Although windmills dot the landscape in various parts of The Netherlands, the 19 remarkably preserved windmills in Kinderdijk make them a must-see on any tour of the region. “The area is located amid low-lying polders, tracts of land reclaimed from the sea by the power of the windmills and enclosed by embankments, or dikes.” (Viking Daily, May 17, 2022)
For their endurance since the early 1700s and their continued ability to pump water to this small region, the windmills of Kinderdijk (Dutch for “children’s dike”) have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and a beautiful area to visit.
A debriefing at the site taught us terminology and engineering — well, at least what we could understand — helping us to appreciate the windmills even more. Our leader emphasized the frugality of the Dutch, a quality that has helped people of the area preserve, rework, reuse, and cherish the properties we were about to see.
We noted the landscape on this cloudy day, a landscape dotted with brick windmills bearing large sails — appropriately nicknamed “ground sailors.” And by standing at the base, we could look up and marvel at the details, structures, and almost-artsy assemblage of boards, bricks, and sails.
From the inside, we noted the view from the top as well as the inner workings of the gears. The tour allows visitors to climb the stairs inside and take pictures and, in one windmill still used as a home, to wander throughout and get a sense of the size of the living space.
In the water leading to the gift shop, a “cat’s cradle” replica reminds visitors of a legend surrounding the St. Elizabeth’s Flood of 1421. As the story goes, a local boy went to look at the damage done to a dike after the storm only to find a wooden cradle on the water. But even more surprising was his sighting of a cat rocking back and forth on the cradle trying to keep it from tipping over. Inside was a little girl asleep and unaware of the storm.
Perhaps one of our favorite sights was this one of a millwright climbing up the side of the windmill to unfurl the sails. If you look closely, you can see his wooden shoes with a band of metal on each shoe. We asked our guide about these, and he replied that this man repaired his shoes that had broken with primitive but workable handcrafted “patches.” Dutch frugality, still in operation!
Kinderdijk is a must-see no matter the time of year or time of day. As with other remarkable places, it’s a treasure whether you see it on a cloudy or a sunny day.
And we, along with many others, were pleased that treasures such as these 19 windmills are not only preserved but also still working.
Travel with the wind,
Rusha & Bert
This post is one in a series prompted by a recent trip to The Netherlands and Belgium. Thank you to Viking cruises (Holland & Belgium 2022) and our travel agent, Lauren Gunnels of Ortelius Travel Advisors, for the arrangements and free time to enjoy the scenery!