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April 23, 2022
Kinderdijk, the Netherlands: Windmills and Wheels


Kinderdijk

We spent last night sailing the Rhine River through the Netherlands. The Rhine is 820 miles long. With a headwaters in the Swiss alps, the river passes through Liechtenstein, Austria, France and Germany, before it joins the North Sea in the Netherlands.

This morning we awoke as the ship was “docking” in the Netherlands community of Kinderdijk. Sue, our Program Director, said she believes in overcoming jet lag by getting us up and out early. So we got up at 6:00 am, had breakfast at 7:00 am, and were out on excursions by 8:30 am.


The Viking Vili


The longship extends a ramp right onto the shore

Kinderdijk is a quintessential Dutch community, and a wonderful place to talk about the Dutch landscape. Hundreds of years ago, the inhabitants discovered that their land was slowly sinking. The problem was that they were below sea level, and the sea was flooding the land. The solution was to erect windmills. Through the power of the wind, they could run pumps that drain the water from the land. This resulted in polders (land tracts that reclaimed the land from the sea) and canals (waterways where the pumped water was released). The polders and canals were separated by dikes (man-made embankment walls).


Water levels must be absolutely consistent, and are monitored with a simple ruler

Kinderdijk is unique, in that it has the most intact windmills anywhere in one place. There were originally 20 windmills erected in the 1600s – 10 on each side of the canal. One was lost in a fire many years ago, but the other 19 are still operational. Running a windmill is a 24/7 job, since you never know when a rainstorm is going to hit, so people live in these structures.


A few of the 19 windmills that line the canal in Kinderdijk


The oldest windmill design is this “block” windmill, so named because the entire top “block” is spun around to catch the wind


The second generation of windmill was re-designed so the entire top did not need to spin around


Finally, the third generation of windmill replaced the brick finish with much lighter thatch


Millers – and sometimes their entire families – live in the windmills


Here is a loft, complete with cradle


In the original “block” windmill design, the entire head could be spun to align with the wind direction. The outside stairs rotated as well, and the structure was secured with chains and blocks.


Though the classic windmills are still used, today they are supplemented with modern dredging technology

Gail and Cameron visited the windmills on the included walking tour, while Russell visited them on the optional bicycle ride. (The only two guests on the ride were Russell and 43-year-old Patrick, the next-youngest guest up from Cameron.)


Gail on the walking tour


Russell on his bicycle


Ece the guide cycles atop the dike

After Russell and Cameron returned to the ship, Gail stayed out for another optional tour on Dutch Cheese Making. We are in gouda country, and Gail got to visit a farm with lots of baby cows and lots of cheese.

By the way, the name of today’s town dates back to the Saint Elizabeth flood of 1421. After the flood, a villager saw a wooden cradle floating on the water. A cat was jumping from side to side on the cradle, balancing it to keep the floodwaters out. When the villager got to the cradle, he found a baby sleeping inside, safe and dry. “Kinderdijk” is Dutch for “Children dike.”


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