This Sunday we visited Zaanse Schans. I wanted to visit this place since the day I heard/ read about it but somehow it could not happen and finally we managed it this weekend. It is in neighborhood of Zaandijk near Amsterdam on the banks of River Zaan.
It is a nice place for a day out, its old age windmills showcase glimpse of Dutch life in this rural riverside region in the 17th and 18th centuries, a good introduction to the Dutch countryside, its people, and their traditional way of life.
When we reached there, by mistake we took the turn at river side of the place and were confused how to park as all were reserved parking, and then one kind lady instructed us that there is a bigger parking for visitor just few meters away... so here we go. So main entrence to the place is around 300 meters away from river.
There you can see tourist buses and cars parked and the Museum. There is no entrance fee to Zaanse Schans, but there is a small fee for the museums and mills. For parking, if you stay more than 30 mins (which you are going to) then day fee is charged which is 7€.
Our first impression was, its so beautiful...those cute old age windmills, which we keep seeing in pictures/ posters and river. Fortunately it was a nice sunny day so a cold breeze touching you with a warm sun ! Nice feeling !
Zaanse Schansis made up of various buildings, some of which are original to the site and some which have been moved and re-erected here. The area was named 'De Zaanse Schans' after an entrenchment which was erected in 1574 to hold back Spanish troops at the beginning of the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain. The dikes were probably built as early as the thirteenth century; the first villages were built along these at a later date. Until late in the last century these were typical 'dike-villages'.
At one time there were over hundreds of windmills cramped into relatively small area, lining the banks of the Zaan, and were the reason that this area became so heavily industrialized. Now they are reduced to a handful. A boat tour on the river Zaan offers a particularly wonderful view of these mills, though we couldn't take one.
Surprising part was there are still people living in the Zaanse Schans. You can see people working in few operational mills, some houses which they have converted in souvenior / antique shops. The open-air museum also features a wooden shoemaker, a pewter factory, bakery, cheese and dairy farm, and a century-old grocery store.
At Zaanse Schans you can see and visit The windmills, De gekroonde Poelenburg - paltrok windmills/ sawmill , De Kat - a mineral mill, De Zoeker and De Bonte Hen - Oil mills, De Huisman- mustard mill, De Hadel - This drainage mill, Museum Het Noorderhuis, a restored home that features original costumes from the Zaan region.
One of the Highlights include the Albert Hein shop (Dutch 7-11, now one of the biggest retailers in the world, owns shops in Sweden, US, Portugal etc.) and the shop where they make wooden shoes.
The nearby 'Schoolmeester' (Teacher) is the last remaining paper windmill in the world. For many centuries, paper produced in this region was considered the best quality paper in the world. We even came to know that America's 'Declaration of Independence' was written on paper from De Zaan !
I would say it is a beautiful place, only disappointment was not as big as I had assumed from reading on internet and its website. But when you live in Netherlands, you probably shouldn't miss it.