Zaanse Schans windmills
The Zaanse Schans is one of the top tourist destinations in Holland. The Zaanse Schans is an example of how this region looked like in the 17th and 18th century, when this was the biggest industrial area in Europe. The shining stars of the Zaanse Schans of course are the original, working Dutch windmills.
Zaanse Schans windmills
Zaanse Schans is the first stop on our Amsterdam windmill tour. At Experience Waterland we think the Zaanse Schans windmills are pretty awesome and we love telling you all about them. A Dutch windmill is a wonderful machine, and we are still amazed at how clever the engineers were back then. They have a rotating cap, which the miller can adjust 360 degrees. The sails are curved like the wing of an airplane. Result: a Dutch windmill works no matter the force or direction of the wind. A mild breeze from the East or a storm from the Atlantic? It just keeps on rollin’.
We love to show you all the different mills and explain their use. Like De Huisman, a beautiful little spice mill grinding exotic spices like cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg. Or De Kat, the only paint mill in the world that still makes natural paint in the way Rembrandt and Vermeer did.
One of the most amazing Zaanse Schans windmills is the Dutch ‘secret weapon’: the lumber mill. It was lightbulb moment when local inventor Cornelis Corneliszoon van Uitgeest had the idea of applying a crankshaft to a windmill. With this invention the Dutch could saw wood much faster than before. With lots and lots of lumber mills Holland could build 900 ships a year. Building a navy, sailing the world’s seas, making Holland a maritime power by trading (and ok, some plundering). In lumber mill Het Jonge Schaap you can see up close how it works. Volunteers are always busy sawing wood. They love it when you lend them a hand!
In its heyday -around 1700- there were about 600 working windmills along the river Zaan. Most windmills were lumber mills, to provide for the shipyards along the river. After the Industrial Revolution these windmills became obsolete. Steam engines were much faster, cheaper to maintain and more efficient. Most windmills were torn down. But fortunately in the 1960 a group of local people got together to save these beautiful machines. They collected the last remaining old mills and buildings, found an empty piece of land and drove them there on huge trucks. Although not build as a tourist attraction, tourists quickly discovered the Zaanse Schans. And rightly so, we believe!