Kinderdijk was a big surprise when we visited last spring. Despite its UNESCO world heritage status and its 19 windmills – the largest amount in any one area in all of the Netherlands and the only place in the world with so many windmills so close together – the place was almost completely deserted. So on the blustery, overcast afternoon of our visit, with just the windmills for company, it was quite easy to imagine we’d been transported back in time to the Holland of Dutch artists like Vermeer, Rembrandt and Avercamp.
There’s something magnetic about the turning of a windmill’s sails. As we chugged down the waterway on the tourist ‘Hopper’ boat, the water was calm enough to just about hear the slow creaking of the sails as they turned – some, on the ‘ground-sailer’ mills, almost long enough to brush the ground. The windmills were built in the 18th century to keep the low-lying land well-drained. When you see them lined up on the horizon, and travel past them, by boat or on foot (we did both), it’s difficult not to feel in awe of these stately old fellows, who helped protect the Dutch people from flooding for hundreds of years.
Kinderdijk is set in the middle of the beautiful ‘Groene Hart’ (Green Heart) area of Dutch countryside, but is also only about a half hour’s drive from Rotterdam, the country’s second city. If you visit in the depths of winter, it’s possible to ice skate on the water, past the mills; otherwise, you can do what we did, and take a trip on the Hopper. There’s no commentary on board, but if you wanted to find out more about the history of Kinderdijk you can hop off at one of the Museum Mills, where a ‘miller’ in traditional blue overall and clogs gives a tour of the interior, preserved from the 1950s. We arrived too late in the day to justify a visit to the Museum Mill, so instead we walked back along the path, flanked by swaying reeds and bulrushes, to the car park and café for a warming hot chocolate.
If you want to experience a genuine slice of Dutch history, Kinderdijk is a must. And if, like us, you go off-season, you might also find you have the place practically to yourself.
Here’s a little video I made of our afternoon at Kinderdijk:
Tickets for entry to two Museum Mills, the windmill site and a multiscreen film at the Wisboom visitor centre are €8 for adults, and €5.50 for children between 4 and 12. A trip on the Hopper is €5.50 for adults, and €3 for children. The under-4s go free. Find out more on the Kinderdijk website.
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I’m linking this post up with Faraway Files – this week hosted by Suitcases and Sandcastles.