Kinderdijk

October 20, 2022

A late night dancing in the lounge was followed by a late rise just in time for breakfast.  I vowed (again) it would be a light repast, but the sandwich I concocted (toast and bacon) still seemed heavy.  We finished just in time to attend a disembarkation lecture to explain how to get off the ship.  This proved to be far more detailed than I imagined.  That seemed especially so as we were not preparing to leave but will be leaving the ship and moving to the land based stage of our journey.  Luckily, we were able to slide lunch into the agenda (more food) as we settled into our cabin and on deck to pass the three hours until our arrival in Kinderdijk.

The city of Kinderdijk served as our introduction to the canals and windmills of the Netherlands.  This village is in the municipality of Molenlanden, in the province of South Holland, Netherlands and situated in the Alblasserwaard polder at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers.  The polder (land reclaimed from a body of water) itself is surrounded by a series of three dikes varying in height from largest (outside) to the smallest (inside).  This ensures each successive dike will hold back the water in an ever widening tract of land.  To drain the polder, a system of 19 windmills was built around 1740.  This group of mills is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands.  It was the polder and windmills that were the focus of our afternoon tour.  The windmills of Kinderdijk are one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.  Polders are always at risk from flooding, and care is taken to protect the surrounding dikes.

The name Kinderdijk is Dutch for “Children dike”.  During the Saint Elizabeth flood of 1421, the Grote Hollandse Waard flooded, but the Alblasserwaard polder stayed unflooded. It is often said that when the horrendous storm subsided, a villager went to the dike between these two areas to inspect what could be salvaged. In the distance he saw a wooden cradle floating on the water.  As it came nearer, some movement was noted, and upon closer investigation, a cat was found, trying to keep it in balance by leaping back and forth in such a manner that water couldn’t flood the cradle.  As the cradle came close enough to the dike to be picked up by a bystander, he saw that a baby was quietly sleeping inside.  The cat had kept the cradle balanced and afloat.  This folktale and legend have been published in English as “The Cat and the Cradle”.

THOUGHTS:  The Netherlands has a large area of polders, with as much as 20% of the country’s land area having been reclaimed from the sea.  Countries like Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, and China have also used polders.  After Hurricane Katrin, Dutch engineers were brought in to assist in rebuilding the dikes and levees that protect the city of New Orleans.  As we toured the windmills our Dutch guide commented this will not be effective.  The dikes and levees require maintenance to be effective.  Americans will spend billions of US$ to build but will balk at the millions required annually to maintain the system.  Any endeavor requires the expense or time and money (effort) to build and maintain.  That is true for infrastructure, but also for relationships.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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