You should try watching Tom & Jerry in German sometime, I think it’s funnier. We arrived in Berlin yesterday, and we’ve already begun to feel at home. We’re staying in a hotel near Nollendorfplatz, and we like the area as well as several others we’ve walked through. It feels a lot like Brooklyn in many ways, but also different. The area around Nollendorfplatz is full of shops with names like Boys R Us, and have store windows that look a lot like the stores outside my old apartment on West 3rd. We feel at home here.
A few days ago Shell and I posted on Facebook seeking recommendations for the Baltics. We then took the time to plan it all out and we’ve changed our plans. A few times over, at this point. As much as we love the idea of seeing the Baltics with an excursion to St. Petersburg, it isn’t looking in the cards for us. An excursion up there would either end up too short and put strain on our budget, or take away from the Balkans which was high on our list from the very beginning.
The Balkans have won out, and we’re working hard on the itinerary. Everything we read, and those we’ve spoken with, all say it is a wonderful time visiting the region. Besides being beautiful, the people are supposed to be very friendly and excited to greet tourists to their area of the world. We also have a few more connections who have toured the area or live in the area, setting us up for a bit more success than the Baltics would have.
On to our experience through Amsterdam, the area just north, and an excursion to Nolet Distillery in Schiedam (loosely: Skee-dam). What follows is reportage.
We had a group of eleven for our time in Amsterdam. It was pure luck that some of Shell’s extended family were also planning a trip that would place them in Amsterdam while we were there. The rest of their trip was cruise based out to the British Isles. Some things we did as a large group, others it was just the Hamilton crew. The Reypenaer Tasting Room was a highlight, partly for the education on cheese, but also the cheese tasting and delicious drink pairings. My personal favorite was a boat tour of the canals. Hang on with me, this wasn’t the usual tour. Those Dam Boat Guys know how to make a funny and irreverent tour. They let you BYOB, and laugh as much as you’d like.
We took an excursion north of the city to tour some of the villages outside on a bus tour. It was a bit of a tourist trap, but also allowed us to see some of the country side. The cheese part of this tour was over the top touristy, complete with costumed employees and clogs to have your picture taken in. Despite that, the cheese was good, and the animals on the working farm were friendly and healthy.
Several years back Bob and Susi, along with some of their friends, were in Amsterdam and took a ride out to Schiedam to tour Nolet Distillery. There is no public information on the tour, no sign-up sheet, etc. But one of their friends knew how to set it up, and so they did. Bob and Susi liked the tour enough they thought to get it setup once more for while we were there. It’s no surprise why they liked it. Not only is it intimate, but also informative of history, family legacy, and of different spirits not all available in the U.S.
Nolet has a beautiful facility, especially within their old windmill. One of the taller structures in town, it still works but now produces electricity and was spinning healthily when we were in it. We see Ketel One, the original kettle along with many of the newer ones. We also see some of the aging barrels for products that stay local to the European market. We are also introduced to a product called Jenever, which is much like gin, but slightly less alcoholic (40 instead of 45, for example), and has a less harsh quality to it. Enga and everyone else on the Nolet staff were very nice, warm, and hospitable. One of the values of the company is to build demand through knowing their customers and word of mouth rather than large ad campaigns. They are certainly doing it right, after spending the day with them it is hard not to what to buy from them.
Near the end of the tour we are taken under the city canal to a facility that has long been Nolet, but formerly was a drive via bridge away. Now they are able to stay within their facility and move under the canal. It was a huge investment for the company, along with the massive amount of automation in the warehousing facility.
As always, thanks for reading.