A Cruise on the Rhine: Windmills & Cheese!

One of my favorite tours on the Rhine River Cruise was the (free) windmills tour in Kinderdijk, Holland. Before we arrived, I was pronouncing the name several different ways, but it turns out to be perfectly simple! Dijk is dike. ;-D This area has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for many years and is a delightful spot to visit.

What makes the windmills so magical? The Dutch have so many wonderful stories like the boy putting his finger in the dike and Hans Brinker and the silver skates, and somehow, windmills figure into the folklore. I was not the only one enchanted by them! The cameras and cell phones were out with each of us exclaiming that we’d gotten such a wonderful shot. It was an overcast day, which made most of my pictures sepia toned until the sun peeped out for a few minutes…and then we knew we’d gotten the best picture.

There are 19 windmills in Kinderdjik and all of them are inhabited but one, which we were able to go into. They are cosy, to say the least, but terrifically charming. The kitchen is generally outside because of the danger of fire. The downstairs has living areas and a small bedroom with a built-in bed not unlike a boat. It was surprisingly quiet! Then you start climbing up ladders and you can hear and feel the mill working. This was a fun view!

The people who live in windmills, no matter what the windmill’s purpose, are all called millers. These mills were built in the mid 1700’s to pump water. Some mills grind grain and others are sawmills but the guide said that most mills pump water – obviously a big priority in a country that exists below sea level. You can tell the purpose of the windmills by the shape and the length of the sails. Just one more little video….

Later that afternoon, Peter and I took an optional (paid) trip to a farm which makes cheese. It was a wonderful and informative tour; first to see the ladies and their babies and then to see how Gouda cheese is made. I grew up by my grandparents’ farm, where they raised Angus beef, but I’ve not been around milking cows. They are very sweet and seemed interested in us as well. We arrived while they were being milked, so I suppose they were glad of the diversion. This sweet girl is making sure her friend is clean, and right after I took this shot, she put her head in the food and sprayed it all over everyone nearby!

I won’t go into detail about cheese making, but I will tell you the proper pronunciation of Gouda, which is How-dah! The accent is on the how and you need to gargle a bit. (The proper pronunciation of Edam is e-Dam, accent on the dam!) The cheese making room smelled divine. Here are cheeses getting salted.

These cheese are aging, though they certainly look like loaves of bread ready to bake!

And here the cheeses are getting waxed. You can see that they make many, many flavors of Gouda, some of which arrived home safe and sound in our suitcase.

This farm is a family business. The grandparents take care of the babies and do a lot of chores. The father and the boys milk and care for the cows and the mother and girls make the cheese. They do have some workers to help as well. Obviously manure is recycled and they have some acreage to grow grain. The pigs down the street love the whey left over from the cheese making and the birds (lucky them!) get fed bits of cheese that is shaved off.

A trip to the windmills of Kinderdjik should be on your bucket list!

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4 thoughts on “A Cruise on the Rhine: Windmills & Cheese!

  1. i loved the Netherlands–took a bike trip there a long time ago. We went into a working windmill for a tour–it was fascinating! That photo of the reflected mill is fantastic!

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    • Hi Kerry!
      I do want to spend more time there. We were in Amsterdam a few years ago for a day or so before and cruise and I thought it was magical – but did not see a windmill! This was a fun day as well. It doesn’t hurt that they have such divine Indonesian food as well…

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