Hol­land’s must-see Kin­derdijk wind­mills are the real deal

The Denver Post - - TRAVEL - By 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 Al­blasser­waard polder (land that’s 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 buy­ing tick­ets to take the tours.

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

Peter Dejong, The As­so­ci­ated Press

The 18th-cen­tury wind­mills that line Hooge Boezem van de Ned­er­waard canal were built to clear wa­ter from the low-ly­ing land­scape in Kin­derdijk, Nether­lands.

Bas Cz­er­win­ski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

The World Her­itage-listed Kin­derdijk wind­mills, one of Hol­land’s most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions are il­lu­mi­nated by LED lights, near Rot­ter­dam, Nether­lands.

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