Zaanse Schans Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Jorge, his friend (Fer, visiting from Columbia), and I took the afternoon and went to a little village on the River Zaan. It one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands. The aftenoon was sunny and it was a perfect time to go.
They met me on the Haarlemerstraat near my house. It's a short walk to Centraal Station. The train tickets were only 2 euro 30 (with discount card) for the roundtrip journey. The train ride is a short one just 4 stops from Centraal. There are several trains that stop there so, you can find one atleast every 30 minutes.
Zaan is and interesting area. Not only is it beautiful but, it is believed to be the world's first industrialized area. During the "Dutch Golden Age" of the 17th century, the area was dotted with windmills processing linseed, wood, and mustard seed.
French impressionist painter Claude Monet visited Zaandam in the summer of 1871 and created a series of 24 paintings of the Zaan district. He wrote to his friend Camille Pissarro that, "there is enough here to paint for an entire lifetime." Monet returned to the Netherlands and painted the Zaan district over many years.
The walk to the park area reveals some of the factories of the area and old buildings with intricate wooden details that remind me of Lithuania.
Standing on the bridge waiting for it to lower, I got the change to really look at the sights before me. I've never seen so many windmills in one place. Also the houses along the right side of the river are all so old and quaint they are the perfect compliment to the windmills on the other side. The whole sight is just what you expect to find in The Netherlands.
It's very interesting that the idea for this assembly of Dutch life and culture was begun in 1946 by a group of men that wanted to stop the destruction of the region's cultural heritage. In a few years they got the backing of the mayors in the Zaan region and the park was underway.
I had read that when you come to this place, Amsterdam will feel far away and the sky will even feel higher.
We reached the other side of the bridge and take a close up look at this tiny store housed in a elaborately detailed building (tea cupola). In front of it are 4 pair of wooden shoes. There's a pair for a father, mother, son, and daughter. Each was painted in it's own unique color.
Walking in through the main street, the houses, mostly green, each have there own unique design elements. As a great representation of a Dutch village, there is a canal across from them and the most beautfiul little houses with lush foliage. Little bridges cross the canal to reach the houses. The weeping willows are especially nice, here.
Each of the houses on the main street are a store from the past. We went into an Albert Heijn (grocer store) that was showing how groceries were sold hundreds of years ago.
The entrance to the Merchant's house has guilded and painted window detailing over the door. It's fantastic!
Past the assembly of village merchant's buildings, you enter an area that is open and begins the walkin along the river and the windmills. There are five great examples of windmills (Moelen) here. To the other side was a field separated by little canals, like in most of Holland.
We walked through this amazing area and took many pictures. We decided to go inside one of them as each of them chared 3 euro to enter. De Kat (The Cat) was the one. It was a dye mill and is on the Kalverringdijk.
Fer and I went up and George stayed outside and took pictures of us up on the deck of the windmill.
The inside of the lower section was full of large wooden and stone parts working in unison. Climbing the steepest stairs in Holland (and that's saying something!) you reach the inside gears that pull directly off the blades. It was amazing to see such simple, rough, and basic materials creating such power.
Climbing the stairs to the deck level, there were barrels of color power sitting about. There was also a cabinet with bottles of samples of the many different colors manufactured here. Walking outside the view is the grasslands / wetlands, the river, and many windmills.
From there, on to "De Catharinahoeve" (cheese factory). There you could see cheese being made and also being aged. The smell in this place was so delisciously aromatic. There is counter with many, many sample of the various cheeses made here. I was able to make a small lunch out of this. There were so many great cheeses but, I think my favorite is the Autumn cheese. It has some little peppers in it that give it a tangy and sweet taste. It was so good but, I wouldn't buy it, in fear of eating it all in just a short time. I know myself. It was wise. When my friend Karen comes for a visit, we'll come here and share.
Continuing down the path is the wooden shoe factory. In the front is a bicycle attached to a fence. There is a basket on the front and 2 windmills in the background. It is obviously there for the photographic opportunity. So, for the first time during my experience of living in the Netherlands, I got on a bike. I've ridden bikes in many places (Sevilla, Madrid, Riga, Serbia) but, not here. Maybe the ridding thing will happen soon.?
Also outside the shoe factory is a very large wooden shoe. We all took turns getting in the shoe for a picture. There are also a couple of pair of large, more human sized, shoes. We had to get pics in them as well.
In the yard around the factory chickens and a black and white turkey looking bird maintained security.
Inside the factory is a wooden shoe museum. The first section is a collection of shoes from different regions of The Netherlands. There were work shoes and dress shoes of many styles and colors. Some were the strangest of designs, not being the typical expected "wooden shoe". They are very creative in their design for their function.
There are also clogs from all over the world. There are the most amazing and unusual designs. One of my favorites is a pair from the Pyrenees. They look quite Asian. There are also some extremely elaborately carved designs for weddings. There is even a pair for the bride wearing white. There is even a beautifullly colored pair of Dutch wooden shoes from 1675.
There are clogs with birds carved into the toe area, clogs painted with gold, laquered black from Japan, and even some that look like little stilts from the Middle East.
There is a pair from Switzerland that would look appropriate today in a Birkenstock catalog. There were clogs for ice and roller skating, as well. There were even shoes that were painted to be pieces of modern art.
We saw the workshop where they take the raw material and turn it into a shoe. It's a simple shop but they end up with many different offerings.
In the shop area there is a huge, long wall of many different colors and designs. There will surely be something for everyone. They even had tiny souvenir shoes for a keepsake. Also, like most souvenir shops in this country, there are the houses of Amsterdam. You can mix and match to make your own neighorhood (buurt).
On the wall as we were leaving, there is a poster showing the water and land levels of the country and the North Sea, quite interesting.
We contiued walking through the paths along the canals with fairytale views. At one house there is a sculptured garden that's from a time long past. The canal takes you past several houses of fantastic detail. The wooden roof edge details create a "Hansel and Gretje" on a canal feeling. In the next yard a goose guards his space.
As we take our walk along the canal leading back to the main street and the exit, for us, we see an unusual sight. There seems to be a "bus stop" along the canal. There is a bench at a wooden platform at the canal's edge. It's really cute. Fer had to have a picture there.
In the last section of houses there was a really great tiny window and shutter, on a house.
Returning to the main street, it is time to head back to the train. It has been an interesting look at a few of the different aspects of life and culture in Holland. It's a great place for a tourist or just for a relaxing day in beautiful surroundings.