Dutch Cheese and Wooden Clog Factories at Zaanse Schans Open-Air Museum1 May, 2012
Besides walking along the banks of River Zaan and exploring the windmills along it i.e. De Kat (The Cat) Dye mill, De Zoeker Oil mill and Het Jonge Schaap Saw mill, there are lots of other things to do in the Zaanse Schans open-air museum. The best way to see picturesque Zaanse Schans is just to wander about the town, popping into whichever building that happens to interest you. Most attractions in Zaanse Schans are open daily 10am-5pm in the summer but only on weekends in the winter.
Zaanse Schans compiles every preconceived notion of the Netherlands that any tourists would have thought of about the country, in one fully functional village. There is even a supermarket – one of the branch of the ubiquitous Albert Heijin supermarket chain in Holland, in this small town and it is housed in one of the traditional Dutch houses (see top left hand side of the picture below). This is how Albert Heijn, grandfather and founder of the mighty Ahold supermarket emporium began when he took over the small grocery store from his parents in 1887.
And of course more windmills – albeit of different sizes within the village; windmills powered many of the manual processes e.g. lifting of heavy goods, in the early years of the Netherlands, thus in a village like Zaan Schans, they are naturally quite a common sight.
Some of the houses in Zaanse Schans are literally moved from other parts of Holland to this open-air museum to preserve such Dutch architectural heritage – just like the De Zoeker oil mill. Most of them are shops selling various Dutch crafts and food; take your time to explore them or simply chill out by the fields for a breather after checking out the Zaanse Schans’ windmills. While Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular day trips out of Amsterdam, it is not busy like other tourist attractions with long queues and large tourist groups so there is no need to rush and be all stressed out. It is also relatively smaller so you can enjoy most of the houses and windmills in half a day.
One of the key attractions of Zaanse Schans you can consider checking out after exploring the windmills, is the Cheese Farm “De Catherina Hoeve”. This is a replica of a Dutch cheese farm. You won’t miss it – just follow your nose for the smell of cheese that wafts out of this farm. Today, the Cheese Farm “De Catherina Hoeve” is more of a large tourist shop, selling various Dutch souvenirs e.g. chocolates, waffles and of course endless varieties of Dutch cheese. There is a small workshop showcasing how the cheese is prepared but I think most visitors are more interested in the free bite-sized samples of 10+ versions of Dutch cheese! Just check out the queues for the cheese samples below! 🙂
Next must-see attraction in Zaanse Schans is the Dutch clog (Klompen) factory at Klompenmakerij. To get here, simply walk along the main path Zeilenmakerspad or just follow the crowd and look for a giant wooden clog outside this shop – just like the picture below (of course without us! :-)).
At Klompenmakerij,visitors can check out an informative display that unravels the mystery of the wooden shoe’s prominence in Dutch history. The Dutch have been wearing wooden shoes, or clogs, or “Klompen” since medieval times. Originally, they were made with a wooden sole and a leather top or strap tacked to the wood. Eventually, the shoes began to be made entirely from wood to protect the whole foot. In Holland, wooden shoes are worn by farmers, fishermen, factory workers, artisans and others to protect their feet. Nails, fishing hooks and sharp implements that might pierce a regular boot will not go through a wooden shoe. On boats and docks and in muddy fields, wooden shoes also keep feet dry.
Free clog making demonstrations take place at regular intervals throughout the day and take approximately 10-15 minutes and are available in many different languages.
Of course, after the history lesson of the Dutch clogs, you are free to explore the huge gift shop, with strings of endless varieties of clogs in all shapes, sizes, and colors hanging from the walls and ceiling – if you are thinking of buying one to walk around at home – a pair with a basic design will cost about €30. For more info on the Zaanse Schans wooden clog shop, check out their website: http://www.woodenshoeworkshop.nl/
There are many other traditional Dutch craft shops to check out in Zaanse Schans e.g. pewter museum and beer distillery museum and the coopery (barrel-making factory). Depending on your interests, you can easily spend a leisurely day exploring the various shops and factories in Zaanse Schans – do note that while entrance to the Zaanse Schans is free, some shops and museums (and all windmills) charge an admission fee. For more info on opening hours, admission fees and attractions at Zaanse Schans, please see: http://www.zaanseschans.nl/
You can consider buying a Zaanse Schans card (€10) which gives you access to the Zaans Museum & Verkade Pavilion, Coopery and one of the following windmills: Dye mill De Kat, Saw mill Het Jonge Schaap or Oil mill De Zoeker.
Another alternative to consider if you would like to explore all the windmills and also at the same time check out some attractions in Amsterdam, is to get the I amsterdam card where for as little as €40, you get a 24-hour public transport pass around Amsterdam (train ticket to Zaanse Schans not included), free entrance to 36 museums in Amsterdam and free entrance to all 3 windmills in Zaanse Schans!
How to Get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam
By bus – Line 91 runs twice hourly from Amsterdam Central Station, and takes approximately 45 minutes to reach Zaanse Schans. See the Connexxion bus company web site for exact schedule information.
By train – From Amsterdam Central Station, take the Alkmaar-bound train to Koog-Zandijk (approximately 20 minutes); Zaanse Schans is ten minutes from the station by foot. See the National Railway (NS) web site for schedule and fare information. For more information on the walking route from Koog-Zandijk train station to Zaanse Schans, see map below.