Zaanse Schans is a neighbourhood of Zaandam, near Zaandijk in the Netherlands and holds a collection of historic houses and infamously windmills. Between the early 60s and early 70s, these quaint structures were relocated to the area now sit in the idyllic grounds of Zaanse Schans.
I first visited the rural museum, on a residential trip to Holland aged 9, I had a vague recollection of the experience, fond memories which spurred me to revisit on a second journey to the country 10+ years later (wow, that makes me sound old!) Anyhow, this time things were a little different, I had my boy by my side and we started off the morning as only we could with coffee (served with a strong liqueur).
We roamed around the various handicraft houses, scattered around the grounds. You can watch local craftsmen create traditional wooden shoes right before your eyes, educate yourself of the creation of local cheeses and even educate yourself on the art of chocolate making. Apparently, (but not surprisingly) they also have a distillery on-site. Sadly, this is one attraction I by-passed, but it only gives more reason to go back!
Not only can you enjoy a demonstration, but the best part perhaps comes at the end, where you are able to treat yourself to a souvenir or two in light of the occasion. Between both visits, I clocked up a pair of clogs, a worldly collection of stamps, a snow globe, a much smaller pair of clogs, a handful of postcards and a wedge of edam cheese, phew… Needless to say, I like to leave with keepsakes from my travels!
Of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without a wander round the windmills. I remembered wandering round them as a child and was keen to share the experience with my partner. The interior shouted old-world charm and felt like you were entering a bygone era. Many of the windmills continue in operation, powering precious materials, from paint to wood, cocoa and oil.
We took a tour of De Kat, primarily a paint mill. On entering, there was an opportunity to inspect the clogs in action and browse sample barrels of the coloured pigments that the mill would have created. Gradually we ascended up the steep wooden ladders to reach the viewing balcony on top. Here you could see the outer panels up close, as well as take in panoramic views of the sleepy landscape.
Unfortunately, our escapade wasn’t without mishap, as my boyfriend stumbled on the stairs. Thankfully all was okay, but beware, as I’ve learnt on more than one occasion, many stairs in Holland are designed purposefully steep. I also have to mention the quaint antique shop hidden within the labyrinth of bygone houses. I came across a few nice trinkets, it’s worth seeking out. There are also cafes in which to stop and enjoy the scenery at your leisure.
A rural retreat away from the bustling urban districts, Zaanse Schans offers a slower pace of life,allowing you to step into the tradition and trades of bygone days in Holland. Delightful and insightful!
All in all it was a delightful day out of the city (staying in Amsterdam). The weather remained dry and I couldn’t leave without an obligatory picture in the oversized clogs! I would personally recommend Zaanse Schans as a must-see if visiting Holland and indeed if flying through Amsterdam. We took a bus to the site from Amsterdam’s Central Station, which took us direct both ways.