Zaanse Schans – Windmills, cheese and sheeps

Something bright and vividly beautiful happens every March to May in Holland: the carpet of Tulips bloom in all colours all over the field. Of course, all of us got to see it. In fact, this is the sole reason for many travellers to visit Holland. The most famous places to see these flower bulbs are Keukenhof, Zaanse Schans and Haarlem. We are taking you now to Zaanse Schans to show you how the place feels like with no Tulip beds at all. We were in the Netherlands right after the Tulip harvest to meet our buddy Keerthi. So Tulips or No Tulips, we wanted to spend time with our buddy Keerthi and see Amsterdam and around as much as possible.

From the Tamil song Oh Sukumari to our beloved Amitabh Bachan and Rekha’s Dekha Ek Khwab song, everyone shows you how beautiful the Tulip fields of the Netherlands are. So let us show you the opposite of it (though that was not the intention) – the beauty of Zaanse Schans without tulips.

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Is it worth visiting Zanse Schans during the Non-Tulip season

Tulip blooming and harvest season is from March to May. That will be magical for sure. But is it worth visiting it on the other days? – YES AND NO.
Suppose you are keen on seeing how windmills work in Netherland’s first Industrial site – it is worth visiting Zanse Schans even during the Non-tulip season. However, the main reason for most of us to Visit Zanse Schans irrespective of the season is the “Wooden shoe factory AKA Dutch Clogs.” Zanse Schans Wooden shoes factory and museum is the most popular one in all of Holland. The vast green fields lined with the steeply pitched roofs and sheep’s grazing lazing on the fields still can take you back to the 17th century if there are fewer tourists.

On the other hand, you want to experience the authentic Dutch farmhouse culture in a non-touristy place. Zaanse Schans isn’t the place for you. Instead, choose the nearby farmhouses that are actually active and show you all about Dutch dairy and farming.

How much time to spend here?

With tulips around, you can spend one whole day here for two things – You can’t have enough of the charm of the flower beds. Secondly, it will be so crowded that you need a lot of time to make your way through the crowd to enjoy the place.
In Non-Tulip season– you can enjoy a half-day picnic kind of a thing. The place is quieter ( I am talking about Non-touristy season) and full of green. The cute cafes and little souvenir shops make it convenient for a half-day trip. The Dutch clog museum and Cheese factories where free tasting is allowed will easily take up to 1.5 hours. An hour or more of walking in and petting the sheep along with some 30 minutes to people watch near that Big Clog – Definitely, you need three hours here. With a laid back lunch in the nearby cafe, you can head to Haarlem to see the old city of Amsterdam (There are too many things to see and do in Amsterdam.)
There are no entrance fees to the place. But you have to pay to see the Museums and Windmills.

How to reach Zanse Schans?

It is located 20km from Amsterdam. A local train from Amsterdam central drops you at Zaandijk near Zaanse Schans. Then, a 1.5km walk across the bridge from the railway station takes you to Zanse Schans. Of course, nothing is better than cycling from Amsterdam to here if you are up to it. We had rented a car from Europcar for four days in Amsterdam, so cruising through Amsterdam’s traffic, we reached here in 30minutes from Amstelveen.

A Half Day of eating Cheese and petting sheeps

From the road, we spotted those steep-sloped Dutch houses with Bay windows. Usually, people don’t stop randomly while driving. But most tourists prefer to have a nice glance at these lovely homes by the bridge. So did we. Unfortunately, the windy weather didn’t want water to reflect the beauty of those black/green painted houses. Though the place was at a walkable distance from the bridge, chilling, strong wind made us get back to the car and turn off the heater. I thought there is hardly going to be any tourists. As we got closer to the place, we saw the parking area filled with tourist cars and bicycles fairly. We weren’t alone to be visiting Zaanse Schans without the Tulips.

It was easier than Amsterdam to find one parking spot here. Shivering mildly and praying for some sunshine, we took that small bridge near the lake. With a hot cup of Cappuccino in a nearby bakery, fewer tourists and quacking ducks(I think they are ducks), it was slowly revealing its old-world charm. The village is actually an active one. Not every house in this village is occupied by the local Dutches, but shops selling Dutch food and artefacts. Of course, with time, everything changes. But here, they have done their best to preserve the Dutch house with its true heritage. This is the beauty of the place – Old world charm, yet used efficiently and preserved well.

