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Chasing Windmills

How Grand Circle Foundation is helping to preserve these iconic Dutch structures

Posted on 12/15/2015 9:24:00 AM in The Buzz

More than half of the Netherlands lies below sea level, making the area extremely susceptible to flooding. When rising water levels first became a problem in the 13th century, canals were built to drain excess water. Eventually, though, this was no longer effective, and windmills offered a solution by pumping water into reservoirs. The collection of windmills at Kinderdijk, which helped transform marshland into habitable land, stand today as a monument to human ingenuity and one of the Netherlands’ most iconic sites.

In 1997, UNESCO recognized the windmills’ cultural significance, and placed them on its list of World Heritage Sites. But with this distinction came an obligation: each windmill must be preserved in its original state, which costs around 15,000 euros per windmill, per year. With a total of 19 structures to consider, the amount adds up. Only a portion of the cost is subsidized by the government, leaving Kinderdijk to rely on sponsors, donations, and ticket sales to fund the balance.

In 2014, Grand Circle Foundation helped to fund the renovation of the Blokker Mill. The oldest of the Kinderdijk windmills, the Blokker is believed to date back to 1521, though the exact date of construction is unknown. In contrast, the other mills at Kinderdijk date from the 18th century, making the Blokker a unique example of a different style of construction. After a fire almost completely destroyed it in 1997, the mill was restored to reflect its 1956 appearance—the year it was taken out of service. Today, the Blokker Mill serves as a museum that shows visitors the mechanics of a windmill and teaches them what life was like as a miller when the structure was operational.

Grand Circle Foundation is proud to support this cultural treasure, which, along with the other windmills of Kinderdijk, remind us of the importance of water management in the Netherlands—and the ingenuity humans can demonstrate when faced with a seemingly impossible task

Travelers with Grand Circle Cruise Line have the opportunity to visit the Blokker Mill during Holland & Belgium in Springtime. Mathias van Dort, who you’ll meet in this video, is just one of the Program Directors waiting to explore this region with you.

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