Trust me, I have also the difficulty in pronouncing the world “Zaanse Schans“.It actually means “the sconce of the river Zaan”.I first saw it in the Dutch book that I have. I am actually keeping track of all the places that I wanted to explore in the Netherlands and this one is in my list.I dunno but I am just totally into Windmills, traditional artistic crafts, old Dutch gable houses and yes–their unique Architectural heritage.It´s typical Dutch and I must say that they are all unique in every sense. Quite surprisingly, when I am preparing our travel itinerary and told my husband that I wanted to visit Zannse Schans en route to Amsterdam, he was quite surprised ,and so as my in-laws.The´ve never been there, I was even the one suggested that we all visit and see Kinderdijk a few years ago! I realised then that just like most Germans who doesn´t explore the local sights in Germany, so as the typical Dutch.
Anyway, when I told them that it´s a beautiful traditional Dutch village, then the´ve agreed.
Zaanse Schans is beautiful in every sense. Everywhere I looked is totally Dutchy.Just looked at these lovely sceneries! So many greens pastures nestled in the rows of traditional world-class original Dutch Windmills, so elaborately quaint and beautiful green houses along the Zaan river, along with the wooden clog-making barns, museums, craft shops and cheese factories! Just in one look, I am transported into the time of the old age of millers.One look at this place gives me a good impression of the Netherland´s rich history.Oh If you travel in the Netherlands, especially in the countryside,you will definitely see lots of green spaces–natural greens, forests, dikes or polders, farms with lots of horses, cows and sheeps. I even saw live chicken with chicks inside a Botanical Garden and picking on strawberries !
We drived approximately 2 hours from Almelo and reached Zaanse Schans in time. Zaanse Schans is just approx.20 kms away from Amsterdam and the traffic was okay. It was not even around lunch time when we arrived so I predicted that it won´t be crowded. I am totally mistaken since once we reached the parking area, it was already full of tourist buses and all. Tourism is back in the Netherlands and nobody really cares anymore about Corona. Everything seemed back to normal but it´s always a good idea to take into safety precautions. Tickets are sold in the main entrance and there´s a shop there where you can get a guide maps and books.
Just as I expected, it was windy, chilly and cold. I am not surprised though since I know that Dutch weather can always be unpredictable. One moment it is sunny and the next it would be cloudy ans super windy!Good thing we´ve packed our light jackets.I find the parking fees expensive here, but there was a nice tourist information center and they have clean bathrooms. But then again, nothing is really free nowadays. This place is quite touristy but not really as crowded as in Keukenhof.
People have the impression that windmills are just tourist magnets and decoration, but it´s not what it is really for. If you looked closely into history, Dutch windmills are really something–they are there for purposes and the rows of Windmills and sawmills in the region of Zaan serves entirely a unique purpose.Halfway through the 19th century,no less than 1,100 windmills were built in the Zaan region over time, with 600 of them on full operation. They looked so serene from a far, but they are the industry giants!
As we walked through the windmills, I noticed that each mill have their distinct quality. The height, and overall structure really is amazing.The Zaan region actually is the oldest industrial area of Western Europe.Imagine around 1850, the mill blades never stopped operating and the wooden mills are still creaking under the fresh winds which is really an impressive display. Once you are in front of these giant windmills, you can´t avoid but t stare, listen and admire these amazing machines!
My daughter asked what are the use of windmills, she probably doesn´t remember the numerous windmills we´ve seen whenever we are visiting the Netherlands. She saw many people climbing up, taking selfies and enjoying the wind up there.She wanted to go up but then we declined since i find it so pricey and the crowd of tourists is overwhelming.These windmills are actually used to cut woods,timber, press oil and grind flour, spices and dyes.Each of these windmills have a scent of fresh dust,chalk or oil, and show exactly how the production and processes were being done before.
If you wanna experience what´s in a day in the life of a miller, then you can climb one of these mills and have an experience!
