Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
A visit to Alblasserwaard — the lowland region in the south of Holland bordered by rivers on all sides — is not complete without a stop at its most unique village, Kinderdijk, a windmill wonderland rich with the Dutch spirit. The name of the town means “infant dike,” a reference to a folktale in which a baby was found floating in a cradle, saved by the ingenuity of a cat. The town's 19 mills dot a below-sea-level expanse that for centuries has been intricately rearranged with dikes, ditches, and sluices, rendering with great engineering effort the oft-flooded earth into a livable and productive agricultural landscape. Today, a modern pumping station helps maintain appropriate water levels.
What We Love
Biking, Birding, and Hiking: Fish, amphibians, fowl, weasels, and insects galore are ready for your discovery. Rent bicycles for an easy spin among the area's rich biodiversity. A map of the village with recommended hiking paths is available at the museum-area entrance.
Best Known For
Around and Around They Go: Take a tour of the Museum Windmill Nederwaard with the miller, who wears traditional blue overhauls and clogs. Yes, wooden shoes, which help keep feet dry when walking on sodden soil, are commonplace among residents here. You'll climb the steep stairs that link the museum windmill’s three cozy floors, to see how mill families eat, sleep, and work. You’ll also get to view the inner wheel contraption that turns the massive wooden sails.
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Who It's Best For
Engineers: While all visitors can appreciate the complex process that the Dutch have employed to fight back powerful floodwaters, engineers will truly understand the awesome inventiveness involved. The windmills, nearly all of which were built between 1738 and 1740, are another marvel.
Photogs: The beauty of Kinderdijk’s painterly scenery is spectacular. Arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is often dazzling, casting a glow on deep blue canal waters that glimmer among golden reeds. As you walk past the windmills, you’ll be wowed at how they seem to transform with your vantage point.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Sleepy Site: This is a peaceful, thoughtful visit, the focus of which is the town's windmills. If you lean toward port stops with lots of action and variety, Kinderdijk’s quiet exploration may not be a favorite.
Laura Manske is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Redbook, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan.