Some of the ideas that usually come to mind when talking about the Netherlands are things such as liberal policies, cultural diversity, great scenery, clogs, tulips, and—what the good ol’ Dutch country have in abundance—windmills!
Truly, windmills—which have also become more iconic because of the many Monet paintings—used for milling grains is considered as one of the country’s known tools and attractions, but at this day and age, how can a Netherlands visitor find windmills that actually work? Which part of the country still possesses the look and feel of the calm and serene countryside?
Located on the north of capital Amsterdam, Zandaam is a part (the biggest of all 7 towns) of the Zaanstad municipality. This place used to be a successful milling center during the Golden Age, that’s why there are lots of windmills to be found here. These mills powered the saws that processed wood for shipbuilding and paper industries. Windmills are one of the first things that you may think of when imagining the countryside in the Netherlands, and being here will give you just that.
Lots of windmills in the country do not work anymore, and just used as great tourist attractions. However, by going to Zaanse Schans in Zaandam, you will be able to find windmills that still work. It was sometime in the 1960s when windmills and housed were brought to Zaanse Schans to be preserved. Being here is like spending time at an open-air museum, where you’ll see great structures that date back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Today, there are six industrial mills that could be found at the bank of the Zaan River: The mustard Mill De Huisman, the wood sawing windmill De Gekroonde Poelenburg, the paint mill De Kat, the oil windmill De Zoeker, the oil mill De Bonte Hen, and the wood-sawing windmill Het Jonge Schaap.
The maintenance of these windmills will not be possible without the preservation efforts of the Zaansche Windmill Society, which continues to make sure that though windmills have shown a lack of economic importance today, they should still be kept and maintained because of their great cultural importance.
Aside from the windmills, Zaandam is also known as a great place for shopping, so you will have a great time buying stuff here, specifically at the Gedempte Gracht. You can also check out some craft and clog shops where you could see them make the wooden footwear the country is known for. Also don’t miss the Zaans Museum, which will give you everything you need to know about Zaan history in forms of photos, films, and paintings.
When you’re in Zaandam, don’t forget to pass by the Tsar Peter House, one of the oldest wooden houses in the country and where Peter I of Russia stayed and studied shipbuilding in the 17th century. The house is now under the ownership of the Zaans Museum.
Being in Zaandam will give you that quiet, countryside atmosphere where life seems a bit more slow and uncomplicated, which is definitely a nice escape from the city even just for a day. Here, there is a great mix of the new and old, of the classic and a little bit of the modern.Aside from the windmills, you can also explore the area around the Zaan River, where you could go biking, walking, or boating.
In efforts to improve the town, there have been restoration projects going on in the past years. This means that the town’s modern features as well as the maintenance of old treasures will certainly be improved for those who wish to rediscover and learn more about the place.