Wind­mills a must-see on any trip to Hol­land

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL - JOHN MAR­SHALL

KINDERDIJK, Nether­lands — The wind­mills at Kinderdijk were built in the mid-1700s as a way to clear wa­ter from the low-ly­ing land­scape of the west­ern Nether­lands.

Some­time in the 1950s, the millers and wa­ter board mem­bers started see­ing vis­i­tors in sneak­ers car­ry­ing cam­eras. Yep, tourists.

The Dutch em­braced the vis­i­tors and the Kinderdijk wind­mills have since be­come one of the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions while con­tin­u­ing to help man­age the Nether­lands’ on­go­ing fight to stay above wa­ter.

There are some wind­mills north of Am­s­ter­dam that “were built for the tourists, but we’re a his­tor­i­cal site where tourists come, so it’s the other way around,” said Kinderdijk com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Peter Paul Klap­wijk. “Tourism is a means to up­hold our site.”

Kinderdijk, which trans­lates to chil­dren’s dike, lies in the Al-blasser­waard polder (land that has been re­claimed from the sea, marshes or river flood­plains) at the con­flu­ence of the Lek and No­ord rivers. The vil­lage is in the west­ern por­tion of the Nether­lands, much of which is near or even be­low sea level.

The low­lands have been prone to flood­ing through the ages de­spite the build­ing of canals and dikes, in­clud­ing the 1421 Saint Elis­a­beth’s flood that killed thou­sands af­ter the dikes broke in sev­eral places.

To stem the flood­ing, the Kinderdijk wind­mills were built in 1738 and 1740 — two ear­lier than that — to move wa­ter from the lower ar­eas to higher spots and into the river.

Nine­teen of the orig­i­nal 20 Kinderdijk wind­mills re­main and were named a UN­ESCO World Her­itage site in 1997.

And what a sight they are. Lin­ing the canals that zigzag be­tween the two rivers, the wind­mills are a strik­ing and iconic glimpse into Dutch his­tory with a mod­ern-day func­tion­al­ity.

The wind­mills work in con­junc­tion with pump­ing sta­tions to move wa­ter from the lower-ly­ing ar­eas to higher ground and into the river. Of the 19 mills, 16 still have millers who live in­side and ma­neu­ver the mas­sive sails in the wind.

For tourists, walk­ways lead from the vis­i­tor cen­ter to the mills and boat tours are of­fered along the canals. Two mills serve as mu­se­ums, filled with vin­tage millers’ items and pho­tos with lad­ders to climb through and see the in­ner works. The mills also are func­tional, so be pre­pared to feel the en­tire build­ing shake when the sails are whip­ping around in the wind.

About 500,000 peo­ple visit the Kinderdijk wind­mills each year, about 300,000 of them buy­ing tick­ets to take the tours.

Kinderdijk has plans to build a new vis­i­tor cen­ter and to re­fur­bish the pump­ing sta­tion with an ex­hi­bi­tion about the fu­ture of wa­ter man­age­ment with cli­mate change.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit kinderdijk.com/dis­cover/the-story/ un­esco-world-her­itage.

AP/PETER DEJONG

Wind­mills lin­ing the Hooge Boezem van de Over­waard canal at the UN­ESCO World Her­itage site in Kinderdijk, Nether­lands, are ma­jor draws for tourists.

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