Cycle route World Heritage | Beemster Polder
Middenbeemster, Zuidoostbeemster, Westbeemster
Known for its cheese and polders: the Beemster Polder. It is the region between Purmerend, Alkmaar, Hoorn and Amsterdam. The landscape has been below sea level for over four hundred years. The ring dyke protects the polders from the water.
Before the Beemster became as we know it today, it was a lake, the Beemster Lake, surrounded by a very wet peat landscape. A solid, 42-kilometre-long dike was built around the lake in 1612, surrounded by a ring canal. The lake was then drained using more than 40 mills, under the direction of the engineer aptly named Leeghwater, which created the polders. The layout of the Beemster completely fulfils the guiding principles of the time: order, regularity and harmony. You can see this in the straight grids that the meadows, roads and ditches form together, like a big green patchwork quilt. It's like cycling in a Mondrian painting!
Immediately after the polders were drained, rich merchants bought pieces of land to build beautiful homes. This way, they could escape the hot, dirty city in summer and enjoy the peace and space here. Did you know that the names given to the streets in 1612 are still the same street names as today? Back then, people also drew the villages on a map under the name Middel, Noort, West and Zuydt Beemster. Instead of Zuydt Beemster, it became Zuidoostbeemster, the other three still exist under - roughly - the same name.
This region surprises you with a rich history and culture, including many forts and windmills. Along the dead straight cycle paths, you will come across many cheese-cover farmhouses. This is where most of the 'stolp' farms in the Netherlands are located. Thanks to their wide pointed roofs, they are also called the pyramids of the polder. Cows graze peacefully in the polder meadows. The soil of the polders proved to be very fertile after reclamation. Moreover, the soil has a specific salty taste, which you can taste in the Beemster cheeses. So be sure to pop into a farm shop or restaurant to taste the artisanal local produce.
Arranging the land as they did in the 17th century is a textbook example of how the Dutch reclaimed large parts of the country. The whole area is therefore also called 'Droogmakerij De Beemster'. Under this name, it is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to take a look at the Visitor Centre in Middenbeemster to learn all about this beautiful area!
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