The Zaan-Region: Places of Historic Importance: Modern and urban
The dynamics of contrast
The River Zaan, eleven kilometers long, is the centuries old peat bog stream on whose banks a unique area developed: the Zaan Region. People who land at Schiphol Airport have a good chance to see the Zaan winding through Zaan country since this area is only just north of Amsterdam. It represents a typical Dutch landscape, below sea level and interspaced by thousands of ditches and meadows. But this is also the place where people switched to industrial production as far back as the end of the sixteenth century and therefore the cradle of Holland’s industrial development. Dynamics and renewal characterized the Zaan Region then, and this tradition has continued down to the present.
Thus the Zaan Region is an area of contrasts: urban and industrious, but blessed by the quiet of its river, polders and villages. A typical Dutch landscape, below sea level, with thousands of ditches and meadows. And the Zaan, a centuries old peat-stream with 9 villages and 1 city along it. An area you can explore and discover in several ways, by cycle-tour for example.
Windmills and Old Factories
Here is plenty evidence of the early industrial character of the Zaan Region. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century thousands of windmills were built along the river Zaan and in the polders. Thirteen of them have been preserved and are still in operation, several being open to the public. But there are more reminders of the early flowering of the Zaan Region. Czar Peter the Great made a special point of visiting Zaandam to learn more about shipbuilding. The house where he stayed over three centuries ago is now a museum.
The Zaan Region has countless vestiges of the past, but in this area of contrasts, clear lines can also be traced to the future. In fact, they tell the same thing: a tale of innovation and vision. Leading international firms in commerce and industry operate here and work out their strategies. The numerous residential areas and housing complexes also belong to modern developments, with great attention devoted to architecture.
Future vision is also expressed in the upgrading of the Zaandam town centre during the past few years. The result of this project was a rapid revival of culture and the catering sector. Downtown Zaandam currently attracts customers from far beyond the region boundaries.
Rural Tranquility and Nature
The Zaan Region is an area of contrasts – the old and the new, the urban and the rural. About sixty-percent of the area consists of meadows and ditches. In the spring, the Zaan polders become one of the most important nesting areas in Europe for meadow and water birds, including the lapwings and black-tailed godwit. Meadows and the banks of ditches host unusual forms of vegetation, including rare orchids.
The extensive Zaan wildlife areas are easily accessible. Boating tours are organized regularly through the Wormer and Jisperveld, while canoes and rowboats are rented throughout the area.
Those whose visit to the Zaan Region is limited will have to make choices. Does their interest focus on industrial monuments, the Zaanse Schans and museums or the scenic beauty of the Zaan? There is so much to see and do on the Zaan that a stay in the area of several days may be preferable. Accommodation is available in abundance – from luxury hotels to camping on a farm. For private pleasure craft, this region, with its numerous waterways, likewise has much to offer. The number of moorings available in yacht harbors is increasing rapidly. For longer stays, the Zaan Region has the advantage of being located in the heart of much more comprehensive tourist attractions: Amsterdam, beaches, walking routes in the dunes, medieval towns and fishing villages on the former Zuiderzee.
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