Yesterday was a cycling rest day – just a short pedal to visit the museum and windmills of Zanse Schans.  Well worth a visit if you are ever in the Amsterdam area: well-presented museum with lots of social and industrial history of the Zaan region, which has been very important over the centuries, and a large outdoor museum area (the Dutch do seem to love outdoor museums) which is rather touristy but still has fascinating working windmills and craft demonstrations. Didn’t realise windmills were used for quite so many different purposes (extracting oils from seeds, making paper and as sawmills, amongst other things), nor did I know how much industry there was in this area in the past. The combination of wind power and canals for transport was a pretty obvious advantage if I had thought about it at all. Some of the industries made the transition to electric power and although there were references to various major factories that closed down in the 20th century, there is obviously still plenty of industrial activity around the Zaan today.

One of the windmills, Het Jonge Schap (the young sheep – couldn’t get an explanation of the name) was a replica of an earlier windmill that was demolished some time ago, but very fortunately only after someone had taken very precise measurements of each part of it. There was a fascinating video showing how they rebuilt it, as recently as 2007.  This one is a sawmill, which seemed almost recursive to me –   a lot of very skilled carpenters use wooden planks and blocks (and a bit of metalwork) to build an enormous machine which cuts tree trunks into planks and blocks… We also saw another mill in action turning linseed into oil and cattle cake.  Glad we visited on a windy day and saw everything working.

Today our incredible run of luck with the weather ran out and we had a nasty, gusting wind and some fairly heavy rain at times.  We had a few thoughts about where to go, including a nature reserve and cycling down to Haarlem, but I didn’t fancy wandering round any of these places in the rain so we went for a ride up the Zaan to a place called Spijkerboor and back by a different route.  Wind in our faces most of the way back and we were soaked but it was not cold and for some inexplicable reason, I really enjoyed the ride.

Bikes go back to the hire shop tomorrow and we return regretfully to ‘old clothes and porridge’ on Saturday.  Looking forward to being back on my own bike but will really miss the Dutch cycling infrastructure.  Gratuitous couple of photos of Bruce in his cycling plumage to end the record of this trip. Tot ziens!