Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Windmills of My Mind


Miriam has some old friends in the Amsterdam area from her days at Tektronix. They were kind enough to drive us around to visit some more traditional features of Dutch culture. Here's Nico, Agnes, Miriam, Ineke, and Pim:


Our first stop was the village of Zaanse Schans (more double vowels), a restored area featuring a wooden shoe factory, a chocolate factory, a cheese factory, a Dutch pancake cafe, and working windmills for grains and oils, etc., etc.


Speaking of wooden shoes, Miriam was hot to buy a pair, so we spent way too much time in the shoe shop (I won't go into women and shoes, but...). So here are some pics of wooden shoes, more wooden shoes than you'll ever want to see again, including how to make them and violins made from wooden shoes...





And here's the pair she bought...


And a pic of part of the village and of the windmills acting like mills as well as water pumps for dikes (and I'm not referring to the women in the pic).



Then we were off to another, more rural area with a working windmill we could crawl around in.



Since Holland is essentially below sea level, the whole windmill and dike system is quite ingenious. A single windmill can only pump water to a limited level, so it's all done in stages. Of course now it's all big time electrical pumps. But the windmills are still fascinating. We could climb a series of ladders to the top to see all the gearing and braking mechanisms. The windmills also served as houses for the windmill tenders (continually adjusting the sails depending on wind strength, just like a sail boat). I could get behind living in one of these, except the beds are quite short... apparently sleeping somewhat upright was considered more healthy).


On the way back to dinner, Pim wanted to show off his church. As part of the tour, he asked if we wanted to climb the steeple. The kid in us immediately said yes, but the adult in us soon questioned this decision. Up we went, on steep, rickety ladders... two, three, four, five... and finally out the top. A quick pic of the area and then back down... too late, the automated mechanism rang the bell just as we descended past... my ears are still, well, ringing.

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