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Travelogue: Of Quaint Dutch Villages and Windmills

The Netherlands is a small country, which makes it easy to make day trips outside of Amsterdam city to its surrounding regions. Less than an hour away by bus lies the quaint villages of Edam, Volendam and Zaanse Schans, where you can experience the provincial Dutch life through equal parts postcard-perfect landscapes and tourist kitsch.

We start with a walk through Volendam, known for its labyrinth layout and lively harbor strip De Dijk. Here you can pay to have your photo taken in the traditional fisherman's costume known as the klederdracht and buy all sorts of souvenir clichés. Our guide tells us of the local meeting house where the men of the village go to exchange the latest gossip and outsiders are promptly kicked out. We have the most delicious raw herring and mini Dutch pancakes, as one does on vacation.

Our next stop Edam offers a quieter dignity, with cobblestone streets and well-preserved historic buildings. Once an industrious shipyard, the town became famous for their cheese market which is now only open in the summer months, but we make up for it with a visit to a closeby Henri Willig cheese factory. It is a beautiful town to stroll through, a little more authentic than the overtly-touristy Volendam.

Our final stop is the open-air museum in Zaanse Schans, a recreation of a 17th-century town with functioning windmills and other Dutch quintessentials like clog and cheese-making. The entire town smells like a real-life Willy Wonka town, thanks to a nearby giant chocolate factory, adding to its storybook charm. French Impressionist painter Claude Monet stayed in this idyllic town for four months where he was inspired to complete 25 paintings, and it is easy to see why.

We went on the 5.5-hour Dutch Countryside and Culture tour, which is available through Viator and costs €44.95 per person. You can also access these spots via public transport.

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