Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam, near Amsterdam.
In its heyday, the Zaan region was an important industrial area dotted by hundreds of windmills producing linseed oil, paint, snuff, mustard, paper and other products. Many of the Zaanse Schans' characteristic village houses are now museums, gift shops or workshops while others are used as private residences. Some of the windmills are functioning still.
The scenery was surreal. It was like going back in time
People (mostly tourists) walking past a village house that has been converted into a souvenir shop.
Think Netherlands, think clogs!
Inside the Clog Workshop
Love this dude - he reminds me of Paul Rovia aka Jesus from Walking Dead.
The heavenly smells of chocolate and freshly baked stroopwafels wafted over us as we wandered around the village.
Inside one of the many adorable souvenir shops.
Clogs are a popular tourist souvenir.
The cheese farm was my favourite place to visit in Zaanse Schans. Upon arrival, we were given a short demo on the cheese making process, after which we were invited into the shop to taste their smorgasbord of cow, sheep and goat cheeses in a variety of flavours: pepper, paprika, pesto, truffle, and even coconut!!
Generous samples and free tasting! Cheese heaven!
Blue lavender goat cheese!
Smoked Jalapeno Cheese
Our walking tour began with a lovely fish lunch in the picturesque fishing village of Volendam.
The Lunchroom De Koe B.V. where we had our meal.
Strolling along the vibrant street named Haven
The village is awash with souvenir shops, cafes, seafood stands, a cheese museum, a photo studio...
The place is so touristy that one tends to forget that people really live here! Locals, shopkeepers and delivery drivers use the Haven and main roads to get on with their daily business. We witnessed a lady missing her foot getting rolled over by a delivery truck by a couple of inches!
Although the village stole my heart, I don't think it's fun to live in this neighbourhood. Busloads of tourists amble the very narrow street daily. Imagine strangers gawking and snapping photos of your home!
THE CANAL CRUISE
A day in Amsterdam isn’t complete without a cruise along the canals of the Dutch capital. There are 165 interconnected canals and are the most iconic structural feature of the city.
Seeing Amsterdam from the water was fun and interesting. And certainly relaxing after all those walking tours we had been doing for the past 6 days.
I was most fascinated with the colorful houseboats that moored along the canal banks. I spotted gnome statues, flower pots, wind chimes, garden furniture ... and even a barbecue stove on the 'patios' of these boat houses!
We cruised past the Anne Frank House and many other historic landmarks and bridges.
The Anne Frank House
|image credit - daryll_mitchell|
You can see the houseboats from the 0:37 mark onward
2,500 houseboats dock along the banks year-round. It was once considered a sign of poverty to live on the water but today’s modern, electricity-equipped houseboats are some of the pricier properties in town, starting at around 250,000 euros minimum.
A houseboat in front of the Dancing Houses
These are called the “Dancing Houses” on the Amstel river. The soil was so swampy that homes along the canals had to be built on stilts. Over the years they settled and sunk into the mud, so now many of the canal houses in Amsterdam are tilted and leaning forward!
Interestingly, did you know that you can rent a houseboat on Airbnb?
After the cruise, we were corralled into the bus and headed to Dam Square for more shopping and dinner.
The square was bustling with activities and throngs of tourists when we reached there after whisking past the seedy De Wallen neighbourhood aka The Red Light District.
Yep, everything you've heard about the infamous RLD is true! The red lit windows from behind where slightly clad ladies stood like mannequins were as real as they could be!
It is strictly forbidden to take pictures or videotape the ladies behind their windows.
Word of advice - NEVER take pictures of the ladies in the windows. I've heard from a couple of sources that the girls are not too happy about this (understandably so), and show their displeasure by throwing a cup of pee at the poor unsuspecting tourist!
'Window-shopping' in the RLD was definitely quite an experience and certainly an eye-opener!
But I digress. Anyways, back to Dam Square...
A brief history
Dam Square was built in the 13th century when a dam was constructed around the river Amstel to prevent the Zuiderzee Sea from flooding the city. Through the centuries, buildings mushroomed around the Square. Special events were (and still are) held here, making Dam Square the most popular and important location in Amsterdam.
In the 1960s, Dam Square was famous for the hippie population that hung out here.
Buskers are very much a part of this vibrant square. And pigeons too!
Standing proudly in the middle of the square is the National Monument which was built to commemorate the casualties of World War II.
While window shopping in the vicinity, we came across many souvenir shops and establishments that sold cannabis edibles like cookies, brownies, chocolates, lollipos, ice-cream, drinks etc.