Netherlands
Gemeente Zaanstad

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  • Day3

    Zaanse Sanchs (NL)

    July 10, 2017 in the Netherlands

    The Zaanse Schans is a residential area in which the 18th and 19th centuries are brought to life. It is a little hamlet, really just for tourists. My timing was perfect, as I was leaving all the tour buses began arriving.

    Leaving Zaanse Schans I battled a bit with my navigation. Lesson #1: don't always believe directions given by a local. Finally found my way and began heading towards the coast, and the North Sea.Read more

  • Day64

    Monday is Gesloten Day in the Netherlands. Many cafés and museums are closed so we had some difficulty finding things to do with Alison on the last day of her visit. Earlier in the week she'd mentioned wanting to see some traditional windmills and up til yesterday we hadn't seen any up close.

    After a too brief scan of internet I found a place boasting several windmills and traditional houses in the same area. Not only that, but it was also a short bus ride from the center of Amsterdam. Due to my lack of due diligence I take full responsibility for the way the day unfolded.

    The first sign that this might not be a good idea was that the public bus was twice as expensive as I'd read on the bus system website. I looked around as we boarded and realized that we were only surrounded by fellow tourists. As we pulled away, a gaggle of three, twenty something, Chinese women began peppering their Mandarin with Sitcom English phrases such as "You don't know nothin' honey" and "Oh no she did-ent!".

    As we neared our destination the bus threaded itself through several warehouse districts before stopping in what seemed to be an office park. We de-bussed next to a modern building housing the Dutch Heritage museum. As we followed the throngs around the building and past twenty or so private tour busses, my anxiety about the day just picked up speed and pitch.

    Zaanse Schans is a fictional village with traditional housing and windmills collected from around the area into one special theme park. The paths, shops, and pretend cafés were teeming! The scene stretched out as far as we could see. It was like Williamsburg, but with no historical geographical reference. No one had ever lived in this place. There were no stories of so and so having done such and such back in the day. It was open farmland converted to something else. Sort of like the orange groves in Southern California giving way to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.

    Given my very low tolerance for places with people in them, we ended up doing a quick walk around and snapping a few photos before heading back to the bus.

    We were largely silent on the ride back. I felt pretty low for having made Alison's last day into such a thing. Looking around at the factories, shipping yards, and neighborhoods surrounding Zaanse Schans I began to suspect that this whole traditional Holland attraction was perhaps a redevelopment venture. Some way of lifting up a pretty blighted area with an injection of some international cash. Not such a bad thing really.
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  • Day12

    Windmill experience

    September 26 in the Netherlands

    We had a bit of Netherlands experience today at the Zaanse Schans. I must admit the place is a bit touristy but what the hell this is the closest we will get to Dutch countryside.

    The place had some magic and was particularly special to me. Ever since my dad painted some windmills I always dreamed of visiting a place like this.

    From Amsterdam was an easy 45 minutes ride on bus 391 from Amsterdam centraal. Ww spent half a day walking along windmills, cheese making workshops and farms. There were plenty of photo opportunities and time to chill out

    In the afternoon we took a canal cruise that turned out to be pretty good. It was an open boat with only 15 people on board with made for a far better experience
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  • Day27

    Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

    May 29, 2016 in the Netherlands

    Day 26:

    I think its fair to say that we are a little intimidated by Amsterdam. Our original plan was to come to the Netherlands to see Amsterdam, when made our reservations, we decided to stay in a town outside the city and travel in to visit. Today was supposed to be that day. But instead, we followed the canal we are on north to an outdoor museum representing traditional Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. Yes, we mean windmills.

    It was overcast today, but that didn't bother us much at all. It was over an hour walk, and parts we passed through were very industrial, so we experience a strange variety of smells... Anyway, we turned our last corner and immediately came upon one of the windmills, sails spinning!

