Review: Is the trip to Kinderdijk Windmills worth it?
The first time we saw a life-sized windmill was at Delft. Walking out of the train station with our luggage, the windmill was welcoming us from a distance. We agreed to go up close and admire the lonesome windmill soon. That happened only at the end of our one week stay in Delft. It’s not exactly near to the town center, you know. Anyway, after a few photos with the windmill, we walked away feeling underwhelmed. Was it even worth the long walk? At least, there’s a tick off our to-do list: marvel at the national icon up-close.
Even so, we gave the windmills another chance. Kinderdijk must be crowned a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason. A cluster of windmills should be a sight to behold. There are similar windmill sites up north, such as the village and windmills at Zaanse Schans*, that are popular with tourists stationed at Amsterdam or Haarlem. For others setting their base in Rotterdam like us, Kinderdijk windmills are much nearer for a day trip.
Kinderdijk Molens (“Kinderdijk”), a UNESCO World Heritage since 1997, has 19 windmills dating from the 18th century. Molens means mills in English.
In UNESCO’s words, “The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills.”
Kinderdijk is surrounded by two rivers and like much of the rest of Netherlands, it lies below sea level. Hence, throughout the centuries, the people of the land had to come up with solutions to stave off disasters from the waters. If not, about 26% of the country would be flooded, and 60% under threat.
At Kinderdijk, ingenious hydraulic works were constructed in the Middle Ages to channel water away. It was around 1740 when a series of windmills and pumping stations were constructed to drain wetlands by harnessing the wind. The mills transferred water from lower regions of Kinderdijk into a higher basin that flowed into a nearby river.
From Rotterdam to Kinderdijk
Located roughly 15km east of Rotterdam, Kinderdijk makes a good half a day trip destination. We reached around 9:20AM and ended about 11:30AM. You’ll prob finish faster if you don’t have a toddler nor a desire to stop for endless photos of the picturesque place.
We took a bus to the ferry terminal at Erasmusbrug (Rotterdam). While waiting for Waterbus (Line 202), we snapped photos with the famous Erasmus Bridge. The 800m bridge is a remarkable engineering feat that’s built from light-blue steel, with one-armed pylon jutting out high into the sky and a row of 40 steel cables across the water.
Taking the Waterbus (Line 202) is the quickest way to travel from Rotterdam or Dordrecht to Kinderdijk Molenkade. Enjoy the scenic views of the river as you set sail for 30 minutes.
This direct connection of Line 202 is only available from May 1 until October 31, between 09:35 and 17:07. Extra departures on weekdays during May, June, September and October.
During months when Line 202 is unavailable, you can take Waterbus (Line 20) with its multiple stops. Transfer to Driehoeksveer ferry at Ridderkerk. The whole journey takes around 40 minutes. You can also consider other transportation such as public bus.
Be sure to check the Waterbus schedule for your to and fro trips. This will reduce waiting time as it’s not as frequent as you like. When planning, make sure you account for the time to walk back to the harbour. You need to time yourself and know when to head back from the end point.
Tap your OV-chipkaart or purchase tickets on board with cash. Otherwise, purchase e-tickets at 5-10% discount via www.waterbus.nl/tickets for:
- single journeys (€3,80, S$5.80),
- unlimited day trips (€11,70, S$17.70), or
- combined ticket (€16,50, S$25) for a return trip with Waterbus, the Triangle Ferry and entrance fee of Kinderdijk.
Hop on board with your bicycle free of charge though!
For more info: www.waterbus.nl/en/Kinderdijk-travel
Starting our Journey at Kinderdijk
From Harbour to Ticketing Office
Where’s the entrance of Kinderdijk windmills? Out of the harbour, we were at a crossroad — should we turn left, right or walk straight? The crowd dissipated while we were looking at the Waterbus schedule at the dock. There was no one for us to follow. Not that there was a crowd on the early morning ride anyway.
Go early in the morning to avoid the crowd and enjoy the beautiful glow of the sun. While we walked back to catch the 12:03PM Waterbus, the place was getting crowded. Opening hours are 10:00AM to 4:00PM.
I had an urgent need of the toilet. Hence, we went straight to this souvenir shop right in front of us. With a big wooden clog outside, it’s hard to miss the shop. Paid €0,50 (S$0.80) to use the toilet in the dodgy basement. Bad move, because there’s free toilet near the Kinderdijk’s ticketing office. However, if you want to cycle around Kinderdijk and its surrounding area, you can rent bicycles at this shop.
From the harbour, walk past the shop and continue straight ahead. You will reach the ticketing office in about 10 minutes. Beside the ticketing office is a souvenir shop for you to shop at the end of your trip.
TIP: Get your tickets online at a discounted rate of €9,00 (S$13.60) for adults and €5,00 (S$7.60) for children 4- 12 years old. Price at ticketing office is €11,00 (S$16.60).
