Not all those who wander are lost.J.R.R. Tolkien
Sep 9 2014
While in Amsterdam we decided to take our rental bikes out of the city for ride through the country.
We chose Zaanse Schans as it looked like a great place to check out some windmills and wasn’t too far away. We started out by catching a ferry from behind Central Station across the river IJ, along with hundreds of other bikers. We landed on the otherside in North Amsterdam, or the Nord neighborhood. Pedaling through we passed vast green expanses, charming little villages and some of the city’s most cutting-edge architecture. The area has recently become popular for artist studios and stylish waterside hangouts with beautiful terraces.
Continuing just outside the city limits we rode along a highway for bicycles, passing over numerous canals and alongside many large housing complexes. We soon reached Het Twiske Park, a massive recreational area with numerous playgrounds, hiking and bicycle paths and a large lake with swimming areas. We stopped for a short break and played on some nearby swings and zip lines.
Further along the route and just before reaching Zaanse Schans we came across the adorable village of Kalf. Full of small and quaint dutch homes set along small canals that ran through the front yards, with little pedestrian bridges connecting to the street. Ducks and swans floated past beautiful yards surronded by nature, it was exactly how you would picture a small town in Holland to look.
Arriving at Zaanse Schans we saw the many windmills in the distance. From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the Zaanstreek region of the Netherlands were relocated to create the neighborhood. Zaanstreek was an important industrial area and hundreds of windmills helped produce linseed oil, paint, snuff, mustard, paper and other products. Many of the village’s characteristic houses are now museums, gift shops or workshops while others are still used as private residences. Some of the Zaanse Schans’ remaining windmills are also open to the public. We went inside some and were in awe seeing the giant cogs that turn grindstones, saws, and presses while we felt the power of the wind as the machines shook the entire mill beneath our feet.
Within the village you could also view clog making demonstrations, enjoy some cheese tasting, indulge in some dutch pancakes and enjoy the farm animals wandering about providing a lot of great photo opportunities.
After enjoying the village we started making the return trip back towards Amsterdam. I’ve never been a big fan of backtracking if I can avoid it, so at one point I thought we’d take a detour, but ended up getting stuck in some dense woods for a bit. We eventually made it out and back to the city though.
Back in Noord we hung out along the river for a bit before making the ferry crossing back to Central Amsterdam. The total trip was an easy 30 miles since the terrain was so flat and the bike highways are well marked (unless of course you try taking a detour like us). Even if you aren’t up for biking there, we recommend making it out to Zaanse Schans if you have the chance for a nice break from the city but don’t have a lot of time to venture elsewhere. It’s an excellent preserved example of what life was like in 17th and 18th century Holland.