Windmills, Cheese & Wooden Shoes – Into the Dutch Countryside

On Monday, our last full day in Europe, we took a 7-hour coach tour into the countryside around Amsterdam with Key Tours to see windmills and wooden shoe and cheese-making places. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

The view out our hotel room overlooking the canal Prinsengracht at 6:50am didn’t look very good for touring.

Foggy canal in Amsterdam
Going for a short walk just before our 8:30 pickup convinced me that it had definite photographic potential.

Canal in Amsterdam
The subway and other construction going on downtown made the pickup of other guests rather chaotic, but the roundabout route took us to areas we hadn’t seen yet, and seeing the vehicles outside this police station was interesting.

Police station in Amsterdam
A large demolition project. With all the 400-year-old buildings around, many at what appear to be precarious leans, I wonder what gets demolished.

Building demolition in Amsterdam
Entering the freeway – the A-10 listed at the bottom of the sign is a ring road that circles Amsterdam. I don’t recall seeing that sort of double-walled impact-absorbing guardrails anywhere before.

Freeway around Amsterdam
Our first stop was at Zaanse Schans, what we generally call a “heritage village”. The first stop there was at a wooden shoe factory, where an introductory display includes these very “Yukon” wooden shoes with ice cleats 🙂

Wooden shoes at Zaanse Schans
And for the very stylish wooden-shoe-wearer…

Wooden shoes at Zaanse Schans
Seeing how the shoes are actually made was very interesting – lots of hand labour is still required.

Wooden shoes at Zaanse Schans
Nanook really “got into” that shop’s wares, and they had enough sizes that I probably could have fitted him up with a set 🙂 I tried to walk in a pair, but don’t see the attraction – the clerk says that it does take a day or so to be comfortable as you walk differently.

Nanook with wooden shoes
Next at Zaanse Schans, a cheese farm, with a short demonstration on how cheese is made and a tasting with many varieties.

Cheese at Zaanse Schans
Huskies, of course, love cheese!

Nanook with cheese at Zaanse Schans
This is really what I came for, though – windmills.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
Windmills come in all sizes – these little ones, perhaps 8 feet tall, just pump water.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
These windmills at Zaanse Schans are actually working businesses, or at least they are when the wind is blowing. The first of the ones seen in this photo grinds peanuts for oil, the next is a sawmill for lumber.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
Yes, this windmill was actually built in 1667 and is largely original.

Windmill at Zaanse Schans
Inside the oil mill, we got a short explanation of how it works, though with no wind an actual demonstration wasn’t possible.

Windmill at Zaanse Schans
A closer look at the sawmill, from the upper platform of the oil mill. Several of us noted that the climb to the platform was so precarious that in ever-more-litigious North America and Australia, visitors wouldn’t be allowed up there.

Windmill at Zaanse Schans
The thatched roof of the oil mill.

Windmill at Zaanse Schans
Two more mills from that platform, the first for grinding various elements used as colours for paint. It has a complex construction and rebuild history and little is original.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
Me and Nanook at the windmills.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
The quiet road from Zaanse Schans.

The quiet road from Zaanse Schans
Our next stop was the village of Edam, of cheese fame. Edam cheese was the most popular cheese in the world between the 14th and 18th centuries due to the fact that it doesn’t spoil.

In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was established, and 8 years later the first tea reached Holland. It rapidly gained in popularity, and soon the wealthy had private tea houses on their estates.

Tea house in Edam
Edam has several of these very old counter-balanced opening bridges – this is Kwakelbrug.

Kwakelbrug, Edam
The Hotel Fortuna in the historic part of Edam was an originally a house, probably dating to about 1650.

Hotel Fortuna in Edam
Another of the interesting signs in Edam – “Desen haen heeft laersen aen” translates as “This cock has boots on”. Okay… 🙂

Desen haen heeft laersen aen - in Edam
Our Key Tours guide, Marleen, was very good, as we expected by now.

