Kinderdijk, home of a passel of windmills from as far back as the 1700s, was the first “site” our cruise includes. We breakfasted with a light meal at the AquaVit Terrace (ship-made muesli, yogurts, fruit, breads, meats, juices) then, since it was more than an hour before the “official” tour was to start (and Caspar had warned us in the orientation the previous night that all tours start promptly–please emphasize that last word), we headed out for an early-morning walk along the polders.
This sounded like a good idea at the time and, in retrospect, it was a great idea. We walked down the dual path (one for bikes, one for pedestrians) alongside the bosom (see how many new Dutch words relating to water that I’m learning?) and we had the whole thing to ourselves. This made for super photo opportunities since we could capture just the windmills, not people (who are likely very nice folks, but no one who will add to our personal joy when we review the photos in future days). I was delighted to see the 200-year-old windmills in the morning’s quiet. Birds flew overhead, flowers bloomed at the path’s edge and bees divebombed the purple clover.
We returned to the Atla just before 9 a.m. and joined “our” tour group (guides, we were instructed, carry sign ‘lollipops’ indicating 19, for the Atla, and then a letter, for the specific tour group). Danielle, a 19-year-old engineeering student at the nearby university in Rotterdam, was our guide and I learned more about windmills than I’d imagined.
Windmills are definitely something more than a characterized image pressed into Dutch cookies. These devices (not Dutch in origin, but certainly Dutch in execution) keep the ever-persistent water from the rivers and sea from overwhelming the low (aka “nether”) lands of this country. The giant blades of the mill spin a long, wooden “king’s pole” in the center of the structure, converting the movement to power to “scoop” water from one water-logged area where it’s then directed into a safer area. Before this morning, I thought windmills were more for grinding flour rather than water management. But now I know!