03 May 2012

Whimsical Windmills of Kinderdijk in the Netherlands-UNESCO Site

Welcome to the Kinderdijk windmill complex in the Netherlands.  All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.  

When you think of Holland or the Netherlands, what is the first picture that pops into your mind? Windmills of course or in Dutch, it's 'molens.' While I agree that tulips and wooden shoes are high on that list as well, it’s these Dutch icons that come to mind especially after my visit to Kinderdijk (pronounced kinder-dike), a small village located between the Lek and Noord Rivers in the Netherlands—approximately 16 km. from Rotterdam. Punctuated by 19 of these fanciful structures, Kinderdijk was one of my last excursions aboard the inaugural celebration onboard the “Viking Odin” with Viking River Cruises; and the most memorable. Friday morning greeted us with a glorious sunrise with windmills barely visible through a misty horizon—truly one of the most picturesque scenes of my journey. Join me on this tour of Kinderdijk—a brief history, a canal tour and wrapping up with an interior tour of these magnificent structures from the ground up!

On Friday morning, we awoke to this sublime sunrise behind the Kinderdijk windmill complex. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.     

Kinderdijk—A History

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, Kinderdijk or “child’s dike” dates back to the 13th century when the Dutch villagers occupying these lowlands needed a viable solution to combat the saturated landscapes resulting from the North Sea floods; most notably “Elizabeth’s Flood” of 1421 that devastated the lands and claimed the lives of thousands of villagers. Although Kinderdijk’s origins are rooted in the Middle Ages, most of what we see today resulted from the 18th century and to visit is like stepping back in time 250 years!


If you look closely at top of the windmills, you can see the year they were built. Just below the cap you will see 1740. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.    

Located on the Alblasserwaard “polder” or reclaimed land from the North Sea, Kinderdijk is a network of 19 windmills along 15th-century canals designed and constructed to pump water from the surrounding pastures and back into the nearby River Lek. Of these 19 windmills, there are eight stone-brick windmills from the Nederwaard district built in 1738, eight thatched windmills from the Overwaard district built in 1740, two stone windmills from the Nieuw-Lekkerland polder built in 1760, and one very distinct windmill from the Blokweer polder which dates back to 1521. Although succumbing to fire in 1997, this elder of the Kinderdijk mills has been fully restored to its former glory and in operation since 2000.


One very distinct windmill stands out from the rest of the mills at the complex. Originally from the Blokweer polder, this mill dates back to 1521. Although succumbing to fire in 1997, this elder has been fully restored to its former glory and in full operation since 2000. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Originally, Holland had more than 10,000 pumping, grinding and sawing windmills and sadly, only 1024 remain in operation along with just 1,600 millers. Although the heritage is kept alive at Kinderdijk thanks to the Dutch and UNESCO, a modern pumping station—built here in the 1950s and one of Europe’s largest—maintains the water levels and replaced the windmills as the primary means to keep the land dry. The good news is that all 19 remain fully operational with 18 of them still occupied by families. The last is now a museum guaranteeing a glimpse into this storied past forever. By the way, it costs about $15,000 per year to maintain each windmill at Kinderdijk.


Magical! All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.   

The Life of a Miller

Our morning tour started with a presentation by a miller’s apprentice who introduced us to the miller’s heritage and life in the 17th and 18th centuries. Faced with the challenges of farming the surrounding lands not to mention operating the windmills and taking care of their families, the life of a miller had its challenges. Adding insult to injury was having to provide for a family of 14 or more! It was not uncommon for parents to have 12 -13 children due to the high fatality rate of younger children during those times; and the parents had to ensure they always had enough labor for the mill and the surrounding farms.


The Windmill's Tail: To turn the blades of the windmill into the wind, the top or "cap" of the windmill must be rotated to the desired direction. The miller does this by turning a giant wheel, resembling that of a ship's steering wheel, located at the bottom of the windmill's tail or the triangle shaped trellis structure that connects the cap to the wheel. The miller then turns the wheel clockwise or counterclockwise to rotate the cap at the top which can swing a full 360 degrees if necessary.  All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.

