Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tilting at Windmills: Amsterdam, Part 3

Timing is everything.  And our timing with respect to Amsterdam's famous tulip season was just a bit off.  I had been looking forward to seeing the flowers in bloom at the Keukenof Gardens outside of the city, but when we learned that we were a couple of weeks out from tulip season, we decided to go with Plan B.  Of course, we first had to figure out what Plan B was!  After scouring our guide books, we decided that a visit to the village of Zaanse Schans with its working windmills and clog workshop sounded like fun.   

I was a bit concerned that we had fallen into a tourist trap when we arrived and saw tour buses in the Zaanse Schans parking lot.   The second I saw the windmills, though, I realized that we had made a good choice.   The village has eight windmills in total, and three of them were open for viewing that day.  Our first stop was the windmill pictured here, De Kat (the Cat--difficult translations such as this one convinced Andrea that she could read Dutch!), which is thought to be the last wind-powered dye mill in the world.  The mill was really cool, and there was a couple selling hollowed out eggs that had been colored with dyes produced at the mill.  (Suffice it to say that I have a new Christmas tree ornament.)    

We wandered around the village for a while, stopping in at the other mills and shops and enjoying the beautiful afternoon.  One mill produced spices and a variety of tasty mustards.  Unfortunately, those pesky restrictions on the size of bottles containing liquids and gels that you can bring on an aircraft prevented us from bringing any mustard home.  Then it was time for our visit to the clog workshop!    

One thing that I can say about the Dutch is that they take their history seriously.   When you enter the workshop, you pass a great collection of clogs with information about their history.   There were hand painted clogs and clogs made for ice skating and clogs that had been converted into violins.   There were wedding clogs and patent leather clogs and clogs that Lady Gaga would be proud to wear.  And of course there were shopping opportunities.  Andrea was tempted to buy a pair to bring home, but she ultimately decided that it wouldn't be the most practical purchase.  

Our last stop at the village was Catharina Hoeve, a cheese place.  There were lots of great cheeses to taste, and I brought home three different types--a two year aged Gouda and two types of hard goat cheese.  Yummy!

Our outing to Zaanse Schanse turned out to be quite an excellent Plan B, perhaps all the more enjoyable because it was a late addition to our itinerary.  

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