30-minute minute drive took me to Zaanse Schans, a quaint village (read artificial town for tourists) in Northern Holland on the banks of the river Zaan with characteristic green wooden houses, charming gardens, small curved bridges, tradesmen's workshops, historic windmills and little shops.
It also happens to be an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage. It is sort of a museum village dedicated to preserving the traditional Dutch way of life. Created in 1960 it is operated as a piece of living history where visitors like me to see what life was like in the early centuries.
People in their traditional clothes worked in a traditional environment. It was quite amazing to see how high the Dutch windmill are and I'd say that the flaps of the trelliswork and canvas sails are quite loud from the top. Apart from the cluster of windmills and houses, I quite enjoyed the boat trip on the river.
A foodie that I am, I had to stop by the cheese shop where I tried many flavours; it was like a cheese lover’s paradise. Cheese with herbs, with garlic, with cumin, smoked, goat cheese were absolutely stupendous. I also found an unmistakable whiff of chocolate in the air. There was a large chocolate factory nearby in the town of Zaandam. For lunch, I stopped by for some famed Dutch pancakes (spelt as ‘Pannenkoeken’), which are quite like pizzas with a delicate crust (like a crepe) and then one can lavish a lot of winning combinations to top things off.
The batter itself is a bit different than regular pancakes, and has a smooth, delicate flavour. On offer were plain with powdered sugar, and loads of filling and topping styles featuring fruit, eggs, bacon, vegetables, and more. I had mine topped with ham and cheese…scrumptious. It isn't a wonder why the Zaanse Schans has become one of the top tourist destinations in the Netherlands…it’s a one stop place for a typical Dutch day!
Best way to reach: Fly KLM to Amsterdam. It is the most comfortable and economical flight. From Amsterdam, you can take the bus or take the train direction Koog Zaandijk approx 2.20 euros for a train ticket — single trip.
Entance Fee: The entrance to the open air museum is free.
Must know: On many river cruises, from Amsterdam to Budapest, Zaanse Schans is offered as an optional Amsterdam sightseeing tour. Over the years, there have been around thousand industrial windmills built along the River Zaan. But now only 13 remain and six of these are at Zaanse Schans. The mills here include a mustard mill and the last working oil mill in existence.