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Windmills of Kinderdijk

Windmills of Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

See one of the largest collections of 18th-century windmills on this tour of Kinderdijk, a Dutch village nestled at the confluence of two rivers.

Kinderdijk is one of many Dutch municipalities built on polders, stretches of land separated from surrounding water by dikes. The water level started rising in the 13th century and the village, like many places in the Netherlands, dug canals to further control it. But after the Saint Elizabeth Flood of 1421 nearly overwhelmed the little village, new solutions were gradually introduced.

It was the 1730s before the many windmills of Kinderdijk were built to help drain the soil. Today, 19 of the antique windmills remain, some wooden, some stone, and many of them still in working order. Spend a few hours seeing the familiar Dutch symbols, learn about the history of water management and the windmills’ construction, and go inside a working windmill to understand how it keeps the land above water.

Your private driver and guide will pick you up for a drive to Kinderdijk, a village best known for its 18th-century windmills and extensive water-management infrastructure.

Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, and the country has spent centuries developing techniques for keeping its land dry and above the waterline. Kinderdijk sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Lek and the Noord, and its land is made up of polders — stretches of grassland that have been reclaimed from the sea. The extensive canal systems many Dutch cities enjoy is one of the age-old methods of draining and controlling the water flow, but over time, the canal-drained soil in Kinderdijk started settling and the rivers started rising.

By the 18th century, windmills became the preferred method of keeping the water where the villagers wanted it. As you look down the length of one of the canals, you can see the row of wooden windmills receding into the distance. While the water level today is mainly controlled by two modern diesel pumping stations, some of these windmills are still functional.

On the way, you’ll pass through the villages surrounding Kinderdijk, where you’ll learn about the differences in water levels and how different communities have reacted to floods and storms throughout the centuries. The terrible Saint Elizabeth’s Flood of 1421, for example, swallowed several Dutch villages, killing thousands. The canals that Kinderdijk had dug, called weteringen, held out and kept their village safe. But it became clear that new measures were needed to keep entire communities from drowning.

Once at the site, you’ll head to the museum to learn about the history of the area and how the windmills came to be constructed. You’ll also have a chance to go inside one of the working windmills, where you’ll learn more about how it worked when it was built, and how it works today.

If you’d like, you can take a boat tour on your own, which goes up and down the canal seeing the windmills along the way.

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