Zaanse Schans is a picturesque village located on the bank of the Zaan River. To get to the village, one has to take a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam Central station to Koog Zaandijk station. The village is about a 10 minute walk from the station.
This open-air conservation area and museum is a replica of a 17th – 18th century village and is fully inhabited. It consists of working windmills, craftsman’s workshops, traditional small houses and museums. It’s a great place to go to learn about Dutch traditional industries, crafts and architecture. Entrance to the village is free but each attraction charges entrance fee and it varies by attraction. Opening hours also vary by attraction.
The windmills here date as far back as 1676. There are 8 windmills altogether but I only managed to visit 2 – Werfmolen De Kat (De Kat Dye mill), specialized in producing paint and Oliemolen De Zoeker (De Zoeker Oil mill), a vegetable oil mill.
On the ground floor of the oil mill, colossal millstones turned relentlessly to crush and press the linseed.
A worker then put the ground linseed on the iron plate to heat them up.
The heated seeds are then put into woollen bags to be pounded to squeeze out the oil.
On the first floor of the mill, one can see the giant wooden cogs working to transform wind energy to power the heavy stones.
From this floor, visitors can get onto the outside platform through a small door to see the sails up close. These sails turn with the wind to power the machines inside the windmill.
It is also at this platform that one can enjoy a panoramic view of Zaanse Schans and its surroundings.
A great place to go to learn more about the uniquely Dutch wooden shoe or clog is Klompenmakerij (The Wooden Shoe Workshop). At The Wooden Shoe Museum, visitors can learn the history of this form of footwear and see a large collection of wooden shoes.
Clogs were once worn by the Dutch all the time as they are tough and water-proof. Today clogs are still a fixture in many farming areas.
Free clog making demonstrations are also held at regular intervals in multiple languages. Alas nowadays most of the clogs are made by machines.
Clogs in various sizes and colours are displayed to tempt visitors to take back as souvenirs. Clogs with pointed toes are for women and rounded toes are for men.
We also managed to visit Kaasboerderij Catharina Hoeve (Cheese Farm De Catherinahoeve). This is a replica of an original farm from the village of Oostzaan, so it’s not surprising to see cows.
In this farmhouse, visitors get to see how different types of cheese are being made the traditional way and get to sample them in the cheese shop.
It is also nice to just walk around the village and look at the many distinctive green-painted timber houses. Some of these houses are privately owned and inhabited.