After our immersion into the miller’s life, our apprentice provided a detailed explanation of the inner workings of a windmill—complete with models, sketches and even Dutch humor which I found hilarious! One fact I thought truly fascinating was that although these windmills look like solid sturdy structures, their tops can rotate a full 360 degrees so that they can always face the oncoming wind. If a miller was not in constant vigilance of the prevailing gusts, he risked damage and fire to his mill if blades turned too fast or even worse, in a counter-clockwise position. Oh, I need to mention that the blades of windmills around the world rotate clockwise—save those in the United Kingdom [tongue in cheek].


Close-up shot of the Windmill cap that can rotate a full 360 degrees if necessary. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.   

Kinderdijk Canal Tour


An enchanting way to see the windmills up close and personal is via the canal tour.  Don't miss this on your next visit to Kinderdijk. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

After our presentation, we embarked on a Kinderdijk canal tour and cruised up and down the 15th-century waterways through some of the most picturesque landscapes I’ve ever seen. The view from the waterways provided ideal vantage points for the mills and surrounding countryside, and when combined with blue skies and crisp sunlight, I had all the makings of a palette to ensure these fanciful structures were rendered beautifully.

Kinderdijk Windmill Museum


Kinderdijk Windmill Museum—climb all the way to the top to see the inner workings of the windmill. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™.  Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Along the way, we disembarked at the windmill museum and toured the inside from the ground up. It was fascinating to see all the mechanisms in place just as our miller’s apprentice described. And the real eye-opener for me was that despite the fact the windmills appear to be quite cavernous on the outside, they are indeed quite cramped on the inside. The rooms are extremely confining and the cupboard-sized beds even more so. Climbing up to the next levels wasn’t an easy task either because of narrow and very steep stairways. Despite the close quarters and crowded spaces, there was something enchanting about the prospects of living in a windmill. Plus, it was a thrill to climb up and back down inside a structure that’s been standing for 275 years!

Working our way up from the ground floor:


Did you know every windmill has two doors on opposite sides of the windmill just in case the spinning blades are blocking one of them. This view shows one of the entryways with a cupboard for storage on the right. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

A very cozy kitchen on the ground floor houses a table, small cooking stove and a sleeping cupboard in the back. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

A quaint view to the left of the kitchen. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.  
One of the bedrooms on the 2nd floor inside the windmill museum. Note the wardrobe to the left and another sleeping cupboard to the right. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Finally after climbing 4 stairways, we've reached the top to see the "Upper Wheel" of the windmill. This wheel is attached to the four windmill blades just outside the wall. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

After the tour was over, we headed back to the “Viking Odin” which was short walk away. What a wondrous morning in the enchanting land of Kinderdijk! I hope you enjoyed your tour through the Kinderdijk complex in the Netherlands and that you have the opportunity real soon to experience the wonder and history of the Kinderdijk windmills! More exciting excursions from my week with Viking River Cruise to come.

The Kinderdijk complex is open 24 hours every day of the year however, the windmill museum, pumping station and canal boat tours operate seasonally. The museum and pumping station are open every day from mid-March to the end of October from 9:30 to 5:30 p.m. Off-season hours are weekends only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Canal cruises run every day from April 1 to October 1 with the first cruise departing at 10 a.m. and the last 5 p.m. For more event information, visit Kinderdijk.com/Events.

More ways to experience Kinderdijk:

Did You Know?

The name Kinderdijk or Child’s Dike originated in the days following the devastating flood of 1421. One of the surviving villagers returned to this submerged land to see if anything could be salvaged. According to legend, he found a tiny baby floating in a cradle kept afloat by a cat whose jumping back and forth momentum kept the baby dry, and thus it is this “child” for which the dike was named. This event also gave birth to the fairy tale “Cat’s in the Cradle” and today, these “windmill cats” are revered and protected.

More about my Viking River Cruise:

Farewell from Kinderdijk Windmill Complex in the Netherlands. All content and photography are the copyrighted property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.   

30 comments:

  1. I love looking at your photos, Jeff. They're such a delight, no fail. And this is true for these ones of the windmills, too. Gorgeous!

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  2. HI there Marlys and thank you so much for your kind words! Thx for stopping by and sharing your comments with everyone!

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  3. Love the sunrise pic. Beautiful!

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  4. Hi there Andrea and thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. The entire morning was positively enchanting!

