Kinderdijk, The Netherlands (December 26, 2019)

Construction of hydraulic works for the drainage of land needed for agriculture and settlement began in the Middle Ages and has continued to the present day. Kinderdijk, the focus of today’s tour, illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology: dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings, and most famously, a collection of 19 remarkably preserved 18th century windmills. It is the largest concentration of windmills in The Netherlands.

We walked off our ship and up a small embankment to the top of a dike and then down seven feet to the polder, or lowland, kept dry by the ingenious system of pumping water out of the polder and back into the rivers beyond the dikes. We were so low that from the polder we could not see our ship.

Our guide, a retired special education teacher, told us how lucky we were to have gotten the Storyteller of Kinderdijk (him) for our guide. He was fabulous, so you could say we did luck out. He explained the practicality of wooden shoes (dry feet) as we passed the willow trees from which they are made. The peat bogs that he pointed out provided fuel for fires and were a wonderful hiding place for sheltered Jews during World War II. He regaled us with the impact of Dutch settlements in North America and explained that The Netherlands traded Manhattan to the English for an African colony (currently  Suriname) rich in the wood needed for the construction and maintenance of their windmills. We found it intriguing that the placement of the slats used to support the huge, heavy sails of the windmills were used to signal good and bad news. In one position a death in the family is made public; in another position, a birth. During the war there was a special position to spread the word that the Germans were moving about the area. Another fun fact he shared is that the uppermost section of the windmills can rotate in a full circle, to catch wind coming from all directions. All this said, stations run on diesel fuel have replaced the windmills for pumping water, although the windmills are kept in working condition for backup purposes and for tourism.

All but a few of Kinderdijk’s 19 windmills double, as they did back in the day, as residences. Families rent them with the agreement that they will operate the windmills a given number of hours a year. They do not, however, have responsibility for financing the upkeep of them. (Upkeep is financed by a tax shared by all Dutch citizens.) It was a surprise to learn there is a waiting list for this opportunity. We toured the inside of a mill that at one time housed a family of 13 and were fascinated with how every inch had been used to its best advantage.

After a lovely afternoon in the cold and wind, we said our farewells to the Storyteller of Kinderdijk and settled in on the ship for the gentle ride passed more flat farmland, poplar trees, grazing Frisian cows, tidy villages, and silhouetted farmhouses. A farewell dinner and packing for our journey home ended the day.

… Who Knew …

Windmills originated in the Middle East, and tulips came from Turkey!

In December of 1888 Holland’s Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear
after an argument with his friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin.

The Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland popularized the story of a little
Dutch boy, Hans Brinker, who plugged a dike with his finger.
It was written in 1865 by American author Mary Mapes Dodge
who had yet to visit The Netherlands.

The oldest music award in The Netherlands is called the Edison.
It is named after our famous inventor whose great-great-grandfather
immigrated to the United States in 1730.

Mata Hari, an exotic dancer and courtesan executed by a French firing squad during World War I, was part of The Netherlands’ Frisian minority.


One thought on “Kinderdijk, The Netherlands (December 26, 2019)

  1. You guide sounds like he was a hoot

    Matt Mongeon, PMP, Technical Project Manager II
    Engineering Management Office
    PMP,ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA, PPO
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | •


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