While spending some time in theNetherlands, Neil and I were ready for something a little different thanAmsterdam. We wanted to see a little culture and get some space to breathe the fresh air. In the city ofRotterdam, we settled into a great hotel called Van Walsum where the staff recommended a day trip to us. A short walk to the peer and a boat ride down the river, we arrived in the UNESCO protected town ofKinderdijk.
Kinderdijk and the Windmills
The area’s claim to fame is definitely its array of authentic and preserved windmills. Before the age of industrial pumps, millers lived inside these iconic homes and took turns working the pumps that drained water from the peet soil and kept the land dry enough for agriculture and human inhabitants. Back in the day, the millers swapped night shifts and kept sentinel over the huge blades that had to keep spinning in order for the pumps to work. If the wind cut out, the night watchman would signal his neighbors. Everyone got out of bed and hand cranked the mills. Fun right?
Some mills are open to the public so you can view the interiors and see how the millers and their families lived—which was in very tight quarters. A small bed fit two siblings and steep stairs wound their way up through 3 or 4 levels. This is what’s called “sturdy Dutch architecture.”
Some people have debated the origin of the name Kinderdijk. There are scientific and anthropological explanations. But from my brief visit, I’d like to keep it simple. Kinderdijk means children’s dike or canal, if you will. In summer, mothers stroll through the brush and boys launch themselves off the railing of various bridges and into the water.
Kinderdijk was made for kids. Ice cream shops flank the pedestrian walk. Multi-generational families stroll along together. Kayakers paddle up the waterway. I even saw a set of brothers, sitting quietly and waiting for the fish to bite. On the dikes there is solitude and excitement. At some of the renovated windmills, families barbequed and flew toy helicopters in the sky. Scooters zip down the service road and you can definitely feel the sense of community that has thrived in the town for centuries.
When visiting Kinderdijk fromRotterdam, you can purchase your tickets from the boatmen or use your OV Chipkaart. The fare is round trip and should be completed before 5pm since the ferries stop before dark. Take it slow and enjoy the UNESCO site. Your Kinderdijk ticket includes entrance to the museums onsite. Just inquire at the gate to find out which ones are open. Many people rent bikes as well and the best rates are at the ice cream parlor right by the Kinderdijk entrance. If you’re feeling like some local fun, bring a bath suiting and dive in.