Kinderdijk windmills- Netherlands

When I think of Holland, I think of tulips and windmills. We are waiting until this weekend to see the tulips, but last weekend on Austin’s day off we saw the windmills. Kinderdijk showcases the complete history of water management in one location. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must-see attraction if traveling through the Netherlands.
Lanterns in the window at the visitor’s center
Mom and Landon looking at a tiny windmill in the visitor’s center
Our journey started at the visitor’s center, where we waited for a few minutes to see a movie that talked about the history of Kinderdijk, and how the water management system works. The visitor’s center was a refurbished pumping station that used steam to pump the water to higher ground. I always thought that the wind mills were used mostly for grinding grain, but these mills were attached to a water wheel and used to drain water out of the boggy ground and up to higher ground. Then the water was lifted again into a river system that led out to the sea. In that way, they drained the land and made it usable for farming and living. Later on, steam powered engines turned water wheels that helped with water management. The current system uses augers or corkscrews that carry the water up to the river. 
Windmills out the window

This was my first experience with a multi-screen movie. There were two big screens on either end of the room, and then 2 screens on each side of us, each showing something different. The small screens to the side were different experts- a miller, a painter, a historian and an engineer. They gave their respective insights on the history of Kinderdijk and how it got its name. Then they showed us how the mills work. It was an informative movie if not a bit over stimulating with all the screens. Landon was enthralled with the whole experience, that’s for sure!

Inside the old pumping station where the multi-screen movie played

Current auger system
View of the windmills from near the visitor’s center

Somehow I did not make the connection between windmills and it being super windy. The day we visited seemed to be particularly windy, but I’m not sure what the wind conditions are on a daily basis. It was a cold, wet wind and really chilled to the bone. To make things more interesting, Austin was receiving calls from work and had to try to find places in this flat, barren land to take phone calls. He ended up having to duck into windmills and their outbuildings to take the calls!

Those clogs were huge!
Windmill 2nd floor

There were two windmills open to the public. The first one showed what it was like to live in a windmill. Believe it or not, the millers lived in the windmills with their families, because they often had to adjust things and stop or start the mills at any time of day or night. I guess it was a pretty exhausting job as they had to be on call 24/7, 365. Landon walked in the windmill and immediately wanted to go upstairs, so that’s where we went first. The room we came to was the floor where some of the children slept, and where other household tasks were done. There were lots of ladders and hazardous things for young children, so I hope the miller’s wife kept her babies downstairs with her!

Climbing ladders up and up!
This floor was where they smoked food that they had caught, and hung out furs to dry. 

In all, I think there were four floors, and only the bottom floor was heated. Thinking about how cold it was in the middle of the day in March, I can’t imagine living on an unheated floor in the dead of winter! They did note that the children that slept upstairs in the windmill were given very heavy blankets to sleep with and there were multiple children in every bed. Hopefully that kept them warm enough! The beds were all built into the walls of the mill. I thought this was pretty cool. This bed below was set up so you could lay in it and try to see if you thought you could fall asleep with the loud mill sounds. It was really loud in there!

Landon trying out one of the beds
Here is the inside of the windmill. It was very loud!

It didn’t really feel like a home until we reached the bottom floor that had the dining room, heating stove, and “master bed” right in the dining room/sitting room. I can’t imagine living in a mill. Bless those women who did! The picture below is of a family that lived in the mill that we toured. I can’t even imagine how they fit all the kids in the beds that were in that mill! 

A large family that lived in a small mill

One thing that was interesting is that the kitchen was a separate building, I guess to decrease fire risk. The stove inside the house was just for heat and for keeping food warm.

Austin looked good in the clogs!
I’m sorry this video is sideways, but the intent is to show how fast it is turning in the strong wind!

There were great hiking and biking paths along all of the windmills, but due to the wind and cold, we walked fast to the two windmills that were open. To get to the working mill and water wheel we crossed over the bridge below.

My boys on the bridge
Polder  and canals

The surrounding water-logged land is called polder, and is primarily comprised of peat moss and other spongy materials. That means that as the water wheels help extract water from the soil, the land sinks lower and lower below sea level. We learned that 40% of the Netherlands would be underwater if it weren’t for the water management system draining the land and putting the water into rivers to be drained into the sea.

Working water mill

It was really cool to see a mill doing its job. The water wheel took water from down below, and brought it up to a higher elevation where it went through a narrow canal to a larger canal. There were windmills to bring water up to the larger canals from smaller channels, and then other windmills that took the water from the canals to the river, depending on their location along the waterways.

Where the water comes out higher than it goes in!
Boys climbing the water mill

Water mill and part of windmill
View down the canal to the other windmills.

Growing up in California where there is not very much water except the ocean, it was insane to see all of the canals and channels and rivers so full of water! No shortage here, in fact, they have too much water.

Windmills going the other way

About this time, Landon and I were freezing and windburnt, so we made a break for the car and fought a fierce headwind to get there. That was my workout for the day. Kinderdijk was quite a picturesque place, but I advise going later on in the spring with better weather!


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