One windmill that is worth the mention is the Paint Mill called “the Cat” or the Verfmolen de Kat ever since 1644! From outside you can´t miss it.It´s one impressive windmill and it´s the only windmill that´s still operating up until now.I love it because it´s the one grinding paints into pigments. Yes, I love the Dutch masters and their artists.This windmill is the one supplying world -class paints to artists,antique restorers and museums around the world from Rembranthuis to the Vatican Museums.Talking about Van Gogh and Rembrant paints!The Miller here is an expert in ancient paint tecniques and he demonstrates it in the tour.
Zaanse Schans is so big that you can actually get lost tracking of all the windmills in the area. The view along the river with the green houses is actually breathaking. I would love to see this place during sunset or on a foggy day. Beware though, walking in a typical windy day is actually exhausting! So if ever you visit this place-expect to be windblown as well!
Typical sights are wooden clogs and lots of beautiful museums. We only managed to rummaged through the Clogs museum (Klompenmakerij) and Cheese maker De Catharina Hoeve. I just love the combination of clogs and cheese in everything! Combining the two is actually a symbol for Holland!
This place used to be a warehouse to store grain and stuff but nowadays it shows demontration how the ancient clog making craft is done. I love their displays and I can´t take my eyes off their beautiful clogs hanging on the walls and the displays. The colors, the design and the looks are really amazing.I even saw people walking in the City of Zaandam wearing the traditional clogs, it´s wonderful! Of course we took our time trying as many clogs as we want!
These whole foot wooden shoes are still worn today in the rural areas in the Zaan and used as safety shoes in factories!These clogs are warm, comfortable to the feet and indispensable on the soggy, muddy Dutch grounds. I totally agree on this because if you walked along the dikes and polders, there´s no better way to protect your feet from getting wet and muddy.
In the old days, wood were commonly used in construction since its cheap and they are painted with wood tar.Due to environmental hazards, theyve began using pigments and paints.Green paint is actually the signature paint color in the Zaanse Schans region.So if you walked along the area, you will noticed that most houses are either painted with green of black with soft details of red which is an expensive color.In the victorian age, it was decreed that there should be uniformity in the appearance of buildings and that´s how Dutch picked up this style.There is no other dominant color in Zaanse Schans region except “Green”.
I have been looking forward to see the Cheese maker De Catharina Hoeve since I´ve read many positive reviews about it. This place was originally a water-locked polder farm in Oostzaan around 1750.Here you can have a walked through tour how cheese is made, processed and enjoyed.It´s actually one of my best Cheese-tasting experience!There are traditionally dressed in Dutch style and serving tons and tons of different variations of cheese that makes you feel like you are in cheese heaven.
I personally loved the Goudas, goat and truffle cheeses and some of the unique smoked hot cheeses with paprika, pimiento and herb spices. Warning though, they are expensive but the taste is really worth it. They have world class cheese choices.Remember, there´s nothing more typically Dutch than “Gouda” cheese.It´s actually the yellow gold from the Netherlands!
I am a great fan of architecture and I love art in all forms. Zaanse Schans did not dissapoint me since I have spotted lots of remarkable buildings, houses and craftmanship.When walking through the alleys with the background of the river and the mills, I was defintely smitten by the typical Zaan´s architecture.It´s like I am walking through history before my eyes.The wooden facades are amazingly carved, with lots of attention to details.The facades have low doors and invokes a feeling of nostalgia.
Most houses gave me the feeling of the ancient way of lives here.Too many years and generations have past already but it still looked so alived and full of beauty.Most of the buildings are still inhabited and were never abandoned. Most houses had a small craft shop in the front room called ” Pronkammer”.
Another way to enjoy and explore Zaanse Shans is by taking a cruise on the river.The industrial heritage of the past centuries can be admired from the water by hopping on the t´Glop, the square between the spice mill “De Huismann” and the “Orse ket aan´t Glop” shop.We opt to stay at the river banks and admire the view of the whole countryside and watch some boats passing by.Of course if you want a more exciting way to explore the area, you can rent a bike on the location.
As the German writer and Poet Goethe once said ” The best thing which we derived from history is the enthusiasm that it raises us…”
Until then, Tschüss!