The Grand Tour: Bikes, Canals, and Windmills


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Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam
June 27th 2019
Published: July 22nd 2019
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After the craziness of trying to find our bus, our travel to Amsterdam went smoothly...until we tried to store our luggage. Despite what at least 2 websites claimed, there is no luggage storage at Amsterdam Sloterdijk and the luggage storage onsite at Amsterdam Central is only available if you have a train ticket. Sigh. Thankfully, we were directed to a luggage storage place just down the street - where you can also rent bikes. We did not participate in the bike rental, but dumped our stuff and went to go find a quick meal before going on a canal tour.

I highly recommend a canal tour since Amsterdam is a city on water. According to our tour, there are over a thousand bridges. The canals are also the only place that you are safe from the bikes. We decided that in Amsterdam, the bicyclists rule the streets - and they let you know it by ringing their bells. They fly around corners and down streets cobbled and paved. In Amsterdam it isn't the cars that will get you, it's the bikes. After our canal tour, we went to find the bench that was used in The Fault in Our Stars, as it was on my cousin's to-see list. Wandering through Amsterdam, the most amazing thing to look at is the architecture. The houses are so colorful and fun to look at mostly because of all the different gables. Many of the houses have hooks sticking out at roof level to help haul furniture and other large objects from street/canal level into the upper floors. Some of the houses even lean forward to ensure things being hauled up don't hit the exterior of the house. If you are into architecture, I highly recommend a visit to Amsterdam.

We spent our second day at Zaanse Schans, which is kind of living history village about a fifteen minute train ride outside of Amsterdam and about a five minute walk from our AirBnB. Zaanse Schans includes a museum about the area paired with a museum about the Verkade Chocolate and Biscuit Factory, a clock museum, and workshops where they still hand-make clogs, chocolate, soap, and do weaving. Zaanse Scans is also home to quite a few windmills. One thing to be aware of: there are two different ticket cards. One ticket card gives you access to all the museums and workshops and discounts on purchases around the village. The second card gives you access to windmills. If you purchase the Zaanse Schans card - which is for the museums and village - you will need to pay separately to go in any of the windmills or purchase the windmill card separately. My cousin and I highly enjoyed touring the village, sitting in a giant clog and watching how clogs were made, and sampling the cheese at the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm. The Zaans Museum and Verkade Factory were also well worth it. The Museum gave a detailed look at the Zaans area and how mills and industrialization played a role. The Museum also included a portrait gallery and an exhibit on what it meant to be from the Zaans area - furniture, clothing, and folktales. Our favorite tale was one about a man and his pregnant wife who were attacked by a bull. The story itself should not have been funny - everyone ends up dead - but the way the audioguide told the story was both ridiculous and hilarious. My cousin and I decided to go into one of the windmills - and the awesome lady working gave us a discount. The mill we went into made peanut oil. They had a silent video that took us through the typical day of the miller - who still works there - and then we were able to go up to the top of the windmill and stand on the outside platform. Though there were barriers to keep us from getting too close to the blades, it was still slightly frightening to be that close to them.

On our final day, my cousin flew out very early and my brothers caught a bus to Berlin, leaving my parents and I on our own. We visited the flower market, a flea market, and walked quite a bit of the city - managing not to get run over by any bikes, though it was a close thing sometimes. That night, it was on to a late bus to Berlin and more heat.


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Why two doors?Why two doors?
Why two doors?

When these houses were owned by rich families, the servants had to use the door under the stairs.
Verkade Chocolate FactoryVerkade Chocolate Factory
Verkade Chocolate Factory

One of the interactive games - packaging treats.


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