When visiting Holland, I was very excited about seeing the famous windmills. My son’s grandmother, who is Dutch, would always talk about the beauty of these famous giants. Even though, there are still over a thousand windmills in Holland, my son was pretty disappointed when he mostly saw fields of sheep instead of windmills. With the advancement of technology, their economic value is all but none. They have mostly become historic icons for tourists and locals. If you are in Holland during the second Saturday and Sunday in May, you’re just in time to enjoy National Mill Day. Over 950 restored windmills and watermills open their doors to the public.
If you happen to be there any other time of the year, like us, visiting Zaanse Schans is the next best thing for viewing the windmills. Located a couple miles north of Amsterdam, this fully inhabited open air museum showcases the historical life of Dutch people in the 17th and 18th centuries. The museum provides a fun learning experience for children, as well as adults.
When we came out of our hotel, we were a bit bummed about how windy the day was turning out to be. Did we ever feel silly once we got to Zaanse Schans. How else did we expect the windmills to be working? This was about the right time to do a face palm plant. It’s ok, it was just a tourist moment, we don’t have windmills in Canada. We’re not used to thinking “wind is good weather for windmills”.
The wind was great. We were able to see the inside workings of the peanut oil producing windmill (adults € 4,- / children aged 6 to 12 € 2,-). We explored the inside top to bottom. A great attraction for kids.
Not Only Windmills
I was pleasantly surprised by how gorgeous this little agglomeration of houses was. We were walking into a completely different century. Filled with green little houses surrounded by narrow dikes with cute bridges arcing over them. It is the type of place that you see and suddenly have an urge to change your own lifestyle. The thought of moving there myself has honestly crossed my mind.
Clogs and Cheese, so Dutch.
Besides the Dutch houses, farm animals and windmills, the museum also houses a general store, a wooden clogs store and a small cheese factory. A young kid and older man were explaining and demonstrating how the wooden clogs are made. Ever wonder why the Dutch wore wooden clogs? They may look uncomfortable but there is a very good reason for wearing them. Holland is set below sea level and until the Dutch were able to ready the land for living, it was filled with wet lands and marshes. If you really take a moment to consider what the Dutch people have achieved, you will find they are super resourceful. With just the technology of windmills, they were able to dry out parts of the land, hence, why there are so many canals everywhere. Now imagine working in those wetlands. It required some super duper shoes to keep your feet dry. Leather shoes were expensive and not durable enough and rubber boots weren’t invented yet. With the Dutch being so creative, they came up with wooden clogs. Cheap to make and very hardy. Very clever.
Zaanse Schans Information:
Directions by train:
- Take train to Koog Zaandijk station. From Amsterdam Central Station, it is only 17 minutes.
- The walk from the station takes about 15 minutes.
Entry Fees: It costs nothing to walk around the area of Zaanse Schans.
Zaans Museum and Verkade Pavilion: adults € 9,- / children ages 4 to 7 € 5,-
Windmills: adults € 4,- / children ages 6 to 12 € 2,-
Official museum website: www.dezaanseschans.nl