I’ve tried to find a translation as to what Zaanse Schans actually mean. And all I got was this: Seasonal Rail. Hmmm… The Dutch version sounds much sexier than the English version!
Let’s get one thing straight. Holland is not a country. Holland is a region within the country called The Netherlands. I am absolutely astounded by the amount of people that think Holland is a country by itself. OK, rant over! Let’s talk about Zaanse Schans.
Early morning we decided to buy some train tickets to go from Amsterdam Centraal Station to visit the historic open air museum called Zaanse Schans. The train ride took about 20 minutes and we got off at the Zaandijk-Zaanse Schans stop. From here we could choose to hire a bike or walk the 15 minutes towards the museum through the town. After our harrowing cycling experience in Amsterdam we decided that walking would by far be the safer option. I am so glad we chose to walk as it really would’ve been an absolute nightmare to navigate our way not only through the crowds, but also through the tiny little pathways between the buildings of the museum.
Whenever I heard someone mention ‘Holland’, I saw in my mind’s eye windmills, klompe (clogs) and cheese. All of this is painted in a blue and white hue on the side of a porcelain gravy boat. I was not at all disappointed. Apart from the blue and white. Holland is way too interesting to only stick to those two colours!
In the very first building we saw clogs coming from every inch of the building. It was like it was multiplying by the minute. They were hanging from the walls, the ceilings and standing around on the floor. They were every shape, every size and every colour you can imagine. I was fascinated to learn that clogs were made for farmers working outside in the wind and weather. Even more surprising was how unbelievably strong they were! We were privileged enough to experience how a pair of these clogs are made from a mere single piece of wood to an actual shoe! And, yes, I know it is a tourist trap. And, yes, I know that poor guy is probably doing that same demo 60 times a week, but I loved it. I love learning new things and this, to me, was learning something new about Dutch heritage.
We moved onto the next building and instantly I was in heaven! As far as the eye can see there was cheese. Delicious, pungent, oozy nuggets of milky goodness. First they showed us how their traditional cheese is made and then they led us into the most decadent room in all of Holland: the cheese tasting room. I cannot think of this room without breaking into a harmonious chorus humming or tasting the melty texture on the back of my tongue.
It is a massive shame that there are only a handful of working windmills left in Holland. They are so iconic and at the same time they’re a truly unique industry. Our inquisitive nature wanted us to explore these windmills up close and personal. Now I was more than happy to look at the mills from outside, marvel at their grandeur and move on, but the hubby wasn’t going to be thwarted. He wanted to go in. So we did. We went into the De Kat paint mill where we were treated to a tour (if you can call it a tour – the ground floor is tiny inside!). We were invited to climb up the ladder and the hubby were all over this idea. I was a little more reserved. Reluctant even. Ok, I downright did not want to go up those damn steps! The reason? I have a fear of heights. Maybe ‘fear’ is not the right word. I HATE to be more than 1/2 a foot off Mother Earth. Freaks me out. Gravity is my friend!
So, due to this not-wanting-to-look-like-an-idiot and this YOLO-malarkey I plucked up the courage and climbed those dreaded stairs. Up was easy. I walked around on the next floor, I even ventured out to get a better look at the blades as they woosh-woosh in the wind. And it was cool. It really was. Until reality smacked me in the face and I had to get down… I couldn’t. My entire body broke out in a cold sweat. My hands and legs started to shake profusely and (until this day I don’t know why) I started sobbing uncontrollably! There it was: I looked like the idiot that I was trying so hard not to be. It took me a good twenty minutes and loads of encouragement from the hubby to eventually talk me down the ladder.
Once I felt the strong embrace of Mother Earth underneath my feet I knew I learnt one thing: after an ordeal like this only a good cup of coffee will right the wrongs of life. So a strong cup of coffee it was…