I’ve always found it hard to take pictures in this city. There’s so much going on in the streets surrounding the canals; densely grouped three to four storey flats leaning and falling on one another, kind of like a row tall Netherland people huddling together for warmth. Most of the houses here have a typical narrow front door due to the door taxes in the old days.
Our stay was far from the busy city center – in Haarlem, the older and more Dutch suburb just a 20 minute train ride away. Our house was also entered upon a narrow door and then up very steep stairs to our flat. The Haarlem scene was less international and tourist bustling compared to the center of Amsterdam and with the lights of silhouettes adorning the alleyways and streets, Haarlem appeared more romantic. There was an old windmill just around the corner from the central canal, channeling some of the Holland history.
To see more windmills, we travelled slightly far out to Zaanse Schans in the north of Amsterdam in Old Holland. This area used to hold thousands of windmills partaking in the industrialisation of the country and producing all sorts of processed raw materials. Today there’s only a handful left, the main ones we saw looking over the river produced only cocoa powder and pigments, which they supply to artists.
Seeing one up close from the inside, I was impressed by the mechanics of the structure, basically sets of gears stacked with each other and still functioning to this day. The wheels looked fragile and tired and required a lot of maintenance but it doesn’t undermine their invention and contribution to the industrial revolution. Part of the reason why the Netherlands are so pro wind power may be from their windmill history. Riding the train across the landscape and seeing the modern turbines side by side with their ancestors is an encouraging sight.