Thursday, November 21, 2013


Owen and I have been in The Netherlands for a long time now. Almost three months. There has been entirely too little of us geeking out about how cool the Dutch are on this blog. Let's change that now. With windmills. This past Saturday we visited not one but two windmills. 

This picture of De Put was taken on a different day than other photos appearing in this post.
Our plan was to visit "the big one" up in the North of the city center, The Valk which is a windmill eight stories tall and open to the public as a museum. 

The mill is so tall because it was located in the city and had to be higher than the surrounding buildings to have free access to the wind. So the bottom levels of the mill were the millers' home.

including this adorable kitchen
Other floors told the story of the history of milling, the history of windmills, how the windmill shaped Dutch economics and society and even the landscape. There were lots of cool little models and things, and a short documentary film available in four different languages, including English of course.

When we got up to the fifth floor, there's a balcony? Porch? not sure what to call it, that goes all around the windmill, so we could go out and admire the city and the windmill and look at it all with fresh eyes based on what we were learning. One of the things I learned was that the Dutch brought the windmill idea back from the crusades but had to alter them to fit the Dutch weather. In Turkey (I think it was Turkey?) the winds almost always blow the same way so they could have the windmills fixed in a certain direction. In The Netherlands, the winds blow from lots of different directions, unsteadily, unpredictably, so they needed a way to turn the mill to face the wind. Sometimes they built little box mills around a stationary center post so the whole box of the mill can be turned around that center point(De Put is one of these mills). And sometimes they made bigger mills (like De Valk) out of a stone or brick tower, with a turnable cap up top, so it too could shift directions to face into the wind. 

This is the giant wheel they'd use to turn the direction of the cap of the windmill. 
Our beautiful Leiden. Can you see the other windmill??

you can see the sail rolled up and wrapped around the white beam here.

Another thing we learned: Windmills needed to be able to adjust the amount of wind they were handling at a given time, so rather than making solid wooden arms, they are latticed, and then, when in use, covered with sails. Finally, many ladder/stairs later we got to the top of the mill where all the gears would turn. De Valk is still functional, but only runs on special occasions. 

this is for you, Dan and Amanda.
It's just really cool.
After we finished our trip through De Valk, we went to the little windmill, De Put. When we were up in De Valk we could see De Put in motion, which was very exciting. When we got there however, it had stopped moving, but was open to the public so we went on inside. Because De Put is so regularly used, it had big bags of grain lying around, and you can buy some freshly milled flour as a souvenir.

We were all happy just looking at the views from the peep holes and admiring it's beautiful wooden gears when this happened. The workers were turning the wheel down below to turn the whole mill. I don't mean the windmill arms started turning, I mean the whole box mill we were standing in turned so that the mill faced into the wind and the arms could turn. You can see the video Owen took here:

Apparently all I can say about it is, "so cool," but that is how it felt. Happy Thursday everyone!

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