Icons of Holland
Windmills and Kinderdijk
Windmills are typically Dutch, and like tulips & cheese, they seem to be everywhere. There are well over a thousand windmills in the Netherlands, and historically they performed a great number of different functions. The most important one was pumping water out of the lowlands, in order to turn lakes and marshlands into polders, and to help the Dutch keep their feet dry. However, the majority of today’s windmills are flour mills, which can be found across the country and not only in those parts that are below sea level. During the steam-powered Industrial Revolution, which in the Netherlands took off only halfway through the 19th century, industrial windmills rapidly became obsolete and disappeared from the scene almost completely.
A perfect place to see windmills is Kinderdijk, where nineteen windmills have been draining water from the polder into the river for centuries. Overwaard’s wooden mills and Nederwaard’s brick mills, all giant grondzeilers with sails spanning up to thirty metres, move water from the polders to the lower and upper basins. Then, the High Mill, which uses a screw instead of a water wheel, lifts the water another 2½ metres, before discharging it into the river. Two of the mills are open to visitors, an exhibition at the visitors centre shows everything you always wanted to know about Dutch water management (but were afraid to ask), and a tour boat offers a pleasant way to see the mills and take great pictures. Speaking of boats: the best way to get to Kinderdijk is the № 202 Waterbus, a fast ferry that shuttles between Rotterdam and Dordrecht every two hours, morning and afternoon, from May through October.kinderdijk.nl