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  5. And I thought my kids bedrooms are small! I love your enthusiasm Jeff. It is infectious and can be felt in your pictures (and your voice in those videos :) ) These pictures are so amazing that I can't pick a favorite. This too has been added to my to do list when in Holland.

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  6. Hi there Debbie and thank you again for stopping by! Thank you so very, very much for your kind words my dear friend! They mean a lot and I am glad my passion comes through in my pics and video too!

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  7. Hi there Erin and thanks so much for stopping by. This post has been a labor of love and so glad you enjoyed the photo!

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  8. What a sweet little place Jeff, great pic too, pinned it! I'd like to stay there. When somoene mentions Holland to me, it goes into the 'windmills of my mind' :)

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    1. Hi there Jools and thanks so much for visiting and sharing your kind words! I suffer from "windmills of my mind" as well. ; )

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  9. Fantastic pictures and so interesting to learn about the windmills and a miller's life. Love the pic of the sunrise at Kinderdijk windmill complex. I was so disappointed that when I was in the Netherlands last year that I didn't get to see any windmills (as hard as that might be to believe)!

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    1. Hi there Cathy and thx so much your compliments! It's not hard to believe you didn't see any because there aren't many left, sadly. You need to seek out and find...on your next visit for sure! Thx so much for stopping by!!

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  10. Absolutely love the sunset one!

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    1. Hi there Charu and thanks so much for your kind words. That sunrise was an enchanting site indeed!! One of my magical moments during the voyage with Viking. Thx for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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  11. What a wonderful picture! It looks like a beautiful and peaceful place. It actually brings back great memories of a driving holiday I took in Holland and Belgium more than 20 years ago.

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    1. Hi there Spencer and thx so much for your kind compliments! I had a most glorious time in Kinderdijk and was blessed with a beautiful day to boot! Thx so much for stopping by to share your thoughts!

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  12. So beautiful Jeff. I really can't wait to see this for myself later this fall, you got me to really look forward to it!

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    1. Hi again Marie-Eve and thx so much for stopping by and for your kind compliments! And I look forward to hearing all about your visit in the Fall on that incredible journey you're about to embark on. Do you have any room in your luggage? ; )

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  13. Thanks for the excellent look at Kinderdijk - I'll be there in October following 13 days on the River Queen :)

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    1. Thanks so much Murray for stopping by to share you thoughts! Wow, the River Queen, you will love River Cruising if you've never done it before and you will certainly love Kinderdijk as well! Bon Voyage and hope to hear back from you in October!

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  14. I just love this post and the windmills, inspirational. I am enthralled.

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    1. Hi there Doc!! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind compliments. I enjoyed this journey immensely and hope to return to Kinderdijk someday to spend more time walking around these 300 year-old monuments to a much earlier time in Holland!

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  15. Hi Jeff, another marvelous set of pictures of my country! And... not too far away either, just half an hour drive ;-) Actually, my brother lives in the village next to Kinderdijk (Alblasserdam). Everytime when I read your enthousiastic words about our country I realize we, the Dutch, don't always appreciate the wonderful world around us enough. Nice to be reminded though through the eyes of a foreign traveler!

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    1. Hi there my friend and thank you so very much for the kind compliments!! I loved my visit to Kinderdijk and will cherish them always! I envy you and your brother for living so close to this site! It's incredible! I am happy that you enjoy my writing...actually, you made my day! Thx again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Keep up the good work. ;)

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  16. Hi Jeff,
    Great article and fantastic pictures; it really inspires me to visit Kinderdijk whenever I get back to the Netherlands!

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    1. Hi there Ryan and thanks so much for your kind words and for stopping by. Yes indeed, you must visit Kinderdijk upon your return. It's wonderful and don't miss the Windmill Museum while you're there.

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  17. What a lovely place and beautiful photos! Shall definitely add it to my wish list.

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    1. Hi there Rosemary and thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words! You should definitely add to your list...it was an enchanting morning especially waking up with all of the these windmills on the horizon!

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  18. Remembering last november: with my family in Kinderdijk
    Marco from Sassoferrato, Le Marche, Italy

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    1. Hi there Marco,
      How wonderful you were there last November. I bet you and your family had a wonderful time touring the windmills. I love to hear comments like this of personal experiences. Please share more in the future!

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!