The last day in Amsterdam, I wanted to experience a typical Dutch atmosphere with windmills, wooden houses, wide yellow fields and to taste some of the well-known Dutch cheeses. The ideal place for it was Zaanse Schans, a village only 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam's city center by train and a short walk. We bought a return train ticket (around 7€) and headed for nature.
From the moment we came, I fell in love with the place. A small village on the Zaan river with cute colorful wooden houses, green and golden fields, green windmills dancing on the wind, barns, workshops, small museums and handicraft shops. It was like the time stopped here.
About Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is a residential area, whose objective is to present a life in the Netherlands in the mid-19th century when the industrial revolution started here and the work in manufactures was in full swing. The windmills of the region were used for the milling of flour, spices, and pigments.
The plan of Zaanse Schans was born in 1946 in the mind of an architect Jaap Schipper and in less than 20 years the construction started, the wooden houses and warehouses were transported to the area both by road and water.
Windmills, workshops, cheese, and clogs
We crossed the bridge on the Zaan river and walked among the cheerful wooden houses with carefully tended gardens and small lakes with charming bridges, we passed the pewter foundry and a miniature Albert Heijn Museum, a museum about the Holland's most famous supermarket chain. We smelled the freshly baked bread from the Bakery Museum and were tempted by a hot chocolate in Zaans Gedaan, a barn transformed into a cacao lab, where the chocolate is made in the traditional way by crushing cocoa beans (the same way as I saw at home of the Costa Rican Bribri tribe).
There are about 10 big picturesque windmills in the area and a few mini-mills. We entered into the first one that was open for public, saw the heavy construction, the belly of the mill, and climbed the narrow staircase to get to the top terrace. I have to admit, it was pretty scary to walk so high with a strong wind in my hair and to see giant wings of the mill turning around just a few centimeters from me... Most of the windmills are open for public for a small fee and some of them are equipped with souvenir and spice shops as well.
Happy to have climbed my first windmill, I jumped around in the fields and enjoyed a cold freshness of the Zaan river. There was one plateau placed on the river, above which you could walk and contemplate the view of the multicolored small cute houses on the other river bank.
Finally, I got to taste the Dutch cheeses: gouda, goat cheese, etc. We entered the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm in a big warehouse and started choosing which ones to bring home as a souvenir. Next to every cheese round, there was a small tasting plate, so we got our brunch right here. We tried older and younger gouda and gouda with different flavors: pesto, coconut, chili, smoked paprika, herbs, even champagne, and truffle flavor. I bought a big round of farmer's cheese (1 kg!) and smaller coconut and pesto goudas. The average price of flavored gouda is 15€, bigger cheese is about 20€.
Our last stop was a clog workshop in the warehouse a little bit further away from the windmills and the center of Zaanse Schans. The workshop was decorated with clogs hanging from the wall and with a giant statue of a yellow clog just outside of the workshop where everybody was taking photos (including me, of course :)). Inside there is a small museum with all kinds of clogs: painted ones, from different countries, carved clogs, horse clogs, clogs with heels and clogs ice-skates or roller-skates. Every half an hour there was a short demonstration of the fabrication of clogs. The admission is free to both the museum and workshop demonstration and on the way out, you can buy a clog (they have it in every color and size, even for the babies) or smaller souvenir such as a clog magnet, keychain, etc. I had to satisfy myself with the clog magnet because my boyfriend forbade me to carry a big clog home. 😀
On the way to the train, we expected to find small, charming cafés, but either we didn't find them or they were closed on Sunday, so we finished our field trip on a hotel restaurant's terrace on the river bank with a hot cappuccino in our hands. We came back to Amsterdam to say goodbye to the city as the sun was setting down on Ij waterfront and further away, at Schiphol airport, my plane was waiting for me to take me home...