my second level Dutch language studies. Having skipped the A1/A2 course, I ‘graduated’ with B1 (intermediate). It was fun studying with Katya, Abdo & Akin as well as our teachers. Good luck to everyone & hope to see you again. Now we need to put theory into practice. Maar dat is nu geen grote probleem meer, denk ik! And remember: ‘Mannen en ook vrouwen zijn mensen’.