Finding someone to run and maintain a windmill in Holland is becoming more and more difficult to do. Keeping a windmill in working order requires a skill set that is becoming rare. In addition, the miller and his or her family has to promise to lead a life of isolation. The keeper of the windmill has to live in it, and although most windmills have modern conveniences like hot and cold water, electricity, plumbing, and WiFi, the windmill cannot be left alone while the miller goes out on a date or takes in a movie. In short, although the life of a miller is rewarding, it is a life of sacrifice. Just think, a car cannot be parked close to a windmill. This means, that in most cases, the miller has to park his vehicle a distance away and then walk home to the windmill. Remarkably, there are a few hardy souls who will take on the care of a windmill because they understand the historical and cultural value represented. And so, if the shoe fits, wear it.
There are a number of windmill sites in Holland available to visitors. One site is called Kinderdijk. It is a village of iconic 18th century windmills whose primary function was and still is water management. Legend says that this village, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, got its name because a young couple saw a basket containing a baby floating in the water. They rescued the baby and raised the child as their own. The legend is charming, and the windmills are beautiful.
Stepping inside the mill is a real eye opener. The space inside is much larger than it seems from the outside, but still, the economic use of space is necessary. There’s a place for everything, and everything is in its place.
Windmills have a surprising number of windows…most with a good view of a neighboring windmill.
Zaanse Schans park takes a playful approach to windmills. It is more or less the Disney World of windmills. The park is full of vendors and merchants selling all things having to do with windmills and the nostalgic time they represent. Here, in addition to windmills, you can enjoy a petting zoo.
You can sample some authentic foods served up by folks dressed in period costumes.
You can see homes like this one in the park that are also dressed for the time period.
You can take a boat ride around the lake that offers a great look at all the windmills.
A visit to the park gives insight into how a wind powered sawmill works. One of the millers is on hand to greet visitors and facilitate the tour. Our guide pointed out that the wooden shoes have a real purpose. The area around a working mill can be hazardous. The unseen dangers of nails, shards of glass, and splinters of wood are always present. Wearing wooden shoes can prevent painful foot injury.
The process of cutting the wood into planks has its start and finish at the windmill.
This mill is highly efficient; the power of the wind makes it possible to saw a tree into multiple planks all at one time. The market for these custom planks is in restoring old homes and buildings. The windmill is able to cut the wood in sizes and in ways that are not available from modern commercial mills.
For a visitor, the windmills may be romantic, but these iconic structures are much more than a romantic nod to the past. The windmills tell the ongoing history of the Dutch and their struggle with water.
What a wonderful junket!!!! See you next time.
Happily, The Unseasoned Traveler