We sailed through the night, and when I awoke to bright sunshine at 5AM, we were just pulling into our first stop, Kinderdijk, a small village just southeast of Rotterdam. It’s essentially a rural village of farmland, which at one time had more than 90 windmills that pumped water out into the river in order to re-claim the land for farming.
We were only to make a stop for about 2 hours. There were three different options for us: a walking tour of the windmills, a barge ride to a windmill or a 4 mile bike riding tour to see the windmills. Guess which one we chose?
Of course we did the bike tour…with just 2 other guests! Yes, we were a group of 4 plus our tour guide, a local Dutch woman. The bikes were not like the ones Josette and I have at home and commute to work with…these were old-fashioned beach bikes with no gears and pedal breaks. Honestly it took a little getting used to, but it is completely flat terrain…so it was very easy riding.
Our guide wasn’t a big story-teller, and there is little info to tell you other than that the majority of the mills were built-in the mid 1700’s. They were used only as water pumping mills…to push water out into the river, otherwise everything you see in the photos below would be underwater. Today, they have electric pumps that push the water out, but these old windmills are still 100% operational. People actually sign up to be part of a lottery system to live in the windmills. The government subsidizes the rent provided that the windmill tenant maintain the windmills at all times. All of that is interesting, but this stop was really just about riding bikes amongst one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen.
We stopped at one mill where we had a little tour. This windmill was not occupied, but is run as a museum. It is set up like a 1950’s mill keeper’s house…but the mill itself is about 275 years old. The guide was lovely Dutch lady who explained that as beautiful as it looks, it was a very isolated and hard life to keep a mill up and running. It looked very quaint, but she said most millers were quite poor, not even able to afford a cow, but lived from the milk and meat of goats and what they were able to grow in a small garden.
Of course, I had to ask about the clogs. Why are the Dutch known for their clogs? I suppose it was obvious after actually being in The Netherlands and seeing the terrain for myself. Clogs are practical. They are cheap…you just carve some wood….much cheaper than leather shoes. Also, they can get wet and muddy and not be ruined. It is very wet and muddy in these windmill areas. So they were the ideal type of shoes for the lifestyles that these folks lived. Now you know!
Another fun fact that we learned was that the Dutch windmills have 4 spokes–the “fan” portion that catches the wind and spins. Depending on the direction and amount of wind, they would pull out the sails (or sheets) on the spokes…like the sails on a ship. However, it was important to balance the sails. You never wanted to have 3 sails out or it imbalanced the windmill and made it undsteady….hence the saying “three sheets to the wind”, meaning a drunk person!
We finished the windmill tour and leisurely rode our bikes back the ship. This was a beautiful morning and a great start to this river cruise.
Back on board the ship, we had to perform a safety exercise at 2PM…we were assigned an area of the boat to report to with our life preservers. I think this is common on any type of water cruise, ocean or river.
And even later in the evening, on the long journey from Kinderdijk to Cologne, we had our first pre-dinner meeting with the Cruise Director, Gary. He’s a very entertaining British gentlemen, with a sort of old school late night talk show host personality. The over 60 crowd seems to think he is hilarious. Obviously, it isn’t required attendance, like the safety drill, but he tells you what’s happening the following day, so it’s fairly informative, and they serve drinks.
I didn’t take any photos, but Dinner is served at 7 in the Dining Room. They asked that you try to be fairly on time, so they can serve properly. Dress is very casual, as in, men can wear shorts and polo shirts. However, the tables are set very formally and the service is as formal as the young staff are able to provide. Our servers were all from the Phillipines and the girls pouring the wine were Eastern European. The first meal was Chateaubriand, which was fine…nothing spectacular, but certainly tasty. The wine flows freely, and you are not assigned a seat, so you must find seating at tables for as small as 4 tops and as large as 8 or 10 tops. It was a little intimidating this first night, but we quickly found a group to sit with and it was an enjoyable dinner.
After dinner, we went up to the uppermost deck and just watched the boat sail by random towns in the Netherlands, and eventually in Germany.
Tomorrow, we will visit Cologne, Germany and see the tallest Gothic Cathedral in the world.