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Sep 28

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River Cruise Journal: Windmills and Cheese Wheels

One final day on this Grand European Tour and it all ends tomorrow morning when our cruise ship docks in Amsterdam. Call the country what you will, Netherlands, Nederlands, or Holland, this morning we found ourselves in the country known for windmills and cheese wheels.

Holland is known for windmills and cheese for a reason.

How’s this for a morning view?

Kinderdijk was our port today, a picturesque community with 19 historic, working windmills. As well, for those repeat passengers (like us) who had already toured the site, Viking thoughtfully offered an alternative.

Our choices were:

  • Visit the famous windmills
  • Tour a cheese farm

The obvious question is, why are these particular windmills so exceptional? After all, these ingenious machines have been around since the Middle Ages and they can befound in every corner of the country. Considering that over one quarter of the country lies below sea level, for all intents and purposes Holland wouldn’t be on the map without them. Saying “you can see them everywhere” is not overstating it.

But wait. I digress. We had one last morning aboard.

Scenic cruising

We spent a leisurely morning enjoying one last breakfast buffet and lingering over coffee while we watched the scenery along the Rhine. The scenery had definitely changed from German to Dutch.

Boaters proudly display the Dutch flagFamily camping along the Rhine in NetherlandsTypical Dutch town along the rhine

Program Director Dewi was scheduled to give a presentation on Dutch water management at 10:30, so we went back to our room to pack. Since we each had only one carry-on for clothing and one small backpack for electronics, it didn’t take long. Aside from a few toiletries, a change of clothes for tomorrow, and our electronics and charging cords, we were finished before her talk began. It pays to travel light.

Dewi’s talk was actually really interesting. She explained more about the expansive system of dams, dykes, and dunes that Netherlands must maintain and how concerned they are about climate change. It’s especially important because the country lies even further below sea level than New Orleans. Keeping the land from flooding requires a lot more thought and preparation than I had realized!

The Dutch are very water-oriented.

Noah’s ark

And speaking of epic flooding, there’s an actual ark in the Netherlands! When a Dutchman named Johan Huibers dreamed that the Netherlands was overwhelmed by a flood similar to the one in the Bible, he felt inspired to rebuild the ark to the same proportions that God had given to Noah.

Noah's ark has been rebuilt to scale in the Netherlands.

The ark is moored on the Rhine at Dordrecht, south of Rotterdam. Huibers kindly put life-sized animal statues on its deck to help give an idea of its proportions. Having seen it on our prior cruise I knew that we would pass right by it, so I made sure to tell Dewi that I’d like her to give me a “heads up” and point it out as we passed. Dewi asked the Captain to tell her when we were approaching so she could let us know. Based on her reaction I realized that it’s not a sight they normally mention, so I am glad I did. The other passengers really enjoyed the sight as well.

Tip: If you want to see it the ark as you cruise by, you will need to ask your Program Director to point it out. Also, if you have time while you’re in Holland it is possible visit the ark yourself, because it has become a tourist attraction.

Welcome to Kinderdijk

Even though both the ark and Kinderdijk (Dutch for “child dike”) are both located near Rotterdam, we had enough time on our cruise schedule to enjoy a delicious lunch. When we finally docked, we were so close that we could see the tops of the windmills from the Sun Deck. Time to do some Dutch sight seeing.

Tip: If you are unsure which activity to join, keep in mind that cheese is made worldwide, but Kinderdijk is the only site in the world with so many historic Dutch windmills. So, yeah: You should see the windmills.

The windmill tour

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it contains all the typical features associated with this technology – dikes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings – and 19 beautifully preserved windmills.

Talk about a Kodak moment! These photogenic structures stand like soldiers in two opposite rows along a canal and form a spectacular sight. 

Kinderdijk windmills line up like soldiers along a canal

These windmills are still inhabited year-round and those who live in them are required to maintain them to the same standards as the 1400s when they were built. That said, the country no longer relies on windmills to stay dry. These days the country uses pumping stations and here too, the main waterworks are provided by two adjacent diesel pumping stations.

