For most people, thinking of the Dutch landscape conjures imagery of big old windmills. But do you know the purpose of these world famous windmills?
The Dutch built the windmill and the windmill helped the Dutch build Holland. The Netherlands has a considerable amount of their land below sea level, hence Nether-lands. In fact, a few centuries back, much of that land was either under water or part of a swamp. Wind and watermills were used to pump the water beyond the dikes and into the sea. Windmills have since become a symbol for Dutch ingenuity in overcoming their struggle with water.
Dutch windmills were traditionally for corn & grain milling, saw milling, and land drainage. The mills at Zaanse Schans performed a wide range of industrial duties, such as producing lumber, paint, mustard, oil and paper. Nowadays these windmills are used mainly as tourist attractions.
Here land was claimed by pumping water out to sea, where it could be held out by the dikes.
The typical Dutch windmill, also called the tower type, has a huge tower of stone, brick, or wood. The oldest mill in Holland dates back to the 8th century.
Windmills in Holland can be seen in a wide range of settings. From the countryside, where they are more common, to the center of cities alongside modern day factories.
Some windmills in The Netherlands have been converted into houses.
This windmill home has multiple levels as indicated by the windows.
There are over 1000 windmills in Holland. Some estimates report up to 1,150. Some of these are still being used to grind grain or for water drainage.
This is Zaanse Schans, where in the mid-17th century, over 600 mills formed the first industrial site in the world. Today Zaanse Schans is a conservation area and museum.
The waffle pattern of the wooden windmill blades (or “sails”) acts as a frame and in low wind conditions, a canvas covering can increase resistance, like a sail, increasing turning power.
Some windmills use the power of the wind to saw lumber. This is an example of what such a mill looked like in operation.
In Europe, windmills became prominent in the 18th century, but with the advent of steam power in the 19th century, they were used less and less as a means of power.
Once a year Holland holds “National Mills Day.” Every second Saturday in May, 600 windmills and watermills around The Netherlands open their doors to visitors.
When you come to Holland to see the windmills, here are 3X travel tips on where to see the best of the best:
- Kinderdijk – Kinderdijk has 19 mills and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Zaanse Schans – Zaanse Schans is just north of Amsterdam. It includes an open-air conservation area and museum.
- Schiedam – Schiedam has the five largest windmills in the world!