July 31, 2013
Distance: 53.4 miles Climbing: 1184.4 ft
Considering we were in Holland, we wanted to not only see windmills, but to go inside one. Leonie had made the suggestion that we head North to Zaans Schans to check out the windmills. So, after saying goodbye to her outside her apartment, we headed North. Thank you again Leonie for letting us stay at your place. We had a wonderful time and it was so nice to see you again. I hope we can return your kindness sometime in the future.
It took some time to meander our way out of the city. The wind conspired against us and the scenery was primarily industrial, and not real photogenic. We were passing through a chemical plant of some sort, wondering if we were going the right way when we suddenly saw a windmill right in the middle of the industrial area. We rounded the corner and took a bridge over the river we had been shadowing.
There were half dozen windmills lining the riverbank, all in working order and in use. Each cost 3€ each to visit, so we decided to choose between a peanut oil mill, a sawmill, a spice mill and a mill that makes pigments for paint. We went with the peanut oil mill because it sounded interesting, smelled nice and there weren’t a lot of other tourists in it. The mill was originally built in 1676, but with the increased use of steam powered machines, it became obsolete and no longer used. In 1925, it was severely damaged during a storm. However, in the 1940s, volunteers repaired the damages and the windmill has been in use since the 1950s.
The De Zaansche molen (“molen” means mill in Dutch) was pretty incredible and surprisingly complicated. In the most basic terms, the sails, driven by the wind, turn two massive stones. These millstones, weighing over 5500 pounds each, are attached to an axle and roll over the peanuts, crushing them. There are wooden guides attached somewhere in there, which keep the peanuts from spilling off the edge, and direct them back under the stones. Because the millstones are constantly moving, the stones are painted blue and white so they are more visible in poor light.
When the peanuts are sufficiently smooshed, the peanut meal is cooked on a stove. This stove also conveniently keeps coffee or soup warm.
The cooked peanut meal is then put into woolen bags and placed in a little slot which has a pan below it to collect the oil. There is a cam somewhere up in the gears on the second story which catches, raises then releases a large wood ram over and over, creating a very loud sound as it pounds a wedge which squeezes the oil out of the peanut meal.
The process is then repeated once more to each batch of peanuts. The left over cakes can then be feed to cattle. We were also allowed upstairs to get a look at how the spinning sails spun the millstones. It was a crazy scene of massive spinning wooden shafts and gears. Chan had to watch his head as one of the 6 foot diameters gears was spinning at about eye level for him. It wasn’t even that windy but it was a little scary in there. We walked out on the deck and watched the sails fly by at an alarming speed.
After our windmill adventure, we booked it to a free campsite. Chandler read about a network of free campsite around Holland. All are off the road system and can only be accessed on foot or bike. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we hoped it would be more interesting than the generic pay campsites we had been frequenting. On the way, we took what seemed like the smallest ferry ever. It was only for bikes and pedestrians, but we were a little cramped with three people and three bikes.
Our free campsite ended up being in a pasture full of sheep. It was minimally signed, and we certainly wouldn’t have found it without the GPS coordinates. We read that there was usually a water pump that you had to camp within 10 meters of, but there wasn’t one. Just a sign an a stick lean-too thing someone had made. We made friends with our fellow campers. From our experience, sheep are easily frightened. We were both surprised to have the sheep walk right up to us and even allowed me to pet one. It was very soft as it had a nice layer of fleece. One even laid down next to our tent at one point, maybe they just wanted to cuddle. There were some cows in an adjoining field, but they kept their distance.