    But before we get into those 8 beautiful beasts... history time. Hundreds of years ago, during the Eighty Years' War, the Spanish were basically pulling on the Dutch what the English pulled on the American colonies 200 years later. Taxes, forcing religion, being jerks, etc. So the Dutch started revolting and the Spanish beat them down pretty soundly at first, but in North Holland they stayed feisty. In the Zaan region, they built a series of sconces to slow down the Spanish. Kalver Schans was the one at that location, and was one of the few to never be overrun. There are no remnants of the bastions or any sign of the sconce, other the name of the park. After those times, the region became the first insustrial site in the world, housing over 500 windmills, all serving different purposes.

    Now that we're back to the windmills... As modern industry made the windmill all but obsolete, most were taken down and their materials harvested. Starting in the 1960s, remaining windmills from around the region were transported to Zaanse Schans, along with houses from the same era. Some of them still function to this day, others house modern equipment inside, and others are simply preserved models. They all have their own character, history, purpose, and name. On the site they have De Os (1663), Het Klaverblad (2005. Foundation to build, run, and maintain a sawmill in traditional methods), De Huisman (1786), De Gekroonde Poelenburg (1733, kind of), De Kat (1646), De Zoeker (1672), Het Jonge Schaap (replica of 1680) and De Bonte Hen (1693). 3 sawmills, 3 oilmills, a dyemill, and a mustardmill.

    We loved the sound they made when the sails would rush by. We put off going into one of the few you can climb up and look around until we saw all of them and picked our favorite. Unfortunately, they all closed by then, so we didn't get to go inside any. Despite that, we are so happy to have been able to see original windmills in Holland!

    The houses were small, beautiful, inhabited by people living real lives, and just adorable. There were little "islands" created by the system of streams and canals, some of which had houses, others had sheep, and others had goats. And of course they were all connected by the cutest little bridges. Jason discovered an ability to communicate with sheep. Unfortunately, he scared a lamb who ended up crying to his dad...

    There were workshops for different traditional trades in Holland around the museum. We were able to see a demonstration of how clogs are made, which was fascinating. They use wet, young wood, so after he was done carving out the shape he blew air into the shoe and water literally gushed out of the wood and shocked everyone. Another trade respresented was cheesemaking, gouda being the specialty. There was one for chocolate making, where people could sign up for a workshop to make their own chocolate bar! Another was for baking, with a small museum in the back with all sorts of baking tools and recipes, where we got hot stroopwafels! It was great to see people so passionate about traditional trades, producing great products the way they have been made for generations.

    On our long journey home, needing something other than the traditional pastries, chocolate and cheese, we stopped at our Egyptian restaurant again. Our server was excited to see us again and wanted us to make friends with his son.

    We will definitely sleep well again. Amsterdam tomorrow. For real this time.
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  • Day26

    Zaandam, Netherlands

    May 28, 2016 in the Netherlands

    Day 25:

    This morning we went to the Findorff Markt, a farmer's market for the small part of Bremen we were living in. Our host said it was a small farmer's market, however, it was massive. There were multiple cheese places, butchers, vegetables, fruits, knife sharpeners, flowers, and of course Danielle found the pretzel stand. Basically the best farmer's market of our lives.

    In the afternoon, we boarded our train to Osnabrück, Germany, then caught a connection to Amsterdam, Netherlands. In the second train, we were in a coupé with an older couple who were on their way to Amsterdam for a cruise down the Rhine River. We were pretty jealous! Once in Amsterdam, we parted ways from the frat guys who, from the sound of it, were very big fans of Dutch coffee and pastries, and boarded a regional train to Zaadam. Its a smaller, slower town just outside of Amsterdam that we thought would fit us better, concerning both stress and budget. We found our next place in an awesome old house along a stream.

    We were figuratively starving, so Danielle found an Egyptian restaurant just down the street. PHENOMENAL lamb shawarma. And our server liked us so much. He asked us where we were from, and after we gushed about the shawarma, he told us we were their guests and ended up giving us a round of beers on the house while we were watching the football game! We felt so at home in such a foreign place. On our way home, we went to this little bar that was going crazy to watch the end of the game. But it was a travel day, so we are exhausted.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Gemeente Zaanstad, Zaanstad

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