Modern water pumping machinery in Kinderdijk

Today’s included excursion gave a rare opportunity to understand how windmills work in an up-close-and-personal way, as well as to visit one of the pumping stations. Most visitors want to climb into at least one windmill to see the pumping mechanism and living quarters. Some also took the boat around (it is suitable for wheelchairs).

Tip: Entering a windmill is not a good idea if you have problems with staircases or tight spaces.

 
Between exploring the inside of a windmill, visiting a pumping station, seeing the museum, boating on the canal, spending money in the gift shop and taking pictures of the stunning scenery, everyone enjoyed his visit.

Giessenburg, Netherlands

We had seen and photographed the Kinderdijk windmills on our first cruise so we chose to visit a cheese farm. Our bus took us to a dairy farm in the town of Giessenburg. We all gawked as we drove through the sleepy little town.It was just as interesting as the farm. Certainly it was prettier!

The fronts of the houses all face the water in Giessenburg, Netherlands

The fronts of the houses all face the water

Bridge over a canal in Giessenburg, Netherlands

Visiting a Dutch cheese farm

Best known for Gouda and Edam, Holland is the #1 cheese exporting nation in the world. Gouda is the most popular, and the farm we visited caters to the demand. As we discovered on our tour, it is possible to produce Gouda in a ridiculous variety of flavors. The flavor gets stronger as it ages as well, and it reaches full maturity (and crumble-ability) at 2-3 years of age.

Viking cruise passengers visit a Dutch cheese farm

We toured the farm

Met their friendly cows

Saw where the milk is cultured

And learned how they make their cheese.

Gouda comes in various flavors and sizes. It becomes more crumbly as it ages.

The farm has a lovely gift shop and offers samples of all their various gouda flavors. Dan and I ended up with three different types to bring back to share with our family in the U.S.

Back on board

Back on board the lobby was crowded with passengers settling their final bills. We joined the queue and missed the afternoon’s presentation on the Dutch Golden Age. Dang. I was disappointed, to say the least. It’s an interesting era in Holland’s history and I had wanted to learn more. But at least we got to spend a little more time with our new English friends, Pam and Fi.

Two wonderful English ladies we met on our cruise, Pam and Fiona

The Lounge seemed to a little more sedate after dinner and Arthur the bartender looked a bit bereft. Once again I was glad we had the all-inclusive drinks package. Thanks to everyone having settled their accounts only those who had purchased it were able to enjoy his services tonight.

More of the delightful people we met on our cruise

It seemed that most of the passengers who weren’t doing last-minute packing were exchanging contact information with their new-found friends. We tried to get as many email addresses as we could, as well. Departure plans were often discussed and I’m glad we had spent a day in Amsterdam before because we were able to help a few plan for their Amsterdam stop tomorrow.

Tip: Viking does not include a tour of Amsterdam at the end of the cruise. Don’t miss the opportunity to see it yourself before you leave. We did that at the end of our last cruise and it became one of our most popular stories: How to See Amsterdam in One Day.

  • Next stop: Amsterdam

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Hover over the top left of any image to save it to your Pinterest gallery. There’s even more to see in our photo galleries, where you can enjoy free, full-screen slideshows.

 

Note: As is common in the travel industry, Dan and Linda were provided with a complimentary cruise package for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced coverage, AWSI believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see the Disclosure page.

 

This post is part of Travel Tales at Girl on the MoveTravel Tuesday at Lauren on Location and Wordless Wednesdays at image-in-ing.

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Travel Blog linkup Travel Tales

 
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16 comments

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  1. Rachel Heller

    I live in the Netherlands, and it’s fun to read an outsider’s view of the place! Kinderdijk is indeed lovely, and the river cruise seems a great way to get a first impression of the Netherlands! In my experience the Dutch aren’t particularly worried about the sea level rising. They seem remarkably confident that they can deal with it, as the world’s experts on water control.

    I’d like to warn your readers about something else, though: taking the cheese home on the plane. Dutch cheese has exactly the same density as plastic explosives, so you are very likely to get your carry-on bag searched going through security. It’s not a problem, because they’ll see it’s just cheese, but it’s worth being aware that it’s likely. If you put it in your checked bag, you run the same risk, so leave it at the surface so anyone opening your bag will see it right away and not mess up your careful packing!

