Sunday, August 25, 2013

Icons of the Netherlands: Windmills

Canals, polders, windmills, wooden clogs, tulips are some of the images most frequently associated with the Netherlands. All this sounded incredibly cliche to me while living in Maastricht, as tulips are mostly sold in supermarkets, wooden (or furry) clogs are only a tacky souvenir and canals, polders and windmills are nowhere to be seen. However, a train ride to the randstad, the northwestern conurbation including Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht among other dutch cities, would bring all these stereotypes alive. Last July, just before leaving the Netherlands, I discovered one of the prettiest parts of the country between Utrecht and Leiden. The train rides along flat lands made of hundreds of polders and every now and then an old windmill will appear on the side, each of them with its own personality and draining water in the same way the have done for centuries.




When I was in Leiden I visited an old windmill that is open to visitors as a museum. Molen de Valk dates from the 18th century and is lies where the old city walls used to be. Inside you can learn - or guess - how life in a windmill used to be and also get superb views of Leiden. De Valk has seven  floors and is made of stone with a wooden interior. The lower floors used to be the miller's home while the medium floors served as storage room and the upper floors contain the whole machinery that made the mill work. Nowadays, the ground floor depicts a living room and a kitchen in the same way they used to be a couple of centuries ago. The first floor has a basic media room playing a film about the history and importance of windmills in the Netherlands. The second floor shows dozens of objects related to the daily life in the mill while the third floor has several scale models of historical Dutch mills.  From the fourth floor it is possible to go outside to take a closer look at the sails, get some fresh air or view the city from above. The next floors house the whole mechanism of the mill and from the third floor onwards the wooden stairs are so steep that they're almost vertical. Going upstairs is manageable but going downstairs is not as easy as it seems.






Molen de Valk was a rather interesting sight and a quite affordable one, especially for Dutch standards (entrance fee was 4€ for adults). It was only a pity that it was cloudy and that the views from the terrace weren't as good as they would have been on a sunny day.

Have you ever been inside a mill? Do you enjoy cultural sights?
Have a lovely week!

13 comments:

  1. I have never been inside a mill, moreover I even have never seen any mills in my life. Such a magical place, and truly beautiful!
    Lovely snapshots, well done! I also like your writting style, it was really interesting to read)
    Have a fabulous time!

    ww.svetusvet.com

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    1. Thanks, Alexandra! Before moving to the Netherlands I had only seen the modern white windmills that are spreading everywhere to produce energy - and I had actually been inside one of those ones too in a school trip long time ago. But they're nothing to the historical Dutch windmills. They look really beautiful when spotted from the train :)

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  2. Es cierto! ejejej, para mí los molinos y los tulipanes( mi flor favorita) siempre serán el símbolo de Los países bajos.Gracias por ensñárnoslos por dentro. Bss, Irene:)

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    1. jajaja sí, yo creo que es la típica imagen que se ha creado del país. Aunque tb hay gente que prefiere centrarse en aspectos más "lúdicos" como el barrio rojo y los coffeeshops ... yo me quedo con los molinos :)

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  3. Irene, this was so interesting! I've never seen the inside of a windmill before. HAHAHA It's cool! It's sad how we equate things to places. There's always so much more. Thanks for this!
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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    1. hehe yes Kim, it is sometimes interesting to take a closer look to the most ordinary things that surround us!

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  4. This is so so cool! And it looks so beautifully scenic there! I've never been inside a mill before but it looks really neat!

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    1. It was actually quite interesting to see the insides of a windmill but nothing beats its sight on the distance from the train. It's kind of decadent and romantic!

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  5. Looks beautiful. Great photos.

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  6. I remember when I was a kid, when someone mentions Netherlands, windmills come into mind immediately. It's so interesting to visit the interior of a windmill. Never been inside one.

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    1. Same for me! Windmills it's something I have associated to the Netherlands since I was a child - now I know that they're only related to some parts of the country but still, they make a nice picture :)

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  7. I've never been inside a mill, but I feel like I've been inside this one now. It has so much character! Thank you for sharing it with us :D
    sparkle2day.com

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