Warning! These two villages will make you go Dutch! 

Find your slice of quintessential Holland

Dreaming Dutch? Enterprising merchants, labouring engineers, seafaring sailors and slogging farmers in wooden clogs? Fine ships sailing the high seas? Black-and-white bovines grazing on lush grasses in a windmill-studded countryside? Make the dream a reality,  just 20 minutes away from bustling, cosmopolitan Amsterdam. Impressionist master Claude Monet’s Blue House masterpiece derived inspiration right here. Dare you to miss the opportunity!

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Windmills and cheese at Zaanse Schans

Even as you disembark at the bus parking of Zaanse Schans (ZAHN-ze skhahns), you know why the whimsical, quaint town attracts over a million visitors every year. Old-style barns, tradesmen’s workshops and intriguing little crafts shops line the tree-shaded cobbled streets. Picturesque hump-backed bridges adorn tiny canals outside charming gardens where fat chickens cluck. Enchanting Dutch wood houses in green/blue paint sport spotless white window frames and bright terracotta roofs. And a bunch of historic windmills flank the river. Its all real in this working village…yes, actual families live behind those dainty lace-curtain windows!

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There’s every element that a village would need…pewter foundry set in a charming 18th century tea house, a clock museum, a grocer’s shop and a wealthy merchant’s house selling traditional costumes. Also, a cheese farm and a wooden shoe shop as bonus. An authentic open-air museum of traditional Dutch life, you would contemplate. Yet nothing seems the least contrived.

Of the 600 active windmills in the entire Zaan region, 10 working windmills are located here, including a sawmill, a paint mill, an oil mill a and mustard mill. Study the mighty wooden spokes and the rotund bell structure, before heading inside, up a smallish ladder, past huge creaking wooden cogs to the roof. Photo-opp aside, its an occasion to ponder about Holland’s 10,000 windmills that flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries…powering industries, pumping water, grinding grain or draining fields, even constructing fleets, making it an important player in the world trade. Powerhouses of the past…tourist-tickers today.

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Later, partake in a 2000-year old Dutch cheese-making demonstration at the nearby Catherina Hoeve cheese factory. Imbibe the pearls of information, if you can control your growling stomach and distract yourself from the amazing aromas. Cheese ageing varies from 4 weeks for mild taste to over a year for extra aged…the younger the cheese, the creamier the texture; as it gets older, it becomes hard, crumblier and sharper in taste. Holland produces 30 million pounds of cheese per week, including the popular Gouda (mild, almost sweet), Edam, Leidse kanas (dotted with cumin seeds) and Maasdamer (full of holes). What’s your poison?

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If time permits, visit the town of Gouda, where cheese makers and farmers still bring cheese for weighing and selling in the city’s square on Thursday mornings in summer. Otherwise, fulfil your heart’s desire by strolling through the cheese farm counters filled with cheese wheels and overwhelming variants from plain to flavoured with various herbs and spices such as cumin, pepper, fenugreek or chilli pepper. And say cheese!

Village with a view: Volendam

Close by lies Volendam, take the opportunity to explore another delightful little village. Does anyone live here at all, you ask yourself, or is it just all part of a lifelike exhibit? Pretty winding backstreets, weeping willow tree curtains, neatly laid foliage…its a stunning setting! Narrow canals crossed by cantilever bridges lead to rows of coquettish wooden houses with sloped red brick roofs. Each of them equally spaced, as if planned and built the very same day.

Take a leisurely walk through the village, admiring the lovely country homes. Feel the local atmosphere. A window with soft white lace curtains. Adorable curios and collectibles displayed on sills. A cozy armchair with a half-read book. Coffee mugs left on the dining table. A wheelbarrow lying lazily in the backyard. A pair of orange wooden shoes hanging on house entrance wall like a planter with white flowers spilling out. Bikes casually leaning out front. A tiny wooden balcony with a single rattan chair. Unreal, everyday beauty that inspired artists like Renoir and Picasso.

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A sudden left turn brings you to the harbour-fronted High Street, all abuzz with bars, cafes, restaurants, cheese factories, souvenir shops, fish stalls selling herring and smoked eel. This village was created out of a ‘filled dam’ (Dutch for Volendam)…and the top is of the protecting dyke is where you are now. This is where all the action is! Drop your guard, get touristy. Stop at a traditional costume shop, pay to dress up and take photos. Or have a meal at one of the cafes dripping with ambience.

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Old fishermen’s boats pose for effect, eye-catching sailboats bob playfully and a few cruise ships dock lazily. People dot the benches, immersed in the sights of the wave-ridden waters and the unceasing sounds of the cawing seagulls. Bulky-built bronzed fishermen in baggy rough breeches converse in unfamiliar language about the catch of the day. Women in vermilion, yellow and green Dutch costumes sporting high, pointed black bonnets sell pickled herrings from baskets.

