I knew when I planned our trip to Holland that a stop to see real Dutch Windmills needed to be top of the list. On our way out of town, we made a small detour to Kinderdijk, a place with 17 windmills.
Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, so the Dutch needed to build intricate water management systems to keep the water level low enough. At Kinderdijk, there is one windmill you can go inside and visit- so that’s straight where we headed.
This windmill was built in 1730, and the inside has been maintained the same way it was when the last inhabitant left it in the 1950’s. It was fascinating to see how the Miller and his family would have lived there. The kids loved seeing the little alcove beds in the wall, the steep ladder-like stairs, and the wooden clogs hanging on the walls. This windmill was 4 stories tall!
One of the most interesting things we learned at the Windmills is that the sails can be used to send “messages” depending on their position. For instance, if the sails are left still, with the bottom sail angled just slightly left of the vertical, and the top sail just to the right, it means there was a recent birth or wedding in the family. It’s called the “coming position” and shows that the highest point is yet to be reached. On the other hand, the windmill can be left in the “mourning (or going) position” with the top sail set just past the highest point, which shows that the Miller, a member of his family, or his neighbor has died. Sometimes, the Miller would decorate the sail with flags so it could still operate, and be festive- like in the case of a wedding.
On our way out of the windmill, I had the scare of my life when Mr. Man fell off the dike into the water. The dikes have grass and flowers growing on them, and over the edge, and he really wanted to feed his snack to the frogs he saw hanging out in the water. From where we both stood, the ground looked solid, but the tall grass had folded over the edge of the dike and he took just one step too far and feel straight down into the water. Luckily for both of us, there was another person standing right next to where he fell, and they moved fast enough to grab his arm before his head could go under. I am so grateful that person was there and acted to quickly to help. Mr. Man and I were both terrified, and then, he was embarrassed to be soaking wet. When we got back to Germany, I got him started in swimming lessons right away- I don’t ever want a scare like that again!
My lucky kid- soaked.
If you’re local, Kinderdijk is about 3.5 hours from Frankfurt, and is free to access the 17 mills. To tour the windmill is just a couple euros a person.