You cannot tour the Netherlands without visiting some windmills. In fact, fewer than 1000 working windmills remain in the Netherlands as wind turbines take their place.
We visited some at Kinderdijk , a small village in the Netherlands that is home to 19 windmills built around 1740. This is the largest collection of old windmills in the Netherlands and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The name Kinderdijk means “Children’s dike”. In 1421 it was said there was a terrible flood in this area. When the storm subsided someone saw a wooden cradle floating on the waters and noted a movement. A cat was seen in the cradle trying to keep it balanced by jumping back and forth. Inside was a baby quietly sleeping. The cat had kept the cradle afloat by balancing it. This folktale was published as “The Cat and the Cradle”. Some of you may be familiar with Harry Chapin’s only number 1 song by the same name which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with this legend.
The position of the windmill’s blades send certain messages such as “the miller is away”, or expressing mourning.
As we entered the Netherlands by water we noted many cows along the riverbanks. Apparently cows are plentiful in the Netherlands because they can quickly be relocated from flooding lands and don’t mind getting their feet wet. That said, we saw no swimming cows.
A rather astounding site on the river is a life sized ark built over a period of twenty years by a Dutchman who, after a nightmare about drowning was inspired to construct one much to the dismay of his wife. He did learn something however, it is populated largely with animals of the plastic kind, much easier to tend.
Amsterdam = Bicycles
The last stop on our tour was Amsterdam, the City of Bikes. It is estimated that in Amsterdam, a city of 800,000 people there are 880,000 bikes. No amount of forewarning can really prepare you for their number, speed and unpredictability.
People use bicycles for everything and the problem persists in a city of canals, where to park them all.
Here is one solution, a high rise bicycle ramp. This one holds about 3,000 bikes and an underground ramp is being constructed that will hold 17,000.
One of Amsterdam’s most recent controversies is what to do with the rising population of motor scooters. Treat them like bikes or treat them as cars? At this point it depends on their horsepower, at least in theory.
Fortunately we opted to take the post cruise tour in Amsterdam or we would have not really had a chance to see it.
Our list of what we didn’t see is far greater than what we did. People were correct in stating don’t even try to go to the Anne Frank house without tickets in advance. Also, you need a significant amount of time if you want to hit the Rijksmuseum and other major attractions while visiting.
Again, Amsterdam is a city worth a much longer visit, but it is also a frenetic city so is more tiring than some of the medieval backwaters we preferred.
As it was, Viking put us up in Haarlem, which is a medieval town located at the center of the flower growing district about a 15 minute drive from downtown Amsterdam . We were initially not too pleased to be positioned there, but quickly learned Haarlem had its own charm and that Amsterdam was readily reachable by Viking shuttle bus or the train. This relocation was apparently due to their being a massive music festival going on in the City at the same time as it was invaded by a medical convention of 30,000 heart surgeons.
It turns out that Haarlem was quite charming. It has, surprise, a nice cathedral and central town square, and fascinating alleys from which to pilfer hollyhock seeds.
Saturday’s Farmer’s Market in Haarlem’s main square
All too soon our post trip came to an end and we began our 24 hour trek home (time from Haarlem to arrival at our doorstep in Sea Ranch that same day).
I am ready to go again, with a few lessons under my belt:
1. Stay aggressive in trying to capture people in photos since they seem to best embody the spirit of a place:
2. Take fewer dress up outfits, the cruising life is pretty casual after all
3. Finally, spring for business or first class air travel for the sake of your sanity
A note on buskers for the benefit of Bill Wheat who asked. Yes they existed, primarily outside the Cologne cathedral. This was a rather interesting chap. Of course this photo was a no-no because I didn’t negotiate payment with him first.