    1. Linda

      Two very good tips about the cheese. I have heard that security doesn’t mind cheese as long as it’s been sliced, but that you may lose your food if it is in a wax-covered ball so they can’t verify what it actually is.

      On a side note, we’ve also learned the hard way that it’s better to put your tripod on TOP of your clothes. The security newbies seem to get a bit nervous when they see a bunch of metal pipes…. 🙂

  2. Ting at My Travel Monkey

    I can’t believe there is actually a Noah’s Ark! It’s how I imagined it to look like too. Looks like a wonderful river cruise, I do like looking at a good windmill!
    Ting at My Travel Monkey recently posted…Holiday Snapshots #39 Honolulu, HawaiiMy Profile

    1. Linda

      The next time we visit I really hope we can actually go inside and see how he’s decked it out. It sounds rather elaborate!

  3. Ruth - Tanama Tales

    What an awesome day! I remember visit Volendam and going to a cheese farm too. There were so many variety of cheeses to try. It is one of those memorable experiences you never forget. Gouda has always been one of my favorite cheeses and trying it from a producer was great. That Noah’s Ark looks interesting!
    Ruth – Tanama Tales recently posted…What to Eat in Rosarito, Baja CaliforniaMy Profile

    1. Linda

      Visiting a cheese farm was definitely one of the highlights because I’m such a cheese fan and like you said, it was a memorable experience. I’d have to say that my favorite type of Gouda is smoked and I was surprised that they didn’t offer it. Do you have a favorite?

  4. Courtney

    How cute is that cow?! All of that cheese looks delish!

    1. Linda

      Yes, she was cute. Dan got some really fun photos of cows while we were there. This was my favorite.

  5. Anda

    What an interesting post about Holland! I always wanted to visit the country of windmills and tulips. I love the story about Noah’s Ark replica. It must have been very interesting to visualize what it must have looked like. And that tour of the Dutch cheese farm… makes me want to run out the door and buy some cheese.
    Anda recently posted…The Weekly Postcard: Boating on Lake ComoMy Profile

    1. Linda

      Yeah, Noah’s Ark looked a bit odd without a bow. But when you stop to think about it, Noah didn’t need one, as he wasn’t trying to go anywhere. He was just trying to stay afloat. 🙂

  6. Nancie Lee

    I have always wanted to do a river cruise. Cruising down the Rhine would be classic. Your photos make it look so wonderful!
    It would be hard to decide between the windmills and cheese. I do understand you reasoning for the windmills and I know I would want gorgeous photos of the windmills too! But that gouda looks pretty good!! haha Thanks so much for sharing!!
    Nancie Lee recently posted…The Writing’s on the Wall at Petroglyph National MonumentMy Profile

    1. Linda

      Yeah, Viking made sure that the choices were pretty good, either way. Still, our family was happy we had decided to go to the cheese farm. They enjoyed sharing the gouda!

  7. Lauren

    Wow, that arch is amazing! I had no idea something like that actually existed! I would love to see that! I love cruises, but sometimes it’s a little hard to see everything in such a short time. Looks like you made the most of it though! Those windmills are beautiful! They reminded me a lot of the ones in Spain, in the land of Don Quijote 😀 And that cheese farm! I consider cheese it’s own food group and could never get enough, so this experience looks top notch! Free gouda samples—sign me up!

    1. Linda

      We haven’t had the opportunity to see any of the Spanish windmills, but I’ll be honest: Don Quixote has come to my mind too. I wonder if Spanish manchego cheese is made the same way as gouda?

  8. Pinay Flying High

    Oh wow! It’s beautiful!!!
    I’ve only been to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills and I have to say that I do love the very green and “watery” scenery of Netherlands. Love the ark! 🙂
    Pinay Flying High recently posted…Driving in Doha, not for the faint-hearted.My Profile

    1. Linda

      Yes, the Netherlands’ watery scenery is quite special. I’m still intrigued by that ark.

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