In over 12 years of Dutch living, I’d only been to Volendam once six years ago and only to enjoy a simple lunch in the outskirts, intentionally avoiding the craziness of the town center that we all knew was too popular for comfort. Always overrun with tourists, mostly the international kind, compared to neighboring towns like Edam, Marken, and Monnickedam that are classically Dutch and attractive destinations in their own right, Volendam somehow carried stronger recall and got more attention.
Given current travel restrictions I wondered then how the town that to a great part is reliant on tourist money was doing and curious why it’s as popular as it is. Per my usual wont I checked on a good place for lunch, and past 11 in the morning on a Saturday I passive-aggressively approached Teko about the idea of a short drive to get us out of our apartment. An hour later we were there, and lunch was the first thing on the list.
It was mostly cloudy so sitting inside was preferable, which even though we hadn’t called ahead to reserve a table wasn’t a problem since there were just a handful of customers. Seated on a quiet corner it was easy to spy the whole room, how the waitstaff was doing and if there was a slowdown at all in these parts. While it was quiet when we got there it did get busier later on, which I think was a sign business is doing fine in Volendam. Like the last place we went to in neighboring Germany, local tapas were on the menu and with a little bit of decision-making I was able to choose a selection to gauge the cooking and in the end happily wasn’t disappointed.
The tasty angus mini-burger, small-sized serving of pumpkin soup, and a piece of crunchy crab cake were exact enough to leave space for their version of panna cotta, all of which were good. With lunch accomplished it was time to uncover the town itself. From the moment we parked near Sint Vincentius church and walked in the direction of IJssel lake it actually wasn’t difficult to see the allure what with pristine Dutch houses, narrow cobblestoned roads, and storefronts that would fit a Hallmark movie.
Even though the first parts of Haven Street looked sadly deserted, as we approached the main Haven Street drag it felt like any normal downtown Sunday – restaurants doing brisk business, masses of people roaming the streets, and boats busily unloading day visitors into town. It was too busy in fact that Teko and I barely had time to look around, busy maintaining distance from others and looking for a way out of the crowds. After buying some fresh bread at the local bakery, and bumping into Teko’s ex-colleague in the process, we made a beeline back to where we parked and got out in quick fashion. Volendam is quite the small town, definitely worth a stop if possible. As far as the other towns are concerned, I’m glad we have them to rely on when the need for small town quaintness calls. They’re no doubt more than up to the task.