Windmills! Tulips! Dutch treats!

Woke up after a very restful sleep last night, which was nice. But, not feeling on top of the world, which was not nice. So todays entry may be a bit short/low effort. Don’t worry, no headache or sore throat or cough though!

After navigating the space age (ok, Japanese) shower controls it was time to find breakfast. We had a tour leaving from the station, and if Frankfurt is any indication, big stations have tons of food options.

That’s probably also true with Amsterdam, but only if you have a ticket. Everything, other than the ticket machine, is behind the ticket barriers.

We also learned that Amsterdam, like me, isn’t that much of a morning person. We headed out at around 7, and there was basically nothing open, not even the “all day breakfast” place. So, desperate times call for desperate measures – maccas was open so that was that.

Much quieter in the mornings

Finding the meet up point for our tour – again, should be easy, but it’s on the opposite side of Amsterdam Centraal – and as far as our little tourist brains could comprehend, there’s no way through without a ticket.

We went around, down a road that I think was titled “no pedestrian access” and eventually found it. Woo!

We were herded into a group and into a bus, I mean, some people look down on “tourist things” but when it makes access to some where you want to go easy, sure, gimme a bus and the crowd and the person with the little flag on a stick!

First stop was Zaanse Schaan, land of windmills. And not just for show, a number of them are still fully functional. The one we visited as part of the tour was a peanut mill., built in 1679. You’d never guess, it mills peanuts! This was primarily for the oil – as the mill could also make linseed oil for paint, and other oils that i would have remembered if I had written it down at the time.

The process was really interesting. First the peanuts were crushed under massive 5 tonne stones from Belgium. The same stones have been in use since the 1870s but they’re about half their current size now as compared to then.

Then they opened up a hole in the mill base and the ground peanuts dropped into a hopper, after which they were shovelled in to a big kettle, which was auto-stirred thanks to the wonders of windmill power. After cooking at 60 degrees for a while (to loosen up the oil) the crushed peanuts were out into two bags. The two bags were laid out in some filters which kinda folded over them, then the whole shebang was out into a press, where (thanks again to windmill power) a 150kh hammer beats the shi, er, oil out of the cooked peanut powder, releases all the natural peanut oil goodness.

Is there more to this fascinating (opinions may vary lol) process? Of course there is!! The now-presssed peanut remnants are saved, to be used as quality cattle food during the winter. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle since the 1600s! (Mind you I guess everybody did it back then out of necessity, blah blah modern life is so wasteful, etc etc) 🙂

The windmills aren’t just for us tourists to gawp at, the oils are still sold to companies to be used, as a way to help support the whole Zaanse Schaans operation, which is pretty lovely.

The whole end to end peanut oil process using a windmill takes a while. Alas can’t remember how much exactly but I think they could produce a reasonable amount in a day. What I do remember, is that nowadays in a modern non-windmill facility, it’s all in about ten minutes.

So understandably the world moves on, but it’s an absolute delight knowing these working mills are still, well, working.

Once upon a time they made all the difference to the Netherlands’ position and in the world. Sawmill windmills reduced the average time it took to build a boat from 3 months to the 3 weeks, much for the benefit of the Dutch EasT India company who was able to rapidly expand their trading routes, and with it their reach and their power. And, sadly, their involvement in slave trading.

Here are some Zaanse Schaans pictures

On the way to our next destination we learnt a few more things. Perhaps unsurprisingly winds can be really strong in that area, so many houses have tall pyramid shaped roofs, the most efficient way to cope with the high winds.

Next stop was the very pretty seaside town of Volendam. By the way it was described to us it sounded a little like Vaucluse or Toorak. Everybody is very rich and neighbours spend much of their time trying to one-up each other.

We learnt a bit about how to make Gouda, and the different varieties available. (yes they’re allowed to call it Gouda even though it’s not made in Gouda). They try to release a new flavour every year, I tried a little bit of the ginger one which was nice.

There was time to kill in volendam, and I was super keen to just sit down and rest a bit, so we found a nice looking restaurant (like all of them) along the dock. I just had chips and mayonnaise, Perry has croquettes, so super Dutch all around! There was a group of what I imagine we’re old friends nearby, having a grand old time and laughing and carrying on, was lovely to hear all the happy Dutch voices even though I don’t know what they were saying. The coronation was on the restaurant’s telly, and despite not understanding them I am 99% sure they were taking the piss!

Nice simple lunch in Volendam

While waiting It was funny to hear Dutch directness with a tourist at the waffle shop.

“Oh no I didn’t want that”

“That’s what you said. It’s too late. I am already making it. You will pay for it”

And, she did!

After lunch we also learned about Stroopwaffles. They came to be in the 1800s as a way to make use of leftover scraps and crumbs by sweetening them with syrup. Volendam say their ones are better (I’m sure they’re not at all biased) because they use a bit of cinnamon in the syrup that goes in between the two layers.

Speaking of layers I always through my stroopwaffles we’re just two of them stacked with syrup in between. But if you’re doing it properly you cut your stroopwaffle in half, quite a feat as they’re only a few millimeters thin.

And yes we got to try some of the freshly made stroopwaffle produced during the demo. What a winner!

The Stroopwaffle Zone

The tour soon moved on to the island (former island) of Marken, via a peaceful boat ride. Here, we were treated to a clog-making demonstration. I still fondly remember going to one of these school back in like 1982. Of course the process was the same, and fun to watch the clog take form as a big drill followed a template and carved where it needed to carve. Next minute, clog!

Back on the bus we go to conclude the tour back to Amsterdam, just in time for, yep, the next tour!

Keukenhoff is a beautiful tulip garden about 41km south west of Amsterdam. It’s only open for eight weeks a year, and this is one of those weeks, so we had to, right? Right.

On the bus, off we go, leaving Amsterdam’s ancient majesty behind for very modern infrastructure and beautifully kept expressways.

We had a few hours here, and it wasn’t long before I was feeling kinda worn out and all I was doing was slowing Perry right down, so I picked a bench and there I stayed, leaving him to see all the sights unencumbered and take lots of lovely photos. If he was waiting for me he probably wouldn’t have seen half of what he did, so, bit of a bummer but the right thing to do. The Kkeukenhoff is about 79 acres, and like a teenager in the early 2000s, I literally can’t even.

I’ll just take a brief moment of self-pity to say that all my still-not-shifted lockdown-weight and working from home nearly all the time, barely moving, was not conducive to a very sudden change in routine of doing 10000+ steps a day and being active for much of my waking hours. But that’s something I’ll have to endeavour to keep up when I’m back home.

The bench I’m on has lotsa pretty flowers nearby though 🙂 And, it would seem, plenty of people doing the exact same thing that I am.

A while later when Perry returned I got a nice cup of tea at a big cafe here – tea revives, right? It kinda did, and had a bit of a wander with Perry and we got some pics.

These are mostly Perry’s awesome work, unleash the floodgates of flower photos!!

I can’t help but think so many people were only there “for the ‘gram”, and, why not I guess. Seemingly endless seas of beautiful flowers, it was definitely a treat for the senses, enjoy it however you like.

A few hours after arriving the bus picked us up and whisked us back to Amsterdam.We just had a super simple dinner (chips again) at ‘Snack it!” next to the hotel. Time (already) to pack everything and get ready for the next exciting leg!

Also sorry I have a few more pictures but I can’t be bothered downloading them from my camera. They’ll come later.

Amsterdam is still lovely, I get the feeling it always will be.

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