“The gorgeous windmills of Kinderdijk are part of a unique phenomenon. Nowhere else in the world can be find the complete history of water management at a single location.” UNESCO
I’ve seen many pictures of the windmills of Kinderdijk (pronounced kin-der-dike) over the years, but I never knew what the story behind them was.
Originally there were 20 windmills at Kinderdijk. Now 19 of them remain. The oldest one, the Blokker, dates from before 1540, when it was first mentioned on a map. The other 18 windmills which now form the unique Kinderdijk landscape date from 1738 – 1740. They were built as part of a drainage system in order to drain the excess water from the area into the river which subsequently discharges the water into the sea. For many centuries the Dutch windmills played an important role in the drainage and reclamation of land in the Netherlands.
Most other windmills are used as private homes and cannot be visited. But there are two that can be – Nederwaard and Blokweer. Whilst here you can also visit the Museum Windmill Nederwaard where you can discover how a windmill works.
A third of the country is below the sea level and two thirds of Holland is vulnerable to flooding. In the past, Holland was cluttered with windmills. It is estimated that there were nearly 10,000 windmills on Holland soil. Unfortunately, as years passed and technology improved, the windmills were replaced by mechanical pumps that operated more efficiently. Now, about 1,000 windmills remain. The mechanical pumps are still used today and utilize fuel and electricity instead of wind energy.
The sails of the windmills were used as a means of communication between the millers. The position of the sails indicated if the mills should be operated or whether the millers had taken a break. But they were also used to share the news such as birth, marriage or death in a family. On festive occasions, the millers would decorate their windmills with colorful flags.
The village gets its name from the “Cat and the Cradle” riddle that is popular throughout the world. Legend has it, that one night when the area flooded, a cat was seen hanging on to a cradle for dear life. The next morning when the land was dry, instead of a cat, a baby was found inside the cradle. The Dutch named the area Kinderdijk: Kinder means children, and djik means dike.
How to get there
The Waterbus to Kinderdijk leaves from the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam and it takes around 45 minutes.
It costs around 5 euros each way, but there is no charge to enter the “windmills site”. In the summer months, you can either visit on foot, rent a bike or take a boat tour in the canal.
All photos Nook Twelve