The week of sailing on AmaCerto, one of the beautiful river cruise ships in AmaWaterways fleet, was like a crescendo. Every day somehow topped the day before. It was Saturday, next to the last full day of cruising, when the ship docked next to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands. A day we had all looked forward to.
My friends Norma, Sue, Debbie and I decided to ride bikes through the site – even though some of us hadn’t been on a bike in many years. The ship provides bicycles for special tours or, in this case, to go on our own to explore. After the sailors brought our bikes and helmets to the end of the gangway, we were off; a little wobbly at first, but making our way none-the-less.
Twenty-five percent of the Netherlands consists of land below sea level. This land has been reclaimed from the sea. To reclaim this land, a dike is built around a large piece of water. Then the water is pumped out of this large area. These pieces of land are called polders and can be used for farming and industrial purposes.
Kinderdijk is a village in a polder located about 10 miles east of Rotterdam. To drain the polder, a system of 19 windmills dating from the 1500s was built – eight stone brick windmills built in 1738, eight thatched windmills built in 1740, two stone windmills built in 1760, and one windmill built in 1521 and recently restored. Because this is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) site, all the mills must be kept in their original state.
Holland used to have more than 10,000 windmills. Then large pieces of Holland were drained by pumping stations that were first powered by steam machines and later by electricity and diesel.
There are walking paths and bike trails. We sailed along under gray skies threatening rain, stopping only to take photos of the historic structures.
One of the windmills is open for visitors during the tourist season and offers insight in how the windmill works, the job of the miller and what it’s like to live in a windmill.
A traditional footbridge brings you to the entrance of the Museum Mill. The interior originates from the 1950s when the last inhabitant left the windmill. At various points in the mill, you can watch film clips showing glimpses of mill life and the operation of the mill, and you can climb the stairs to the three floors. On the top floor is a beautiful view of the surrounding area. People volunteer to live in and operate the other 18 Kinderdijk windmills.
After our tour, we returned our bikes to the ship and walked back to Kinderdijk to take a few more photographs and browse in the well-appointed gift shops. It had been a day of learning and a day of fun.
If you go
AmaWaterways features river cruises in Europe, Africa and Asia including Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. For more information visit the website, or call 1-800-626-0126.