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You are submerged in the characteristic beauty of Holland. Its still-fresh appearance belies its 14th-century roots. A lively canvas is spread out before you. And you are a tiny figure immersed inside this gorgeous painting. Blend in. Fade out. Its inevitable.

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78 thoughts on “Warning! These two villages will make you go Dutch! 

  1. I’ve always wanted to see the process of cheese-making and get free tastes. I would be so eager to visit the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm. I can already imagine the variety of cheese that I’d get to taste.
    The houses look perfect. They are like model houses. I like the bright orange rooftops.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Punita, just to let you know I’ve nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award as one of my favourite travel blogs! I was recently nominated and the purpose of the award if you haven’t heard of it is to recognise each others efforts, encourage one another and grow partnerships between bloggers.
    If you wish to accept it, take a look at my most recent post!
    http://thewanderingwelshie.com/2017/05/12/blogger-recognition-award/
    All the best,
    Sarah x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have been in the Netherlands last year so we know what do you mean. These places are so characteristic and it’s impossible to not love them!! Love the photos 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been to Zaanse Schaans! They have a machine to make the wooden Dutch clogs that’s basically like the key copying machine. It’s so fast, and they wring out the water from the wood afterwards – it’s incredible how much water is really in wood!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never associated Monet with Holland, but these two villages look beyond picturesque. I just did a Marie Antoinette photo shoot in Versailles so I’d definitely be into dressing up in a traditional costume in Volendam. How fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, yes, yes! These villages are so lovely and authentic, definitely making me want to go to Netherlands as soon as possible. I will probably visit Amsterdam in the near future and I hope I can find a time to go and visit those villages as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So funny to read this article since I am from the Netherlands 🙂
    Although Volendam en de Zaanse Schans are very Dutch……the rest of the country does not look like it at all HAHA!
    x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I haven’t seen an old-fashioned windmill like that in forever. I love quaint towns like this with friendly people and fresh food. I would eat all of the cheese:)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can see why you would say these villages will make you turn Dutch. They truly depict a different way of life. I would very much like to see the windmills even though they are touristic. I would also love to see the cheese demonstration!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. These 2 villages look so charming! I’m so obsessed with historical Dutch places. NYC (New Amsterdam) actually has Dutch colonial roots that are fun to rediscover. There are a ton of connections to make between the Dutch and the old New York. I don’t think I’d be able to resist dressing up and walking around to take photos…as touristy as that is! I’ll definitely keep these villages in mind when I visit Amsterdam.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a wonderful laid back life it is. Villages always excite me for the simple pleasures they provide:) the architecture of these villages is just so fairy tale like! So glad to see that you got to witness cheese making. I’d love to do that too!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Despite being less than two hours by train, I’ve not spent much time in the Netherlands. These two villages are too dang cute and have me looking at my calendar. I’ve got to see more of those windmills…and the cheese, let’s be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I live so close to the Netherlands and never really make it over there, but it’s has such cute places =) Especially the cheese, it’s just amazing 😀 Those village would be great for a relaxation holiday, just back to basic, small and cozy and nice strolls along the tiny houses. Loving the pictures you took. Really seems like this places make you feel right at home^^

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We went to Holland 10 years ago was the last time. I always loved Amsterdam it was nice small city by European standards. These days i would love to go back and explore some smaller places like the one here that you talk about

    Liked by 1 person

  15. We have been to both of these villages and agree are incredibly beautiful and seem out of this world. We remember the cheese tasting session at Zaanse Schaan it was yummiest. We had clubbed Volendam with another village Marken which we found most enticing than the village of Volendam.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A place where Monet took inspiration?? Just 20 minutes from Amsterdam? Wow! That’s a must visit place indeed. Wooden houses with windmills & terracotta roofs. The place looks so gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. It all looks so beautiful! Hope we get to visit one day. The closest we’ve been to anything Dutch was in the town of Solvang in Southern California. It has many windmills and looks similar to the pictures in this post. So lovely. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We definitely agree. The thing here is that our lives are so immersed in modernity that we feel “artificial.” Visiting and even living in places like these takes our stress away. And because it’s surrounded by natural surroundings, our minds are “reset.”

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  18. I fell in love with Holland for precisely these landscapes…the windmills, pristine meadows dotted by the cows, the lovely colorful homes and their colorful gardens outside. Sigh! And now with these two villages, my wanderlust for Holland is back! Got to plan something soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are delightful! Do include Marken in your itinerary..all three can be visited in the same day. There’s a separate post on Marken on my blog…its THE place for wooden clogs 🙂

      Like

  19. Lovely! I haven’t yet been to The Netherlands but I have met so many Dutch people while traveling, and now I am dying to visit someday!

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  20. Volendam looks like a charming town. I like the European countryside. They are so picturesque. Yet to visit the country but I am sure gonna visit Netherland this year.

    Like

  21. Holland is so beautiful. My slice of holland would be these pristine landscapes, fairytale cottages, green meadows and beautiful windmills..nothing else required to make for a perfect holiday.

    Like

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