Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Kinderdijk windmills

Tulips and windmills – the things most associated with Holland (of course, the wooden clogs come a close third). We had spent a day in the tulip fields and Keukenhof, and had seen quite a few windmills from the windows of the car, but I wanted a genuine windmill experience. After our stop in Madurodam we planned to stop in Rotterdam overnight, and so it happened that we were able to visit the Kinderdijk windmills, just a short distance southeast of the city.

The small town of Kinderdijk is named after the crib with a crying baby and cat that supposedly washed up during the floods of 1421. (A literal translation would be “children’s dike.”) Nearby are the Nederwaard pumping station and 19 windmills. Because of their number and size they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, although they last pumped water in 1950.

From the informative placards on site –
A windmill turns counterclockwise. The energy source (wind) is caught on the stock, which is turned to face the wind by turning the entire cap in the direction of the wind. In order to catch more wind, the frames are slightly bent and fitted with wind plates and sail cloths. The wind force is conveyed via the axle of the stock to a large wheel with protruding cogs. The teeth of the wheel drive a vertical axle (the upright shaft). At the bottom of that shaft a large wheel in turn drives a scoop wheel of the mill. The scoop wheel conveys the water to the catch-water basin. The turning mill is stopped by means of a brake mechanism, known in Dutch as the vang.

I was fascinated to learn that the position of the sails can indicate a certain situation or event This is shown in these pictures. The working position (A) is used when the mill is stationary for a short time; the resting position (B) when no milling is to take place for some time. The celebration position (C) indicates that a pleasant event has occurred, such as a birth. The position of sorrow (D) designates a death.

We had the dike almost all to ourselves, and although the clouds and wind made the experience a little cooler, the weather contributed to the beauty of the marshland surrounding these beautiful historical national icons. As dusk was approaching and our energy levels waned we walked back to the car and returned to Rotterdam.

Other than the view from the hotel room of the port (one of the world’s largest) and downtown, we saw very little of Rotterdam as it was only a stopping point on our way from Amsterdam to Brussels. We arrived late, and as Lauris watched the elevated trains stopping at the station just next to the hotel I caught the tail end of a few favorite TV shows (in English!) that I hadn’t seen in over a year. Maybe not the most interesting things in Rotterdam, but it was definitely a relaxing evening that allowed us to replenish our energy stores in preparation for tomorrows drive which would take us across the Storm Surge Barrier back into Belgium, to Brugge and Brussels.

1 comment:

  1. How fun! I'm a bit obsessed with the tulips and the windmills and I'll admit, even the wooden shoes! ;)


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