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Every time the sun shines I feel the need to be outside. I’ve learned my lesson from Portland, and from what I’m noticing around me, people here know the same secret! Enjoy the sun while you can. It’s been beautiful weather here, so on Saturday we took off on our bikes to explore the countryside a bit more. We made it past Muiden and all the way to Naarden, 23km away.

Naarden is a small town with a cute old center. The best thing about the city is the way it looks on a map or from above, actually. (That’s not an insult to Naarden. It just looks really cool.) Naarden is an example of what’s called a star fort, and because I’m not super interested in military history, that’s all I know. But, really, look at this. An old map, and a satellite view to prove that it really does look like that.

Isn’t that crazy? I’m so used to maps being a grid of square blocks and numbered streets that old European towns just thrill me. Each “star” is built from a fortified wall, and today you can go tour the shelters, cannons, and barracks that defended the city all the way up to WWII.

After our fill of forts, we cycled back to Muiden. I mentioned in a previous post that when we were here before we skipped the castle. This time, we went in!

The Muiderslot is the type of castle that you dream about as a kid, when you stand on your castle turret (back porch) and wave a silk handkerchief (paper napkin) at your departing hero (figment of my imagination). Or was that just me? Either way, this is the castle that fulfills all of your (my) dreams.

It’s small, but it’s got everything a real castle should have. Moat. Drawbridge. Murder holes above the drawbridge for hot lead. Towers. Spiral staircases inside the towers. Old rooms with skinny windows. Even chamber pots, which is great, because no one ever mentions that in history classes. They even have a falconry with demonstrations, and the coolest owls I’ve ever seen up close.

The castle was recently renovated, and has a great tour route to follow with plaques (English translations!) and displays throughout. It’s perfectly set up for kids to live their medieval dreams. We even saw a gaggle of princesses and knights, all dressed up. It was pretty cute.

I guess I should admit that the kids weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves. With swords to play with, a saddle to pretend-joust on, and knight helmets to try on, Jesse and I had a pretty good time, too.

I’m not fighting that guy. Retreat, and back to Amsterdam!