On this day in the middle of winter, the windmills at Kinderdijk were still. We'd come during the brief "off-season" from the end of December to mid-February when it's closed. Only a handful of people passed us on the trail. It was a stunning and desolate landscape, but peaceful beyond the explaining of it. It was as if we'd been sucked back in time, transported into an oil painting from the 1700s.
Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in a "polder," a marshy area that has been drained of water. As much of the country is seven meters below sea level, the Dutch had to develop methods of reclaiming land for development and agriculture. Overall, there are about 3,000 polders in the Netherlands. You can see why the English say, "God created the world but the Dutch created Holland."
A ridiculously scenic collection of 19 pumping windmills from the 18th century can be found at Kinderdijk. It's a significant part of Dutch history because these windmills helped this area stay above water. It's also a testament to the perseverance and ingenuity of the Dutch people.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that the Netherlands is a country stolen from the water and powered by the wind. Ask someone what they know about "Holland," and in our experience, they'll tell us about Amsterdam and how deliciously seedy they imagine it to be. They might know about bikes or canals or cheese. They might know about windmills.
The Netherlands we know today is cute and charming and kitschy. Kinderdijk (when it's open) offers all of that, and all the ins and outs of windmill technology too. But the stillness of Kinderdijk in the off-season brings home the desperate struggle to keep its land from disappearing under water. In the not-so-distant past, windmills meant much more to this country than a pretty picture. Perhaps the best time to come here is when it's just you and the windmills and the wind whistling in your ears.
Kinderdijk made me appreciate how the battles between wind and water and the human spririt have shaped the Netherlands. Much like in Canada, the climate and geographical conditions of the Netherlands have cultivated strength, resilience and resourcefulness in its people.
When you leave, you'll realize you took a piece of the Netherlands with you, something strong and proud that keeps you standing tall. Fearless against the gusting wind and rising waters, you've got this.