Dutch Windmills and Ducks

One of Monet’s Champ de Tulipes en Hollande, housed in the Musée Marmottan Monet, in Paris.

For picturesque views of original windmills, Holland’s Kinderdijk is just the place. A small town seemingly as devoted to preserving its heritage as to carrying on in quiet spaces, Kinderdijk offers visitors a more authentic and natural setting to see windmills than do more touristy towns around Amsterdam.

Just outside of Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is a little tricky to get to but by no means inaccessible. In the summer, Waterbus Line 202 takes passengers directly from Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge to Kinderdijk; in the off-season (when I visited), passengers can take Line 20 to Ridderkerk De Schans and transfer to a small yellow ferry called the Driehoeksveer (Line 6), which drops off at Kinderdijk.

From the moment I looked left and right at charming buildings and crossed the street, where a sign posted outside a gift shop on the corner made the intriguing proposition of coffee, the air threatened rain. A single cloud overhead was so dark that I was surprised it had held onto its water for so long, but it made for dramatic contrast in pictures. Then it rained.

Down the way a bit was a ticket office, but there is another, less crowded one at the first of two windmills that visitors can enter. I continued down a long, paved road bisecting a river, from which already one can see all of the windmills of Kinderdijk and over which I crossed a bridge to the first windmill, where I paid the entrance fee and went inside. The interior was a sort of museum intended to model family life inside a windmill; I’m not sure it was worth the entrance fee, but all proceeds go towards upkeep of the windmills, and climbing the slender steps like those to a loft and looking up through the last level to the wheels that made the whirligigs spin was fun. The second windmill is a bit farther on and much smaller, with only a kitchen and bedroom.

More agreeable was the walk along the path. The whole area looked like a marsh—a part of the Low Countries, truly! It was cold and windy, but by this point the sun was trying its hardest to break through the clouds, making the light soft and illuminating, and all along the river were tall grasses and lily pads. At a bend in the river, a wooden platform just wide enough for two people extended into the water as if put there for people to dock rowboats or, as it’s used now, for taking pictures. The walk continues along to the left for a long time. A few picnic tables border the water, but beware of the ducks. One dog-duck begged me for some of my green grapes and was so demanding that it bit my jeans.

Deciding that food could wait, I followed the path to the end, where a wide bridge crosses to the other side of the river and rows of swards fill the landscape in every direction. Rows of water no more than a meter wide separated me from wild animals, so I could look closely without having to worry about getting too close: four white cows with patches in caramel, munching (the word is an onomatopoeia) on grass; white goats and black goats; a single swan, sitting silently, watchfully, I think possibly aggressively. All of this where just on the other side of the grassy plots were people’s homes, clothes strung along lines outside.

I’m not opposed to all ducks, though. To go back to the ferry, I took a dirt path paralleling the paved one and in that first section of river, by the first bridge, saw four adult ducks, one on each corner of a square, shepherding many more fuzzy ducklings, so ugly but so adorable, across the middle of the river towards the banks! The windmills were classic and worth the trip, but the ducklings were undoubtedly the cutest part of Kinderdijk.