Most houses here are wooden houses raised on a platform. When you get inside any shop-houses, you will be amazed to see photographs of how that house was transported here from a different place on a truck in the 1960s.

The area was quieter, opposite Amsterdam’s buzz( I love Amsterdam’s buzz, though). Endless green patches, steep-sloped roofs, windmills at the horizon and fewer tourists -So when we saw the endless green field, the first thought on our mind was,” What a heaven could this be with Tulips in full bloom”.
As an outdoor person, you can spend hours together breathing the fresh air in the field or go window shopping in ancient houses. Many historians consider this to be the first Industrial site of the Dutches industrial revolution. So windmills are a thing to be observed in detail.

As we move further closer to the windmills, there appeared a huge flock of sheep. With the amusement of seeing those breeds of sheep we had never before, I reached the fence looking for a chance to give a belly rub for these cute fellas. They were happily lazing on the green patch, uninterrupted by worldly pressure. Some sleeping, others chewing the cud; they lived in their own world. Somehow managed to touch the sheep, but they weren’t really ready for a belly rub, though.

These all factors make you feel you are in the Dutch countryside for sure. Tourist or No tourist, this place is a nice place for a getaway with family for a lunch or an evening stroll.
As much as I loved the fields with sheep, the town’s highlight is the Dutch clog factory and the windmills. Unfortunately, the windmills were under restoration when we went. So we couldn’t see the working windmills inside. However, I am sure it will be fascinating to see how complicated it was in the 1800s to extract oil seeds using this setup.

Most of the famous places in the world know how to make them even more famous. So does Zaanse Schans. These huge clogs right in front of the museum are always the main spot where tourists flock. Whether you like to click a picture with your foot inside these oversized clogs or not, it is fun to watch people here. There are benches around the clogs for those who want to do “people watch”, and the others can wait in the line to get clicked wearing Huge clogs. We loved doing either of them with plenty of time in had and no rush to go to the next place.

The clog factory is around 1500sft big. At the entrance, you find a glittering diamond clog inside a glass shelf! More than the wooden shoes, I was hooked on to this precious! Then, of course, we moved on to the actual Clog museum with the other two men who are not so into a diamond.

Traditionally the Dutch Clogs are made by hand. Each pair takes 2 to 3 hr to make it by hand. With the machines, it takes now around 10 minutes. The entire process of making with hands and making with machines is demonstrated by the local clog maker along with all the above narration. This session usually takes up 10-15 minutes, and it is super informative. I wish they had a hands-on experience centre where tourists could test our skills in Clog making. That involves a lot of patience, and you need to be ultra-careful while handling the blades and machines.

After the session, you can touch the raw wood used and the finished clogs to get the real feel. There is a huge collection of clogs for all the sizes in various colours for you to buy. If you know how to use it and where to use it, these are surely worth buying. We settled for a miniature clog pair as we have no use of clogs at all back in India.

The most awaited part for the cheese lovers -Cheese Farm “De Catherina Hoeve”. This is a replica of an old cheese factory, and we had been waiting to try some real Dutch cheese. Here comes the shocker – we both love cheese and were overexcited to try on the free cheese. There were more than 20 varieties. The weird odour had filled the entire hall; there was cheese everywhere! As soon as we entered the hall, the craving was replaced with irritation. Instead of hogging on the free cheese, we both felt nauseous! A spoon was more than enough for us to feel more uncomfortable! What we thought we would love and what happened there was totally different. Not able to bear the pungency for 15 minutes, we exited the cheese museum and loved the fresh air near the sheep – Trying to kiss a sheep and give them a belly rub.

Of course, no day in Amsterdam ends with coffee and some fresh Croissants. Nothing can be better than hot and fresh Cappuccino, berry pies and croissants inside a historical home cafe near the entrance.

Would you consider going to Zaanse Schans during the non-Tulip season? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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