For a country that’s known to have engineered itself into existence, the Netherlands is sprinkled with many cities and places that are drop-down gorgeous. While it doesn’t have the stunning craggy landscape of Switzerland for instance, a combination of human ingenuity and a dash of nature’s art has gifted it many attractive spots and sights that’ll definitely pique your interest.Amsterdam, one of the country’s top travel destinations, plays in its own league. It takes the architectural display to a whole new level, complete with a vibrant, addictive nightlife that’ll quickly exhaust an inveterate party goer. Not to mention the vibe: infectiously warm and friendly to a fault. Yet a visit to the “Venice of the North,” won’t be complete without a 9-mile detour northwards to the Zaanse Schans, where the roots of 18th-century Dutch industry are beautifully re-enacted on a backdrop of a stunning polder landscape.
The History Of The Netherlands Zaanse Schans
The Zaanse Schans is a careful but authentic curation of 17th to 18th-century Dutch history on the banks of the river Zaan, in the quieter, bucolic outskirts of Amsterdam. The Zaan Region is among the oldest industrial centers on the planet and was the motor engine that powered the famous years of the Dutch Golden Age. But the story hacks back a little earlier to a then little-known man by the name of Cornelis Cornelisz who, by using a crankshaft, was able to convert the circular windmill motion into a linear, forward, and backward motion, enabling the powering of the sawmill. Before this, cutting a log timber was a daunting 6-hour ordeal. With this invention, however, it now only took 30 minutes. The rest, as they say, is history. The process of shipbuilding was hugely fast-tracked. This gave the Dutch an important naval advantage against its European rivals like Spain, England, and Portugal. Also, the Dutch could now grind spices cocoa, and other items faster; press oils, and later make paper.
Today, the Zaanse Schans is one of the Netherland's top tourist destinations, visited by over 2 million people every year. It has a beautiful rustic feel that’s neither urban nor rural with attractive streets and boulevards that are lined with green trees and old-style wooden houses. The gardens are immaculately manicured and lined with well-trimmed topiaries. You’ll also find many quaint small boutiques and tradesmen’s workshops, set against the backdrop of imposing historic windmills, definitely its most defining feature.
The Netherlands Zaanse Schans’ Beautiful Windmills
A windmill is just a piece of grey, moving wood, you’d argue, and is not anything like glistening turquoise waters, craggy snow-capped mountains, or white, sandy beaches. But make no mistake. Zaanse Schans windmills have an inexplicable, irresistible charm to them, the kind that you get when in the presence of some sacred shrine, or the birthplace of an Einstein or a Newton. At its technological zenith in the 17th century, the region of Zaanse Schans had more than 600 windmills. Today, just 8 remain to represent some postcard versions of the Netherlands. Initially, these 8 were spread over the entire region along the banks of the Zaan river. However, during the 1960s and 70s, they were loaded on giant trucks and erected on a limited, demarcated area— to create an open-air industrial museum. After a dash of technological renovation, they came around, rotating back to life to produce many items including lumber, dye, and oil.
Friendly, knowledgeable operators here will regale you with technological details regarding the working and operations of these mills in the true fastidious style the Dutch are known for. One of the most visited mills is a paint mill known as “De Kat”—translated to “The cat” in English. Here, you’ll marvel at how the wind is able to turn granite stones, each weighing about 3 tonnes to crush limestone into fine powder to make paint pigments. This 17th-century windmill is the only one on the planet that makes paint. Some 14 minutes drive out of Zaanse Schans is the “De Schoolmeester”, the mill that Thomas Jefferson supposedly used to write the Declaration of Independence.
- The direction of Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam: At the Amsterdam Central Station, take Connexion Bus 391 to Zaanse Schans.
- How far is Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam: The distance is 12.6 miles while the bus ride is about 40 minutes.
- What are the entry fees for visiting Zaanse Schans: While travel to the area is free, many windmills, including “De Kat” charge an entry fee of 5 Euros for adults and half that price for children.
Though there's a beautiful replica of the authentic Dutch windmills in Michigan, the windmills of Zaanse Schans are a fascinating attraction. But if you love history, it’ll be a thrilling adventure. Apart from the windmills, seven museums house interesting technological developments from the Netherlands' Golden Age that'll interest any history nerd.