It is a common misconception that just because windmills are iconic of Holland, it means that they are equally ubiquitous too. In fact, I didn’t spot any windmills during the long train ride from Amsterdam to Maastricht, neither are there any windmills in Maastricht too. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t indulge in my childhood fantasy of being surrounded by windmills. So, was that all to it to Holland, the supposed land of windmills?
Actually, windmills still can be found in the Netherlands; it’s just a matter of knowing where exactly to look for them. Because of development and technological advancements, Holland is no longer as reliant on windmills as they were in the past, and therefore the land where windmills once used to occupy were gradually taken over by buildings. Despite these developments, certain windmill sites in the Netherlands are conserved and one of them is Kinderdijk (pronounced ‘kinder-dek’), which is 15km east of Rotterdam.
Kinderdijk is a rural town and has 19 windmills spread out over a large empty plain. The more detailed history can be found on Wikipedia, so I will just provide a summary here. Basically, Kinderdijk is situated in a polder which was severely waterlogged due to the confluence of two rivers, Lek and Noord. To enable the land to be suitable for housing and farming, the people decided to exploit the energy produced by the strong winds to drain the land, thus a series of 19 windmills was built. Now of course, most of this draining has been taken over by electricity-powered machines although a few windmills are still being used. Kinderdijk is now a UNESCO world heritage site!
How to get there from Maastricht:
It is a long and arduous journey to say the least. There are several ways of getting there (check 9292.nl/en) but we chose to take the train to Rotterdam, and then transfer to a ferry (called the waterbus) which will drop us off at the pier of Kinderdijk. Throughout the whole journey, we had to make several transfers, and this was especially so because at the time of our trip, there was some repair work on the tracks leading to Eindhoven station, which meant that halfway through, we had to alight from the train, take a (free) shuttle bus to the next usable station and board the train to continue our journey. If this didn’t sound complicated enough, even the ferry required a transfer at some random pier whose name I forgot already! The grand total of travelling time incurred was approximately 4 hours, one way!
Our train tickets were cheap though, at 6.40 euros/pax. This was because we exploited the group discount (check the NS website) which is applicable up to a group of 10. You have to pay and print tickets beforehand. However, we somehow manage to gather a gargantuan group of 20 Singaporeans! 20! I have to admit, it really was difficult to coordinate with so many people in the group.
By the way, waterbus tickets aren’t included in the train ticket prices; you have to buy it separately when you board the waterbus itelf which costs around 12.50 euros. Additionally, the waterbus pier is quite some distance from Rotterdam Centraal. It is about a 30-minute walk from the station. Check the directions (ask people or something) at the station before embarking on the walk, lest you will get lost.
So… was the tiresome journey worth it?
YES with capitals Y-E-S! Kinderdijk was really a beautiful place – so quaint and breathtaking at the same time. Although the weather was gloomy that day (just like the typical Holland weather), it didn’t really dampen our spirits and we had a fine time walking around and taking pictures.
After walking around and shopping at the souvenir shop, we returned back to Rotterdam where we ate some Middle Eastern cuisine at a popular eatery in the Chinatown there. It was not bad at all! The place was well furnished with pretty Turkish lamps and the food was good and value-for-money considering the prices. I didn’t get the name of the restaurant down though… Oh well, if you happen to be in the vicinity, keep a lookout for this restaurant! 🙂