Zaanse Schans and Windmills

IMG_0658In northern Holland tourists have several options for seeing a quintessential Dutch landmark. My folks ended their Rhein cruise with a visit to the Kinderdijk windmills. Because it was closer to Amsterdam, we chose to visit the Zaanse Schans, rather like an open-air museum built piece by piece starting in 1961 of windmills and buildings moved from other places.

In the 17th and 18th centuries over 600 windmills worked in this area, pumping water, milling grain, grinding spices, and sawing wood. In the early Industrial Revolution the town of Zaandam (next to the museum) was important for whaling and shipbuilding, clock-making, work with pewter and copper, and now producing cocoa. We could smell the cocoa on our walk from the train station to the museum as we passed the factory.

Each windmill and each museum or craft house runs its own hours with its own admission policy. Unlike any other living history outdoor museum I’ve been to, people actually live in the Zaanse Schans, so they open their site on their own conditions. One can be happy wandering through the landscape and not pay a cent (and I discovered that in the Netherlands they don’t take the 1 or 2 cent Euro coins…).

We went into some of the free buildings which mostly tended to be shelves of old things, and not particularly curated, and not air-conditioned, so we spent most of our time outdoors.

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