The ancient building has quite a lean to it, as do several of the largest buildings in Edam.

The facade of the main building at the original cheese market square.

One of the oldest buildings in Edam is now a seniors residence, with lovely gardens.

One of the oldest buildings in Edam
Edam ends abruptly, and then farms stretch into the distance.

Farms at Edam
From Edam, we made the short drive to Volendam, once a fishing village on the shores of the Zuiderzee. When the Zuiderzee, a large, shallow inlet of the North Sea, was blocked from the sea with a massive dyke-and-canal projectthat began in 1918, the fishing industry died and now tourism is its main industry.

There is a carnival-like tourist area beside the harbour, and we went there for lunch.

Visitors to Europe need to watch for signs such as these, sometimes quite inconspicuous – many shops, even quite large ones, don’t accept credit cards.

No credit cards accepted
We were very pleased to discover that 4 of the Aussies that we spent a lot of time with on the River Queen were on this tour. Everyone except me enjoyed this seafood lunch – I ordered a different type of fish and mine was awful.

Seafood lunch in Volendam
I was incredulous that tour coaches are allowed in this very crowded area.

Our guide suggested that we at least have a look at the Hotel Restaurant Spaander, a small Best Western hotel at the harbour. Volendam has been a popular place for artists for many decades, and the paintings on the wall of the restaurant are wonderful.

Hotel Restaurant Spaander
A window of one of the upper-floor rooms at the Hotel Restaurant Spaander.

Hotel Restaurant Spaander
From Volendam we took a ferry across the lake (formerly the Zuiderzee, now IJsselmeer or Lake Yssel) to the village of Marken. This was the view as we left Volendam harbour.

Volendam harbour
Lots of traffic as we neared Marken, which was on an island until 1957.

Boats on IJsselmeer
Wind turbines near Marken.

Wind turbines near Marken
Homes in Marken used to be built on pilings to protect against frequent floods but now walls have joined the pilings to create basements.

A particularly fine storm-door-and-door combination in Marken.

A general view of the harbour area.

The guide pointed out that clothes pins aren’t used to hang laundry – you just separate the two strands of the clothesline rope.

Laundry in Marken
Part of the residential area of Marken. Because it was once an island, people still say that they are “on Marken” rather than “in Marken”.

Residential area of Marken
I thought that I knew what a shoe tree was, but this one in Marken was unique! 🙂

A shoe tree in Marken
A closer look at the wind turbines as we headed back to Amsterdam.

Wind turbines in Holland
Water and dykes are an integral part of life in the Netherlands, wherever you are.

Water and dykes in Holland
Back in Amsterdam!

Heavy traffic in Amsterdam
It was great to see sunshine lighting up the cathedral a half-block from our hotel – its bells chime frequently.

The view from our room – clip-clop, clip-clop…

Horse-drawn carriage in Amsterdam
The three of us enjoyed some Heineken refreshment as we explored more of the city.

Heineken in Amsterdam
A final night shot as we headed for dinner at 7:00pm.

Amsterdam canal at night


Windmills, Cheese & Wooden Shoes – Into the Dutch Countryside — 4 Comments

  1. There is a basic flaw with the typographic layout of your site and it is driving me nuts. Your captions should be placed below your photos and close enough to eachother. Now, the caption for the photo below is above stuck close to the preceeding photo. It is very confusing. Are you going to fix it!?!

    • The flaw with many blogs is putting the caption below the photo so I look at the photo, go down to the caption, and back up to the photo. My way is the logical way.

  2. This page is very helpful to my upcoming visit to the Netherlands. I especially love the large, clear photos. Captions are conveniently short for easy reading and thorough enough to cover the main point. I personally prefer them above the photo. Nice layout.

  3. Thanks, Amie – I’m pleased that you find this useful (and that you like the caption location 🙂 ). I hope that you enjoy the Netherlands as much as Cathy and I did – we really want to go back for a much longer visit. So much to see, so little time!