The villages and Zaandam
The River Zaan, eleven kilometers long, is the centuries old peat bog stream on whose banks a unique area developed: the Zaan Region. Ten villages can be found amidst the Zaan polders (one of which is now the city of Zaandam) and a number of hamlets. The Zaanstreek (area of the river Zaan, Zaan Region) is a region just north of the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. It is roughly covered by the municipality of Zaanstad. It consists of 7 villages (Zaandam, Koog a/d Zaan, Zaandijk, Wormerveer, Krommenie, Assendelft and Westzaan) of which Zaandam is the biggest.
The landscape of the Assendelft polder clearly shows that the land here is higher and dryer than the rest of the area. Thus it was here that the reclamation of the Zaan Region first began in the tenth century. Farming is still important in Assendelft. This is a typical dike village; witch extends from Krommenie to the North Sea Canal.
Koog aan de Zaan
Koog is one of the most industrialized villages in the Zaan Region. There was a time, shortly before World War 2, when seventy percent of the population worked in the factories. Extensive factory complexes still dominate the scene here.
Koog host the Windmill Museum. Where visitors can hear an amusing account of the Zaan windmill history or see the varying expositions held here.
The high street of Krommenie has good examples of the typical Dutch Zaan wooden house: extravagantly decorated merchant’s houses as well as the ‘barn-church’.
When the Reformed Protestant church was the official church, people of other faiths were not permitted to meet. But the tolerant Zaan Region Mennonites and Catholics could hold their services, as long as their buildings could not be identified as churches. Krommenie’s former Catholic Church, with its elaborate wood carving is a particularly impressive showpiece. Near Krommenie is the idyllic hamlet of Krommeniedijk.
One of the attractions of Oostzaan is Twiske, an extensive recreational area cris-crossed by lanes and bicycle paths, surfing lakes, playing-meadows and lake beaches. There is an aquatic play area, an adventure playground and play-ditch, free of charge to children. Boats are rented in Twiske and there are also cafés and restaurants. Bicycle paths and boating routes run from here through the polders to Zaandam-oost. These features turn the scenery of the Zaan Region – the 'island realm' – into an unforgettable experience.
Westzaan is the parent of the villages on the western bank of the Zaan and long held a dominant position in local administration. This can be seen in the Courthouse, which was built in 1781-1783, one of the Zaan Region’s early brick buildings. The Courthouse stands in the center of the village; one of the villages’s protected views. Anyone interested in driving or riding along the village’s long high street will form a good impression of the Zaan polder landscape. You can explore this area further by canoe; which can be rented in Westzaan.
The nineteenth century 'industrial wall' of Wormer is known internationally as a leading monument. Rice husking factories and warehouses particularly dominate here. One of these, known as 'Batavia' is now a grand café. Running from Wormer to Jisp the Zaan ribbon development can be seen clearly. Row boats can be rented in Jisp for exploring the extensive Wormer and Jisperveld area. In Wormer, at the water sports center on the small lake Zwet, canoes and water bicycles can be rented. Restaurants and cafés can also be found here. Oostknollendam, a hamlet that has always belonged to Wormer, is a little futher away, but is more than worth a visit- if only for the ride there, witch clearly shows how low the Zaan polders are compared to the River Zaan.
The built-up area of Wormerveer is different from that of other Zaan villages.
The dike runs directly along the River Zaan. The dike overlooks an impressive industrial river landscape, with a view of the great nineteenth century factories and warehouses of Wormer (usually the property of the manufacturers living in Wormerveer). Mansions built in the nineteenth century are evidence of the village’s great prosperity during this period.
Even the factories of Wormerveer itself bear witness to this. Striking examples are De Adelaar (with its large concrete eagle on the roof) and an early chocolate factory built in Art Deco style.
Zaandam is the urban hub of the Zaan Region. Nearly half of its population lives here.
The city center has a car-free shopping area and a square of restaurants and cafés, with the modern Zaan Theatre towering over the River Zaan. The dikes along the Zaan are lined with historical merchant’s houses, modern housing complexes and old food factories.
Among these, the Verkade complex is a impressive example. A number of these factories have since been granted monument status. As these old buildings are cleaned, a new use is often found for them. The Zaan Region does not want to loose its industrial face. Along the Oostzijde factories are making way for apartment complexes whose design clearly harkens back to the old industrial buildings.
Zaandijk was largely spared from the inroads of industry. Opposite the Zaanse Schans, along the River Zaan is Gortershoek, a village on the monument list, with dozens of merchant’s houses built typical Zaan style as well an exceptional sculpture garden. A little further into Zaandijk is the Minister’s garden, an old working neighborhood of wooden houses, which were rebuilt in original stule during the eighties of the last century. Those interested in learning more about what life use to be like in these merchant’s houses should see the Honig-Breethuis.
This authentic mansion on the Zaan is furnished in the style of 1850.
During the sixties and seventies of the last century houses witch elsewhere were threatened by demolition, were brought together at the Zaanse Schans. Among them are mansions along the Zaan and small workers houses that line the narrow lanes and ditches in the field. Some of these are furnished as a small-scale museum (clock museum, bakery museum etc.).
The large Zaans Museum is also located here; witch with the aid of modern audio-visual technology gives a good picture of the Zaan Region in the past and in the 21st century.
Along the River Zaan, in extension of the Zaanse Schans stand several windmills.
Paint mill De Kat is open to public when it turns.
The Zaanse Schans has also several restaurants. Nearby is the old and still largely authentic hamlet of Haaldersbroek, witch has been designated a protected village landscape.
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