It’s hard to believe the last time I was wandering the streets of the Netherlands was three years ago when Joey and I had first gotten engaged, but time has a way of escaping us. We are now married and had scarcely returned to Canada from Central America and here we were back on the road, living the nomadic life.
Our plane touched down at the Amsterdam airport on January 9th after a red-eye Icelandair flight from Pearson International in Toronto. We were stiff, hungry and severely jet lagged. By the time we made our way to our home base for the next two weeks, we had been up for a grand total of 36 hours straight. We almost needed toothpicks to keep our heavy eyelids from closing.
Joey and I had a busy schedule ahead of us. For the next few weeks, on top of work, we needed get our ducks in a row for our rapidly approaching tour of Europe and get our family visits in. Amsterdam to Rotterdam to Hengelo… We would drive more in our two week stay than most Dutch folks drive in an entire year.
I was pretty thankful that during our short stay in the Netherlands we found time to visit my all time favourite spot; the Kinderdijk.
If you have never been to the Kinderdijk, they can be described as the collision of nature and Dutch ingenuity. The Netherlands, or as some call it “Low Country,” lies well beneath sea level. If nature were to be allowed to run wild more than 40% of the region would be under the sea. As you can imagine this is a big problem for a country looking to lay its roots and call this neck of the woods home. To combat nature’s water forces; windmills and dykes were invented and unintentionally became an iconic symbol representing the Dutch.
Many years ago, what is now the town of the Kinderdijk, was a peat bog sandwiched between raging rivers and the sea. Settlers who wanted to build homes and farm the fertile swamp lands, began to construct dykes, water barriers, to keep the river and sea water out. The problem; rainwater and groundwater still flooded the inside of the establishment and needed to be removed. The solution; the birth of the first windmill prototype.
Keeping Dutch people’s feet dry since the middle ages, construction of the Kinderdijk began in the 1740’s and some of the windmills still stand strong today. At the height of South Holland’s productivity there were 150 windmills in the Kinderdijk region, now there are only 19 remaining. All 19 mills are still fully functional and on breezy days their blades can be seen in full rotation. It’s a spectacular sight to see an age old invention going strong!
Nowhere in the Netherlands can you find so many windmills so close together in one location. Come for a walk, boat ride or bike on some of the best cycling trails of the country. For €7.00 you can visit the Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage site and learn all about the history of irrigation all the while hearing the clanking of the spinning mills in the background. It’s a pretty relaxing atmosphere! The ambiance of birds, reeds and wide open green spaces is an experience worth relishing.
The Kinderdijk definitely goes down as one of my favorite Dutch destinations ever. There’s something about the place that always makes me smile. You’d have to have een klap van de molen to not to visit this surreal place. A prime example of man working together with wind and water, this UNESCO heritage site, is a tribute to an ancient tradition and has put the Netherlands on the map.
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