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Published: March 26th 2010
The Windmills of Zaanse Schans
Our last European adventure. 😞 When we moved to Prague 3 years ago we made a list. We divided up all the countries in Europe into three groups; the 'Must See', the 'Like to See' and 'The Rest' (We also had to add an 'Unexpectantly Out of Europe' Column that is 9 countries long!) When we found out we were moving home we revisited the list, and realised there were 2 countries left on the 'Must See' list. But with time ticking away, and my boss having a 'No Leave' policy, we had to make a choice. (Sorry Scotland, we'll visit one day - promise!)
Holland lived up to every stereotype; windmills and tulips and canals and bicycles and clogs and cheese. We first spent some time in Amsterdam, and parents will be relieved to know that this section is rated 'G'...no red light distinct or 'coffee' shops. This we learnt in Responsible Parenting 101. A friend living in Amsterdam had given us the tips what to skip and what to do, given our limited time. We wanted to go to Anne Frank house, but there was a line streaming right down the
road for tickets, so we headed for the Van Gogh museum where we had pre-bought tickets. It was a decent walk, but we did linger a bit to enjoy the city. The canals and bridges and skinny houses are really pretty, and we loved seeing all the bicycles chained all over the place. Not quite as many as we saw in Copenhagen, but still, a lot of spokes! Van Gogh was pretty cool, even for 'moderate' art lovers like us, and it was interesting how it was set out in the different stages of his life. Although it was totally sneaky because they mixed a few of his colleagues paintings in amongst his, and inevitably we would find ourselves in front of it saying 'this is my favourite Van Gogh'. ('Moderate' art lovers...)
Despite a small phobia of combining buses with Dutch people, we successfully made it back to the centre in time for a canal cruise. (We had had an awkward incident on the way to church one day when one of us fell over on the bus, grabbed the other one and took them over too, landing on a Dutch couple. And due to the centripetal force
of the turning bus, pinned them in a half fallen position against the door for what seemed like an eternity...never saw them at church again.) Just as we arrived it started to pelt down with rain. We thought this was good timing at first, until we realised there were almost no seats left, (since the Korean tour group had obviously gotten there early to spread themselves out as much as possible) and the rain had fogged up all the windows. But with no desire to wait out in the downpour for the next cruise we sidled up to some Koreans and enjoyed the city from the water. Of course Dahlia made great friends with everyone on the boat and especially the Koreans who all had to touch her as they left the boat. After the rain we had been towel drying her hair with a nappy, so maybe they thought it was good luck to rub her...
The next day was glorious; sun, blue sky and temperatures in the teens. We hired a car and headed to a windmill village called Zaanse Schans to the north of Amsterdam. As well as having a super cool name, Zaanse Schans is
incredibly picturesque, and exactly what you want to see as a tourist in Holland. There are several windmills restored to their original purpose. We went into the paint mill, where big stone wheels grind the paint dye, as well as the clog factory where we saw a demonstration. But the favourite was what we called 'the free sample shop' aka the Cheese Farm De Catherinahoeve. Dozens of cheese samples, waffle samples, chocolate samples...yum.
Steph was particularly interested in the cheese samples, but it became a problem to go blend in the crowds and go back anonymously too often because of the grinning baby sitting on her front. So some reconnaissance work was done to spirit away more free cheese... Anth was interested in seeing Dutch waffle samples. After asking at reception the previous morning where we could get waffles for breakfast, was told that "you must be getting us confused with Belgium - that's the country next door that has waffles". Embarrassing. But then proceeded to pass 4 Dutch waffle shops that day!!! So this one was just the icing on the waffle, so to speak.
Anyway we had a great time walking around the town as well,
At the entrance of Keukenhof
and left with waffles, chocolate, an iron door bell, but no cheese. Final stop was Keukenhof, the famous Dutch tulip farm. It would have been amazing site in 6 weeks time, to see these massive fields all covered in tulips, but without the luxury of time we had to make do with green stems. Still there was a lot to see, with pavilions in full bloom, and lots of gardens starting to sprout.
And we are done, with Holland, and our European adventures. Back to Prague for a crazy week of packing that I'm sure will make the windmills and tulips seem like a distant memory!
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