You can also get your boat tour ticket online at €5,50 (S$8.30) for adults, €3,00 (S$4.60) for children. That’s right, other than walking to explore Kinderdijk, you can do so by boat too. Sail along the windmills for half an hour to take in the breathtaking view! Last departure is 30 minutes before closing.
Free admission and boat ride for children under 3 years old.
At the Pumping Stations
Putting on our earphones, we opened the virtual tour guide downloaded before our trip to Kinderdijk. The Kinderdijk UNESCO app (Google Play Store; Apple App Store) proves to be super informative as we toured the area.
For our first stop, we crossed the bridge to Wisboom pumping station (indicated as No.3 on the APP) on our left. Over there, we played windmill games amidst interactive displays and film to learn more about the windmills. Entering the engine room at this station, we managed to take a close look at the workings of an electrical pump. This pump replaced the steam-powered pump that was pounding away here from 1868 to 1924.
You can begin your journey at this station, or end your journey here with souvenirs or coffee. TIP for parents: There’s a diaper changing room and toilets here.
Another good station to start your visit is at the nearby “Auxiliary pumping station De Fabriek” (No.2). Discover Kinderdijk in a 12-minute film shown on multiple screens. Learn how Kinderdijk originated and why it is called Kinderdijk.
It was a pleasure to walk down the long road to the museum windmills. The fresh morning air, the green stretches, the animals. Be sure you are in comfortable footwear though! The morning weather was nice with no scorching sun. This wasn’t the case on our return walk at about noon. Early birds get to enjoy some comforts. :)
We stopped by to watch some horses grazing the grass. Fed grass blades to goats near the museum windmill. And on our way home, rows of ducks waddled along the path, while a few veered away and swam into the waters.
Go on the nature trail near windmill No.7 on APP, and find windmills on your left and right. In earlier days, this stretch of land was used by millers to grow their own crops. Today, the trail gives you an excellent vantage point to look at the mills up close in all their glory.
“Here you go.” A man stopped his bicycle and passed us and other tourists free postcards. On them are photos he took of the windmills. Since we had some time before catching our return Waterbus ride, we talked to him and found out he’s a resident nearby. And he knows people staying in the windmills. That came as a surprise because we thought no one is staying in the mills anymore.
There are people interested to shift and stay in the windmills. However, the mills are passed down from generation to generation. “It’s always the same family”, he said. The families who grew up in the mills love it there even though it’s tiny.
Inside the Two Museum Windmills
Our tickets allow us access to two museum windmills. A chance to peer into and learn about the lives inside the mills. We went straight to the museum windmill (no.11) that’s further away first. Wrong move. By the time we returned to the “first” museum windmill (no.7) that’s nearer to the entrance, the place was super crowded.
The Nederwaard Museum Windmill (no.7)
I left our stroller at the entrance gate and baby wear baby EX in a front carrier. With her in my bosom, I climbed up and down the steep stairs inside the windmill. I managed to reach the attic built around the whooshing wheels of the giant machine.
The miller has to work day and night, responding to changing winds and water levels. Hence, he and his family had to stay inside the windmill for him to be on call 24/7. Yet, windmill is a dangerous place to work and live in. Without any protective rails in the past, young children could easily fall into the dangerous grinding wheels.
The small living quarters in the windmill feels more comfortable for a family of three. Yet, this was home to many miller’s large families, sometimes with more than ten children. Life must be tough with everyone cramming in a small space. Moreover with Dutch’s big body builds, they had to squeeze into small bed frames and sleep in a curl ball.
During winter, things get worse, because only the living room is heated. Hence, everyone had to pack into the tiny living room if they wanted a warm sleep.
The Blokweer Museum Windmill (no.11)
At the second museum windmill, scan your ticket in the small souvenir shop before you explore the windmill and the mill yard. Roam the yard in its original state, with traditional sheds, goats, boiler house, and a vegetable plot to feed the miller’s family.
It was as if we walked into someone’s house in the nineteen fifties. The whole setup of the museum windmill feels like someone is still living here. We were only allowed to explore the ground floor here.
Near to the entrance was the children’s room. A small bed was up against the wall and a baby cot at the other side of the room. Someone was cleaning the room and changing the bed sheets while we were there.
On the shoe rack mounted onto the door, you will find the iconic wooden clogs in their everyday state instead of being a souvenir. As you visit the two museums, you will soon realise that the millers have clever use of space in the windmills to maximise space.
Walk out through the other side of the windmill and take in the serenity of it all. Spot the row of windmills as their blades turn in the winds.
We were glad we made it to Kinderdijk. Through the trip, I learned more about the workings of windmills and its importance in Netherlands. More importantly, a new understanding of the hard work and life of the millers and their families. Lastly, the rows of windmills definitely took my breath away.
Let me know if you have any other question about Kinderdijk. Leave your comments/questions below.
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