Zaanse Schans must be the best day trip out of Amsterdam, yes it’s touristic, but the windmills are in working order and are fascinating, and there are several other mini-museums in the village.
The windmills are all working mills, and the perform various functions, including a saw mill, a paint mill (grinding pigments), and oil mill (grinding linseed or peanuts to draw off the oil). The oil mill was working so that’s the one we looked through.
On the ground floor were huge grindstones crushing peanuts which were then roasted and pressed so that the oil could be extracted. Both the grindstones and the press are driven by the windmill.
We climbed a narrow ladder to see the huge wooden cogs that transform the wind energy down to the grindstone. Then we ducked out a small door onto the terrace, where we could watch the sails of the windmill go past. They fly past – really quickly! One full rotation took 16 seconds, this dropped to about 10 seconds as the wind picked up.
The next windmill was just being set up, it’s a complicated process, first the angle of the top of the windmill is set into the wind and the arms are aligned so that one is perpendicular to the terrace. Then the cap is anchored, so that the arms don’t move and the miller walks to the front of the mill, climbs the arm to unfurl the sail along the length of the arm. Then he climbs down, goes to the back, releases the arms and lets them rotate so that the next sail can be unfurled. I was fascinated to watch this process.
Other things I learnt;
- not all the windmills were originally at Zaanse Schans, some were moved there when the park was set up
- the position of the arms can reflect family occasions – decorated for weddings, and at 60 degrees when in mourning (and without sails)
- there are more than a thousand restored windmills in the Netherlands and there are lots of different types of windmills
- in the Clock Museum there’s a clock that features a sawmill, it strikes on the hour and the half hour, and when it strikes the windmill and the saw work
They say getting there is half the fun, well in this case it wasn’t. We looked on the Zaanse Schans site, the public transport site didn’t help, nor did the nice lady at the GWB office. So we wandered over to the bus station and started asking the drivers – and after the third response we figured it out – but to save you the trouble, here is the easiest/cheapest way to get there.
|– take bus 91 from Amsterdam Central Station to Zaanse Schans|
|– trip takes about 50 minutes|
|– costs 2.50 each way|
|– bus leaves at 26 and 56 past the hour between 9 – 4|
|– Zaanse Schans is on your right about 20 metres from the bus stop|
|– take bus 91 from the same place you got off, right outside Zaanse Schans|
|– bus leaves at 12 and 42 minutes past the hour|