|Saturday, June 15
Today we visited the Kinderdijk windmills. These windmills were built before electricity was born; their purpose was solely to pump water. The watermills were needed because the Dutch wanted land. The Dutch added land to their nation by reclaiming it from the sea. First they built dikes around an area, and then they started pumping the water out. Most of the land they reclaimed, however, was peat. So as they pumped the sea water out, the land sank. Which let more water in. So they had to pump more water out. And they needed to keep pumping, in order to keep the reclaimed land from being flooded. Historically this was done by windmills, a few of which have been preserved. Now it is done by modern pumps. This land remains below sea level and keeps sinking. It was rather weird to get out of our cruise ship docked on the side of a major river, walk over a berm, and then descend down to grassland that is 30 feet below the ship and the river.
Our (guided) walk took us out along a trail to a preserved windmill. It is part of a UNESCO world heritage site. Each windmill once had a family living in it and maintaining it. The family had about 2-3 rooms (one above the other), and usually had many children. Most windmills in the area still have a family living there; the one we visited does not, because tourists are trouping through all the time. The mills with families usually have several extra buildings.
It was interesting to see and learn a little about how they worked. (Impression: they worked ingeniously, but not easily.) Then we walked back to the ship for lunch. Lunch in The Restaurant is a sit-down long affair, 1.5 to 2 hours, as is dinner. But the food is good. Wine and beer are free at lunch and dinner, but not at other times unless you buy the beverage package (which is not a good deal unless you are more enamored of alcohol than is healthy).
We spent the afternoon on board, cruising along the Waal and Merwede rivers. We also had a safety drill. The land is VERY flat. Larry made several references to Flatland, the math book. Apparently we went through a lock last night during the night, but won't have any more for several days -- which is another indication of how flat the land is.
We also visited the wheelhouse (they don't call it the bridge), to see how the ship is controlled. And experienced how the entire wheelhouse can be lowered to pass beneath some of the historic but low bridges. So this afternoon was a relaxing and enjoyable ride through the countryside.
Tomorrow we visit Cologne.