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Zaanse Schans is an old hamlet on the banks of the River Zaan, made up of various buildings,
some of which are original to the site, and some which have been moved and re-erected here.
Whilst some of the buildings are privately occupied, many are open to the public (check the web site, however, as opening hours and seasons vary from building to building).
There is also a fascinating, but rather depressing, purpose built museum, a cheese makers, a wooden shoemakers, and a couple of restaurants;
I can recommend the pancakes in the Restaurant De Kraai.
The highlight of the site, however, is the collection of historic windmills. At one time there were over 200 of these lining the banks of the Zaan,
and were the reason that this area became so heavily industrialised. Now they are reduced to a handful, eight of which are on the Zaanse Schans site.
As well as being an enjoyable day out, Zaanse Schans also provides a good introduction to the Dutch countryside, its people, and their traditional way of life.
All in all a good way to get out of Amsterdam and get a feel for the rest of the country.
Although there are plenty of coach tours from Amsterdam that include Zaanse Schans in their itinerary, none of them, as far as I could see,
allowed nearly long enough there to do it justice in my opinion. Fortunately getting there by public transport is very easy.
There are trains every quarter of an hour or so from the Centraal Station in Amsterdam to Koog-Zaandijk,
full details of which can be found on the Netherlands Railways site.
As well as the journey planner and opportunity to buy e-tickets online,
there are also instructions on the touch-screen ticket machines (which work in both English and Dutch).
From Koog-Zaandijk station it is a short ten to fifteen minute signposted walk, down a residential street (Stationstaat),
past the chocolate factory (source of the overwhelming smell of chocolate that greets you when you get off the train) and the little Chocolate Museum.
After passing the old De Bleeke Dood (The Pale Death) windmill, you cross over the River Zaan on the road bridge
with some fine views of the Zaanse Schans windmills and the old houses on the Lagedijk to your left.
As ever in the Netherlands, just watch out for the cyclists.
External Links and References
Comprehensive. Includes instructions on the touch screen ticket machines. http://www.ns.nl/en