Wednesday, May 21, 2014

High on Windmills and Benadryll (Visiting Zaanse Schans)

After my down-on-visiting-museums luck in Den Haag and Delft, I decided that my third day of visiting the Netherlands would consist of something a little bit closer to Amsterdam while being miles apart from what the city is known. I made plans to see the Zaanse Schans in the morning and then pay a visit to Volendam in the afternoon. (I have to thank my former high school English and French teacher for inspiring me to go to Volendam, and it was with my research that I was able to come across the famous Zaanse Schans.)

Zaanse Schans is a preserved village that has original houses and functioning windmills intact. Being a responsible Minister of Transport, I needed to test to see if the buses did a good job at connecting the capital to the surrounding cities and villages. 

It did. And it took me to the windmills. 

(TBoNTB fact: below is the first ever video I upload on the Internet. Clearly, I am not ready to quit my day job and become a cinematographer.)

Once I snapped a few pictures, I decided to first head into the Zaanse Schans museum to learn more about the village's history. I found it uncommon for a Dutch museum to be open on a Monday, but I wasn't going to complain! 

I went to the reception area, purchased my full-price ticket and...

...Discovered that HALF of the museum was under renovations. This only further fueled my belief that half of the Netherlands is always under construction and, in continuing to keep score with visiting museums, brought my total to 3,5 over 1,5. 

So while most of the relevant historical portions of the museum remained inaccessible, I did manage to see some neat-o (do people still say "neat-o?") machines once used by the Verkade chocolate makers in Zaandam.

The only word you really need to know in Dutch.

If I'm not mistaken, these are packaging that once held chocolate letters, which are eaten around Sinterklaas-time. Pictured on the white chocolate box is Sinterklaas himself. And for those of you wondering who the funky black dude on the milk chocolate box is, his name is Zwarte Piet and he's one of many of Sinterklaas's soot-covered busy helpers. (GO HERE and HERE to understand.)

Verkade built its reputation for having women working on the lines, hence the feminine jumpsuits. 

Klompen en fietsen. How much more Dutch can it get?

I quite liked this painting simply because of the juxtaposition of having traditional windmills with a backdrop of billowing industrial smokestacks. It's not something I see every day in art. 

Be careful when working around factory machines, kiddos. 

Just look at that untamed Dutch wilderness. 

I won't lie: going into Zaanse Schans set off some tourist trap vibes, and that was not just from all the tourists buzzing about. The sheer number of shops present were reminiscent of the times I would visit the very artificial Epcot with my family, and that feeling of familiarity brought upon by memories of Disney World felt odd. I normally don't experience this when I visit European cities and villages.

Still, I can't deny that the picturesque sights and the preservation of historic buildings were well worth the visit. 

For some reason, this dried mud reminded me of the turf I saw in Connemara

Chocolate moulds

And cookie moulds and cutters 

I adore the architecture here.

"Kaas" is another useful Dutch word to know.

I tried a very nice bacon and asparagus cheese. It sounds so wrong, but it was so right.

Only in the Netherlands have I been able to see a thatched windmill...

...That had its own mini-windmill. (Cue the Xzibit "Yo dawg" joke.)

Windmill with a billowing smokestack backdrop? Now, where have I seen this before..?

Nijntje really isn't doing a good job at hiding. 
 There was even an Albert Heijn museum! For one shining moment, I thought about visiting it...

"Koffie" is definitely worth knowing, too.
...Only to find that this museum clearly respected the "It's Monday, we're not open" rule.

Score: 4.5 to 1.5. Drats!

I also saw daffodils.

Or what was left of them.

Because they were dead.


 I also saw the disturbing remnants of decapitated tulips.

Since I don't want you all to feel bad about seeing deceased tulips, I did this to cheer you up:

If you squint at just the right angle, you can pretend they are still alive. Go on. Try it. 

I normally don't take pictures of other people's back yards, but I couldn't resist. This one had roaming chickens. 

I really do like how pimpin' Dutch bikes are. 

With my entrance to the museum, I was given a ticket that granted access to visit a functioning windmill of my choice. Even though there was a windmill that ground paint, I decided to go into the windmill that produced oil. Now, when I cook, my oil of choice by default is olive oil, so upon hearing there was an oil windmill, my brain decided to push aside any logic and associated olive oil with said windmill's production. 

Because, as we all know, the Netherlands is known for its balmy Mediterranean climate and olive trees. 


Imagine my shock when I walked into the windmill and discovered that the oil it produced was, in fact, peanut oil.  My brain reprimanded itself with a quick "oh, well, of course it's going to have peanut oil, you moron, DUH." Then, in an instantaneous moment, my brain had another realization that caused panic to sank in. 

You see, I am allergic to nuts and peanuts, and the room in which I had sauntered in absentminded fashion was currently CRUSHING THOUSANDS OF PEANUTS INTO A FINE POWDER. It seems that I had a bit of a death wish for myself.

Not wanting to miss the moment of having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of seeing a windmill churn, I risked my life and held my breath to film a very hasty video. Then I ran straight out before the floating peanut dust particles could ensure that my once-in-a-lifetime chances remained decidedly at a single stolid shot. 

(Forget filming nature documentaries about African wildlife in the savanna; peanuts are dangerous enough for me.)

Being cautious about my allergies and my desire to cling to life, I swallowed a couple of anti-histamine pills to settle any potential deadly reactions. 

The breath of life has a different meaning for me.

One of the unfortunate side effects of certain anti-histamine pills is the tendency to render the taker into a drowsy stupor. When I began to see double windmills dance before my eyes, I decided that it was time to leave the Zaanse Schans, fleeing far away from the evil peanut oil producing windmill, and take the bus back to Amsterdam so I could travel to Volendam. 

But before I did so, I sat down and ate a freshly-made stroopwafel with some coffee. You can't beat the simple pleasures in this life. 

Nodding on and off during the bus ride, the haze of having seen several windmills still fresh in my memory, my bleary vision gazed upon the landscape and transmitted a befuddled message to my mind: "there's a metallic windmill on the side of the road." 

Now, I am familiar with the occasional modern wind pumps that dot the French countryside, but I had never seen anything quite like that "metallic windmill." Rather than being confused, I blinked rapidly and was awed by such a spectacular feat of human ingenuity. 

They don't. (Yes, I genuinely thought this telephone tower was a windmill. That's how drugged up I was on Benadryll.)
Kids, when in the Netherlands, go easy on the anti-histamine pills. Those are dynamite.

Barb the French Bean


A discrepancy with the score on being able to visit museums/do certain activities has been noted. After the realization that the peanut windwill nearly killed me despite still being able to see it, the current score now stands at 5 to 2. 


  1. It was already funny when you told me the story about the metal windmill but I laughed again when reading it here now.

    Even when you do get to go to a museum it tries to kill you with peanuts.

    1. Ooh, you're right! Guess I'll have to update the score to reflect how I was nearly killed by a windmill.


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