This past weekend, B and I took a long, leisurely bike ride to Zaanse Schans Zaandam. Now try saying that 10 times fast!! Zaanse Schans Zaandam is know for being Western Europe’s oldest industrial area, and in centuries past, there were more than 600 windmills operating throughout the region. Today, there are considerably fewer windmills, but the traditional Dutch beauty has been well-preserved. A trip to Zaanse Schans Zaandam is a must for anyone visiting Holland. It’s a town packed with Dutch clichés – windmills, wooden shoes, cheese, and bikes!!On Sunday, B and I decided to escape Amsterdam city life and take advantage of the stellar sunshine. We hopped on our bikes and headed for Zaanse Schans Zaandam, eager to explore this glorious Dutch windmill-land. Zaandam is a 70 minute bike ride from Amsterdam. Knowing this, we packed a picnic lunch, put on our sunnies, and started our trek by taking the ferry across the IJ to Amsterdam-Noord.
Exploring Amsterdam-Noord is a wonderful day trip in and of itself. There are a free GVB ferries situated behind Amsterdam’s Central Station, available to carry people, bikes and scooters across the IJ to the lovely Amsterdam-Noord. Once in the Noord, there are waterfront restaurants, urban beaches, large creative spaces, and small countryside villages, all to be explored. You can read more about what to do in Amstedam-Noord here.However, as B and I were headed to Zaandam, we didn’t dally in the north and continued on our bike-route. B was the navigator and we went under tunnels, along highways, over bridges, and through wide fields – all while trucking along the designated bike paths.When we reached Zaandam, I was in awe. I did not expect to find such a picturesque village! Everywhere you looked was quintessential Dutch. There were long wooden docks along the water for boats, tables outside in the sun for drinking small pints of beer, and bikers slowly pedaling along the waterfront.And windmills. For miles and miles, only windmills.We parked our bikes at the beginning of the village, and then slowly walked our way through. It seemed like the whole town had to be a museum, or something from the Truman Show – everything was so quaint and well put together, from the manicured gardens to the lovely cobble stone streets.We found a quiet spot to eat our picnic, and then went on to walk around the windmills.The weather was absolutely perfect, and some kids were even swimming in the river. When I was a young ‘un, my mom used to turn to me on days like this and tell me how it was her absolute favorite. Not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze, and the sun beaming down at a balmy 70 degrees. I always think of her on these early summer days.Along our stroll, we ventured in and out of the windmills. Some were museums, some were shops, and others were closed for restorations.I swear everyone in this town was fake. Men strolled around in wooden shoes, and old guys in suspenders just sat outside, jamming on their accordions. I refuse to believe this is real, and not all completely staged!
B took these two photos, and the awkward sun-spot that insists on hovering RIGHT where I am standing is not a Photoshop effect!We stopped by a goat pen, and my Maine farm-gal mentality instantly kicked in. The woman next to me handed me a cracker, so I placed the it in the center of my palm, fingers tightly pressed together. A nearby goat spotted the treat, and nearly leapt over over the fence to nibble the cracker from my hand! There were also chickens . . . . . . and silly old men in wooden clogs!!
After roaming around for a few hours, we stopped at a quaint restaurant for a drink and a snack. The front of the restaurant was facing the street, and was completely packed. There was not a spare table to be seen. We found our way inside, and were surprised to find a beautiful, almost empty terrace out back, right on the water!We helped ourselves to a table, and ordered a few beers and some classic Dutch bitterballen.Sitting in the sun and drinking beer was a great finish to our day trip, but we did moan about having to bike back. It had been a full day of exercise, and after some bitterballen and sunshine, it was hard to rally the effort to move!! That said, if the worst thing about Zaanse Schans Zaandam was having to leave, it must have been a pretty epic day, right? ;)
If you’re looking to see some gorgeous windmills, learn about Dutch history, or just escape the city for the day, you can find Zaanse Schans Zaandam at Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam. They have an info center incase you have any questions or need to call ahead, and you can reach them at +31 (0)75 681 00 00. They also have a kick ass website that’s also in English. Check it out, and have a lovely weekend!