I prefer to call countries by the name given to it by its method of ruling. So if anyone is lost (which, really, you shouldn't be), Netherlands is Holland. Where the Dutch live. Not the Deutsch, as that is not a group of people, but rather the Germanic language. Oh, and Germany is Deutschland.
Anyway, my second day in Hillegom, Netherlands was wonderful. I truly got the touristy, classical taste of Holland by going and seeing giant windmills at Zaandam. Just Googling Zaandam will make you think you stepped into some folklore about dwarves who live in a shoe or something interesting and historical, but in person it was so incredible. All of the buildings are historical structures, with wooden shops leading to the windmills selling various goods such as chocolate, peanut oil, clogs, and so much more.
Upon first arriving, it's kind of an odd experience being an American. Anything touristy that we have in America is usually either in the middle of a large city, or near a large city.
The historical area in Zaandam with the windmills and shops is surrounded by fields, which has canals threading through it. Seriously, Netherlands and Canals is like Peanut Butter and Jelly, there is no separating them and nor would you want to!
Amongst the shops were also museums, that showed traditional ways of baking Dutch Chocolates and various candies and foods.
I continued my walk down the narrow pathways that the feet of many tourists have engraved into the soils of the earth, Granted, there were paved walks too, but there are so, SO many people touristing this area that the footpaths just seemed more friendly.
There was such a variety of cultures visiting Zaandam that in and of itself was amazing. Just walking through the park, I believe I counted over 10 different languages.
How amazing is that? How many places in the world can you go and hear over 10 different languages in one setting? Maybe a lot across the pond, but here in America, you'd have to be in New York or Los Angeles or something to the liking of those places.
Everything in Netherlands is small, by the way. Just to prepare you other Americans that are used to our large doorways, and our stairs that easily accommodate size 12 shoes, everything in Netherlands is small!
Small, but adorable.
Like this footbridges. Seriously, did I accidentally eat the mushroom in Wonderland and turn into a giant? Apparently, it's just not me, either, because most the people crossing the bridge in the image below are Asian, and even they seem tall compared to the guardrail on the bridge!
I may as well become the old lady who lived in a shoe at this point! I just needed a shoe about quadruple that size and I could make it work.
Let's get back to the scenic photos shall we? Be prepared for windmills, windmills, and MORE windmills! Everyone gets a windmill! Okay, I'll tone down the Oprah.
Before going into the windmills, I had no idea that they were still actively used. That was the coolest part about this trip to Zaandam. It wasn't, "Oh, here are the windmills, look how pretty they are and this is what they used to be used for....". No. This was, "Oh, here are the windmills, look how pretty they are, and even though they are old as hell, we still use them because we are awesome like that."
This first windmill I went into was used to create Peanut Oil, which, if you remember me mentioning before, they sell in the little shops in the park. The first image below shows the peanuts ready to be scooped up to be crushed by the grinding wheel. The second image below is the grinding wheel, which takes all of the peanuts and crushes them into a power which will then be heated up to create the oil. The third image is that of the mill worker, who runs all the machinery.
After the crushed peanuts suffer under the grinding wheel, they get placed into this machine that heats up the ground up peanuts. The third image below shows the mill worker gathering crushed peanuts into the heater. The heat helps release the oils from the peanuts and also releases any toxins that were remaining in the peanuts.
After the crushed peanuts are heated up, they are placed in this machine that pounds the dickens out of the crushed peanuts. This pressure releases the natural oils from the peanuts which drips into a tray that sits on the ground below the press. Keep in mind, this would be an impossible business strategy in America, which is just a sad thing to admit.
It was so delightful to watch, and it smelled amazing.
There were narrow steps leading to a second floor which is this balcony type structure on top of the windmill. It is up here that the mill worker releases the blades on the outside of the mill, allowing for the entire structure to come to life.
Now, when I say steps, I mean that lightly. The Dutch call them steps. I would consider them to be more like ladders.
The second mill we went to was a lumber mill. This one had a lot more mill workers, which makes more sense considering the more dangerous machinery involved.
Around the park there were also quite a few animals. Some were residents, such as the goat, while others were just visiting, just like us!
The last building we went into was a shop where every tourist can find something worthwhile. Across the ceiling all the way across the store, clogs hung with giant tickets saying the size of the clogs in that row. There were magnets, glasses, baking trays, cookie cutters, socks, keychains, shot glasses, bells, postcards, you name it. If you've seen it in a tourist shop, you would have seen it here. At the end of the shop is a worker who shows how to make the clogs. It's actually a really cool process, and this gentleman made it look so effortless.
After his demonstration, and debating on whether or not I could get a pair of clogs (next time we go, I'm getting a pair, gosh darn it!), I left Zaandam and headed for Amsterdam. I'll save THAT for another blog post. <3
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