Cheese, Wooden Shoes, and Windmills…

…do you know where we are?

Welcome to Zansee Schans. Zansee Schans, Holland. June 2015.
Welcome to Zansee Schans. Zansee Schans, Holland. June 2015.

On another quick stop (read: 2 nights and a day) we looked to have…

My mother had seen a ticket online that would allow you to visit a few different locations only a bus ride outside of the city – perfect since one area was big on windmills and the other two closer stops had clogs and cheese making demonstrations. However, what it seemed my mother did not look up before hand was how/where these tickets could be purchased.

In other words, if you find this kind of deal and don’t mind the time on the bus between locations, go for it; if not I recommend:

Zaanse Schans.

This little town at the end of the bus route has everything: a cheese house, a clog store, windmills you can tour and explore, and a cute little town across the river only a short but lovely boat ride away.

A nice stop along the path. Zaanse Schans, Holland. June 2015.
A nice stop along the path. Zaanse Schans, Holland. June 2015.

First things first, you can go straight to the windmills and co. if you head left through the parking lot, or you can go check out the visitor center and pick up a map and get your basic information by keeping right. One is really no better than the other but this location really does benefit someone willing to walk and wander (another point in the favor of just choosing this stop for the day).

Due to the length of the bus ride (and a bit of normal end of trip slow mornings), we got to Zaanse Schans a little later than our usual ‘right when everything opens’ entrance. And, in a relatively normal Gallagher turn, we bought a cone of soft serve ice cream and decided to watch the sheep pen next to the kiosk while we figured out what we wanted to do.

Usually, this isn’t something I’d mention, however, there is a warning. The tourist here were not cool—we were literally body shoved and nudged away from the fence where we were petting one of the lambs because another tourist couple wanted a picture with it. I know this isn’t everyone who visits, but Zaanse Schans is hugely popular, so bad tourists do seem to abound.

Anyway, our goal for this trip was—again—cheese, windmills, and clogs, and Zaanse Schans did not disappoint.

As you enter, you’ll see a small, picturesque mill which you can get a great picture of from the small bridge in front of it. Once you get your pictures and cross, you’ll see a shop—go in and welcome to the Cheese section. The front room shows you how cheese is made via a video and display room that walks you through each step of the process and the tools used to make the cheese. And then you enter the shop.

If you like cheese, you should really enjoy this room (but your wallet may suffer for it!). around much of the room are sampling areas with cheeses ranging for your basic smoked variety to herb and garlic to the more exotic flavored cheese such as lavender cheese, various wine flavored cheeses, and –our gift to dad—asparagus cheese. From smooth to dense, light to strong, goat to cow, there is a cheese for everyone and, as you make your way around the room, you can try them all.

We stopped here twice during our visit, the second time to actually buy—no use carrying around your cheese all day!—but both times we sampled them all, our top contenders a few more times just to help us decide.

While I obviously loved the cheese store, I really loved all Zaanse Schans had to offer and just taking a wander really is the best way about it.

Pigment mill gears. Saanze Schans, Holland. June 2015.
Pigment mill gears. Saanze Schans, Holland. June 2015.

The main draw of coming here is obviously the windmills. While historically, this region was once littered with them, there are three main mills still standing and working, each in charge of a different task and you can usually go in and explore each for a small fee.

We chose the pigment mill which is key in making pastels and the like. Inside, they have samples, explanations of the process and the history of the mill which was fascinating. After exploring the ground floor, you can head up the— very steep —stairs and walk around most of the outer perimeter. This gives you a great view of the area and the other mills.

Right before the last mill, there is a dock where you can catch a small ferry to the town across the river. It’s a cheap, quick ride that gives you a beautiful view of the mills you wouldn’t otherwise see. You are also given a sheet which directs you on a tour of the town’s historic locations.

Do you smell chocolate? Saanze Schans, Holland. June 2015.
Do you smell chocolate? Saanze Schans, Holland. June 2015.

But stranger—yet amazing—still is the smell of the town itself—pure chocolate.

You know in cartoons when a character smells something fantastic and is carried away by the smell? That was us, following the scent of chocolate—however, we never managed to find the source.

When you cross back over to the mill side, you should explore the town and little shops—be careful, some of these are absolutely traps!

Right before you leave – as in crossing bridges again and turning right before you actually get to the parking lot – you’ll find the shop where the clogs are made and purchase a pair of your own, from the most whimsically painted to the most beautifully engraved.

Cinderella! Saanze Schans, Holland. June 2015.
Cinderella! Saanze Schans, Holland. June 2015.

Don’t skip the entry way. You can watch a video on the shoes history, as well as see all the variations through time, culture, and purpose that a lay person may not attribute to clogs. Also, you’d be remissed to skip the Swarovski crystal clog—or, while not glass, in my Disney-addled brain, The Cinderella Clog.

While the shoes were far out of my souvenir price range, this is not the shop to skip. If you time it right, the demonstration is worth sticking around for.

Some travelers will stick around for a few hours and then move on, but if you have the time, I recommend staying the whole day. The views and sights do not disappoint.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Cheese, Wooden Shoes, and Windmills…

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