Zaanse Schans

I have written before about my joy in discovering little collections of streets in the Netherlands with names all on a theme. We have encountered Computerweg, Printerstraat and Plotterstraat before, but on the cycle from Amsterdam to Zaandam I saw Back-Upstraat, which narrowly beat Disketteweg in my personal Dutch Street name awards 2022 (younger readers will have to look up the latter).

It’s quite impressive that my eyes were open enough to take in street names on the cycle out to Zaandam after the epic train journey the day before. Bruce manfully coped with the navigation and I just pedalled along behind. We did have all the fun of a ferry across the IJ from Amsterdam Centraal, even if it wasn’t quite the ferry route we had intended to take (we really were tired!) Our ‘usual’ Zaandam hotel had no rooms available but we had a good alternative and enjoyed exploring to see what had changed in the three years since we last passed through. One very noticeable thing was more restaurants and cafes offering vegan food options, which is helpful!

This year’s winning Dutch street name

On Thursday we did a little ‘cycling by numbers’, following the Dutch numbered cycling/hiking waypoint numbers out to Castricum. We had booked a trip here to stay in a Hobbit House for a long weekend in April 2020, but, of course, Covid intervened. It looked like a place we would have enjoyed, so we will likely try again sometimes. 40km with no luggage on the bikes felt good, even with some lively headwinds on the way back. We passed a model cable car advertising the ‘Heemskerk Indoor Ski Centre’, which seemed incongruous in the blazing sunshine and a strange thing to me anyway – how does an indoor ski centre work? There was also a sculpture made of old bicycles.

Afterwards we experimented with Dutch buses to go a bit further afield (North Amsterdam) for dinner, and all went smoothly. You really need an OV chipcard (like an Oyster card) for any Dutch public transport. The two we had from a couple of years ago had expired so we now have new ones and felt almost like locals – except for not speaking the language, of course, and wearing bike helmets*.

Zaanse Schaans

Zaanse Schans is one of *the* big tourist attractions for people visiting the Amsterdam area. It has a series of working windmills (including a sawmill, a dye/paint mill, an oil mill and a paper mill) and museums in what was the original industrial area of the Netherlands – and although apparently rural it is still next door to a lot of present-day industry. We have visited before, but decided to go again on Friday. It was great. There are a lot of gift shops and it’s always busy, but the working mills and the museums are fascinating and six hours there passed far too quickly.

Sadly, today there was nothing left to do but pack up and pedal to IJMuiden to catch the ferry back to the UK. We tried the cycling-by-numbers again, with me in charge of navigating (gulp). It went a bit awry when I missed a turning to one of the waypoints but we picked up the route again and made it to the ferry in plenty of time. Tomorrow we have one more round of trying to get bikes onto a train and then it’s back to grappling with work and bills – unless we decide to sell up and seek asylum somewhere.

*We didn’t actually wear them on the bus.