With more or less an hour bus ride from Amsterdam, I joined a tour to the north of Holland to see the windmills of Zaanse Schans.
Zaanse Schans is a fully inhabited, open-air conservation area and museum. Here you can get a vivid impression of the Dutch way of life in the 17th and 18th centuries. The area consists of authentic houses, a historic shipyard, a pewter factory, a cheese and dairy farm, an age-old grocery store, clog-making demonstrations, and of course, windmills. They say that 250 years ago, over 600 windmills were cramped into this relatively small area that made it the first industrial site in the world.
A short drive from Zaanse Schans is the town of Volendam. Volendam was the location of the harbor of the nearby Edam, which was situated at the mouth of the IJ bay. In 1357, the inhabitants of Edam dug a shorter canal to the Zuiderzee with its own separate harbor. This removed the need for the original harbor, which was then dammed and used for land reclamation. Farmers and local fishermen settled there, forming the new community of Vollendam, which literally meant something like ‘Filled dam’. In the early part of the 20th century it became something of an artists’ retreat, with both Picasso and Renoir spending time here. (And that’s according to Wikipedia.)