Day 3 – Sunday March 12
Ambitious plan for today’s agenda: Zaanse Schans and Waterland! But contrary to our modus operandi, we got a late start so the plan got abbreviated–Zaanse Schans and Marken!
To save our old feet and knees, we depended heavily on public transportation, taking tram to Amsterdam Central Station then bus 391 to Zaans Schans. It was a longer route but more direct and less walking. Our first impression of Central Station is of awe. The exterior resembles a palace and the interior hums with activities and compartmentalized like a beehive. Up this way for train platforms, over that way for ticket office, back there for ferries and so on. We walked to the far back, the “riverside” of the station, and found the escalator to go up to the bus platforms. It is immense with bus platforms in alphabetical order. With help, we located bus 391, scanned our AR Travel ticket and after 45 minutes arrived at Zaanse Schans. Four gargantuan tour buses parked near the bus stop left us deflated and taunted us for waking up late.
Avert our eyes toward the river Zaan, we were greeted by a row of colorful windmills spinning under the gentle wind. Quintessential Dutch scene recreated just for us. Nice! We took the requisite photos, dodging the selfie sticks, and quickly dashed in and out of cheese shops, historic houses selling apple pies and souvenirs, and windmill making paint. Hoping to escape the crowd, we lined up to rent bikes and found none. Another penalty for late start! We resigned ourselves to browse the cute little houses with the cute gardens and climbed over tiny bridges arching over little canals. Then we spotted bikes back at the bike rental. Hooray! Backtracking quickly we scored 2 bikes and away we went. Free at last! Over the bridge spanning the Zaan, one street over but brand new atmosphere with nice winding streets rolled out in front of us. We followed the curve of the road and bike signs “92” to “93” then “73”, passing residential section, then restaurants, then business office and factories on the other side of the Zaan. No tourists here, just a few bikers on their Sunday ride.
A gentleman out walking his dog helped guide us back toward the windmills. This side of the Zaan are dotted with farmland and polder, we spotted sheep and horses. After a few turns we landed back to the bike station to return our bikes and made our way toward the bus stop. A very nice morning at Zaanse Schans
We had orginally and ambitiously planned to visit Edam, Volendam and Marken in the afternoon but arriving late to Central Station from Zaanse Schans, we had only time for one town so we chose Marken. Using our AR Travel Ticket we hopped on bus 315 and after 40min arrived at the quaint seaside island, Marken, via a man-made roadway connecting the town to the mainland. Uncrowded. Most people congregated at the pub’s terrace enjoying the afternoon sun.
We winded through the small streets and eventually ended at the tiny harbor. A small pofferjes stand offered up tantalizing morsels of delicious puffy mini pancakes dusted with powdered sugar. The local residents were sitting in their yard reading books in the sun or chatting with their neighbors across the fence. We took a walk on the levee strutting out to sea and marvel at Dutch ingenuity that delivers us the Netherlands.
Waiting for the bus to get back to Amsterdam, we tried on clogs at the clog museum. Fun but not practical. How on Earth could feet survive on the hard wood. Aerofoam soles to the rescue please.
Arrived back in Amsterdam, we headed to the GVB office east of the station to buy 3d pass for our remaining 3 days in Amsterdam. Then we looked for Abraxas coffeeshop for some herbs. Tiny alley led us to a gloomy but colorful multi storied shop. We were told to find a table and a waitress can serve us. We found a table but escaped after seconds. Overwhelmed by the fumes, we bought our herbs ” to go.” Resigned to be untainted tourists, we strolled Amsterdam Centrum near Dam square then Red light district toward a nearby restaurant, Hemelse Modder, where we had dinner reservation. It is a huge restaurant serving up delicious Dutch cuisine. We each enjoyed €36 3-course dinner with impeccable service that left us fully satisfied. Walking off dinner, we took in the night scenery of Amsterdam under the full moon. Lots of people were milling around Rembrandplein’s cafes and coffeeshops. All windows to the homes were wide open showing brightly lit interior. As were the bridges over the canal. Nice backdrop for a romantic evening capping off our day 3.